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Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

Christmas came early to the Archives & Special Collections when we received two boxes of books by Native American authors from Amherst College alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974) just before we closed up shop for our holiday break. There are many exciting items in this very generous gift, including copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets, but this item eclipses all the others:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Hmmm…a piece of an old newspaper?

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Someone used the first page of the October 14, 1783 issue of the Connecticut Courant and Weekly Intelligencer to make a protective cover for their copy of the 1772 first edition of Samson Occom’s Sermon. Not only are we delighted to now hold a true first printing of this important work, but that wrapper tells us that just over a decade after it was printed, someone thought it was worth wrapping up for a little extra protection. Most likely that person was in the vicinity of Hartford, CT, but it’s almost impossible to be certain — newspapers certainly traveled far and wide, and the only certainty about the date the Courant was sewn to the Sermon is no earlier than October 1783.

I am at the start of a more extensive research project into the publishing history of this sermon and its many reprintings, which I will report on in the months ahead. For now, it brings me great bibliographical pleasure to see these search results in our online catalog:

Occom Catalog

In addition to the generosity of our alumni, we also depend on the wonderful world of the antiquarian book trade to build our collections. This week it was Tom Congalton of Between the Covers Rare Books who called an amazingly rare item to our attention: The Experience of George A. Spywood.

The Experience of George A. Spywood.

The Experience of George A. Spywood.

As you can see from the cover, this pamphlet was printed to raise money to save George A. Spywood’s house. One reason I love booksellers so much is that they often save us a lot of work by doing extensive research about their books. Here is a very helpful excerpt about this item:

“Spywood happily pursued the sailor’s trade until after several voyages his friend, the captain, took ill and died. He later renounced his vices and took to the ministry after a vision. In 1844 he was given the pastorship of the Colored M.E. Church of Hartford, Connecticut, and took an active part in precipitating the schism of the A.M.E. Zionists from the Weslyans. It is possible that Spywood stressed his Native American heritage over his African for the purposes of this pamphlet, anticipating more sympathy if he hid his African ancestry. Perhaps most likely he was of mixed Native American and African ancestry. Carter G. Woodson references him as a Bishop in the Zionist faction in his study The Negro Church without referring to his ethnicity, and he is mentioned in several other histories of the Church. OCLC locates a single copy with the above publishing information, but this issue appears complete (collating 1-28pp., with separate wrappers) and contains no printing information. While we obviously have a vested interest in establishing the precedence of this version of the pamphlet, we strongly conclude that this copy has the feel of fulfilling the object of a mendicant pamphlet, and is likely both earlier than the 1843 version, and may indeed be unique. In any event it is rare.”

And here is the first page of the memoir:

Spywood 2

I had a brief conversation with Native Studies professor Lisa Brooks earlier this morning and her reaction is that Spywood’s specificity regarding his tribal ancestry — naming the “Marshpee” and the “Pumham” — suggests he is being honest about that heritage. False claims of Indigenous ancestry are usually more vague. Lisa’s other comment was that we may very well be able to track down Spywood’s descendants, or some traces of them.

This book will soon be added to our online catalog and we will also add it to our queue for digitization.

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The last time I wrote about detective work in my job, I mentioned “authority work” and linked to the Library of Congress’ explanation of what it entails. Here’s another example, from earlier this week.

I began to catalog these two recently-purchased pamphlets from the 1940s:

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

The cataloging itself was straightforward, but a piece of accompanying information gave me pause. These mimeographed pamphlets seem to be the earliest version of a series that was published several more times over the years. Some of the later versions had illustrations by a different artist, Andy (or Van) Tsihnahjinnie.¹ These early ones were illustrated by William Morgan, better known for his work on The Navajo Language.

The information that was puzzling me came from a brief email conversation that our Head of Archives and Special Collections shared with me. He had inquired of the library at the Navajo Nation Museum whether they had any additional information about these pamphlets. Their reply indicated that while Tsihnahjinnie was Navajo, Morgan was not. This bothered me because I remembered other materials in our collection listing Morgan as a translator, and identifying his tribal affiliation, so I double-checked his Name Authority Record (NAR):

Note the three citations listed under the “Found in” section. These references can be sources that catalogers have used for information on Morgan, or other works he produced. NARs are often updated over time–this particular one was first created in 1991 as “Morgan, William, 1917-” and most recently edited in 2011 to add the death date and citation for the Anthropological Linguistics article.²

After a little more investigation, I discovered that the confusion lay with the second citation attributed to Morgan. Human-wolves among the Navajo (1936) is a monograph in the Yale University Publications in Anthropology series. It was not listed in the bibliography of Morgan’s works in the Anthropological Linguistics article. I was beginning to suspect it was authored by a different William Morgan, but I needed proof. I also needed a way to narrow my searching, since “William Morgan” is a common name, with well over 100 different NARs. I checked our stacks copy of Human-wolves among the Navajo–no foreword, afterword, or any ‘about the author’ information at all. I checked several of my “go to” reference sources³ without luck. Standing in our Reference stacks after checking American Indian Biographies, I had one of those “Hooray for browsing!” moments when I spotted Native American Folklore, 1879-1979: An Annotated Bibliography.

A “William Morgan” was listed, along with six of his published works. They included Human-wolves among the Navaho and ended with ‘The Organization of a Story and a Tale’ by William Morgan with a preface by Alfred North Whitehead, in The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 58, no. 229 (July-Sept. 1945) pp. 169-194. Looking up the article, I got a “Hooray for footnotes!” moment:

"Dr. William Morgan died in 1935. His unpublished MSS are now in Dr. Clyde Kluckhohn's possession...Generous help from Mrs. Christiana Morgan made possible printing Dr. Morgan's complete study

After a couple of dead-ends (not helped that the 1935 date turned out to be wrong) I googled Christiana Morgan, which led me to the recent biography Translate this Darkness by Claire Douglas. This was my prize: a well-researched biography identifying “William Otho Potwin Morgan” (1895-1934) as the writer of Human-wolves among the Navaho, citing the Morgan papers held in the Archives at Harvard University (his alma mater). Armed with that, I can file a request for a correction to the Name Authority Record for William Morgan, 1917-2001 to remove the citation to the work by William Morgan, 1895-1934 and in addition, to create a new NAR for William Morgan, 1895-1934.

The Five Colleges Library Consortium has begun the process for becoming authorized to participate in a “funnel project” of the Name Authority Cooperative Program (LC/NACO), which will allow us to make such changes to the NAR directly.

¹We hold a couple of items illustrated by Tsihnahjinnie, and his Authority Record is a great example of an author using a variety of names.

²If you are interested, and have access to JSTOR, here is the link for that article.

³Some of which include:

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Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

The title for this week’s blog is adapted from this 1780 pamphlet by Joseph Galloway, one of dozens of such publications available for use in the Archives & Special Collections. While we don’t claim anything like the comprehensive coverage of the published debates around the American Revolution available at places like the American Antiquarian Society, we do have a respectable teaching collection.

Between these examples and the eighteenth-century manuscripts in the Plimpton French and Indian War Items and the Lord Jeffery Amherst collections, researchers can gain insight into the tumultuous decades between the 1750s and the close of the American Revolution in 1783. [Note that many items from the Jeffery Amherst Collection are now available online, and digitization of that collection is ongoing.]

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A page from this volume.

A page from this volume.

There was some celebrating back in early May, when we completed the cataloging of the 1,397 titles in the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. Thankfully, no one got Gatorade poured on them, as had been threatened. I thought I would share in this post a little bit of the detective work that the last few titles required, and suggest questions that may be worth further research.

At first glance, a collection of poetry, stories, and art created in 1969 by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) certainly looked as if it were a one-of-a-kind manuscript. Indeed, a note from the book dealer had called it “a unique collection.” Closer examination revealed that the text was printed (probably by silk-screening), although some of the artwork may have been done by hand before the printing. With no title page on our copy, I searched WorldCat in several different ways before I felt confident that there are at least two other copies of this work in libraries, one at the New Mexico State Library, and one at UC Davis. I suspect no copy has an actual title page, and this can lead to different libraries accidentally cataloging the same work in different ways. The copy at UC Davis was given a title based on the first poem in the book…which can be a valid choice according to cataloging rules, but sometimes is confusing for researchers.

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I am freshly returned to the Archives after a wonderful trip to Austin, TX to attend the annual conference of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). The conference was a fantastic gathering of people from all walks of life and I heard many inspiring presentations and talked excitedly about the research opportunities supported by the new collections at Amherst College.

Upon my return to the library this morning, I was greeted with two boxes full of books for our Native American collections donated by Peter Webb, Class of 1974. Before I get to some of the items Peter donated, I want to mention another gift from Bob Giddings, Class of 1965.

Instruction for the Indians

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I am delighted to announce that we have nearly completed cataloging the whole of the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. As of this morning, 1,372 titles are now included in the Five College Libraries Catalog and the books themselves are on the shelves in the Archives & Special Collections ready to be used. (Except for those on display in our current exhibition: Native Voices/Native Books, on view through July 31.) Our spectacular catalogers expect to wrap up cataloging the last few items by the end of May.

As soon as the cataloging of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg books is finished, we will turn our attention to working through the 500+ books we recently purchased to build on that collection. Last month we took delivery of another 20 cartons of books, this time from the personal collection of Joseph Bruchac, noted author, editor and publisher. Bruchac’s personal papers — his manuscripts, correspondence, and other documents of his deep involvement with Native American writing — are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University. The books we acquired were owned by Joseph Bruchac, but are generally not particularly rare or valuable in and of themselves.

So why did we purchase this collection?

Because of items like these:

Masterpieces of American Indian Literature (1993)

Masterpieces of American Indian Literature (1993)

The Portable North American Indian Reader (1974)

The Portable North American Indian Reader (1974)

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One of the highlights of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection is a copy of the fourth edition of A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian, who was Executed at New-Haven, on the 2d of September 1772, for the Murder of Mr. Moses Cook, Late of Waterbury, on the 7th of December 1771 printed in New London, Connecticut in 1772.

Samson Occom. Fourth edition, 1772.

Samson Occom. Fourth edition, 1772.

We also hold two copies of the curious 1788 edition of the same sermon published in London, with an additional work by Jonathan Edwards appended to it.

Samson Occom. London, 1788.

Samson Occom. London, 1788.

The original 1772 edition is generally regarded as the first published book by a Native American author, and it raises a host of fascinating questions about the treatment of Native people by the British Colonial justice system, drunkenness, and capital punishment. The multiple editions of the Sermon that appeared over the next 50 years are a testament to its popularity. A digitized version of the 1788 edition is available online through The Internet Archive.

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