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History of Letter Post Communication Between the United States and Europe, 1845-1875
George E. Hargest
234 pages, 126 figures, 34 tables
1971 (Date of Issue: 10 February 1971)
Number 6, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.6.1
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Abstract

It is the purpose of this book not only to describe the postal services between the United States and Europe, but also to explain their development. The period considered begins with the subsidization of United States steam mail-packets in 1845, and ends on 1 January 1876, when France, the last of nineteen European countries to do so, placed in force the provisions of the treaty of Berne and became an active member of the General Postal Union. In order to keep the size of this work within reasonable bounds, it was necessary that its scope be in some way limited. Rather than narrow the limits of the period covered, it was decided to consider only letter post communication. Interesting as are the arrangements for the exchange of newspapers, printed circulars, and registered mail, they are not included in this work.

A table of United States postal rates to foreign countries is presented in the appendix. While this book confines itself to letter post communication between the United States and Europe, the scope of the appendix is broadened to include rates to all parts of the world. Since information regarding the broadened scope was available, it was felt that it would be of value to collectors to include it.

An attempt has been made in the book to retain the language of the sources from which information has been drawn. This is particularly true in regard to the names of countries and places of which mention is made. Many of the names are subject to a variety of spellings, especially those of the Turkish towns. Places in the appendix follow the spellings given in the tables of postages to foreign countries presented in the U. S. Mail and Post Office Assistant, and the names are sometimes misspelled in that source. The difficulties the Americans had when dealing with foreign languages are occasionally brought to the fore. For example, the port of Rivière-du-Loup on the St. Lawrence River is spelled, in the English version of the United States-French postal convention of 1861, as the Americans pronounced it, “River du Loup.”

While I have largely drawn from primary sources for information relating to mail arrangements, the history of the steam-packet lines has been authoritatively presented in seveal works, and I have, therefore, relied upon these secondary sources for this information. Individual ship sailing and arrival dates have been taken from original sources.

It must be recognized, however, that much original source material that should be available no longer exists. The letterbooks of the Post Office Department in the National Archives contain copies of outgoing letters only. Nine of these letterbooks were examined in 1963, and not one letter relating to the foreign-mail service was found. Fortunately, many matters were referred by the Post Office Department to the Department of State, and correspondence on these matters exists. Congress occasionally requested that correspondence relating to certain matters be published, and postmasters general sometimes published correspondence to Congress in support of their requests for legislation. These letters are found in the House and Senate Executive Documents. While many changes in the original postal conventions were made by signing additional articles, changes were also effected through correspondence between the post offices of the countries concerned. Postmasters general sometimes made reference to these changes in their annual reports, but some that are known to have taken place cannot be supported by documentary evidence. The cover is to the postal historian what the artifact is to the archeologist, and in the absence of other evidence, the cover has been relied upon to supply the missing information.

Postal markings are considered only in relation to the function they performed. No attempt is made to present various types of markings performing the same function. This subject has been definitively covered for Boston in Boston Postal Markings to 1890, by Maurice C. Blake and Wilbur W. Davis, and, for the United States in United States Postal Markings, 1851-1861, by Tracy W. Simpson. Some postal markings, however, domestic or foreign, that are unique to a particular mail service, are illustrated and described.


History of the Comstock Patent Medicine Business and Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills
Robert B. Shaw
49 pages, 28 figures
1972 (Date of Issue: 26 May 1972)
Number 22, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.22.1
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Abstract

For nearly a century a conspicuous feature of the small riverside village of Morristown, in northern New York State, was the W. H. Comstock factory, better known as the home of the celebrated Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills. This business never grew to be more than a modest undertaking in modern industrial terms, and amid the congestion of any large city its few buildings straddling a branch railroad and its work force of several dozens at most would have been little noticed, but in its rural setting the enterprise occupied a prominent role in the economic life of the community for over ninety years. Aside from the omnipresent forest and dairy industries, it represented the only manufacturing activity for miles around and was easily the largest single employer in its village, as well as the chief recipient and shipper of freight at the adjacent railroad station. For some years, early in the present century, the company supplied a primitive electric service to the community, and the Comstock Hotel, until it was destroyed by fire, served as the principal village hostelry.

But the influence of this business was by no means strictly local. For decades thousands of boxes of pills and bottles of elixir, together with advertising circulars and almanacs in the millions, flowed out of this remote village to druggists in thousands of communities in the United States and Canada, in Latin America, and in the Orient. And Dr. Morse's Indian Root Pills and the other remedies must have been household names wherever people suffered aches and infirmities. Thus Morristown, notwithstanding its placid appearance, played an active role in commerce and industry throughout the colorful patent-medicine era.

Today, the Indian Root Pill factory stands abandoned and forlorn—its decline and demise brought on by an age of more precise medical diagnoses and the more stringent enforcement of various food and drug acts. After abandonment, the factory was ransacked by vandals; and records, documents, wrappers, advertising circulars, pills awaiting packaging, and other effects were thrown down from the shelves and scattered over the floors. This made it impossible to recover and examine the records systematically. The former proprietors of the business, however, had for some reason—perhaps sheer inertia—apparently preserved all of their records for over a century, storing them in the loftlike attic over the packaging building. Despite their careless treatment, enough records were recovered to reconstruct most of the history of the Comstock enterprise and to cast new light upon the patent-medicine industry of the United States during its heyday.


Hold The Fort! The Story of a Song from the Sawdust Trail to the Picket Line
Paul J. Scheips
57 pages, 19 figures
1971 (Date of Issue: 9 September 1971)
Number 9, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.9.1
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This is a history of a gospel song, which I first learned about a decade and a half ago while a historian in the Department of the Army's old Signal Corps Historical Division. I have been occupied with the song's history off and on ever since. Even as I concluded this account—to illustrate how the history of the song marches on—I heard from my friend John I. White of Brielle, New Jersey, that cowboys used to sing not only lullabies and ribald range songs to their herds but also “Hold the Fort” and other gospel songs. He said he had learned this interesting piece of information from the book Cattle by Will Croft Barnes (an old Signal Corpsman, by the way) and William McLeod Raines. About the time that White wrote to me, The New Yorker published a Weber cartoon in which a middle-aged man tells his stolid wife, who is seated before the family television set: “I'm going out to get a paper. Hold the fort.” As my friends will attest, I have been saying much the same thing for as long as they can remember.

Numerous thanks for assistance rendered me in this undertaking are scattered through the footnotes, but I would like to give special thanks to the following persons for their specialized and generous help and encouragement: Fred E. Brown of Houston, Texas; Joe Glazer of the United States Information Agency; Walter Rundell, Jr., chairman of the history faculty at Iowa State University; Alice Cole Scheips of the Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO; Annie L. Seely of the United States Army Photographic Agency; Irwin Silber of New York City; Vincent H. Demma and Loretto C. Stevens of the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; and the members of the staff, past and present, of the Music Division, Library of Congress.

P J. S

Washington, D.C.

January 1971


The Incompleat Chymist: Being an Essay on the Eighteenth-Century Chemist in his Laboratory, with a Dictionary of Obsolete Chemical Terms of the Period
Jon Eklund
49 pages, 4 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 8 December 1975)
Number 33, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.33.1
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It would be preferable to be able to call this work “The Compleat Chymist,” but the existing title reflects an unfortunate reality. The truth is that our knowledge of the aspirations and activities of chemists in the eighteenth century is woefully incomplete. That this is so suggests first that we have an insufficient number of interested historians of chemistry; and if this remains so it may signify something unfortunate about current historiographic trends.

Specifically, there has been a tendency of late to treat eighteenth-century chemistry as an almost exclusively cerebral science. This is in part an understandable reaction to an earlier historiographic mode which is perhaps best described as Whig-inductivist. Although there were variations, the chemical variety of the basic Whig-inductivist scheme was to describe the experiment, give its contemporary interpretation, translate the phenomenon into modern terms, give the modern interpretation, and then make a normative judgment on the basis of the closeness of fit between the original and the modern interpretation. Sometimes the judgment was omitted, and the work became primarily a series of descriptions of important reactions. Even here, however, there was an implicit judgment in the selection process—those experiments most relevant to modern textbook schemes were the ones chosen for exegesis.

Surely it isn't necessary here to once again beat down the presumed phoenix of Whig-inductivism, as its evils seem well understood and agreed upon. But to be repelled by the narrow normative excesses of an earlier historiography is one thing; to shun all its practices uncritically is quite another. Thus, it seems to me a non sequitur to arrive at the idea that narratives of experiments are necessarily bad or that all translations of the results into modern terms (assuming one can avoid the all-too-obvious pitfalls) are useless.

More dangerous still is the tendency for historians to largely ignore the details of practice. Without doing an injustice to the intellectual content of the chemistry of that time, such an oversight seems to me to create a serious historical imbalance. Indeed, for historians to assume that the chemists of the eighteenth century were primarily concerned with theory may be to ignore most of their working hours. Certainly by far the greatest portion of the literature in contemporary journals was not concerned with theories of matter but with specific empirical problems related to the determination of chemical composition. Since they were personal vehicles which allowed greater depth, even treatises which one logically would expect to contain discussions of a more philosophical nature were composed, for the most part, of the details of chemical experiments. Surely we must characterize the chemistry of that period in accordance with the actual record left by the chemists of the time.

Although this work is concerned principally with the laboratory settings, equipment, and practices of French and British chemists of the period 1690-1770, nothing seen in the chemical literature of any country seriously weakens the remarks made above.


The Invention and Development of the Radiosonde with a Catalog of Upper-Atmospheric Telemetering Probes in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
John L. DuBois, Robert P. Multhauf and Charles A. Ziegler
78 pages, 60 figures
2002 (Date of Issue: 4 December 2002)
Number 53, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.53.1
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From a historical perspective, the radiosonde is one of the more significant technological innovations of the twentheth century, not only because its widespread use greatly enhanced the accuracy of weather forecasting, but also because some features of its basic design became the foundation of all modern analog telemetry systems. This study examines the way in which advances in the technology of non-telemetering balloonsondes and radio in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries culminated in the invention of the radiosonde in 1929. The subsequent development of radiosondes in Europe and the United States from 1929 to 1940 is traced in detail, when the basic design of this instrument achieved its modern form. An overview of significant modifications in radiosonde design after 1940 also is provided because the instruments have remained an essential meteorological tool in the twenty-first century. This monograph also includes a catalog of radiosones in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Photographs of instruments in this unique collection that graphically depict the development stages of the radiosonde are presented.


Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use
Emilie Savage-Smith and Andrea P.A. Belloli
354 pages, 88 figures, 7 tables
1985 (Date of Issue: 30 January 1985)
Number 46, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.46.1
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Islamicate celestial globes made as early as the eleventh century are found in museums and private collections today. There are also references in classical Greek and Roman literature to carlier globes that are no longer extant. These globes are of interest to the history of astronomy, of art, and of technology.

The globe presently in the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution, which is a fine example of a seventeenth-century Mughal Indian globe, was selected for detailed analysis and serves as the focus for this monograph. The first part of the study compares this particular globe with other known Islamicate globes and places the development of such globes within the historical perspective of the earlier Greco-Roman world from which it drew many of its traditions. An historical survey is given of all references and artifacts from the Greco-Roman and Islamic world that can have bearing on our knowledge of the design, construction, and use of such globes. The nature and general characteristics of three basic types of Islamicate celestial globes, and their probable uses as well as methods of construction, are the subjects of the second chapter of the study. Photographs of selected Islamicate globes from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, as well as line drawings based on written descriptions, accompany the historical and analytical discussion.

The fourth chapter on iconography analyses the constellation figures on the Smithsonian globe from the perspective of an art historian. This chapter was contributed by Andrea P.A. Belloli.

The second major part of the study presents a discussion of the star names engraved on the Mughal globe, tracing the origins of the terms in Greek mythology or early Bedouin constellation outlines. The discussion of each constellation is accompanied by a photograph of the constellation as depicted on the Smithsonian globe. An account of lunar mansions is included as background to early Bedouin asterisms, which greatly affected later Islamicate star names and eventually “modern” western star names.

The sixth section presents an extensive descriptive catalogue of the 126 Islamicate celestial globes known to scholars prior to 1982. The references in the other sections to particular globes are keyed to the entry numbers in this catalog. Following the catalog are tables comparing the features of the globes and transcriptions of the signature inscriptions. Six entries (Nos. 127-132) were added to the catalog while the study was in press.


Joseph Saxton and His Contributions to the Medal Ruling and Photographic Arts
Arthur H. Frazier
17 pages, 13 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 10 November 1975)
Number 32, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.32.1
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Medal ruling is a little known art by which pictures are mechanically produced from coins, medals, cameos, and other objects presented in relief. It made a sudden and spectacular appearance very early in the 19th century, but with the advent of daguerreotype photography near the middle of that century, it disappeared almost as suddenly. Joseph Saxton (1799-1873), an extraordinary mechanician was caught up in those arts, and made exceptional contributions to both of them. His medal ruling machines were the first of their kind to have eliminated distortions from the resulting pictures. Among the scientific uses to which his final model was applied was a diffraction grating made for John William Draper, who took the first photograph ever executed of the diffraction spectrum. The only remaining model of the three machines Saxton is known to have built is now at the National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution.

The daguerreotype Saxton took of Philadelphia's first Central High School and the State Armory is perhaps the earliest daguerreotype ever taken in the United States, and certainly represents the oldest American daguerreotype extant. It is now in the custody of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A combination of Saxton's medal ruling and daguerreotype skills helped to produce a remarkable illustration of the second United States Mint, which was published in 1842 in Eckfeldt and Du Bois' Manual of Gold and Silver Coins, and which has been republished in this present study.


Judaica at the Smithsonian: Cultural Politics as Cultural Model
Grace Cohen Grossman and Richard Eighme Ahlborn
252 pages, 142 figures
1997 (Date of Issue: 21 March 1997)
Number 52, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.52.1
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This study surveys the history of the Smithsonian Institution's ethnographic Judaica collection from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century to the present. It investigates how the particular cultural perspective of the curators and collectors plays a significant role in shaping acquisitions policy and interpretation of the collectioin through exhibitions and publications. In large measure, the analysis focuses on the period from 1887 to 1927, during which time the collection was substantially formed. The establishment of the Smithsonian's Judaica collection is framed in the context of the contemporaneous development of the field of Jewish cultural history, the general museum world as represented by the United States National Museum, and the study of Semitics in the academic realm. Special emphasis is given to Cyrus Adler, the founding curator, and to Ephraim Deinard, whose personal collection forms the majority of the Smithsonian's current Judaica holdings. This volume represents the culmination of the Smithsonian Judaica Project, a decade-long effort to document the entire collection, and the essay is followed by an illustrated catalog of selected objects and a comprehensive database. There is also a basic glossary of Judaica terms and a bibliography. It is projected that this presentation of technical and cultural information regarding the Smithsonian's Judaica will provide a reference source and a model for additional typological and social studies.


Keyed Bugles in the United States
Robert E. Eliason
44 pages, 22 figures
1972 (Date of Issue: 29 November 1972)
Number 19, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.19.1
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Keyed bugles are soprano brass instruments with side holes and keys like a clarinet or saxophone. They flourished for several decades after 1810 when the Royal Kent Bugle was patented, and before valved instruments became popular. Their melodic ability made possible the first brass bands in the United States, and these instruments remained popular in this country until the Civil War. During the 1840s and 1850s, many excellent players including the famous Ned Kendall amazed their listeners with intricate solos played on the bugle. Fine examples of American bugles with as many as 12 keys survive in several collections.


The King of Desks: Wooton's Patent Secretary
Betty Lawson Walters
32 pages, 28 figures
1969 (Date of Issue: 31 December 1969)
Number 3, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.3.1
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Three Wooton desks that are in the national collections at the Smithsonian Institution were the inspiration for this paper, which traces the history of the Wooton Desk Company and its products. Wooton desks were purchased by prominent persons in Europe and South America, as well as in the United States. They became a kind of status symbol, reflecting high Victorian appreciation for flexibility in furniture. Their varied exterior trimmings made them available for persons with different incomes and preferences.


Displaying 21 - 30 from the 59 total records