Monthly Archives: October 2006

Item of the Day: The Gentleman’s Magazine (1752)

Full Title: The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle. Volume XXII. For the Year M.DCC.LII. By Sylvanus Urban, Gent. London: Printed for Edward Cave, at St. John’s Gate.

For December, 1752.
New Method of extracting lightening from the clouds, by B. Franklin

Philadelphia, Oct. 19. 1752.

As frequent mention is made in the newspapers from Europe, of the success of the Philadelphia experiment for drawing the electric fire from clouds by means of pointed rods of iron erected on high buildings, etc, it may be agreeable to inform the curious that the same experiment has succeeded in Philadelphia, tho’ made in a different and more easy manner, which is as follows:

Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like those made of paper; but this being of silk is fitter to bear the wind and wet of a thunder gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine, next the hand, is to be ty’d a silk ribbon, and where the silk and twine join, a key may be fastened. This kite is to be raised when a thunder gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must stand within a door, or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunder clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wet the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the phial may be charged; and from electric fire thus obtained, spirits may be kindled, and all the other electric experiments be performed, which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube; and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning compleatly demonstrated.


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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Journal, Natural Science, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, &c.

Full Title: A Defence of the Short View of the Profaneness and Immorality of the English Stage, &c. Being a Reply to Mr. Congreve’s Amendments, &c. And to the Vindication of the Author of the Relapse. By Jeremy Collier. London: Printed for S Keble, R. Sace, and N. Hindmarsh, 1699.

To the READER.

Since the publishing my late View, &c. I have been plentifully rail’d on in Print: This give me some reason to suspect the Answerers and the Cause, are not altogether unlike. Had there been nothing but plain Argument to encounter, I think I might have ventured my Book with them: But being charged with mis-citations and unfair Dealing, ‘twas requisite to say something: For Honesty is a tender point, and ought not to be neglected.Mr. Congreve and the Author of Relapse, being the most eager Complainants, and Principals in the Dispute, I have made it my choice to satisfie them. As the Volunteers, they will find themselves affected with the Fortune of their Friends; and besides, I may probably have an opportunity of speaking farther with them hereafter.

Notwithstanding the singular Management of the Poets and the Play-House, I have had the satisfaction to perceive, the Interest of Virtue is not altogether Sunk, but that Conscience and Modesty have still some Footing among us. This consideration makes me hope a little farther Discovery of the Stage may not be unacceptable. The Reader then may please to take notice, that The Plot and no Plot swears at length, and is scandalously Smutty and Profane. The Fool in Fashion for the first four Acts is liable to the same Imputation: Something in Swearing abated, Caesar Borgia, and Love in a Nunnery, are no better Complex’d than the former. As lastly. Limberhan, and the Soldier’s Fortune, are meer prodigies of Lewdness and Irreligion. If this general Accusation appears too hard, I am ready to make it good. ‘Twere easy to proceed to many other Plays, but possibly this Place may not be so proper to enlarge upon the Subject.

Some of the Stage-Advocates pretend my Remarks on their Poetry are foreign to the Business. On the contrary, I conceive it very defensible to disarm an Adversary, if it may be, and disable him from doing Mischief.

To expose that which would expose Religion, is a warrantable way of Reprizals. Those who Paint for Debauchery, should have the Fucus pull’d off, and the Coarseness underneath discover’d. The Poets are the Aggressors, let them lay down their Arms first. We have suffer’d under Silence a great while; If we are in any fault, ‘tis because we began with them no sooner.

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Filed under 1690's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Theater

Item of the Day: The Stranger in America (1807)

Full Title: The Stranger in America: containing Observations made during a long Residence in that Country on the Genius, Manners and Customs of the People of the United States; with Biographical Particulars of Public Characters; Hints and Facts relative to the Arts, Sciences, Commerce, Agriculture, Manufactures, Emigration and the Slave Trade by Charles William Janson, Esq. Published by James Cundee, Albion Press London, 1807.

Chap. II

We landed in Boston on the third of July, and the fourth was the day of Jubilee — the anniversary of the declaration of American independence. The fatigue of getting my baggage on shore in the excessive heat of a meridian sun, had nearly exhausted me before I reached my lodgings. I, however, met with no detention or aggravating circumstances at the custom-house — no extortion — no demand of fees. An oath was administered to me, that the baggage was for my own private use; and this was the only ceremony I underwent.

. . .

Boston bears considerable resemblance to an old city in England, It is two miles in length, but of unequal breadth, being seven hundred and twenty-six yards at the broadest part. It contains about 3500 dwelling-houses, many of which are built of wood, besides a great number of store-houses, and nearly 28,000 inhabitants. This town is famed for a wharf, leading from State-Street into the harbor, 1743 feet in a direct line, and in breadth 104 feet. On approaching it from the sea, it appears to the greatest advantage. At the back part is Beacon Hill which greatly adds to the prospects. On the top of this hill is a column, on which are inscribed the achievements of those who fell by the swords of the British during the revolutionary war. At Boston they distill large quantities of that detestable spirit, there called New England, but in the Southern States, Yankee rum, and in this employment there are nearly forty large distilleries. It is made of the worst and the damaged molasses, and its baleful effects are severely felt in every part of the union. In Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, it foments quarrels, which produce combats like those of bears and wolves — gouging, biting kicking, and tearing each others’ flesh; of which I shall make more particular mention when I speak of those states. It is sold for about an English half-crown per gallon, is strong, and has the most execrable smell with which any kind of spirit ever assailed my nasal organ.

. . .

An excursion through Connecticut, and part of Massachusets, afforded me an opportunity of observing the mode of travelling, and the accommodations on the road. In order to view the country at my leisure, I purchased a horse, which, with a tolerable bridle and saddle, cost me sixty dollars. Upon my new purchase I set out, before the break of day, from New London, in order to arrive at Norwich before the sun acquired his full power. After riding three hours, I stopped at a decent looking house, with a vile daub of General Washington for a sign, in order to feed my nag, which had ingratiated himself in my favor by the morning’s performance, and to take breakfast. I was greatly surprized to see a hot beef-steak, swimming in grease and onions, brought upon the table; and still more so to find this substantial dish followed by another of fried eggs and bacon. My ride had sharpened my appetite, so that the fume of these smoaking dishes was by no means unpleasant. They remained upon the table till nearly cold, before a single person came into the room. My patience was exhausted — hunger drove away ceremony; I could no longer restrain its calls, and therefore commenced an attack, for the first time in my life, upon a clumsy beef-steak, at eight in the morning. I saw no appearance of tea or coffee, and concluded that I must make a dinner instead of a breakfast, but in a little time the room began to fill with country-looking people of both sexes, to my confusion — for I was stared at with looks not very prepossessing, till I observed, that being a stranger, in haste to pursue my journey, not knowing company were expected, and above all, the steak cooling, I had begun to eat. Very little notice was taken of my apology, but each followed my example, with stomachs not a whit less keen than my own. If, methought, looking round the table, and fixing my eyes upon a pretty girl, who was too deeply engaged with a plate of eggs and bacon to notice me, — if you make a practice of breaking your fast thus, pretty damsel, you must surely be a maiden of the days of Queen Bess, preferring “to such slip-slops as tea the leg of an ox.” A few days convinced me that this is the daily custom in the morning with this class of people, who must have something hot and substantial . Besides this fare, let me not forget to mention, we were served with some most detestable coffee. I wished for ale or porter after my steak, but was offered “Yankee rum,” the most execrable spirit ever distilled; and at length I allayed my thirst with a glass of sour cyder.

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Filed under 1800's, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Travel

Item of the Day: Account of the Russian Discoveries between Asia and America.

Full Title: Account of the Russian Discoveries between Asia and America, to which is added, the conquest of Siberia, and the history of the transactions and commerce between Russia and China. By William Coxe. London: Printed by J. Nichols, for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1780.

[The following passage is excerpted from a passage in Appendix I entitled: Extract from the journal of a voyage made by Captain Krenitzin and Lieutenant Levasheff to the Fox Islands, in 1768, 1769, by order of the Empress of Russia—they sail from Kamtchatka—arrive at Beering’s and Copper Islands—reach the Fox Islands—Krenitzin winters at Alaxa—Levasheff upon Unalashka—productions of Unalashka—description of the inhabitants of the Fox Islands—their manners and customs, &c.]

The inhabitants of Alaxa, Umnak, Unalaksha, and the neighboring islands, are of a middle stature, tawny brown colour, and black hair. In summer they wear coats (parki*) made of bird skins, over which, in bad weather, and in their boats, they throw cloaks, called kamli, made of thin whale guts. On their heads they wear wooden caps, ornamented with duck’s feathers, and the ears of the sea-animal, called Scivutcha or sea-lion: they also adorn these caps with beads of different colours, and with little figures of bone or stone. In the partition of the nostrils they place a pin, about four inches long, made of the bone, or of the stalk of a certain black plant; from the ends of this pin or bodkin they hang, in fine weather and on festivals, rows of beads, one below the other. They thrust beads, and bits of pebble cut like teeth, into holes made in the under-lips. They also wear strings of beads in their ears, with bits of amber, which the inhabitants of the other islands procure from Alaxa, in exchange for arrows and kamli.They cut their hair before just above the eyes, and some shave the top of their heads like minks. Behind the hair is loose. The dress of the women hardly differens from that of the men, excepting that it is mad of fish-skins. They sew with bone needles, and thread made of fish guts, fastening their work to the ground before them with bodkins. They go with the head uncovered, and the hair cut like that of the men before, but tied up behind in a high knot. They paint their cheeks with strokes of blue and red, and wear nose-pins, beads, and ear-rings like the men; they hang beads round their neck, and checkered strings round their arms and legs.

In their persons we should reckon them extremely nasty. They eat the vermin with which their bodies are covered, and swallow the mucus from the nose. Having washed themselves, according to custom, first with urine, and then with water, they suck their hand dry. When they are sick, they lie three or four days without food; and if bleeding is necessary, they open a vein with lancets made of flint, and suck the blood.

Their principal nourishment is fish and whale fat, which they commonly eat raw. They also feed upon sea-wrack and roots, particularly the saran, a species of lily; they eat a herb called kutage, on account of its bitterness, only with fish or fat. They sometimes kindle fire by catching a spark among dry leaves and powder of sulphur: but the most common method is by rubbing two pieces of wood together, in the manner practiced at Kamtchatka,** and which Vaksel, Beering’s lieutenant, found to be in use in that part of North America which he saw in 1741. They are very fond of Russian oil and butter, but not of bread. They could not be prevailed to taste any sugar until the commander shewed it home to their wives.

The houses of the islanders are huts built precisely in the manner of those in Kamtchatka, with the entry through a hold in the middle of the roof. In one of these huts live several families, to the amount of thirty or forty persons. They keep themselves warm by means of whale fat burnt in shells, which they place between their legs. The women set apart from the men. . . .

* Parki in Russian signifies a shirt, the coats of these islanders being made like shirts.

** The instrument made us of by the Kamtchadals, to procure fire, is a board with several holes, and turned about swiftly, until the wood within the holes begins to burn, where there is tinder ready to catch the sparks.

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Filed under 1780's, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

Item of the Day: More of Abraham Bishop’s Oration in Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana (1804)

Full Title: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the Peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana, delivered at the National Festival, in Hartford, on the 11th of May, 1804. By Abraham Bishop. Printed for the General Committee of Republicans. From Sidney’s Press, 1804.

We shall not do injustice to the occasion, which has convened us, if we improve the remainder of it in examining the peculiar attitude of this state in respect to this important acquisition and the other measures of the general government.

This state has furnished no part of the votes, by which President Jefferson was elected, no part of the wise counsels by which Louisiana was obtained, and the honorable and reverend federal republicans* who convened yesterday, do not rejoice in the event which we celebrate.

Formerly decency was outraged, if the character of the President and the measures of government were not treated with respect: now decency is outraged, if both be not treated with marked contempt. Formerly the friends of the general government held all the offices in this State, and afferted loudly the political infallibility of the majority of the Union: Now those offices are holden by the enemies of the government, and republicans have been treated with as much severity as if they had destroyed the first born of every family, for the mere crime of having applied principles, which federalists lately held sacred and inviolable. The exterior of this state has been democratic, and every thing promised attachment to such a system of measures as is now pursued: Yet religion has always been in danger and under pretence of this danger, measures, which the people would from their natural habits have abhorred, have been approved, and measures, which they would have approved, have been reprobated; yet in all these alarms not one federal priest, deacon, judge or lawyer considered his own religion in danger. All were alarmed about the religion of their neighbors, yet not one man could be found in the state, who had any apprehension for his own.

Every seeming enigma of this kind may be solved by a correct explanation of facts.

The charter of Charles 2d. gave to Connecticut power to raise armies, levy war and do many things, wholly inconsistent with our relation to the federal government, but provided well enough, for the day of it, the means by which the people of this, then thinly settled colony, might govern themselves.

At the declaration of independence this charter became of no effect, and it was proper that the people of this free state should, like the people of other free states, have been convened to form a constitution: But the legislature, which was not impowered for that purpose, and which may repeal at pleasure its own laws, usurped the power of enacting, that the form of government, contained in the charter of king Charles, should be the civil constitution of this state. Thus by the pleasure of his majesty all the legislative, executive and judicial powers of government tumbled into a common mass, together with the power of raising armies, whenever the stockholders of power should think best.

This precise condition of society, absurd and unsafe as it is in theory, has proved far more so in practice. At the present moment all these powers, together with a complete control of elections, is in the hands of seven lawyers**, who have gained a seat at the council board. — These seven virtually make and repeal laws as they please, appoint all the judges, plead before those judges, and constitute themselves a supreme court of errors to decide in the last resort on the laws of their own making. To crown this absurdity, they have repealed a law which prohibited them to plead before the very court of which they are judges.

. . .

This shews under what influence the legislative and executive powers of our government are dispensed.

*Not long since the very term Republican, was reprobated by the federalists here, who now call themselves Federal Republicans.
**These seven lawyers are, Mess’rs Daggett, Smith, C. Goodrich, Brace, Allen, Edmonds, and E. Goodrich, holding the same undefined powers, which their predecessors have held, and which their successors will hold, till we shall have a constitution. The term, seven men, will be used (as was the term, directory, under the French government) signifying the depository of supreme power. Every obnoxious act in force will be justly considered their act, till they shall repeal it.

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Filed under 1800's, Legal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Steuben’s Order of Discipline

Full Title: Regulations for the order and discipline of the troops of the United States. Philadelphia: Printed by Charles Cist, No. 104 North Second-street, 1794.

Of the Treatment of the Sick.

There is nothing which gains an officer the love of his soldiers more than his care of them under the distress of sickness; it is then he has the power of exerting his humanity in providing them every comfortable necessary, and making their situation as agreeable as possible.Two or three tents should be set apart in every regiment for the reception of such sick as cannot be sent to the general hospital, or whose cases may not require it. And every company shall be constantly furnished with two sacks, to be filled occasionally with straw, and serve as beds for the sick. These sacks to be provided in the same manner as cloathing [sic] for the troops, and finally issued by the regimental clothier to the captain of each company, who shall be answerable for the same.

When a soldier dies, or is dismissed from the hospital, the straw he lay on is to be burnt, and the bedding well washed and aired before another is permitted to use it.

The serjeants [sic] and corporals shall every morning at roll-call give a return of the sick of their respective squads to the first serjeant, who must make out one for the company, and lose no time in delivering it to the surgeon, who will immediately visit them, and order such as he thinks proper to the regimental hospital; such whose cases require their being sent to the general hospital, he is to report immediately to the surgeon general, or principal surgeon attending the army.

Once every week (and oftener when required) the surgeon will deliver the commanding officer of the regiment a return of the sick of the regiment, with their disorders, distinguishing those in the regimental hospital, from those out of it.

When a soldier is sent to the hospital, the non-commissioned officer of his squad shall deliver up his arms and accoutrements to the commanding officer of the company, that they may be deposited in the regimental arm-chest.

When a soldier has been sick, he must not be put on duty till he has recovered sufficient strength, of which the surgeon should be judge.

The surgeons are to remain with their regiments as well as on a march as in camp, that in case of sudden accidents they may be at hand to apply the proper remedies.

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Filed under 1790's, American Revolution, Medicine, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and the peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana (1804)

Full Title: Oration, In Honor of the Election of President Jefferson, and The Peaceable Acquisition of Louisiana, Delivered at the National Festival, in Hartford, on the 11th of May, 1804 by Abraham Bishop. Printed for the General Committee of Republicans. From Sidney’s Press, 1804.

We are not convened to do homage to a tyrant, nor to parade the virtues of a President and Senate for life, nor to bow before a First Consul, nor to bed the knee before a host of privileged orders; but we have assembled to pay our annual respects to a President, whom the voice of his country has called to the head of the freest and happiest nation on earth.

While Providence is giving to Britons a solemn commentary on the burning of our towns and the murder of our brethren, we are enjoying the fruits of a glorious defence against the passive obedience, which her insatiate court attempted to impose on us, as a punishment for the high misdemeanors of having descended from themselves, of having fought liberty of mind and conscience in this new world, and of having resolved to be free.

While France is learning, under awful impressions, the danger of delegating power without limit, and of trusting to ambition and the sword what ought to remain in the sacred deposit of peace and legislative counsel, the people of most of our States enjoy the full benefit of free elections, and derive from them all the blessings, which the best state of society admits.

While symptoms of death have seized on the governments of the eastern continent, and are hurrying them to that grave, which has buried all the ancient empires, we, are in youth, advancing to maturity rapidly, as a found constitution well guarded, and the best nourishment well administered can advance us.

The history of the world teaches that nations, like men, must decay. Ours will not forever escape the fate of others. Wealth, luxury, vice, aristocracies will attack us in our decline: these are evils of society, never to be courted, but to be put to as distant a day as possible. — The season of national youth, of vigor, of pure principles and fair prospects is peculiarly a season of joy. — We have lived at a period, more eventful than any which can recur. Having passed the dark season of our revolution, having witnessed the birth of our empire, having combated the tendency of an administration, which fought to rank us with nations, whose systems of eternal war and debt we abhorred, which publicly approved the doctrines of the old school, and in every measure founded our retreat to the runins of the old world, we have lived to see a real republic, combining all the blessings for which our fathers professed to embrace this country, and distressing none but the enemies of civil and religious liberty.

. . .

Uniform respect for the sovereign people and for peace has characterized our President: his ears have been open to the voice of the people, who called him to his high office, and he has waited till that voice was distinctly expressed. In the present case the southern people called loudly for the acquisition, republicans were united in sentiment, and federalists declared that Louisiana was worth the price of blood. — To kings and the lovers of a President and Senate for life be it left to shed blood for territory; our President saw in amicable negociation a prospect of gaining the desired possession. — He might have marshaled armies and bid defiance to the mighty power of France — the blood of your sons and brothers might have flown like the waters of the Ohio and reddened the Mississippi, and this would have been the only export ever acquired — the banks of that majestic river would have furnished another scene of whitened bones, and this would have been the only right of deposit ever secured! Louisiana would have remained the proud possession of France, and land of citadels, from which all the southern world would have been successfully annoyed. The wilderness, now blossoming as the rose, and filled with the shouts of republican husbandmen, would have been restored to beasts of prey. The rice of blood would indeed have been paid, but the object forever defeated!

. . .

To federalists this territory, for which they would have shed blood, now seems a barren waste, where no verdure quickens; but to us it appears fruitful, abounding in broad rivers and streams, producing whatever is necessary to our commerce with foreign nations. We see in Louisiana an assurance of long life to our cause. The Atlantic states, as they advance to that condition of society, where wealth and luxury tend to vice and aristocracies, will yield to that country accessions of enterprizing men. The spirit of faction, which tends to concentrate, will be destroyed by this diffusion. We see in this acquisition the enterprize, which it excites, the fraternity which it promises, an asylum for the oppressed of all nations, without fear of an alien act, destroying the germs of war and opening the spring of that century of seasons, which exhibits the whole western continent detached from the wars of the eastern, from its kings, its first consuls, and nobles, from vast plans of dominion by conquest, a country producing the best and making it the interest of all nations to trade with us, promising a rich addition of revenue to expedite a legal oblivion to a detested funding system.

. . .

We have before rejoiced that the aristocratic factions of our country were humbled — that the energetic measures of the reign of terror were at an end, and that in the person of our first magistrate was expressed the public sentiment in favor of the principles of our revolution. While greater lamentation and woe have been heard among federalists than was founded in Ramah, because they had lost not only their first-born, but nearly the whole of their family, we have rejoiced in the constant increase of confidence in our administration, produced by a conviction of the integrity and utility of its measures. The people of other nations are born to see some hereditary potentate over them, scattering death and desolation, wasting their substance, dragging their children to the slaughter, and conducting as if they had been sent on earth merely to curse every portion of it, to which their power extended — but we see at our head a man, whom the people have literally delighted to honor, whose life has been republican and whose services have been devoted to an experimental illustration of that political system which the philosophers of the east always considered visionary. He is demonstrating that a republican government is the strongest on earth and the will of the people, faithfully expressed, forms the most perfect system of laws and policy: A talk far more elevated than that of making marble pincushions.*

In the acquisition which we celebrate, he has exhibited the characteristic difference of system between the parties. Federalists would have shed blood for Louisiana, he preferred to purchase it from the right owners. They love the expensive and energetic measures of the old school, he prefers the pure, peaceful principles, the truth and value of which were sealed by the ceaseless labors and dangers of an army of freemen.

This acquisition did not rise as would a palace from the midst of ruins, but it arose naturally from a course of measures, having for their basis peace, economy, equal rights and honest friendship for all nations. Union in these sentiments has produced a festival from Orleans to New Hampshire, and it must add not a little to the occasion that this last state is substantially added to the republican force. Massachusetts and Connecticut are the solitary mourners over the remains of federalism.

*See Mr. Daggett’s oration, where the republican system of Mr. Jefferson is represented to be as idle and visionary as would be an attempt to make pincushions from marble.

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Filed under 1800's, Legal, Louisiana Purchase, Posted by Rebecca Dresser