Sunday, February 28, 2010

Extended "Lincoln's Labels" Excerpt (ESSAY ON SOURCES)

Another extended excerpt from Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War (Edinborough Press, 2009)!

For many readers, Lincoln's Labels will be the first word on the role of well-known companies and brands in the Civil War; I sincerely hopes it will not be the last though. To that end, in the book I provided an essay on sources consulted in writing the book - with a separate section for each chapter - which I hope will inspire new lines of inquiry and scholarship.

Excerpts from the bibliographic essays for several chapters are below. Enjoy!

Lincoln's Labels: America's Best Known Brands and the Civil War
by James M. Schmidt

Excerpts - "Essay on Sources"

Chapter Three - "All That Glitters"
(Tiffany & Co.)

The earliest of the Tiffany histories is George F. Heydt’s Charles L. Tiffany and the House of Tiffany and Co. (Tiffany and Co.: Union Square, NY, 1893). Like many “corporate histories” of the late nineteenth century, it is self-published, short, and unashamedly hagiographic. Still, it is well-illustrated and relatively rich in information on the firm’s role in the Civil War. Of special note is the appendix of “War Testimonials,” which includes a list of Tiffany’s most notable presentation pieces. Period newspapers are rich sources of information on presentation ceremonies - especially for swords and flags – especially as they became increasingly public affairs.

The next comprehensive company history did not appear until Joseph Purtell’s The Tiffany Touch (New York: Random House, 1971). Though un-annotated, Purtell’s is an estimable history that gives good attention to the firm’s early history, including the Civil War years. The most recent accounts include John Loring’s sesquicentennial history, Tiffany’s 150 Years (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987). Loring is a longtime director of design at the firm and has also published more than a dozen other works on Tiffany’s influence in American taste and jewelry. Tiffany’s 150 Years and others of his books are richly illustrated and include full color plates of items from the Civil War era. There is less emphasis on history, but, given his important experience and place in the company, his monographs are well-informed.

The story of the Tiffany & Co. in the Civil War is less about the firm itself, or its principals, than in the lasting legacy of things it created, including swords, flags, and other materiel. In general, the author recommends Arms and Equipment of the Union (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books) for photographs of Civil War artifacts, including Tiffany swords and flags. In regards to swords specifically, the author depended on Richard H. Bezdek’s American Swords and Sword Makers, 2 vols. (Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 1994, 1999).

Howard Michael Madaus and Richard H. Zeitlin’s The Flags of the Iron Brigade (Madison: Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 1997) combines the authors’ articles on flags, especially those created by Tiffany, that originally appeared in the Wisconsin Magazine of History. Interested readers should consult the unmatched scholarship of Madaus – the acclaimed “godfather” of Civil War vexillology – who published widely on flags in American history.

After the Iron Brigade, the most fully documented and cited Tiffany-crafted flags are those of the Army of the Potomac’s Irish Brigade. The banners are mentioned without fail in brigade histories and memoirs. Peter J. Lysy, in his Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade (Notre Dame, IN: Archives of the University of Notre Dame, 2001), documents the succession of flags that the regiment carried – including its famous Tiffany colors – and, as Madaus and Zeitlin do in Flags of the Iron Brigade, places the flags in the larger context of wartime politics (although ethnic, rather than regional).

The Tiffany & Co. archive department is responsible for the collection and preservation of records and artifacts that document the history of the firm from its founding to the present day. The archives are not open to the public, but interested persons can contact archivists for information on individual pieces. The archives are open to scholars after approval of a written research plan.

Chapter Four - "A Regiment of Inventors"
Scientific American magazine)

There are four “official” histories of the Scientific American, all published in the pages of the magazine: “Fifty Years of the Scientific American,” July 25, 1896; “Seventy Years of the Scientific American,” June 5, 1915; “The Diamond Jubilee of the Scientific American,” October 2, 1920; and Albert G. Ingalls, “A Century of Scientific American,” December, 1945.

A “coffee table-style” book, Free Enterprise Forever! Scientific American in the 19th Century (James Shenton, ed., New York: Images Graphiques, 1977), includes a historical sketch of the magazine but in the main consists of reproductions of selected covers and pages from the inaugural issue through the end of the nineteenth century, including some from the Civil War years.

The best scholarly history of the magazine is Michael Borut’s unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, “The Scientific American in Nineteenth Century America” (New York University, 1977). The study charts the history of the periodical from its inception through Beach’s death in 1896. In writing the dissertation, Borut drew extensively on the unpublished diaries of Orson D. Munn, which remain privately held by the Munn family.

Biographical sketches of the magazine’s principals - Porter, Munn, and Beach - can be found in Dictionary of American Biography, American National Biography, and in obituaries printed in the Scientific American. Only Porter, in Jean Lipman’s Rufus Porter: Yankee Pioneer (New York: C.N. Potter, 1968), has received a full-length biographical treatment.

On a more general level, Frank Luther Mott’s History of American Magazines, 1850-1865 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938) and David Forsyth’s The Business Press in America: 1750-1875 (Philadelphia: Clinton Book Company, 1964), in addition to their historical sketches of the Scientific American, were helpful in presenting an overview of journalistic practices of the era.

Likewise, Kenneth W. Dobyns’s (Fredericksburg, VA: Sgt. Kirkland’s, 1994) is a highly readable account of the state of patent law and the Patent Office in nineteenth-century America.Robert V. Bruce’s The Patent Office Pony: A History of the Early Patent OfficeLincoln and the Tools of War (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956) draws heavily on the Scientific American in describing Lincoln’s role in arming the Union forces, and his Pulitzer Prize-winning social history, The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876 (New York: Knopf, 1987), encompasses the Civil War years in describing the maturation of American science and technology.

The real story of the Scientific American during the American Civil War is to be found in the wartime pages of the magazine itself. The index, published at the end of each 26-issue volume during the war years, organizes the material by illustration, “miscellany,” and patent claims. Researchers should not ignore antebellum issues as many technologies used effectively for the first time during the Civil War were actually prewar innovations.

Many large libraries have period issues on microfilm. In addition, Cornell University Library's “Making of America” collection, a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction, includes electronic access to digitized pages of the Scientific American from 1846-1869. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has been performed on the images to enhance searching the texts by keyword.

Reading wartime issues of the Scientific American will naturally lead researchers to interest in the specifics of Civil War-era patents. Patents issued by the United States Patent Office (USPTO) during the war years are very accessible. Printed copies of almost all of the patents issued since 1836 (and some issued before 1836), are available in the USPTO Public Search Room in Arlington, Virginia, in chronological order on microfilm, and in Patent Depository Libraries throughout the country. If one knows the patent number, the USPTO will supply a copy by mail for a nominal fee ($3.00 at this writing). The USPTO has also made digital full-page images of all patents issued since 1790 available on its website.

In 1948, Munn & Co., owners of the Scientific American for a century, sold the magazine to Gerard Piel, Dennis Flanagan, and Donald Miller for $40,000. A German-based publishing group, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, bought Scientific American, Inc., in 1986. Unfortunately, all of the archival material was disposed of when Munn & Co. transferred ownership of the magazine to Piel, except for some of the more interesting material relating to Thomas Edison, which was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution.

Chapter Five - Fire and Brimstone (E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.)

The body of literature on the du Pont family and the du Pont powder mills in the American Civil War is immense and can be divided into several categories: official company histories, histories of the family as a whole, biographies of the principals, special studies of the explosives industry in America, relevant monographs in the periodical literature, and the company archives.

The years following the 1902 centennial of the du Pont mills witnessed the publishing of several histories, including Atwood and Rideal’s The History of E.I. du Pont de Nemours Powder Company: A Century of Success (New York: Business America, 1912), B.G. du Pont’s E.I du Pont de Nemours and Company: A History, 1802-1902 (Boston: Houghlin Mifflin, 1920), and A History of du Pont Company’s Relations with the United States Government, 1802-1927 (Wilmington: du Pont, 1928). More recent publications marked other anniversaries, including the sesquicentennial history Autobiography of an American Enterprise (Wilmington: du Pont, 1952) and Adrian Kinnane’s bicentennial history From the Banks of the Brandywine to Miracles of Science (Wilmington: du Pont, 2002).

The epic story of the du Pont family has been the subject of a number of works, all of which include sketches of the company’s involvement in the Civil War. They include William Carr’s The du Pont’s of Delaware (New York: Dodd, Meade, 1964), Marc Duke’s The du Ponts: Portrait of a Dynasty (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1976), and Leonard Mosley’s Blood Relations: The Rise and Fall of the du Ponts of Delaware (New York: Atheneum, 1980). The best, in terms of scope, writing, and scholarship is Joseph Wall’s Alfred I. du Pont: The Man and His Family (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Capsule biographies of the du Pont principals can be found in the Dictionary of American Biography and American National Biography. The best work on Lammot is N.B. Wilkinson’s Lammot du Pont and the American Explosives Industry (University of Virginia, 1999). An unpublished monograph, Nancy Parker’s “Biographical Essay on Lammot du Pont” (Hagley Museum and Library, April 2005), draws heavily on Wilkinson, but also includes interesting original research.

Unfortunately, especially given his contributions as a soldier, statesman, and businessman, Henry du Pont has not received a full-length biographical treatment. The Hagley Museum and Library holds the manuscript of the late Harold B. Hancock’s unfinished biography of him. He also appears in compilations of notable West Pointers, including W.H. Baumer’s Not All Warriors: Portraits of 19th Century West Pointers who Gained Fame in Other than Military Fields (New York: Smith & Durrell, 1941).

For studies of the history of gunpowder and the development of the explosives industry in America, the following proved especially helpful: G.I. Brown’s The Big Bang: A History of Explosives (Stroud, Gloucestire, UK: Sutton, 1998), Jack Kelly’s Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics (New York: Basic Books, 2005), and Schlatter and van Gelder’s History of the Explosives Industry in America (1927; reprint New York: Arno Press, 1972).

Few companies have maintained their historical record in original documents as well as du Pont. The collected business and personal papers of the company and the family form the core of the Hagley Museum and Library, which sits on the original powder works property on the Brandywine. Though dated, John Beverly Riggs’s A Guide to the Manuscripts in the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library (Greenville, DE: Library, 1970; supplement published in 1978) remains an essential starting point for the huge amount of material. Inventories and finding aids are available online through the library’s website.

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