How Sergeant William Harvey Carney Rescued the Old Flag in the Assault on Fort Wagner in the American Civil War

By Peter X. Accardo, Scholarly and Public Programs Librarian

William Harvey Carney wearing his Medal of Honor.

Sergeant William Harvey Carney after the war, wearing his Medal of Honor, ca. 1901-1908. Gelatin silver print by James E Reed, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. Public Domain.

Born into slavery in 1840, William Harvey Carney and his family left Virginia sometime in the 1850s before settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an active hub on the Underground Railroad and the same town where Frederick Douglass had brought his own family in 1838 at the start of his prophetic career. Carney was among the first to join Company C of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all-Black Union army regiment under the command of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, member of a prominent New York-Boston family and a former Harvard student (Shaw’s family letters are in the collection of Houghton Library and were consulted during the production of the 1989 film Glory).

(more…)

Houghton From Home–Dickinson Family Library

Why read your own copy of Charlotte Brönte’s novel Jane Eyre when you could read Emily Dickinson’s copy? Can you find the two passages the poet marked in pencil? (Hint: the marks are in the margin on page 418 and the passages are devastating.) Houghton Library is in fact home to 30 volumes known to have been associated with—i.e. owned or read by—the reclusive bard, and nearly 600 owned by her family. Over half of the volumes in the Dickinson family library are available fully online, including Emily Dickinson’s bible which features markings, excised verses, and carefully laid botanical specimens; her brother’s copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Conduct of Life; and her niece’s copy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

If you still haven’t gotten your fix of Emily, why not peruse her herbarium, gaze at her writing desk, and of course, read her manuscript poems. (We also heartily recommend watching Apple TV’s Dickinson—a joyous, playful interpretation of the poet’s teenage years.)

Thanks to Christine Jacobson, Assistant Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, for contributing this post. Houghton From Home is a series of posts highlighting our digitized collections. For more items from across the Harvard Library, visit Harvard Digital Collections.

Emily Dickinson Bible

Emily Dickinson Bible, Dickinson Family Library, EDR 8. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Announcing the winner of the 2020 Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program (SHARP) undergraduate fellowship at Houghton Library

By Adrienne Chaparro, Scholarly and Public Programs Assistant

The Harvard College Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URAF) and Houghton Library are pleased to announce that Madeleine Klebanoff-O’Brien, Class of ’22, is the winner of the Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program (SHARP) Fellowship. Houghton offers fellowships through SHARP, a program that supports arts and humanities research for a cohort of undergraduates each summer. Houghton’s SHARP fellowship allows students to propose their own research projects within any topic or discipline supported by the library’s collections. Usually a 10-week residential program, this year’s fellowship will be conducted remotely for 8 weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak and Harvard’s commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of its community.

Map of the first five circles of hell

Map of the first five circles of hell, Divina Commedia (*IC D2358 472c 1506, f. O vi recto). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Klenbanoff-O’Brien describes her project as a survey of Dante illustrations at Houghton Library focused on maps of the Divine Comedy, in which mapping signifies an effort to spatially synthesize multiple of the poem’s episodes. She plans to produce original maps for Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, and the poem as a whole, as well as a commentary tying to her artistic decisions to her research.

The Harvard Undergraduate Fellowship at Houghton Library is open to all Harvard College students currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program. Applicants are asked to describe their proposed project, including information about the Houghton Library materials the project would use and project outcomes. This year’s project supervisors are Houghton staff members Kristine Greive, Head of Teaching and Learning and Kate Donovan, Associate Librarian for Public Services.

Dante encountering the leopard, lion and she-wolf in the dark wood

Dante encountering the leopard, lion and she-wolf in the dark wood, Divina Commedia (*IC D2358 472c 1506, f. a vi verso). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Three Bostonians and the Smallpox Epidemic of 1721

By Peter X. Accardo, Scholarly and Public Programs Librarian

Title page, Some account of what is said of inoculating or transplanting the small pox

Cropped and torn title page of Mather’s pamphlet on smallpox inoculation, Some account of what is said of inoculating or transplanting the small pox (*AC7.M4208.721s). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Among the texts available through Harvard Library’s online collection Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics is Some Account of What is said of Inoculating or Transplanting the Small Pox (*AC7.M4208.721s), anonymously printed in 1721 and long thought to be written by Puritan minister Cotton Mather (1663-1728); this attribution is attested by an early owner who has written Mather’s name below the introduction. In the pamphlet Mather abstracts two treatises on inoculation published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. But it was the personal testimony of Onesimus, an enslaved West African who had been “gifted” to Mather by members of his congregation, that proved decisive in his advocacy of inoculation against a devastating outbreak of smallpox in Boston in 1721. In an earlier letter to the Royal Society, Mather wrote,

Enquiring of my Negro-man Onesimus, who is a pretty Intelligent Fellow, Whether he ever had the Small-Pox; he answered, both, Yes, and No; and then told me, that he had undergone an Operation, which had given him something of the Small-Pox, and would forever preserve him from it, adding that it was often used among the Guramantese [likely corresponding to the Berber peoples of southern Libya or the Coromantee from the coastal areas of modern-day Ghana], & whoever had the Courage to use it, was forever free from the Fear of the Contagion. He described the Operation to me, and showed me in his Arm the Scar.

(more…)

Houghton From Home–Kinderballets

Houghton Library is home to the distinguished collection of George Chaffee (1907-1984), a dancer, balletophile, and collector. Although he specialized in the French Romantic ballet, some delightful bits of his collection available digitally are a series of illustrations showing “kinderballets” staged in Vienna during the early nineteenth century by Friedrich Horschelt (1793-1876). Horschelt was a ballet master and choreographer who created ballets for a company of children dancers at the Theater an der Wien—until they were outlawed by imperial decree over public concerns about the children’s welfare. This choreographic drawing (ca. 1818) of Horschelt’s Der Berggeist depicts a few of the company’s younger members.

Dancers arrayed with red and green hoops

George Chaffee collection of theatrical caricatures, costume design, scenography, and portraits (MS Thr 861). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Other illustrations show the children with elaborate props and arranged in visually arresting formations. One of Horschelt’s pupils perhaps pictured was the great ballerina Fanny Ellsler.

Dancers arrayed with red cloths interlaced among them

George Chaffee collection of theatrical caricatures, costume design, scenography, and portraits (MS Thr 861). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Dancers arrayed with large yellow and blue fabrics

George Chaffee collection of theatrical caricatures, costume design, scenography, and portraits (MS Thr 861). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The artist seems to have taken some anatomical liberties with this last one.

The dancers have strangely elongated arms

George Chaffee collection of theatrical caricatures, costume design, scenography, and portraits. (MS Thr 861). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Thanks to Matthew Wittmann, Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, for contributing this post. Houghton From Home is a series of posts highlighting our digitized collections. For more items from across the Harvard Library, visit Harvard Digital Collections.