Posted by: Ed | March 4, 2015

Report Cards, 1859 Style

Academic Report Cards, which tend to inspire an odd mixture of dread and excitement in a student, have been around a long time. Below is a report card from 1858/59 for a chap named John Cranston who attended the T.C. Taylor Select School, located in Wilmington, Delaware.  Cranston was a better than average student, assuming high grades were not merely rubber stamped at the Taylor School. He was ranked 25th/26th of 80 students in the school. Numerous courses of study are identified, as are signatures of James Cranston, presumably the boys father, as well as John A. Cranston. A ‘note to parents’ is also displayed.

Posted by: Ed | February 27, 2015

Remembering World War I, Late February, 1915

An intense fight for Constantinople takes center stage in late February, 1915 according to the Wilmington’s Sunday Star newspaper. It is recorded as “the largest bombardment in history”.  A few images from our WWI blog appear below.

See Delaware WWI Soldiers and more images from the Sunday Star :

Posted by: Ed | February 26, 2015

‘This Old Book’ about the Underground Railroad

This week’s rare book offers many harrowing real life experiences of those traveling along the Underground Railroad. Below, in the extensive table of contents, we see many examples of the struggles faced by runaway slaves. As first hand accounts, the stories in this book powerfully convey the physical dangers and severe anxieties endured by slaves making their way north to freedom.

More images:

Posted by: Ed | February 23, 2015

Delaware State University Opens in February of 1892

As stated on the front page of the DHS website in the segment This Month in Delaware History, February, being Black History Month, is an excellent time to mention the opening of Delaware State College (now Delaware State University) which began providing higher education to African Americans in 1892.

This Month in Delaware History Blog:

Below are the original Charter and By-Laws of Delaware State University

One hundred years ago this week, as World War I continued to metastasize, Constantinople commanded the attention of France, Great Britain, Germany and Russia. What we now know as Istanbul has long been of vital importance in the Mediterranean, due to its strategic location between western Europe and the Middle East and Russia. During the Middle Ages, Constantinople was a magnificent metropolis, serving as an eastern counterpart, a power balance, to western Europe’s ‘Eternal City’, Rome. In late February, 1915 plans were being made to bombard and overrun the venerable city.  Below are a few pages from the Sunday Star newspaper as well as a photograph from our manuscript collection of Delaware soldier Francis La Rowe.

Much more about this week 100 years ago can be seen on the full blog Remembering World War I   at  :

Posted by: Ed | February 16, 2015

Presidents and First Ladies

We honor Presidents Day by sharing excerpts from a rare pamphlet in our collection which contains biographical information and images of all First Ladies and U.S. Presidents from Martha Washington through Franklin D. Roosevelt.

To see more Presidents and their Wives, see our “This Old Book” blog at

Posted by: japotts | February 13, 2015

Happy Birthday George!

Washington pitcher

Early 19th century English creamware pitcher showing Washington “Ascending into Glory.” DHS collection (Bequest of Dr. Katharine Williamson)

This Presidents’ Day, we take a moment to celebrate George Washington (1732-1799), the nation’s first President and one of the most (if not, the most) iconic figures in American history. Washington was something of a celebrity during his life time, but after his death he was widely mourned and his fame grew even greater. Many different types of Washington tributes celebrated the Commander-in-Chief, but one of the most famous was an engraving by Irish-born artist, John James Barralet, entitled, “The Apotheosis of George Washington.”

The original engraving, published in 1802 to coincide with Washington’s birthday on February 22, shows Washington being conducted heavenward by the allegorical figures of Father Time and Immortality while the figures of Liberty and a Native American mourn at his feet. These figures are also surrounded by various symbols of the American republic, including an eagle and rattlesnakes, while allegorical figures representing Faith, Hope, and Charity look on. Although perhaps a strange image to modern eyes, allegory and references to classical antiquity were common and would have been readily understood and appreciated by nineteenth-century audiences. Barralet’s engraving was so popular with the American public that it was republished and copied multiple times during the early nineteenth century.

Versions of this engraving, such as the one on this creamware pitcher from our collection, even made it onto English ceramics produced especially for the American market. These wares were widely produced in factories in Liverpool (with the Herculaneum Pottery being the most famous) and Staffordshire between about 1800 & 1840. It seems that Washington was a popular subject, since the English potters produced a variety of different designs relating to his life, character, and death.


Posted by: Ed | February 13, 2015

Valentine’s Day One Hundred Years Ago

Valentine’s Day, which stems from the Christian feast day of Saint Valentine, became commercially popular in the mid-19th Century in the U.S. The first mass produced Valentine cards appeared in Massachusetts in 1847. As we cover The Great War in our blog Remembering World War I in Delaware, various military observations, along with local events, humorous advertisements, and holiday references, such as the one you see below, crop up in the newspapers of the day. It seems from the Sunday Star newspaper that mid-February of 1915 was relatively tame, concerning military developments.


To see the full blog please click:

Posted by: Ed | February 11, 2015

A Fashionista’s Delight

On the blog This Old Book this week, we feature a little french gem of fashion in our rare book collection entitled “La Mode Feminine de 1795 a 1900″. This tiny, colorful fashion review provides a year by year glimpse of dominant trends in women’s formal dresses through the 19th Century.


This Old Book:

Just over one hundred years ago, at the end of July in 1914, a catastrophe that was to engulf the world began in the city of Sarajevo. World War I, “The Great War”, was triggered by the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, by a 19 year old Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. The Great War was a sudden, violent conflagration resulting from radical nationalism in the Balkans. The calamity to follow the summer of 1914 would end the lives of 10 million soldiers worldwide. The United States managed to stay neutral until early April of 1917. Nevertheless, although the war ended eighteen months later, approximately 110,000 Americans lost their lives. The profound breakdown of international harmony which The Great War embodied created an immense cultural shockwave. The almost desperate frivolity of the Roaring 20’s, the Dada movement in art, the great novels of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Aldous Huxley, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the advent of Hollywood as a form of art and escape all formed in the wake of a world at war.

The Delaware Historical Society owns a rich collection of WWI Delaware soldier records as well as original newspapers from 1914-1918, papers which were in circulation on the streets at the time.

Please join us each week on the blog Remembering World War I as we highlight specific soldiers from Delaware, as well as newspaper accounts of the Great War as it unfolded.  Local Delaware news and odd or funny announcements will also be shared in order to provide a more textured view of the life and times of Delawareans during WWI.

Catching up to speed:   We see in the Sunday Star newspaper this week of Feb. 6th, 1915 the sky reigning British bombs on the ocean and Germany preempting negative blowback from the U.S. by saying a spat of falsely shown neutral flags on ships might lead to ‘unpleasant’ violations of the U.S.’s neutrality.

In honor of Black History Month, our first soldier highlighted is Private Harry Howard Johnson, a farmer in civilian life. He worked as a barber in the armed forces. His photo appears below. Our two additional soldiers this week are Corporal John R. Sheen who worked as a Lineman in civilian life, and Corporal Alton Samuel Boswell, an accountant.

Photo of Private Harry H. Johnson

Photo of Private Harry H. Johnson

Photo of Corporal John Sheen, firearm at the ready.

Photo of Corporal John Sheen, firearm at the ready.

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