Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bullying, Etiquette, and Family Honor in the Late-Eighteenth Century

Occasionally the museum staff come across a manuscript or artifact that feels so personal and relevant that we can't help but pour over it. This was certainly the case with a document written by New Jerseyan Edward Fleming to one Gabriel Ludlow, dated 1783.

LWS 756, b61,  f 65

This three-page letter, written from one concerned father to another, details how Fleming's son was bullied and he (the senior Fleming) personally insulted by Ludlow's son. In light of all of the recent anti-bullying advocacy, this document felt particularly resonant.

Let's take a closer look.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thanks Flat Rangers from Ortis and Canales Elementary Schools

This summer some very important Flat Rangers from Ortis and Canales Elementary Schools participated in a special detail mission, ordered by Park Service director John Jarvis. These Flat Rangers worked all summer and fall preparing artifacts for rehousing, in preparation for a new gallery space called the Discover History Center.

At the beginning of the summer, this gallery space was filled to the brim with museum collections. Now that is has been cleaned, we can begin making construction plans for the learning center. Pictured here are the Ortis Flat Rangers after a long day.

All of those museum artifacts had to be carefully relocated to other storage areas in the museum. Here Canales Flat Rangers move an historic sofa to its new home. Read more about this sofa here.

This was no small project. It was a several-month-long endeavor, consisting of lots of planning and precision work. Thanks to Museum Specialist, Joni Rowe, for leading the team.

For their service and dedication, each of these Flat Rangers
has been deputized, Morristown Junior Park Ranger!

Congrats and thank you!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dr. Jude Pfister to Speak at John Marshall House

Thursday, January 22, 2015, 6:00-8:00 p.m. 

The John Marshall House invites you to hear the story of how the first biography of George Washington written by Chief Justice, John Marshall caused political strife in the new republic. “Marshall on Washington: A Political Discourse” An evening lecture by Jude Pfister, author of the new book America Writes Its History.

Book signings and reception in cellar.

Candlelight tour of The John Marshall House.

Ticketed event.

Click HERE to register.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Morristown National Historical Park's Winter Visitor Services

Morristown, NJ – Beginning on January 4, 2015, the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center building will be closed. The building will reopen on February 18, 2015. During that same period, the Washington’s Headquarters Museum and the Ford Mansion will only be open on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Please note that the grounds of the entire park will remain open seven days per week along with the restroom facilities at the Jockey Hollow area, per park hours listed at

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Artifact: A Comparative Study of State Constitutions by William Loughton Smith, 1796

MORR 11820

The decade of the 1790s was a period of true experimentation for the United States. The new Constitution, barely a decade old, was put to the test on a seemingly daily basis. With so much debate and disputation at the highest levels of government, what was the “average” American to do in order to learn about the political workings of the country; in essence, how to learn about and study what today we call civics?

In 1795, a South Carolina congressman (serving from 1789-1799), William Loughton Smith (1758-1812), devised a plan to produce a primer of sorts on the United States Constitution compared with the various state constitutions. Smith was well prepared for writing a tutorial for the “average” American. He had studied in England and Europe, and was prepared for law at the prestigious Middle Temple in London (part of the Inns of Court).

The result of Smith’s efforts, A Comparative View of the Constitutions of the Several States with Each other, and with that of the United States…, was published in 1796 in Philadelphia by John Thompson. The book, dedicated to the “People of the United States,” had numerous foldout charts which show the various activities of government and how they differed from state to state.

As a physical artifact itself, the book is quite typical of the period. While probably out of reach financially for the “average” American, it was nonetheless a beautiful piece of workmanship and would have made a handsome addition to any personal library. The book is bound in half-leather (meaning leather on the spine and at the four corners) with marbled exterior boards.

The copy featured, catalog number MORR 11820, is from the extensive Lloyd W. Smith archival and rare book collection at Morristown. It represents one of the first popular guides to American government, which became very prolific—and cheaper—during the nineteenth century; and indeed are still available today in numerous formats.

This blog post by Jude Pfister, Curator.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Featured Manuscript: The Examination of John Morrison (Part Three)

Hi. Welcome to the final installment of this three-part document analysis series. Today's focus is on document interpretation and the research that follows.

Review Step One: Observation <<<

Review Step Two: Interrogation <<<


Once a document has been thoroughly interrogated, you can move on to the interpretation and research stages of document analysis. These two stages go hand in hand as they build upon one another. As you critique your evidence, you will find more directions to take your research and the more you research the more evidence you will find.

Historical interpretation, however, is not always an easy or straight-forward task. As Victoria Bissell Brown and Timothy Shannon point out in "Principles for Interpretation," as you begin interpreting sources it is important to remember:

       Sources are incomplete. You will never have all the sources for any single moment, and no single source can tell the whole story.

       Sources have limits to what they can tell you. You must consider what you can and cannot logically conclude from a source.

       Sources have biases which must be accounted for. Do not dismiss the source’s bias or adopt it in your interpretation. Instead, identify the bias and use it as evidence of one viewpoint.

       Sources can conflict. Never hide or dismiss sources that complicate or contradict your interpretation. Either revise your interpretation or explain why conflicting evidence does not alter your interpretation.

LWS 4031

Scholarly interpretation of primary sources, based on evidence and inquiry, is the foundation of good historical research. As scholars evaluate evidence, make generalizations, and synthesize numerous recources, they begin forming conclusions. These conclusions may culminate in the creation of a secondary source, such as an article, commentary, or book. Many of the history textbooks you read in school examine numerous primary sources and offer broad interpretations of historical events.

Now that we have practiced observation and interrogation, review manuscript
LWS 4031 again and prepare your own interpretation.

Q. What recources, primary and secondary, will you utilize? How will you determine which sources are credible?

Sources Used:

Examination of John Morrison, July 28, 1800, [Morrison, John. Recorded by John Battoone, Joseph March, and Andrew Bell], LWS 4031-1, box 249, Morristown National Historical Park, Morristown, New Jersey.
Brown, Victoria Bissell“ and Timothy J. Shannon. “Principles for Interpretation” Going to the Source: The Bedford Reader In American History. Vol 1: To 1877. Second Edition. Front Matter. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2008.

This blog series by Sarah Minegar, Archivist and Museum Educator.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Manuscript: The Examination of John Morrison (Part Two)

Welcome back to Part Two of the document analysis series. We will continue our research where we left off.

Review Step One: Observation <<<


Let's jump right in.

LWS 4031

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Featured Manuscript: The Examination of John Morrison (Part One)

LWS 4031
This month's featured manuscript is the examination of one John Morrison, dated July 28, 1800. Though succinct, this short document is packed with interesting information, making it the perfect candidate for a document anaylsis activity. This three-part blog series takes a step-by-step look at this court record and shares some guidelines for manuscript observation, interrogation, and interpretation.


Effective and meaningful primary source investigation requires patience. You can begin piecing the story together by searching for clues. 

To start, try to determine the document type and look for any special markings, as those provide you with information regarding the relevance of an individual manuscript.  Sometimes it is necessary to read large portions of the document in order to determine the type. This is not always an easy process as the script or printing can pose legibility issues. Manuscripts written in foreign languages often further complicate the transcription and interpretation process.

Let's try a few document analysis activities...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Morristown NHP to Begin Off-Season Hours

Morristown, NJ – Beginning on November 1, 2014, Morristown NHP will begin its off-season hours of operation for visitor services as follows:

Washington's Headquarters Museum
Monday and Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday through Sunday – 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day

Ford Mansion
Monday and Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday through Sunday – tour times at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm
Tours are limited to 20 visitors per tour. You can purchase tickets at Washington's Headquarters Museum. All tickets are first come first served, no reservations.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day

Jockey Hollow Visitor Center
Monday and Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday through Sunday – 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day

Wick House
Monday and Tuesday – Closed
Wednesday through Sunday – 9:30 am to 12 Noon and 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day

Please note that the grounds of the park will remain open 7 days per week along with the restroom facilities at the Jockey Hollow area (Visitor Center and New York Brigade Comfort Station) per park hours listed at

For more information about the park, please call 973-539-2016 ext. 210 or visit our website at

PHOTO Sarah Minegar/NPS

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thanks, Matt

Mosquera in the library storage area.
The division of cultural resources would like to thank Matt Mosquera for his service this summer. This is Matt's third summer volunteering. His primary project has been helping us clean and rehouse objects in special collections, in preparation for a future gallery installation.

Matt is a rising freshman at Union County College.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Farewell, Alyssa

It is that time in the summer when our interns head back to college. We would like to extend our warmest sendoff to Ms. Alyssa Vorbeck, a rising junior at Messiah college.

This summer Alyssa was hard at work researching the Samuel Smith History of New Jersey, in honor of the New Jersey 350th celebration.

MORR 9570 and LWS 591, at Acorn Hall

In addition to contributing research blog entries about Smith and his work, Alyssa created a brochure that accompanies a Samuel Smith exhibit featured at neighboring Acorn Hall. This exhibit will run through December and features a book and a manuscript from the Lloyd W. Smith Collection. Read more about these artifacts here.

This summer, Alyssa also found herself dipping into other museum/cultural resources projects. She help us with some historical house keeping in the Ford Mansion and aided with annual inventory.

Thanks, Alyssa! Good luck this year!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Featured Artifact: The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey by Samuel Smith (Part 2)

MORR 9570
Researching a book does not begin at the book itself, as one might think. The book itself is only the finished product, so why start with the end, when common knowledge tells us to start at the beginning?

Before absorbing any of the information in a book, it is necessary to understand the background of the author. A book is to its author’s experience, as a shard of glass is to a mosaic; the colored glass is beautiful to look at by itself, but it becomes so much more when put into context.

The most thorough source of information for Samuel Smith’s biography came directly from his own book. In the second edition of The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey, Smith’s nephew, John Jay Smith, wrote a biographical sketch about him and his family’s history. Samuel Smith was not interested in New Jersey simply because he lived there; he was the great-grandson of one of the very first proprietors of West Jersey. Almost the entirety of the men in his family at one point or another worked for the colonial government of New Jersey. In fact, most of the documents that he collected for his History of New Jersey, in all probability, were put into effect while one of his ancestors held a position in New Jersey’s government.

Samuel Smith was no exception; so many government titles are associated with his name that it was difficult to believe that one man could have been so busy. Along with previously being a merchant, John Jay Smith mentions that his Uncle Samuel Smith was a “member and Secretary of the King’s Council, Treasurer of the Province, &c., &c.” To expand on the “&c., &c.” was somewhat a challenge. According to the New Jersey Historical Society website, he was a justice of the peace and the mayor of Burlington; unfortunately, however, I could find no other source to confirm that. The only other title that I felt a suitable selection of sources could confirm was that he was a first-rank leader in the assembly of New Jersey’s Council. Because of the repetition of names in the Smith family, it would be very easy to mistake him with one of his family members, and this could lead to the confusion of his job titles.

Image of William Franklin portrait
             It was particularly interesting to note that there are no records indicating where his loyalties stood on the independence debate; therefore, his stance can only be inferred. He was loyal to William Franklin, a known loyalist, and he stepped down from his position due to ill health before the rest of the council turned on Franklin, but in the preface of his History of New Jersey, he writes “the too general negligence as to particular rights of individual, and the reputation of civil policy…in many parts of the province, are justly made the subject of general complaint” [emphasis added]. Here he seems to be saying that he agrees that the colonists are being treated unfairly, however, this is the only time he addresses the debate, and since his death was in 1776 he was never truly forced to choose a side.

LWS 591

When he was not working for New Jersey, he was volunteering his services to the Quakers.  John Jay Smith also mentions that his uncle was the author of the Constitution for the New Jersey Association for Helping the Indians; this society, made up solely of Quakers, was partly responsible for the creation of the Brotherton Reservation. Coincidentally, this handwritten document is also part of Morristown NHP archival and rare book collection.

Joseph J. Felcone is a leading expert on Smith’s History of New Jersey, and in his overview of the book, he mentions that the Quakers had asked Smith to write a history of Pennsylvania and New Jersey with particular emphasis on how the Friends had impacted the settlement of those areas. Although it was unpublished, this provides an explanation for why specifically Samuel Smith was motivated to write this book, in addition to his family’s history with the state. Felcone also mentions that Smith and his research directly influenced five other authors. Two of the books are also in our library: Aaron Leaming and Jacob Spicer’s The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New Jersey, and Samuel Allinson’s Laws of New Jersey. On the title page of the former it simply says that the documents were “collected by some Gentlemen employed by the General Assembly,” but in the latter, Allinson specifically thanks Smith in the preface: “Nor must he omit to mention the kindness of Samuel Smith and James Kinsey, Esquires, in affording him every material help in their possession, and their readiness to assist with their judgment at any time on doubtful points.” As for the other two books, Felcone mentions that there is a letter written in 1773 from Sewel’s publisher when the book was to be reprinted in 1776 where he states, “I have given Samuel Smith the Inspection of those proof sheets already done….” Lastly, Robert Proud gives Smith extensive praise in the dedication of his book History of Pennsylvania, because Smith’s research for the aforementioned unpublished manuscript of the history of New Jersey and Pennsylvania was one of the main sources of his book. In addition to his expertise on the state’s history, his research on the formation of the Brotherton Reservation is possibly the most complete in existence. While searching for more details about the Reservation, I referenced many books and almost every one of them used Smith’s History of New Jersey as a source. It would be safe to conclude that, at the time, he was the leading expert on the history of the colony.

Smith's History of New Jersey, MORR 9570
Possibly the most interesting story connected to this book was the press that it was printed on. Felcone had quoted many letters written by James Parker (the book’s publisher) to Benjamin Franklin requesting that a press be moved from New York to Burlington in order to print the book. How exactly, then, was the press connected to Franklin? By looking through multiple studies on JSTOR, I was able to piece together a rough timeline of the press; it had originally been used by an apprentice, and then by Franklin’s nephew in Antigua, and had made its way into storage in New York by 1765, but if every source had been proven correct, it would have been in several colonies at once before finally landing there. To fill in the holes, I contacted James Green from the Library Company of Philadelphia, who specializes in the life of Benjamin Franklin as a printer. He quickly provided a detailed history tracing the press from Antigua to Philadelphia where it finally landed after Parker had finished using it to print the book.

spine, MORR 9570

After uncovering the picture around the book, the only thing left to do was to examine the book itself. Luckily, Felcone had previously recorded the physical details of the book. Not being an expert on the terminology, I familiarized myself with the vocabulary he used, and found nothing further to add to his observations.

Read Part 1, HERE

Allinson, Samuel. Laws of New Jersey. Burlington: Isaac Collins, 1776: vii

Archives of the State of New Jersey, Series I, Vol. IX, pgs. 394-395.

Barnes, Jack C. "A Moral Epistle: A Probable Addition to the Franklin Canon." The New England Quarterly 30, no. 1 (March 1957): 73-84.

Chamberlain, Daniel H., Gamaliel Bradford, James De Normandie, James F. Hunnewell, and Worthington C. Ford. "May Meeting, 1902. Historical Conception of the Constitution; Aid to Glory; Letters from James Parker to Franklin." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd ser., 16 (1902): 151-232.

Eames, Wilberforce. The Antigua Press and Benjamin Mecom, 1748-1765. Worchester: n.p., 1929.

Felcone, Joseph J. Printing in New Jersey 1754-1800. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 2012: 37-40.

Fennelly, Catherine. "William Franklin of New Jersey." The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 6, no. 3 (July 1949): 361-82.

Frantz, Klaus. Indian Reservations in the United States. N.p.: University of Chicago, 1999.

Green, James N. "Information on Benjamin Franklin's Antigua Press." E-mail message. June 26, 2014.

Gummere, Amelia Mott. "Friends in Burlington (continued)." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 7, no. 4 (1883): 353-76.

Gummere, Amelia Mott. "The 'Friendly Institution' of Burlington, New Jersey." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 21, no. 3 (1897): 347-60.

Green, James N. Philadelphia Library Co. "Information on Benjamin Franklin's Antigua Press." E-mail message. June 26, 2014.

Larrabee, Edward McM. "Recurrent Themes and Sequences in North American Indian-European Culture Contact." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 66, no. 7 (1976): 1-52.

Leaming, Aaron, and Jacob Spicer. The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New Jersey. Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1797-98.

Proud, Robert. The History of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Zachariah Poulson, 1798: 5.
Redway, Virginia L. "James Parker and the 'Dutch Church.'" The Musical Quarterly 24, no. 4 (October 1938): 481-500.

Schermerhorn, William E. History of Burlington, New Jersey (Enterprise Publishing Company: Burlington, NJ, 1927), pgs. 254-255.

Sutton, Imre. "Sovereign States and the Changing Definition of the Indian Reservation." Geographical Review 66, no. 3 (July 1976): 281-95.


This blog entry by intern Alyssa Vorbeck, Messiah College.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flat Rangers Ford and Jones Visit Morristown

The summer is a great time to assess safety and maintenance concerns in the park. This week, we were fortunate to have Flat Rangers Ford and Jones stop in during our monthly safety committee meeting. During a walk-around, we discussed areas of concern and the Flat Rangers helped us rank our safety issues.

Flat Ranger Ford suggested we conduct a SPE (Severity x Probability x Exposure) assessment
on the cracked historic blue stone, in front of the Ford Mansion. 

Using their handy SPE card, the Flat Rangers ranked this hazard as substantial and
determined that a larger restoration project is in order. 


During their visit, an exterminator came to removed a large paper wasps' nest.


Once the nest was safely removed,the team checked out the window damage. 
It appears only minor damage, mostly residue, resulted.

The team also reported water damage...
...and reevaluated the deteriorating handrail on the back porch.

After the museum inspection, Flat Ranger Jones began the Ford Mansion walk-through.

Thanks for helping us conduct safety evaluations,
Flat Rangers Jones and Ford!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Artifact: The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey

Celebrating New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary with a look at The History of the Colony of Nova Cӕsaria, or New Jersey by Samuel Smith
MORR 9570
As a possible American War for Independence loomed near, the threat that the British colony of Nova Cӕsaria would become the State of New Jersey grew increasingly more of a reality. Before the onslaught of revolution, however, Samuel Smith, Esq., of Burlington, New Jersey, gathered all of the information and important documents that he was able to obtain, and put together an extensive history of the colony. That research culminated in the first published history of New Jersey from its first settlement to the year 1721, including some details of its current state when the book was published in 1765. The Morristown National Historical Park Library is home to one of the surviving copies of the estimated 600 original editions printed in 1765.

Smith’s personal connection to the colony’s beginnings contributed to his interest in the subject. Samuel Smith’s great-grandfather, Richard Smith, along with his two sons, John and Daniel, signed the “Concessions and Agreements of the Proprietors and People of West Jersey” as original proprietors in 1677. His grandfather, Samuel Smith, the elder, did not join his brothers and father in the New World until 1694 when he moved from Yorkshire, England to the colony. Our author’s father, Richard Smith, along with being a member of the Assembly of West Jersey for twenty years, was a merchant for the West India Company, and was very successful in Burlington and Philadelphia. It seems that politics was in the blood of the Smith family because, in addition to the titles held by his ancestors, his brother, Richard was a member of the Continental Congress, and his son Joseph was the last Royal Treasurer of the Province before the colonies gained independence.

Samuel Smith, our author, was born December 13, 1720 to Richard Smith and Abigail Raper. He spent a few years as a young man in Philadelphia working as a merchant alongside his father.  He married Jane Kirkbride November 13, 1741, and together they had four children: Joseph, Abigail, Sarah, and Richard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reserve Your Classroom Materials Today!

Dear Teachers,

We know you are busy enjoying your summer activities, but it is never too early to beginning thinking ahead to the fall! Our
Traveling Museum Artifact boxes are available for two week loan intervals and include adaptable activities appropriate for primary, middle, and secondary grade levels. We currently offer four museum boxes available for classroom use.

Morristown’s Traveling Museum Artifact Boxes contain groupings of reproduction artifacts similar to those that would have been typically found in the possession of various persons during the late eighteenth century. The purpose of these boxes extends beyond a mere show-and-tell experience for students. Morristown National Historical Park has constructed these traveling educational units to enable students to simulate what the Park and other museums do when archiving, storing, and interpreting objects from the past. We hope that by examining these objects in “museum condition,” students will gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the work involved in preserving a record of the past, as well as expand their historical reasoning and historical empathy skills. And ultimately, we hope that these boxes will serve as useful preparation for teachers planning a field trip to the Morristown National Historical Park Museum.

Unit 1
Contents of a Slave's Bag

Unit 2
Contents of Native American Bandolier Bag

Unit 3
Contents of a Colonial Lady's Pocket

Unit 4
Contents of a Soldier's Haversack

The artifacts in our Traveling Museum boxes are stored, labeled,
and catalogged just like the real objects in our special collections.

Our replica objects come with corresponding accession records and catalog
cards, so students can get the full museum experience!

Schools within the state can request the loan of the Traveling Museum Artifact Boxes by contacting 973-539-2016 (Sarah Minegar @ x 215) or (Jude Pfister @ x 204)

Our Traveling Museum Artifact boxes are available for two week loan intervals
(teacher pick up only).

Our Traveling Museum Artifact boxes utilize replica artifacts and lesson units originally developed and distributed by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. These original Hands-On History Kits can be found here. Morristown National Historical Park has utilized these fantastic materials to create its own derivation demonstrating the museum end of artifact preservation. These derivations include artifact "housing," museum object records, and original lesson materials and activities. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is in no way affiliated with the derivation of materials found here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Talk with Author Dr. Jude Pfister

Morristown, NJ – Visit Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) at 1 pm on Saturday, August 23, 2014, for a book talk and signing presented by Morristown NHP’s Chief of Cultural Resources, Dr. Jude M. Pfister. His new book, America Writes Its History, 1650-1850: The Formation of a National Narrative, is an introduction to the development of history as a written art form and academic discipline during America’s most crucial and impressionable period. Dr. Pfister will present an overview of his book which addresses the subject of writing American history over two crucial centuries, 1650-1850. During that time writers, not yet historians as we think of the term, sought to determine and fashion the guiding narrative of the unfolding American drama as played out against great upheavals in the social, economic, and political realms of colonial and Revolutionary America.

The talk and signing will be in the park’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey. Admission to the book talk is free. There is a $4 admission charge for those who wish to go on a tour of Washington’s Headquarters at the Ford Mansion.

America Writes Its History, 1650-1850 will be for sale in the museum’s gift shop. All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit Morristown National Historical Park and the park’s private partner, the Washington Association of New Jersey.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Featured Manuscript: John Witherspoon letter (Part 1)

Witherspoon manuscript, P234
The Lloyd W. Smith Collection contains a unique letter written by John Witherspoon in 1784. In 1783, the year before the document was written, John Witherspoon and Joseph Reed travelled to Great Britain to promote the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and to personally seek contributions for the college.  They found the people of Great Britain embittered toward their former colonies, and their fundraising mission was unsuccessful, netting them only 5 pounds, 14 shillings.

After Dr. Witherspoon’s return home, in 1784, he circulated the letter entitled “Memorial for the College of New Jersey”. The letter was intended as an aid to raising funds for the repair of the college. In it, he describes some of the history of the College of New Jersey, as well as some of the difficulties experienced by the college as a result of the Revolutionary War.   Copies of the letter were sent to likely donors.   This copy was sent to David Steuart, Earl of Buchan.

In the letter, Dr. Witherspoon describes some of the benefits that generous donations to the college made possible before the war. He makes particular reference to the Rittenhouse Orrery. He writes, “an Apparatus for experimental Philosophy provided of the most complete & perfect Kind and the famous Orrery of Rittenhouse  purchased for the use of the College [sic] …”

When describing the damages sustained by the college during the Revolutionary War, Dr. Witherspoon writes, “The Building was laid Waste the Library almost wholly destroyed the Apparatus entirely taken & the Orrery much injured though not removed.”

The orrery is one of Princeton’s oldest instruments for science instruction, and was purchased by Dr. Witherspoon for the college in 1771. It is a model that represents the motions of the planets around the sun. The instrument was named for the Earl of Orrery, who had one built for him in 1713. Princeton’s orrery was crafted in 1771 by a Pennsylvania clockmaker and self-taught astronomer, David Rittenhouse. It was damaged during the Revolutionary War, but was later repaired. It is presently exhibited in Peyton Hall on the Princeton University campus.

He ends the letter with the following plea:

“It is therefore hoped that Persons of enlarged & liberal mind[s] who wish well to the Interests of Religion & Science in general and to the human Race will contribute to restore this Seminary in an infant Country where the ancient & opulent  [Trad]itions for promoting Science so numerous in Europe are unknown. It shall only be further observed that such Acts of Generosity would have the happiest & most powerful influence in renewing & Strengthening the Affection between great Britain & America."

On the envelope, the following is inscribed:

“principal Witherspoon of Princetons College New Jersey to D.S. Earl of Buchan – a Memorial for his College with Lord B’s letters of recommendation”

It is possible that the letter was not further circulated, because at the end, the following is written:

“On further considerations I th[ou]ght it indecent for the United State that any thing of a Mendicant Shape should appear in Britain   It was accordingly relinquished”

It is unclear whether the above was written by Dr. Witherspoon, Lord Buchan, or someone else.

The Memorial is an interesting history of the college, as well as an explanation of the philosophy of the founders. It was a creative, although largely unsuccessful, fund-raising endeavor.

Blog entry written by volunteer researcher, Cynthia N.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Featured Manuscripts: July Fourth Orations

"The Grand Jubilee of Liberty": Examining July Fourth Orations in the Early American Republic

"To rejoice amidst sorrow--to celebrate with joy and gladness of heart, national events in the gloom of national calamities, at least, has the appearance of a very difficult task."[1]

So began Edward St. Loe Livermore's oration in the city of Boston to commemorate the thirty-seventh anniversary of America's independence in 1813. This opening passage, delivered in the midst of the War of 1812, reflects how current events weighed heavily in the annual tradition of July Fourth orations. As interesting historical sources of the early republic, scholars have frequently examined these orations, as well as the entirety of July Fourth celebrations, in order to gain insights into the political culture and collective memory of the young nation.

The Lloyd W. Smith Collection contains a number of these printed July Fourth Orations from Boston, Massachusetts, here's a look at a few of them:

George Blake, July 4, 1795, Boston

"On this day, Liberty, the offspring of America, is Nineteen years old; and since the earliest moment of her existence, not one year has yet elapsed without bearing with it this customary testimonial of joy, this sacred offering of gratitude to that divine Being, from whose pure essence she at first emanated."[2]

Republican George Blake[3], a young, up-and-coming Boston lawyer and politician, marked the tension the country was facing in his 1795 oration:
George Blake's printed oration, 1795
From the late inhuman outrages on our commerce, we have a most unquestionable proof, that our former enemies [the British] have not yet become our friends.---That their fall (terrible as it was!) did only for a time choke the respiration of vengeance, and interrupt the prosecution of their designs.[4]
He called on Americans to sustain the vigilance that led them to resist the first encroachments on their rights, even in times considered peaceful and prosperous. His rhetoric recalls the popular (often mythical) discourse of the American Revolution in which the population resisted the British oppression as one. The attacks on American shipping, by Britain in this instance but France as well, were another such abomination, and Blake calls on the country to take this opportunity to stand firm and make an example of such encroachments.

John Callender, July 4, 1797, Boston

John Callender's printed oration, 1797
"The preservation of our independence is intimately connected with a preservation of those sentiments and opinions which gave birth to it."[5]

In 1797, the honorary orator for Independence Day in Boston was John Callender, a 1790 graduate of Harvard College and a lieutenant in the Boston Light Infantry. Callender would later go on to serve in the State Legislature and as secretary of the Massachusetts Society of Cincinnati. Callender spent considerable time in his oration speaking on tense relations between France and the United States at that time, largely the result of French seizures of American shipping.

Following the tradition of recognizing "the 'important and timely aid' received from the French alliance [during the revolution],"[6] Callender quickly called on his fellow citizens "to be prepared for all events," including war.[7] Utilizing rhetoric even twenty-first century Americans would recognize, Callender channeled the popular understanding of unity handed down from the Revolution to call for a preparation to defend those liberties against all European encroachment:

Callender calling on Americans to prepare for the worst.

Edward St. Loe Livermore, July 4 1813, Boston

"If the celebration of the day requires the exhibition of smiling countenances and a joyful appearance, I fear the anniversary cannot be celebrated at this time comporting with the laudable institution of the town." [8]
A page from Livermore's oration, 1813
Barely a generation removed from the American Revolution, as international events continued to seesaw, the United States saw itself at war once again with Great Britain. Somberly, the city of Boston set out in its tradition to commemorate the birth of the nation, but this year the Federalist dominated city heavily tempered the celebration. To protest 'Mr. Madison's war,' Federalists withheld many traditional events, including "public dinners, fireworks, illuminations, entertainments---everything, in fact, beyond what was required by law or decency."[9]

Edward St. Loe Livermore confronted the difficulty of celebrating during a time of war during his oration. Unlike the events that preoccupied parts of previous orations, the events taking place in 1813 in the United States could not be ignored or pushed to a secondary note in the oration. Livermore came right out and let it be known how his oration would proceed, "The disastrous state of our national affairs, and the occurrences which have led to our distresses, will my theme on this occasion."[10]

Livermore, true to his word, questioned the causes of the war maintained by the Madison administration, contrasting the "unjust and impolitick (sic) war," [11] with the common sense of the American Revolution.


The Fourth of July remains the pinnacle of the public commemoration of this country's revolutionary beginnings. The celebrations during the early republic period, especially the annual oration, frequently reflected issues pressuring the still young nation. These domestic and international tensions infused the celebrations with intense debate over the legacy of the revolution and the direction the country was heading at that moment. Each of the orations featured above illustrates how orators from both political persuasions were able to harness the pomp and circumstance of the holiday to unleash political commentary on the premier issues of the day.

[1] Edward St. Loe Livermore, An Oration Delivered July the Fourth, 1813 At the Request of the Selectmen of Boston: in Commemoration of American Independence, (Boston: Printed by Chester Stebbins, 1813), 3. Lloyd W. Smith Collection, Morristown National Historical Park.
[2] George Blake, An Oration, Pronounced July 4th, 1795 At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, in Commemoration of the Anniversary of American Independence (Boston: Printed and sold by Benjamin Edes, Kilby Street, 1795), 5. Lloyd W. Smith Collection, Morristown NHP.
[3] All biographical information about the orators covered in this essay was gleaned from: James Spear Loring, The Hundred Boston Orators Appointed by the Municipal Authorities and Other Public Bodies, from 1770 to 1852; Comprising Historical Gleanings Illustrating the Principles and Progress of Our Republican Institutions (Boston: J.P. Jewett, 1853).
[4] Blake, An Oration, 21.[5] John Callender, An Oration, Pronounced July 4, 1797 At the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, in Commemoration of the Anniversary of American Independence (Boston: Printed and sold by Benjamin Edes, Kilby-Street, 1797), 5. Lloyd W. Smith Collection, Morristown National Historical Park.
[6] Len Travers, Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997), 49.
[7] Callender, An Oration, 14.
[8] Livermore, An Oration, 3.
[9] Travers, Celebrating the Fourth, 194.
[10] Livermore, An Oration, 6.
[11] Ibid., 7.
This blog entry by Bruce Spadaccini, Thomas Edison National Park.