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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fort Nonsense Updates Unvealed July Fourth!

Teachers visit Ft. Nonsense during a Parks for Every Classroom immersion activity.
Morristown NHP's Fort Nonsense unit has recently received a generous makeover! New signs, benches, picnic tables, and animal-proof trash cans now adorn Morristown's highest point.

During the American Revolution, Morristown was a supply depot. Because Ft. Nonsense was the highest spot in town, it made an ideal location for defense purposes.

Check out these park updates July 4, at the 2:00 PM ribbon cutting ceremony.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

BTS: Photographic Inventory of Collection

Morristown, Behind the Scenes

Have you ever wondered how museum objects are photographed for publications or special exhibits?


For the past couple of years, volunteer Steve Newfield  has helped us with our object catalogs. Working alongside our museum specialist, Joni Rowe, Steve stages a photo booth, complete with backdrop, lighting, and object mounts.

Steve and Joni use different backdrops for different projects. Dark backdrops help highlight pale or light colored artifacts (see photo B) and light backdrops help emphasize the details in darker artifacts (see photo A). The neutral background in these images allows us to utilize collection photos for various projects and in various publications, as the artifacts are clear and un-obscured. This makes cropping and digital image layering possible as well.

Steve uses a combination of natural and artificial light to get the clearest images, and he often stands on a stool to ensure the best vantage point.
Here you can see the stunning detail of Steve's photography, a prime example of his care and precision.
*Artifact photos by Steve Newfield.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Flat Ranger Usma Visits Morristown

Our library storage area requires a lot of upkeep and the backlog can be kind of daunting. We were fortunate to have Flat Ranger Usma with us this week, because he was an expert in environmental monitoring and collections storage.
He began his work by studying all of the data logger (HOBOs) readings.

Then he pointed out examples of deteriorating materials and showed us how to
properly encapsulate books that are showing wear and loss.

Afterward, he staged the books while we prepared to clean the shelves.

Flat Ranger Usma recommended a mixture of water and ethanol to remove
book rot and sanitize the shelving.
Thanks for helping us get caught up Flat Ranger Usma!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Intern Spotlight: Alyssa Vorbeck

The division of cultural resources would like to welcome our summer intern, Alyssa Vorbeck. Alyssa, a rising junior at Messiah College, is studying public history and will be helping us with part of our New Jersey 350 project. During her time at Morristown NHP, she will be researching Samuel Smith, author of The History of the Colony of Nova-Caesaria or New Jersey (1767) and aspects of his life and career. A first edition of Smith's work is part of the Lloyd W. Smith library collection.

Welcome, Alyssa!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flat Rangers Garcia and Schaelchin Visit Morristown

The curatorial division is busy clearing our unfinished lower gallery in preparation for the new Discover History Center. Though it will be a while until we move forward with construction, staff has been hard at work cleaning, prepping, and cataloging museum artifacts and moving them out of this space. We were lucky to have Flat Rangers Garcia and Schaelchin help out on clean-out day. Under the guidance of Museum Specialist, Joni Rowe, these rangers accomplished a lot in a short amount of time.

Flat Ranger Schaelchin cleaned and verified catalog information before she
rehoused this historic furniture.

Flat Ranger Garcia prepped our replica Wick House model for possible donation to another museum.

Thanks for all of the help Flat Rangers Schaelchin and Garcia.
Have fun on your Park Service journey!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Featured Artifact: Incunabula

MORR 9466

Today we share with you one of the oldest printed works in our collection, a 1477 bound volume identified as "Biblia Pauberum." This text qualifies as an incunabula, as it was printed (not hand-written) in Europe, before 1501. Although identified as a pauper's bible (Biblia Pauperum), it lacks qualities associated with that particular type of incunabula. Traditionally, a pauper's bible was an illustrated text, used for teaching illiterate parishioners. Much like the stained-glass windows, these texts offered ways for clergy to convey scripture to the masses.

This work, however, is more likely a work of religious commentary called The Breviloquium, written in 1257 by St. Bonaventue, a Franciscan monk and priest who sought to produce an instructional commentary on the Christian religion. This particular copy was printed in 1477.

Though The Breviloquium has a fascinating history of its own, we want to take a closer look at how fifteenth-century books were structured and assembled.

MORR 9466, wooden boards

Consistent with fifteenth-century European book binding practices, this 1477 volume is comprised of wooden boards, covered in leather. The leather used for this binding is likely tanned calfskin.

MORR 9466, leather cover

MORR 9466, cover decoration

The cover of this book has been decorated via a tooling process called blind impression. A blind impression leaves a permanent indention in the leather. This design may be left uncolored or further decorated with ink or gilding.

MORR 9466, catch remnants (upper cover)

MORR 9466, hasp remnants (lower cover)
This volume was once fastened with decorative brass binding clasps. Remnants of the catch (on the upper cover) and hasp (on the lower cover) are in tact. The blue silk fabric surrounding the upper catch is in remarkable condition, considering its age. According to experts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, this clasp orientation is consistent with a continental binding. English bindings clasped in reverse, with the hasp on the upper cover and catch plate on the lower. 

MORR 9466, example pre-mechanized binding

Most books bound before 1800 were hand-sewn. This 1477 text has the basic structural features of a pre-mechanized binding, a mark of the hand press period. The leaves are folded into gatherings and then sewn through the central folds, into horizontal support bands.

Example pre-mechanization binding, from Oxford Companion to the Book, 148

MORR 9466, back lit sheet

MORR 9466, back lit sheet

Paper can be made from various raw vegetable fibers, but the pages of this volume appear to be comprised of linen pulp. Until the advent of machine-made paper, paper was laid by hand. Upon closer examination, undispersed fibers and impurities are visible to the eye. So too are the faint lines (chain lines) left behind from the wire mesh paper mold. Note these markings and particles in the above images.

MORR 9466, illuminated text

While this text does not include any illustrations, it features stunning illuminations (or hand-colored decorations), as was commonly seen in important theological works from this period.

MORR 9466, illuminated text


Suarez, Michael F. and H.R. Woudhuysen. The Oxford Companion to the Book. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010.

Werner, Sarah. "Book Claps". The Collation, Folger Shakespeare Library Blog. June 11, 2012. Available at:

This blog entry by Sarah Minegar, Archivist, with help from Jude Pfister, Curator.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dr. Jude Pfister Debuts New Book

Curator, Jude M. Pfister's fourth book, America Writes Its History, 1650-1850 has just released!

About the Book
By turns irreverent, sympathetic and amusing, America Writes Its History, 1650-1850 adds to the public discourse on national identity as advanced through the written word. Highlighting the contributions of American writers who focused on history, the author shows that for nearly 200 years writers struggled to reflect, or influence, the public perception of America by Americans. This book is an introduction to the development of history as a written art form, and an academic discipline, during America’s most crucial and impressionable period. America Writes Its History, 1650-1850 takes the reader on a historical tour of written histories--whether narrative history, novels, memoirs or plays--from the Jamestown Colony to the edge of the Civil War. The thread of history running through these two centuries from Jamestown to Fort Sumter is encapsulated by this question: What exactly did we, as Americans, think of ourselves? And more importantly; What did we want non-Americans to think of us? In other words, what was (and is) history, and who, if anyone, owns it?

All proceeds from the sales of this book benefit Morristown NHP, through the Washington Association of New Jersey.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thanks to the NEJCA

Morristown would like to express our appreciation to the United Methodist North Eastern Jurisdictional Commission on Archives and History (NEJCAH) for visiting our library and archives, Ford Mansion, and Headquarters Museum, during their 2014 Annual Conference. Thank you for an enjoyable morning and for making Morristown NHP part of your program.
NEJCA presents MORR with a facsimile of a John Wesley letter to William Wilberforce.
Touring the American Style gallery.
 Visiting the rare books and manuscripts research library.
Touring the Phamphlets of Protest gallery.

A special thanks to Bruce Spadaccini, Steve Newfield, and Cynthia N.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Featured Manuscript: Jefferson Letters Regarding the University of Virginia Library

original rotunda image from
On Thomas Jefferson’s tombstone are three achievements he wished to be remembered for: 1) Writing the Declaration of Independence, 2) Authoring the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and 3) Founding Father of the University of Virginia. Any one of these would have sufficed to earn him a lasting place in history; yet combined, he felt these left the greatest imprint on America and its long term survival. The theme running through each of the three accomplishments is freedom: political freedom; religious freedom; and intellectual freedom.
   The University of Virginia (UVA) is today one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in America, and in some aspects the world. UVA is also (the historic lawn area designed by Jefferson as his Academical Village with the magnificent rotunda library) a UNESCO world heritage site.
Morristown NHP Park collection, Mss.3
   The creation of the University was the work of Jefferson’s mature years and the University officially opened March 1825, just sixteen months before Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.
   Jefferson created UVA from scratch: he designed it architecturally, he sought out and hired professors, he designed the curriculum, and he even sought out specific books for the library. That fascinating bit of work is reflected in two letters held at Morristown NHP as part of the Park Collection.

   In these two letters written to booksellers (Jefferson obviously couldn’t just go on Amazon to buy them—surprisingly though, many are still available in reprint and in pricey first editions from antiquarian booksellers) he enquires about precise titles. In the first letter, dated Monticello, May 22, 1825, Jefferson writes to an unknown bookseller:
Morristown NHP Park Collection, Mss. 3, Recto 

As our Anglo-Saxon instruction is suspended until we can get books, I must pray you to procure for your bookstore here, copies of the following books for purchase by the students, which cannot be obtained but from England, to wit:
  • Grammatica Anglo-Saxonica ex Hickesiano Linguarum Septentrionalium thesauro excerpta.
  • Vocabularium anglo-saxonicum lexico Gul.
  • Heptateuchus, liber Job, et Evangelium Nicodemi, Anglo-Saxonice historiae Judith fragmentum, Dano-Saxonice / edidit nunc primum ex mss. codicibus Edwardus Thwaites.
  • Barrington’s Orosius, Anglo-Saxon & England.

Morristown NHP Park Collection, Mss. 3, Verso
Jefferson ends this letter enquiring about:

  • Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxon.
  • Langard’s History of England.
  • Brodie’s History of the Stuarts.

The second letter, dated Monticello, July 25, 1825, Jefferson writes to William Hilliard, of the Boston bookselling firm of Cumings, Hilliard, and Co. Among the books Jefferson desires are:

Morristown NHP Park Collection, Mss. 1, Recto

  • Morristown NHP Park Collection, Mss. 1, Verso
    Stephani Thesaurus. Gr.
  • Paris’s Pharmacologia.
  • Bulen calculus integralis.
  • Psalterium A. Saxonicum.
  • Johnson’s Dict. by Todd.
  • Crescembeni Storia della Poesia.
  • Herrera Historia de los Hechos de los Castellanos.

Blog Entry by Jude Pfister, D. Litt., Curator

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Congratulations, Sarah!

Our own Archives Technician and Museum Educator, Sarah Minegar, has achieved a personal and professional milestone by successfully defending her dissertation: 
Literary Utopias as Explorations in Human Ecology: Five Modern Works, 1880-2005. Congratulations to Dr. Minegar on this accomplishment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Temporary Egg-Zibit

   The hunt is on...

Stop by the Morristown NHP Washington's Headquarters unit and find an egg-traordinary surprize hidden in one of our galleries.

Morristown NHP is participating in the Morris Museum Egg-Zibit  Egg hunt. This temporary exhibit is one of six placed around the Morristown area as part of the Morris Museum’s current installation, Egg-Zibit: The Art, Science, & Culture of Eggs.
Check out Morris Museum's Facebook page for more details.

The artist who painted our egg is Todd Doney.