Brown University Library Special Collections

Archive for January, 2013

Celebrating Emancipation

Posted by [email protected] on January 15, 2013

Transparency displayed in Philadelphia to celebrate emancipation in Maryland

January 1, 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the document now known as the Emancipation Proclamation.  Though its title suggests a simple executive order issued by the President, in fact the Emancipation Proclamation had a complex and fascinating evolution that is worthy of further discussion.  Bookseller and bibliographer Charles Francis Eberstadt set out to document its printing history, and in 1950 published a bibliography of every print copy of the proclamation made during the Civil War that he had identified, back to the first Cabinet discussions of the Preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation in July 1862.  Once Lincoln and his Cabinet finalized the text of the preliminary Proclamation of Emancipation, copies of the text were immediately printed in the leading newspapers the following day — September 23, 1862.  Plain text copies were also separately printed at the State Department, first for high level goverment officials and diplomats overseas who would have need of it, and then for the official State Department folio record.  The War Department had it printed, as General Order No. 139, for distribution to Union officers in the field.  A few privately issued copies were also printed, notably in Ohio and Massachusetts, between October and December of 1862.  But all of these early printings produced only the text of the proclamation.  After January 1, 1863, celebrations of the end of slavery began in earnest, and printings of the Emancipation Proclamation began to take on a growing range of decorative elements, some quite large and elaborate, others smaller and intended to be kept sedately carried in a pocket.  Eberstadt was kind enough to provide a set of photstats of all of the copies of the Emancipation Proclamation he had identified to the Hay Library for its McLellan Lincoln Collection, to supplement our large collection of original decorative printings.  These materials are available to interested researchers, both at the Hay Library and online in our Lincoln Broadsides collection.


William H. Pratt's calligraphic Emancipation Proclamation as a portrait of Lincoln (Eberstadt 40)

Emancipation Proclamation by Rufus Blanchard (Chicago 1864)

Pocket edition of Emancipation Proclamation with decorations (Eberstadt 18 variant)

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Money, Money, Money!

Posted by Karen A. Eberhart on January 14, 2013

A collection of Rhode Island currency and fiscal documents was recently donated by Cynthia Frost (Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at Brown) in memory of her father Michael Freezy Frost, who collected the materials during his lifetime.  The Frost Currency collection (Ms.2012.031) contains examples of 26 pieces of currency, of varying types, issued in Rhode Island between 1775 to 1929, one bank note issued in Delaware in 1759, and 5 documents related to the fiscal history of 18th century Rhode Island.

Front of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

Back of Rhode Island 20 Dollar bill, 1780

This 20 Dollar bill was issued in 1780 and is a promissory note from the State of Rhode Island.  which promised to pay the bearer the principal plus 5% interest every year in 6 years.  The note was then traded like money for goods and services. Whoever possessed the note at the end of the 6-year term collected the principal and all the interest.  Notice the offset text on the left side of the bill, the original signatures and the unique handwritten number, all of which were meant to frustrate counterfeiters.  The back adds offset text in red and a woodcut image which would be very difficult to reproduce exactly.

Rhode Island 6 Pence bill, 1786

The State of Rhode Island also issued money.  The Six Pence bill was issued in 1786 and is printed on only one side.  No interest accrues with this bill, it is solely meant as a medium of exchange.


Front of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Back of Roger Williams National Bank of Providence 10 Dollar bill, 1865

Banks got into the business of printing money in the 1840s and they chose the images and style of the bills.  The image of Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity with his kite was clearly so well known by 1865 that it needed no caption on this 10 Dollar bill.  The back of the bill shows DeSoto discovering the Mississippi.  Perhaps the choice of that image was meant to create solidarity within the United States again since that area of the country had so recently been prevented from seceding.

To learn more about this collection visit the John Hay Library.

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