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Collection Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

Anti-Slavery and Civil War Ephemera

"Declaration of the anti-slavery convention. Assembled in Philadelphia, December 4, 1833 ..." [Philadelphia] Merrihew & Gunn, printers. No. 7 Carter's Alley [1833]

The activities of the anti-slavery movement may be traced through a number of documents, including the "Declaration of the Anti-Slavery Convention," printed in Philadelphia in 1833 on silk, and recording the work of the first national organizing effort that sought immediate emancipation of all slaves through non-violent actions of "moral suasion." In " Union with Freemen--No Union with Slaveholders," the bold display lettering of "Anti-Slavery Meetings!" adds urgency to the call for citizens in Ohio to "turn out! and learn your duty to yourselves, the slave and God." Fourteen wood cuts, selected for "Illustrations of the American Anti-Slavery Almanac for 1840," graphically depict the condition of the slave through Northern eyes as well as through Southern. "Printers' Picture Gallery" offers sixteen cuts from the specimen-book of a single New York type-foundry, including historical sketches of the black man free in Africa and over optimistically predicting freedom again in America by 1852 as a result of the efforts of the Anti-Slavery Society. The vulnerability of most ephemera is demonstrated by the current condition of the 1859 "Address of John Brown," which bears several large tears along the right margin and a large burn hole at the top. Insisting that he wanted only to free slaves, not to incite insurrection, Brown's zeal and courage, and willingness to die for the slave, made him an instant martyr and a bellwether of the violence and bloodshed soon to consume the country.

Items related to the Civil War include proclamations to uphold the union; ordinances of secession including the "Declaration of the Causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union"; and recruiting notices seeking volunteers, including a call for dragoons in California. A popular 1861 broadside, cut in the shape of a pattern, gives directions for making "Hospital Slippers for the Sick and Wounded Soldiers of the Union." Complementary sources verify that in the first six months of 1862 the Ladies' Aid Society of Philadelphia distributed more than one thousand pairs of slippers, as well as thousands of boxes of other clothing, bedding, food, medicines, and books.

Dire shortages of food and supplies experienced in the South are dramatically demonstrated by the last issue of the Vicksburg "Daily Citizen." When editor J.M. Swords prepared this issue on July 2, 1863, he noted confidently that although there were rumors of Grant planning to dine in Vicksburg on the Fourth, "Ulysses must get into the city before he dines in it. The way to cook a rabbit is 'first catch the rabbit.'" On July 4, Grant's agents added this postscript:

"Two days bring about great changes. The banner of the Union floats over Vicksburg. Gen. Grant has 'caught the rabbit'; he had dined in Vicksburg, and he did bring his dinner with him. The 'Citizen' lives to see it. For the last time it appears on 'Wall-paper.' No more will it eulogize the luxury of mulemeat and fricassed kitten—urge Southern warriors to such diet never-more. This is the last wall-paper edition and is, excepting this note, from the types as we found them."

And yet another example of finding humor in a serious matter is a rare cartoon-style depiction of "Jeff. Davis Caught at Last," in which the Confederate President is shown being captured in hoop skirts and a bonnet.

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