Americas studies blog

What's on the mind of Team America?


Find out more about our Americas Studies collections on the Americas blog, written by our curatorial team and guest posts from the Eccles Centre writers in residence. Our collections cover both North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Read more

11 April 2014

Newsiest and Best: Team Americas Browse the News

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Cleveland Gazette, 22 July 1916, p. 2, from African American Newspapers, 1827-1998.

We’re just back from a walk around the new British Library Newsroom and it’s a great space. Not only are there all the mod-cons for readers to enjoy in the working part of the reading room but there’s a wonderful entrance gallery where readers can drink coffee, read (or watch) the news and recharge (themselves and their laptops).  There's more about our news media services here.

Always ones to pay attention to the contents of an open shelf we had a wander to the back of the reading room and were pleased to see a healthy selection of Americana. The major newspaper indexes for the UK are present and correct but so too are indexes for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and others. If you’re in London and fancy a look (or even just a recharge) do pop in.

And, if a visit means less of a pop than an epic rail, road, or plane trip, then all is not lost.  A key number of our American papers can be consulted remotely by registered readers via the e-resources remote access pilot (scroll to the bottom of the page). These include:

  • Biblioboard
  • Early American Newspapers, Series 1
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1974-1996
  • Latin American Newspapers Series 1, 1805-1922
  • World newspaper Archive: African Newspapers, 1800-1922

There is also a new addition, which can be accessed via the Early American Newspapers or the Archive of American link: African American Newspapers, 1827-1998.  Watch out for the press-gang, though:


A cartoon by Garfield Thomas Haywood (1880-1931) in the Indiana Freeman (11 April 1905), from the African American Newspapers, 1827-1998.



04 April 2014

Old bits of Trees by Andrea Wulf

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As a historian I get very excited about old letters, diaries, account books and inventories – but once in a while there are other ‘records’ that trump almost everything else.

I had one of those moments this week when I returned to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Over the past six years I have been many times to Washington’s estate in Virginia (just south of Washington DC) – first to research my book  Founding Gardeners and then to give talks about the book. By now I go there to see the changes in the gardens (of which there are many, such as the fabulous restoration of the Upper Garden) and to meet my friend Dean Norton who is the Director of Horticulture there. Dean always makes a huge effort to entertain me – for example, by taking me out on the Potomac in a boat or letting me drive around the estate with a gator [A John Deere utility vehicle, not a reptile - ed.].

Last Wednesday’s visit, however, was one of the most memorable. Within a little more than a month, three very old and important trees had come down. The most visible loss is the majestic Pecan tree next to the house. It was a shock to see Mount Vernon without the beautiful tree (145 feet high). It all looked a bit naked.

Pecan low

Mount Vernon’s Pecan before it was taken down (photo by Dean Norton)

Dean explained to me that they had finally decided to take down the tree because it threatened the house. One big storm and the Pecan might have crashed onto Washington’s house. No matter how old the tree (from the 1850s), the mansion and its content was of course more important.

It took four days to take the giant down – with a crane. They did a fabulous time–lapse film of it.

Click here to see the film.

At the same time they felled a white oak that had been killed by lightening a while ago. The white oak was in a less prominent spot but it was even older – pre–1770 and most likely planted by the great man himself. Another painful loss. At least the wood is now invaluable for restoration projects at the house.

And then, on 31 March, the next tree came down – crumbling under its own weight. This was a big swamp chestnut oak which grew at the ha-ha wall on the slope towards the river. Planted in the 1760s or 1770s it was probably also placed there by Washington. It was completely rotten from the inside and just needed that last bit of wind to crash down. It's so sad to see these giants lying broken on the ground.

When I scrambled around to pick up a bit of bark to take home as a memento, Dean got a chainsaw and sliced off a bit for me. Now I have my own Washington tree in my office. That’s the kind of history that gets under my skin.

Dean Andrea low

Andrea Wulf is a Eccles Centre Writer-in-Residence emeritus.

01 April 2014

Tall Stories

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 All-Story Magazine, April (New York & London, 1912).  Cover art by Cover by Clinton Pettee. Public Domain Mark

We don't know what to believe. 1 April is a good day to stay away from social media, and perhaps tuck into a plate of tree-grown spaghetti or unicorn pie, as well as feeling grateful that Americans don't much go in for April Fool's Day (Madison Avenue aside).

This said, we have other tall stories closer to home, including this magazine that I've just collected from the Reading Room. This is April's cover from 1912, but regular readers of this popular pulp fiction periodical could look forward to a story by Edgar Rice Burroughs that October, entitled Tarzan of the Apes (again illustrated by a nicely lurid Clinton Pettee cover). Tarzan would be published as a hardback in 1914, with Burroughs taking the opportunity to remove the presence of 'African' tigers in his text.  

Burroughs also lurks in this present volume, which contains part III of his  'Under the Moon of Mars', issued under the pseudonym Norman Bean, and later published as the Barsoom series of novels (alas, a copy-editor rendered his proposed nom-de-plume, Normal Bean, in this more prosaic fashion). In this tale, Capt. John Carter, a confederate veteran, heads west in search of gold, takes refuge from 'hostile Indians' in a cave and, by means of poisonous gas, finds himself transported to Mars.

Now, would you believe it?