Archive for February, 2015


White Mountains

   Posted by: rring    in Americana, Classes, Students

[Posted by Jane Smith for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

SweetsercoverThe 1890 edition (with updates) of an 1876 guide to the White Mountains edited by Moses Foster Sweetser (1848 –1897) is a fascinating glimpse into late nineteenth century outdoor travel and travel writing.  Bent’s Bibliography of the White Mountains, published in 1911, billed it as “the most comprehensive guide to the White Mountains that has been published,” and this seems to be an accurate claim.  Sweetser is incredibly thorough, both in describing the natural beauty that awaits his readers and in helping them plan every detail of their trips. Published at a time when the advent of paid time off and inexpensive train travel opened up recreational opportunities  for the middle class, Sweetser’s  guidebook offers all the tools for planning  a “do it yourself ” vacation.


M.F. Sweetser edited other travel books for Houghton Mifflin during the late nineteenth century, including guides of the Maritime Provinces and New England, among others. AMST 8380002His handbook for travel in the White Mountains appeals to the hearty outdoorsman interested in hiking the trails of the area, as well as to families or others focused on relaxing stays in grand resorts or smaller hotels.  Extensive sections on geology, topography (with fold out maps), nomenclature, history, scenery and an unusually long section devoted to “Indians” take up the front portion of the guidebook. Sweetser is a stickler for details, at one point carefully explaining to his readers missing topographical graphics, an admission that is charmingly quaint in our Google Earth era. “It was intended to have also panoramas from Moosilauke and Mt. Lafayette, but protracted cold and snowy weather settled down when the Guide-book party moved in that direction, and prevented the drawings.”



SweetsermapDetailed descriptions of train routes, walking trails and accommodations, arranged by geographic area, dominate the last part of the book.  The number of train routes (and train companies) seemingly servicing every nook and cranny of the White Mountain area is impressive, especially when compared to our current scaled-down Amtrak service.  Sweetser  also includes a comprehensive overview for 1890 in the front of the book, noting minute changes in train or stage service and lodging updates, such as his comment about the fabled Glen House, “The new Glen House is one of the foremost summer hotels in the world, and its surroundings have been much adorned of late.”

Sweetser seems as comfortable with the scientific and practical portions of the guidebook as he is with the subjective and descriptive passages.  His depiction of the ideal season to visit is more exuberant than we might see in contemporary guidebooks.

“From the middle of June to the middle of July foliage is more fresh; the cloud scenery is nobler; the meadow grass has more golden color; the streams are usually more full and musical; and there is a larger proportion of the ‘long light’ of the afternoon, which kindles the landscape into the richest loveliness…”

Nor does he hold back his opinion of a less desirable scene, “The Ossipee Ponds are less attractive, on account of the dull surroundings and desolate shores.”

A good portion of the book concerns what Sweetser calls “pedestrian tours or what we would call “hiking.”  In text aimed only at men, he proclaims that these walking tours, “afford ground for rejoicing to lovers of American physical manhood.” Sweetser orients much of the book, particularly those sections dealing with outside adventures, around the Appalachian Mountain Club, formed in 1876. The club had 700 members at the time of the 1890 printing (as compared with 150,000 today) and was created specifically to explore the White Mountains by MIT Professor, Charles Pickering.  Sweetser leverages the organization’s credibility and reputation throughout the book.

One of my favorite sections in Sweetser’s guidebook contains practical advice for men planning pedestrian tours while in the White Mountains. In the days before performance fabrics, he suggests the following attire.

“A flannel shirt, with a rolling collar of the same material, is about all the chest-covering which is comfortable in warm weather walking. Linen collars and cuffs are quickly melted by perspiration; the waistcoat is quite      superfluous; the coat (a light English shooting jacket, buttoning across the breast, is the best)….”

He then gives the following resourceful advice for footwear.

“Shoes should be selected with great care, and should fit neatly… the bottoms of the soles and heels should be garnished with rows of the soft iron hob-nails to prevent wearying slips….

Sweetser also offers a method of repelling the black flies and mosquitoes famous in the White Mountain area, “Various preparations of tar and oil, and other ingredients, are used to anoint the hands, face and neck…” Finally, with our modern day emphasis on hydration and the omnipresent water bottle, it is difficult to grasp Sweetser’s advice to those thirsty souls ascending the White Mountains.  He suggests that they, “carry a bottle of cold tea to be drank [sic] sparingly and at wide intervals” or that they, “drink from water found along the way – springs or rain found in the hollows of flat rocks…after a rain storm.”

The White Mountains was such a popular tourist destination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that a bibliography devoted to guidebooks and other types of literature about this specific area was complied in 1911. Bent’s Bibliography of the White Mountains, originally published by Houghton Mifflin for the Appalachian Mountain Club, contained lists of magazine articles, newspapers, fiction, poetry, journal articles and artwork about this scenic area. Sweetser’s handbook  for the White Mountains also appears in one other significant  bibliography  with a lengthy but descriptive  title, Descriptive List of the five-hundred and forty-eight books published by Houghton Mifflin & Co. and Exhibited in the Model Library of the American Library Association at the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Sweetser’s handbook is most intriguing for the details it reveals about travel and everyday life in 1890. While the scientific sections are a bit tedious, the rest of the handbook is an appealing and complete vacation guide, written with sincere enthusiasm. It is sad to think that the area has changed so much since Sweetser so thoroughly and eloquently described it in 1890.





Cadwallader Colden

   Posted by: rring    in Americana, Classes, Native American, Students

[Posted by Sarah St. Germain for AMST 838: America Collects Itself: From Colony to Empire]

coldencoverCadwallader Colden’s The history of the Five Indian Nations depending on the Province of New-York in America was first published in 1727 and is an important work of history from the colonial period. Colden was a physician, natural scientist, lieutenant governor of New York, and the first representative to Iroquois Confederacy. He was born in 1688 in Scotland and made his way to America in 1710. He wrote essays on the filth of New York City, philosophy, and botany, as well as this important work.

The Watkinson’s copy of The history of the Five Indian Nations was published in London in 1747, which one editor claimed had, “alterations and omissions so numerous , that students to whom these English editions are familiar have really no idea of what the work was as originally written by Colden”. He also notes that George Brinley of Hartford, owned a copy of the original press run. Although the Watkinson owns a portion of his collection, this original copy is not included. The book includes a fold-out map; a dedication; detailed introduction (“being a short view of the form of government of the five nations”); a vocabulary of tribal names; and chapters like, Of the Transactions of the Indians of the Five Nations with the neighbouring English colonies and Mons. De la Barres Expedition and some remarkable transactions in 1684.

Just the Introduction itself is a wealth of information. For instance, Colden notes that the Iroquois:

“Never make any prisoner a slave”

“Keep themselves free of the bondage of wedlock”

“Theft is very scandalous among them”

“Are much given to speech-making”

“Have no kind of publick worship”

“They always dress the corps (sic) in its finery”

ColdenThe map is fairly detailed and shows the tribes of the New York and Great Lakes region. If you focus on the New York section above “The Countrey of the Five Nations”, you will see each of the five nations spelled out in their territory. If you look closer still, you will see a small building drawn near each. These are what were known to the English as “castles”. In Little Falls, NY, where I grew up, there was a place called Indian Castle Church. It never occurred to me that it was a weird name, or that it had history behind it.  Indian Castle in Danube was so named from the upper Indian castle or fort, built in 1710 on the flat just below the mouth of Nowadaga creek.”  -New York State Museum Bulletin, November 1917. This castle is located above the ‘s’ in Mohawkes. Each one of the five nations had a castle.

The brief vocabulary section includes many names that are familiar today, though the spellings are very different.  It offers words known to the French with an Iroquois interpretation. For instance:

Chigagou (now Chicago): Caneraghik

Detroit: Teuchsagrondie

Manhattan: New York City

Algonkins: Adirondacks

Renards: Quaksies (renard is French for duck so you can see the relationship between the words)

In addition, the dedication alone offers an in-depth look into the politics of the times. Dedicated to “The Honorable General Oglethorpe”, Colden writes, “If care were taken to plant and cultivate [the Iroquois]… they would become a people whose friendship might add honour to the British nation”. In a time before the American Revolution, he clearly believes that the strength of the Iroquois should be harvested to fight (at the time) the French. Later, the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga nations would join the British in the Revolution, while the Oneidas and Tuscaroras (the sixth nation, added in 1723) would join the Americans.  Later, he equates the Iroquois with the Romans, saying that to increase their strength as a confederation; they “encourage the People of other Nations to incorporate with them”.  “The cruelty the Indians use in their wars… is deservedly indeed held in abhorrence: But whoever reads the history of the famed heroes (the Romans), will find them not much better in this respect.” This is a fairly balanced line for a 17th century writer.

Colden continues with a “short view” of the Iroquois government and then part one, chapter one: From the first Knowledge the Christians had of the Five Nations, to the time of the happy revolution in Great Britain. (Note: Colden uses the word “rodinunchsiouni” as the Iroquois word for their nations. In English today, it is Haudenausaunee, people of the longhouse).

He includes stories of warriors, hunting parties, and expeditions that, “may seem incredible to many” but show “how extreamly revengeful” the Iroquois were. Don’t forget that Colden equated them with the Romans. Much of the book is based on tales of the battles and skirmishes between the Five Nations, the French, the British, and other tribes.

The final portion of the book stems from Colden’s political career:  Papers relating to An Act of the Assembly of the Province of New York for Encouragement of the Indian Trade &c and for prohibiting the selling of Indian Goods to the French, viz. of Canada. An incredible lengthy, yet descriptive title. This is comprised of treaties, letters, speeches, and a list of the people who attended a council in Philadelphia in 1742. The spelling of the names of the Indians who were in attendance (from at least 7 different tribes) gives an incredible lesson on language and phonetics. Even today, the Iroquois languages are difficult to read (the pronunciation and the English alphabet aren’t completely compatible. It would be quite a project to sound out the names and try to glean meaning from them).

Cadwallader Colden’s The History of the Five Indian Nations is still used today as a reference for historical books on the Iroquois. His attention to detail and (mostly) balanced writing make it one of the finest books on the topic.