Recent Acquisition: Chinese women in post-Cultural Revolution posters

by Hye-jin Juhn, East Asian Studies and Metadata Librarian

These newly acquired Chinese posters include images that conform with, and defy the norms of the ideal Chinese women in the People’s Republic China.

Wang Dawei’s Fu nü neng ding ban bian tian guan jiao shan he huan xin yan 妇女能顶半边天 管教山河换新颜 (Women hold up half the sky, dare to change the mountains and rivers, 1975) depicts a female construction worker, seemingly strong as men, mentally and physically.

Two of the posters depict female characters from Cao Xueqin’s Qing novel, The Story of Stone.

Gao Jingbo’s Yi lu chun feng 一路春风 (2019 print of the 1980 original painting) depicts contemporary women of various social backgrounds. The relationship between the woman in urban clothing, and those in typical peasant clothing seems ambiguous. Are the rural women the followers of the city woman? Or are they sending the urban woman off with their best wishes?

In Wei le sheng huo geng mei hao 为了生活更美好 (1980), and in Jiang li mao 讲礼貌 (1981), we see images of contemporary Chinese women in rural and urban environments. One is a mother, content with a child on her back; the other is a teacher, who upon arriving at her work place on her bicycle, is respectfully greeted by a boy and a girl.   

An Early Civil War Caricature of Jefferson Davis

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Memorial Day, we offer a new acquisition that is part of RBSC’s extensive American Civil War collection.

In the early months of the Civil War (1861-1865) an artist from Pennsylvania caricatured Jefferson Davis, the new president of the Confederate States of America. The cartoon, which was published and distributed as a poster, was titled “Jeff. Davis Going to War.” and “Jeff. Returning from War.”

Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a variation on this cartoon, which includes visual and textual embellishments the original design lacked. It was created and published by E. B. and E. C. Kellogg of Harford, Connecticut and George Witing of New York City, probably not later than 1862.

The two cartoons’ common element is their topsy-turvy metamorphic style. Metamorphic portraits are images composed from other, sometimes unexpected, items, which produces an optical illusion effect. Viewed one way Davis appears as an impossibly mustachioed man in fancy military dress. Rotating the print 180 degrees reveals a new message and image. The original 1861 cartoon’s caption, “Jeff. returning from War,” is accompanied by an image of a donkey. Davis’ mustache is transformed into the animal’s long ears.

In the version held by Hesburgh Libraries, Davis is not identified by name in the print; instead, his name was stenciled (not printed) outside the print’s margin, indicating that it might have been added later. Other extant copies of this print differ from our copy by having captions printed just below the central image: “Jeff. Rampant” and “Jeff. Subdued,” or have Davis’ name printed (rather than stenciled) in the margin. Hesburgh Libraries’ copy, like other surviving copies, is hand-colored and includes poetry verses and illustrations, both of which elaborate on the central metamorphic image of Davis as a warrior / Davis as an ass. The verses read:

War.
With lion heart and frantic mien,
The warrior seeks the battle scene.
To risk his precious blood and fight
For glory and his vaunted right.

Peace.
But when he hears the cannon roar,
And views the dying in his gore,
His courage fails and then alas!
He homeward travels like an ass.

E.B. and E.C. Kellogg of Hartford, Connecticut and their New York agent, George Whiting (also spelled Witing), published this print in 1861 or 1862. The Kellogg brothers Edmund Burke and Elijah Chapman headed an important lithographic printing company during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Lithography was, in the 1840s when the Kellogg’s established their business, still a relatively new method in the United States for making prints. Artists drew their work onto soft stone which then could be inked and impressed onto paper. The relative ease of drawing on stone and the durability of the lithographs in the printing process made such prints more cost-effective than steel or copperplate engravings. The Kelloggs were artists as well as printers and their shop produced hundreds of beautifully worked images that were affordable and popular for many decades during the nineteenth century.

This rare, possibly unique Civil War print documents public opinion about the incapacity of the leader of the new Confederate States of America early in the war.

For more on the Kelloggs’ prints, see Picturing Victorian America: Prints by the Kellogg Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut, 1830-1880, Nancy Finlay, ed. Hartford, Conn.: Connecticut Historical Society; Middletown, Conn.: Distributed by Wesleyan University Press, 2009.


A happy Memorial Day to you and yours
from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!

2016 post: Memorial Day: Stories of War by a Civil War Veteran
2017 post: “Memorial Day” poem by Joyce Kilmer
2018 post: “Decoration Day” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
2019 post: Myths and Memorials
2020 post: Narratives about the Corby Statues—at Gettysburg and on Campus


During June and July the blog will shift to a summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday in June and July rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication August 2nd.

Stories of Power and Diversity in Notre Dame’s Collections

This week we highlight the Hesburgh Libraries’ first student-curated digital exhibition, Still History? Exploring Mediated Narratives.

Seven Notre Dame students who enrolled in the Winter Session course, “Stories of Power and Diversity: Inside Museums, Archives, and Collecting” worked together to create this unique show. The students ranged from first year to graduate students and their fields of study included history, English, anthropology, classics, art history, and liberal studies. Their show brings together seven items from three Notre Dame campus repositories – Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives, and the Snite Museum of Art – and reflects on how they intersect with themes of diversity. 

We invite you to explore Still History?’s seven showcases. Each explores a single object or set of objects. Each also includes a personal reflection statement about the student’s work on this project. The show presents a variety of twentieth-century visual and textual sources, including photographs by Laura Gilpin, Aaron Siskind, Ernest Knee, and Mary Ellen Mark, a poster supporting women in prison, a pamphlet on disabilities, and articles from the Observer. Questions about representation link these disparate sources and thread the showcases together in interesting ways. The students ask how art and artifacts do and do not represent the experiences of Black, Native American, LGBTQ, mentally- and physically-disabled, incarcerated, poor, and Hispanic-American individuals and groups. An introduction and afterword by RBSC’s own curators, Erika Hosselkus and Rachel Bohlmann, who taught this new course, bookend the show.

This exhibition invites viewers to connect with holdings in the University of Notre Dame’s campus repositories and to ongoing campus and nationwide conversations about diversity and representation. We are pleased to share it here!

The New Morality

by Daniel Johnson, English; Digital Humanities; and Film, Television, and Theatre Librarian

James Gillray’s New Morality (1798) is a loaded work from one of England’s greatest caricaturists at the height of his powers. The eighteenth-century had witnessed a flowering of both English art generally (with, for example, the establishment of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768), and caricature specifically, especially in the work of Gillray’s predecessor, William Hogarth (1697 – 1764; for an example in RBSC, see Hogarth’s illustrations for Hudibras, below), although some care should be taken with terminology. Hogarth was concerned enough by the slight implied by “caricature,” that he created  a print in 1743, “Characters and Caricaturas,” to emphasis his separation from the latter style. As the editors of the Public Domain Review write, “for Hogarth the comic character face, with its subtle exploration of an individual’s human nature, was vastly superior to the gross formal exaggerations of the grotesque caricature.”

Comic grotesquery would remain controversial, but it provided a powerful vehicle for visual expression, and its exaggeration need not imply a lack of technical mastery. Gillray was an early member of the Royal Academy (admitted April, 1778), and during “a sabbatical” from satirical work in 1783-85, he produced capable, non-satiric prints ranging “from nostalgic pastoral illustrations to ‘eyewitness’ reconstructions of celebrated marine disasters” for Robert Wilkinson” (Hill xx). His failure to “secure commissions” from Benjamin West and John Boydell (an example of whose famous Shakespeare illustration commissions, featured in the RBSC’s “Constructing Shakespeare” Spotlight Exhibit in 2016, can be found in RBSC holdings Graphic Illustrations and A Collection of Prints), helped determine his future direction; by “the early nineties Gillray finally decided to devote himself fully to the profession of caricature” (Hill xxi). Although his earlier “commercial failure was absolute and ignominious, yet it is paradoxical that his laborious hours cutting and notching with his engraver’s burin and stippling tools should have immeasurably strengthened his hand as a caricaturist” (Godfrey 15). Nor was capturing the exaggerated likenesses a trivial exercise. Without the benefit of willing models, let alone photographs, artists had to hunt “on big game safaris in the wilds of Westminster” and memorize faces from afar – “Earl Spencer, when warned decades later that there was a caricaturist in the gallery of the House of Lords, shrank on the front bench and ‘sat huddled-up [with his] face and beard in his knees’” (Hill x).

By the time Gillray produced The New Morality, in 1798, he was making some of his “most artistically brilliant and inventive images” (Hallett 36). He had also settled down from the pose of “a detached, cynical ‘hired gun,’ concealing any actual political convictions beneath a veil of ambivalence and irony” to a closer apparent alignment with the Tory government, which some allege was stirred by “a secret annual pension of £200” from 1797-1801 (Hill xxii and Hallett 35). Indeed, The New Morality was commissioned for the Anti-Jacobin Magazine (though also issued on its own) to go along with the poetical “New Morality” of George Canning, politician and eventual prime minister in 1827. The imputation of bribery was a detractor and source of embarrassment for some critics, though Gillray’s sympathies had started to manifest some years before the pension.

The allegorical density of The New Morality makes the image ripe for close and detailed analysis – an intense engagement supported by the magnifying glass of high resolution scanning at RBSC. The bookseller, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, describes the tableau thus:

On the right of the print is Lépaux, a member of the French Directory who had given prominence to Paine’s Theophilanthropic sect, preaching from a stool and attended on his dais by grotesque Jacobin creatures, while behind him are the monstrous embodiments of Justice, Philanthropy (devouring the globe) and Rousseauian Sensibility. Prostrated immediately before Lépaux are the two ass-headed figures of Coleridge and Southey, clutching their works, behind whom is seen the ‘Cornucopia of Ignorance’ and a flowerpot of plants resembling Jacobin hats with cockades. Out of the water rolls the monstrous Leviathan, resembling the misled Duke of Bedford (he has a fishhook through his nose), on whose neck rides the filthy Thelwall; on his back are Fox, Tierney and Nichols, waving their red bonnets[.] Emerging from the waves behind the Duke are diminutive sea-monsters and horned creatures clutching their works, while in the sky fly five grotesque birds, all representing various political radicals. In the foreground is a train of monsters: Paine as a crocodile (crying proverbial tears); Holcroft as a dwarfish figure in spectacles and leg-braces (Southey thought the likeness to be accurate); Godwin as an ass reading his Political Justice; and a snake representing David Williams, founder of the Royal Literary Fund.

(N.B. The acquisition of Gillray’s New Morality at RBSC coincides with the acquisition of a number of books written by “the filthy Thelwall”; RBSC’s holdings of Thelwall can be found here). The image’s breathless and baroque movement across a vast cultural landscape of major and minor political, philosophical, and poetical figures is a visceral reminder that a highly charged, partisan news media is hardly a twenty-first century invention. Graphical satires “functioned as powerful supplements to, and interventions in, the predominantly textual sphere of political journalism and printed social commentary [… in which newspapers and journals] were frequently subsidised [sic] by either the government or the opposition, and consequently functioned as propagandist mouthpieces for their policies” (Hallett 35).

The physical qualities of the print are noteworthy in their own right. While the plate was designed for mass printing, the print itself bears witness to bespoke treatment in its coloration. According to Draper Hill, “individual copperplate etchings, available plain or exquisitely colored by hand, were collector’s items from the moment of issue,” and perhaps most interesting, we “know nothing” of Gillray’s “colorists; presumably they were teams of extremely accomplished ladies working in relays” for the female printseller Hannah Humphrey, at whose residence Gillray lodged (ix, xi). Ironically, Gillray’s “technical wizardry” with his engraving tools “would be concealed by the bright hand colouring which became the norm for a published print” (Godfrey 15). Nevertheless, the colorized prints bear witness to a partnership with artisan labor, rendering each one a unique production.

Works Cited

Godfrey, Richard T. “Introduction.” James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001, pp. 11–21, 38.

Hallett, Mark. “James Gillray and the Language of Graphic Satire.” James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001, pp. 23–37, 39.

Hill, Draper, editor. The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray. Dover Publications, 1976.

“Revenge! Remember Limerick” — The Fighting Irish at Fontenoy

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

Fontenoy. “Revenge! Remember Limerick. – Dash down the Sassenagh.” Colored lithograph. J. D. Reigh. Dublin: Printed by Tomsohn & Wogan. Supplement to the Christmas number of the Shamrock, 1886.

The above illustration depicts the oft-described reversal in the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, from the French Army’s almost inevitable defeat to a decisive win. At a point when the battle between the French and the Allied coalition of English, French and Hanoverian troops was almost over for the French, a line of Irish regiments advanced.

Accounts of the battle claim that the Irish Colonel Lally shouted “Cuimhnidh ar Luimneach agus ar feall na Sasanach!” And that this cry was repeated down the ranks. “Remember Limerick and the treachery of the English” is a reference to the Treaty of Limerick of 1691, broken by the English not long after it was made.

This print, new to our collection, is by Irish artist and cartoonist John Dooley Reigh (1851-1914) who contributed illustrations to periodicals such as The United Irishman, Shamrock, Zoz, and others. As we add this print to our collection, we note that it is not our only illustration celebrating that battle, and indeed, were we to explore our collections, we would find many accounts and references to the Irish Brigade at the Battle of Fontenoy.

We select two examples to display here, an American print and a broadside ballad.

The print shown below, also from the 1880s, was produced by Kurz and Allison of Chicago. In this illustration the military leaders are less prominent than the fighting men, and the tattered green flag with the Irish harp emblem is prominent.

Battle of Fontenoy. Chicago: Kurz and Allison, circa 1886.

Elsewhere, we have an example of the Battle of Fontenoy as recounted in nineteenth-century Ireland in our the Broadside Ballads collection. “Fontenoy” by Thomas Davis introduces the Irishmen’s advance with a summary of the wrongs inflicted by the English:

How fierce the look these exiles wear, who’re wont to be so gay,
The treasured wrongs of fifty years are in their hearts to-day—
The treaty broken, ere the ink wherewith ’twas writ could dry,
Their plundered homes, their ruined shrines, their women’s parting cry,
Their priesthood hunted down like wolves, their country overthrown—
Each looks as if revenge for all were staked on him alone
On Fontenoy, on Fontenoy, nor ever yet elsewhere,
Rushed on to fight a nobler band than these proud exiles were.

“Fontenoy”. Irish Broadside Ballads collection, BPP 1001-110

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2020

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Woodcuts of Consuelo Gotay

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we feature the work of Puerto Rican printmaker, Consuelo Gotay. Educated in Puerto Rico and at Columbia University in New York, Gotay’s woodcuts are striking and reflect her early association with the workshop of iconic Puerto Rican printmaker, Lorenzo Homar. Rare Books and Special Collections holds five artist books that pair Gotay’s images with the poetry and prose of major Caribbean writers. 

Today, we share three of these collaborations, Selección de textos del cuaderno de un retorno al pais natal (1993), Salmos del cuerpo ardiente (2006), and Las brujas (2014). 

The first and earliest of these is a selection of texts (presented in Spanish and French) from Afro-Caribbean poet, Aime Cesaire’s, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Journal of a Return to My Native Land), originally published in 1939. If Cesaire’s poem is known for its exploration of Caribbean identities, particularly negritude, Gotay’s woodcuts illustrating the work are a sort of homage to the region’s natural beauty. Pleasing prints of ocean, swaying palm trees, and picturesque villages are interleaved with text. 

 

The second, Salmos del cuerpo ardiente, features text by Puerto Rican writer, Lourdes Vázquez, and ten original woodcuts by Gotay. Vázquez’s “psalms” point to harsh realities of life in Puerto Rico in the first decade of the twenty-first century, particularly violence and addiction among young people. A fitting and somber complement, one of Gotay’s woodcuts here is an elegy to those tortured and killed when violence reaches its pinnacle.

In Vázquez’s words,

LA TORTURA
Es como un BOXEADOR COMATOSO,
Un mero asunto familiar,
Un maleficio inexplicable.

 
 

The third and most recent of these works, Las brujas, is both a children’s story and a metaphoric lament for the youth of Puerto Rico who become involved in drug violence, by Puerto Rican writer, Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá. Gotay’s prints here combine the visual elements and the themes that appear in the earlier works. Palm trees frame the small house of the story’s good bruja (“witch”), Nina, in a manner reminiscent of her Cesaire portfolio. Los muchachos, on the other hand, are a reminder of the struggling youth portrayed in Salmos del cuerpo ardiente. 

Each of these titles is a limited edition. Together they reflect the engaging and thought-provoking artistic output of a talented Puerto Rican printmaker.

Related Previous Blog Posts:

Labor and Linen — The Prints of William Hincks

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

For Labor Day, we decided to feature people involved in the various stages of the linen industry. These illustrations belong to a recently acquired set of prints: William Hincks: The Linen Industry: A set of twelve sepia printed and coloured aquatints. London: Published as the Act directs by R. Pollard, Spafields, June 20, 1791.

Waterford-born artist William Hincks created a set of prints depicting linen production in the north of Ireland. It is assumed that he spent some time in Ulster, but this has not been documented. He published the prints in London in 1783, and the set was republished in 1791 by R. Pollard of Spafields, London.

The linen industry played an important part in Ireland’s economy, accounting for the occupations of a large proportion of the people of Ulster in the eighteenth century. The prints show a whole range of tasks performed in the pre-industrial production of linen, from ploughing and sowing flax seeds in a County Down field, to selling the linen at Dublin’s Linen Hall.

The fourth plate is the first with an indoor setting. Women, girls and a man are engaged in beetling, scutching and hackling. These were all very unfamiliar verbs for me, and I recommend the video of Ulster Folk Museum curator, Valerie Wilson, who describes the process of linen-making from beginning to end. The video is at the end of her blogpost, Warp and Weft: The Story of Linen in Ulster.

This print, the sixth in the series, shows women spinning, reeling, and boiling the yarn or thread.

Following spinning and boiling, the next print shows a weaving shed, with the tasks of winding, warping and weaving. At this time, Ulster had an estimated 40,000 weavers, so one can imagine that the activities depicted were common in villages and towns throughout the province.

The prints will be available for viewing on request once we are able to have a fully open reading room. Also in our collection is a helpful booklet, Illustrations of the Irish linen industry in 1783 by William Hincks, by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which describes and discusses this print collection.

As Irish economic history forms an important part of the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, we have many books treating various aspects of the linen industry. We are glad indeed to have a set of William Hincks’ prints, with their view of activities and equipment that were once an important part of Irish life.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 7th, for Labor Day.

“‘Men and women should stand as equals’: American Women and the Vote” online exhibition

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

August 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. In honor of the centenary, Rare Books and Special Collections has created an online exhibition of materials from both special and general library collections. The quotation in the title comes from a speech by Mary Duffy, a working class woman from New York who addressed the state’s legislature in 1907. She argued that of course women needed the ballot for political reasons—so that they were represented in government. But, she maintained, women needed it even more urgently so that the men around them—from bosses to fellow trade unionists to family members—would take women seriously as people, as equals.

This exhibition tells a full (though not complete) story of the long fight for suffrage. It begins well before the Civil War and extends through the mid-1920s, after passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It focuses on the laborious processes of building a movement, of forging alliances, of creating a culture of reform that was broader than voting rights but that, in the end, became defined by that singular goal. It shows how women, white and black, elite and working class, native born and immigrant, moved themselves from outside of political power to inside; from second-class citizens with a limited public voice and no direct representation, to citizens with some of the tools of democracy at their disposal.

The Nineteenth Amendment was a stupendous political achievement. As political outsiders, women persuaded enough men within the political system voluntarily to give women political power. It doubled the American electorate, making its passage the most powerful democracy-building piece of legislation in US history.

Still, the victory was incomplete, or at least, a work in progress. As New York suffragist Crystal Eastman put it in 1920, “men are saying thank goodness that everlasting women’s fight is over!” but women are saying “now at last we can begin.”[1] Eastman’s observation makes an important point about the complexity of marking this centenary solely as a victory. Suffrage for women was not turned on like a tap in 1920, nor did it flow for every woman after the Nineteenth Amendment. Many women voted before the amendment, and many women did not cast ballots after it. The reasons for these differences have much to do with racism and white supremacy, as well as religious and class prejudices, within and outside the movement.

This exhibition includes books, pamphlets, magazines, and posters—materials designed to appeal to broad, popular audiences. Scattered through these once popular books and magazines we can gain an angle of view on what many, if not a majority of, Americans thought about women’s work, their place in the family, and their civic responsibilities. At the same time, this exhibition represents the breadth of the women’s movement and how it propelled the fight for suffrage despite resilient opposition.

https://collections.library.nd.edu/american-women-and-the-vote

 

 

[1] Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2020), 5.

Inquisition Edicts and Book Censorship

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic limits our ability to handle physical collections, Rare Books and Special Collections strives to provide patrons with the next best thing — access to digital surrogates. Last week, we responded to a request for a high quality image of an Inquisition censorship edict, from Mexico, dating to 1809.

Inquisicion de México, Public edict regarding banned works, August 5, 1809. (Inquisition 401, recto)

This item is part of our Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection, which contains manuals, edicts, trials, certificates, accounts of autos de fe, and other materials produced by and about the Inquisition in Spain and the Americas. Revisiting this document at the request of a patron provides an opportunity this week to highlight Inquisition edicts, a major component of our Inquisition manuscript holdings.

This edict is a large format document that would have been posted on a wall or door for public consumption. Edicts such as this one supplemented and updated the more voluminous indices of banned books published and maintained by the Inquisition beginning in 1551. This particular example is quite lengthy and also attests to the Inquisition’s perseverance into the nineteenth century and to its presence in Spain’s American colonies. It bans some 55 works and is signed at the bottom by Inquisition officials.

Titles banned include, of course, works pertaining to Lutheranism. Also on the list are historical works, especially those that are anti-monarchical such as Histoire des révolutions de France, by an anonymous author, and Recherches politiques sur l’état ancien, et moderne de la Pologne. Each of these titles treats the French Revolution. Inquisitorial concern over them speaks to the political situation in Spain, where Napoleon Bonaparte had recently placed his brother on the throne. Mere months after the issuance of this 1809 edict, armed uprisings in support of independence from Spain would begin in Mexico.

The edict also prohibits theatrical plays deemed to include seditious content, due in part to the fears regarding rebellion against Spain in the American colonies. This last category includes a piece entitled, “El Negro, y la Blanca,” (“The Black Man and the White Woman”) by playwright Vicente Rodriguez de Arellano, said to be revolutionary in spirit, with ability to engender civil, political, and moral ruin. It also includes “El Negro Sensible”  (“The Sensible Black Man”), a manuscript play said to encourage enslaved people to rebel against their owners. This play, by Spaniard Luciano Francisco Comella, indeed highlights the evils of slavery. The main character, an enslaved man named Catúl, asserts his humanity and tells his owner that the souls of black men and white men are the same. This work was the inspiration for the later and eponymous play by one of Mexico’s best known authors, José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi.

The Harley L. McDevitt Inquisition Collection has both a finding aid and a dedicated website which includes thematic essays that explore the different types of documents generated by the Inquisition, with references given for further reading. The collection contains over 150 edicts dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here are two additional examples of censorship edicts:

Antonio de Sotomayor, Banned books edict, June 30, 1634. (Inquisition 227, recto and verso)

Inquisicion de Mexico, Public edict regarding banned works, June 1655. (Inquisition 239, recto)

Broadside Ballads: Social Media of Earlier Times

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

The Irish Broadside Ballads are a treasure trove of nineteenth century social media, including commentary on economic affairs, accounts of crimes and tragedies, and political news and opinions.

We thought our readers might enjoy seeing a sample from our collection. The collection may be viewed online.

While the authors of many ballads remain unknown, some ballads may be traced to their author. This ballad, ‘A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey‘, is described in an engaging article by Robert Gahan, ‘Some Old Street Characters of Dublin’, in the Dublin Historical Record of December 1939.

Gahan describes a trio of street musicians known as Hamlet, Dunbar and Uncle, who performed together on Dublin’s streets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the 1870s. He goes on to tell us the circumstances that led to this ballad:

In 1874 the eminent Evangelists, Moody and Sankey, came to Dublin ; walls and hoardings were covered with posters announcing their meetings, and Dublin was, as a prominent newspaper said, “greatly stirred.” “Hamlet” was stirred too, but it was to compose in “appreciation” of the evangelists. The song the trio let loose upon Dublin… is “A New Song on the Happy Return of Moody and Sankey.”

Gahan, 42.

The collection contains many more commentaries on events of the time, including the imprisonment of Fenian leaders, the Great Chicago Fire, the Phoenix Park Murders, to name only a few. A form of social media, they often circulated widely, passed along by oral transmission as well as via the printed sheets.

To examine these ballads, visit the Irish Broadside Ballads page.