AAS Visit

During our AAS visit, we were able to look at and examine different artifacts from early America, relating to the media and communications history field. Looking at these materials up close and personal helped shaped the way I look at artifacts from this field. The three most interesting artifacts that I looked at were a first edition of The Coquette, John Hancock’s letter to Isaiah Thomas, and the September 8, 1835 edition of the New York Herald.

While looking at The Coquette, I first noticed the quality of the book. The pages were very fragile and had a lot of rips and tears on it, as well as water stains. The book was bound and kept in a leather cover, which could have been why the book is still preserved today. The book was more than one hundred pages, which would’ve made it expensive, due to the high cost of paper at the time. Another aspect of the book that I made note of was it’s size. The book was small, and it could probably fit in a coat pocket. This made me think that people at the time would take a book like this on a trip and that the size made it easier to transport to possibly give to others. Overall, the book was kept in good condition considering how old it is, and how many people probably read and held the book. Looking at this artifact helped me understand the field of media and communications in a few ways. Feeling the texture of the paper helped me understand how precious it really was because it was not very strong/thick, and it was also very expensive. Paper allows ideas and stories to be spread around which is very important in shaping a culture and people’s everyday out look on life. Without paper and books, the world would be very different then how we know it today. [1]

 

The second artifact that I looked at was John Hancock’s letter to Isaiah Thomas. The letter was dated December 2, 1786 and was mailed with no envelope. The reiterates the idea of how expensive paper was, and during this time letters were folded a certain way so that another piece of paper did not have to be used. In the letter John Hancock writes to Isaiah Thomas, stating how he is fond of his work and that he believes that he owes him money because he has been receiving and reading his newspapers. Although I was not allowed to hold the letter because it was in protective plastic, I could tell that the letter had been kept in very good condition because there were no rips or watermarks on the letter. While looking at this letter, I realized how important letters were in means to the media and communication history field. Letters allowed people to request or send a request, in this case of money, to others, which was revolutionary at the time. In addition, letters were also a way of conveying feelings, which could be kept forever, in this example, John Hancock praising Isaiah Thomas’ work. [2]

The last artifact that I examined was the September 8, 1835 edition of the New York Herald. While looking at this newspaper, it was very well reserved and the pages were in better shape then The Coquette, which could be due to the fact this newspaper was printed more than fifty years after that novel, hence better paper quality. This newspaper contained many advertisements, as well as information such as the hours of the local bank and their regulations. The advertisements were for local goods such as champagne, syrup, hams, and book binding jobs. After reading through it, it appeared to me that this was a local newspaper because it did not mention any international news. Newspapers were a great way to spread ideas, news, and advertisements, and this statement still holds true for today. The fact that newspapers are still around today expands on how effective and important it is in spreading ideas, products, and information in the history of communication and media field. [3]

[1] Foster, Hannah Webster. The coquette; or, The history of Eliza Wharton; : a novel; founded on fact. Boston: Printed by Samuel Etheridge, for E. Larkin, no. 47, Cornhill., 1797.

 

[2] John Hancock to Isaiah Thomas, December 2, 1786, Isaiah Thomas Papers, AAS.

 

[3] Herald (New York, N.Y. : 1835)

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