The trip to the American Antiquarian Society was definitely worth getting up a bit earlier than usual and the absolute joy of riding in a school bus. I have an internship that involves looking at old materials and inventorying them, so I was pretty excited to go to an actual archive. I didn’t get a chance to look at everything that was put out for us because some of the pieces held my attention for longer than I was expecting. Three of the items that really caught my eye and made me think about media and communication were: a copy of Common Sense, the printing press, and The New England Almanack.
The copy of Common Sense made was extremely exciting to see. It is constantly talked about in American history classes and you usually tend to read sections of it, so getting to see a copy from the period in person was exciting. One of the first things I noticed about it, that doesn’t really have anything to do with looking at it as an artifact of communication, was the long S. Naturally, we giggled at “Common Senfe.” I still do not understand why that was the best way to do S’s but I suppose everybody was used to it back then. Another thing I noticed which can be paired with the printing press we saw, was when looking at the backside of the pages, you could see the indentation of the letters from when they were pressed onto the paper while being printed. This is something that you can’t see when looking at a scanned version of it online. The copy was also well taken care of which I think shows how important printed materials were, especially this one in particular.
I already discussed it a little in the paragraph above, but the printing press was another object that I found interesting. I can’t image spending an entire day cranking out hundreds of newspapers on those things. It amazes me that only two people worked on them and they managed to get so much done. The amount of time and effort put into printing is amazing, especially when now all we have to do is press a button. The thing I found most interesting about these was the type. Again, it is not something hat you can tell by looking at a picture, but those letters are so tiny. The fact that they had to set those upside down and backwards is crazy. Again, the effort and time and skill it took to be a printer amazes me. I wish we got to see it work.
The last object that I found interesting was the New England Farmer’s Alamanck. I think this was actually the most interesting to me because it was an everyday object that lots of people probably had. The size of it showed this because it was small and could fit in a pocket. Inside were moon phases, weather, a calendar and other information that people might need for everyday life. I also liked seeing the little notes scribbles inside. The handwriting was impossible to read compared to the John Hancock letter that was there, but this was a personal object that wasn’t meant to be read by the public. This object reminded me of the smartphone that everybody carries around today. Just like the Alamanck for somebody in the 18th century, phones are important to people’s everyday lives now. They show the weather, a calendar, moon phases (if you get the app), and notes and pieces of information that people need to carry around. This object didn’t seem too important at first, but when you really think about it, it was an important object for everyday life.
I really enjoyed this trip and found everything that we looked at really cool. I’m guessing everybody was also really into it because Prof. Adelman put up a picture of us looking at everything and everybody’s eyes were glued to whatever it was we were looking at. Thank you to the staff at AAS and Prof. Adelman for letting us do this.