On our visit to AAS, I really gained a new perspective for media and communications in early American history. It gave you a new appreciation for how these people had to communicate with each other, and the value of time today. I looked at all of the artifacts that were laid out for us, but some definitely stood out more than others to me.
One thing that stood out to me was the Pocket Almanac. The Almanac was from 1794, though it looked to be in tough shape, it looked pretty good for being over 200 years old. The Almanac contained a lot of different information, such as the rule to find “high water” in certain places along the coast. There was also blank pages sewn into it so the owners could jot down what ever they want, unfortunately, it was way too difficult to try and read it. Also contained in the Almanac are the days and months with the important holidays, and what day they fall on. What I found rally interesting was how much on astronomy was in there. There was information on eclipses and the moon. I just found that such an interesting aspect for that to be contained in a pocket almanac. As for media and communications, the Pocket Almanac was extremely influential. It was small, and obviously pocket sized, so it was mobile and allowed it to be carried around on a person. It was very important to early media and communication, because it held important and vital information like holidays and high tide. (1)
The second thing that stood out to me was the Herald, a newspaper from New York and from September 8, 1835. At this time in history, newspapers were one of the most, if not the most, important forms of communication. Contained in this newspaper were things such as medicine, wood and chemicals, all lumped together in one column and one headline. It is crazy to think about communication all lumped together like that. Today we would consider those three categories way different from one another. Looking at the newspaper, it is amazing to see all the different information squeezed into a limited space. There is lost and found (with rewards), real estate, marketing and so forth. This is where communication between the people ran through, and was really essential to get information around to the general population. Everything important that was going on came through newspapers, which is why there was such varied information and subjects in them. (2)
Thirdly, what stood out to me was the American Letter Mail Company pamphlet I guess, about the American Post Office. This was interesting because this was a form of communication about communication. What I mean by that is that this was a letter, or pamphlet going around to people, saying more post offices have been opened in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston. No surprise it was these cities, because they were probably four of the largest at the time. It also goes on to say there is daily transit to Philadelphia and New York, so letters are getting around much faster so communication is speeding up. Also happening according to this is, lowered prices for postage and stamps, but only for letters. This all comes in 1844, when there were reforms in the Post Office in the 40s, and you see that here. Letter communication no longer takes weeks to months, it is now much more rapid, extended to more places and cheaper, so available to a larger population. This is around the time period in which communication spikes, because of these postal reforms. (3)
AAS gave us a great look into the world of early media and communication, and even though there were many more artifacts I could have used, I feel as though these really showed us how it worked in early America.
- Anonymous diary, Wilmington, DE, 1794. Diaries (unidentified) collection, 1760-1855, AAS, vol. 9.
- Herald (New York, N.Y. : 1835).
- “American post office. : The American Letter Mail Company have established post offices in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston,” (n.p., 1844).