U-M puts Americana on the Web

April 29, 1997

ANN ARBOR—Americana has ventured into cyberspace with the collaborative efforts of the University of Michigan, Cornell University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Making of America (MOA) project has made a significant body of material available on the World Wide Web, documenting American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction.

Drawing on materials at the Michigan and Cornell libraries, approximately 5,000 volumes published between 1850-1877 are now available and can be accessed at http://www.umdl.umich.edu/moa/. Browsing through the MOA collections can be done by entering an author’s last name, a title, a subject heading, or a specific year.

While the selection of materials from U-M holdings focuses on monographs in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, science and technology, and religion, Cornell has focused on the major serials of the period, ranging from general interest publications to those with more targeted audiences such as agriculture.

Teachers, students, and history buffs can find such treasures as William J. Jones’ 564-page, 1875 publication, Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of General Robert E. Lee,” which includes an address of welcome for Lee’s arrival in Richmond to lead the Confederate forces. It begins, “Sir, we have by this unanimous vote expressed our convictions that you are at this day, among the living citizens of Virginia, ‘first in war.’ We pray to God most fervently that you may so conduct the operations committed to your charge that it may soon be said of you that you are ‘first in peace,’ and when that times comes, you will have earned still prouder distinction of being ‘first in the hearts of your countrymen.'”

“The Making of America Project offers a unique glimpse into the culture of 19th century America,” says Wendy Lougee, U-M’s assistant director for Digital Library Initiatives. “Because popular and research materials are included in the collection, both scholars and those with a general interest in this historical period can identify many of the important issues of the time.” As an example, Lougee notes that several items focus on the role and status of women, from suffrage to proper homemaking to tales of Civil War nurses.

Among the offerings in the MOA program is the 36-page, 1852 lecture by Charles Davies on the duties and relations of parents, teachers and pupils in which he begins by saying, “The great problem of the present age is the education of the young,” and concludes by saying, “The constant exhaustion of the body and mind which is produced by teaching is not restored by that relaxation and variety of pursuit which are found in the other professions. The teacher takes his place in the school-room by the road-side—and there day in and day out, toils away his life in subduing the refractory, and in planting in the young mind the seeds of knowledge.

“The eyes of the world are, in a measure, withdrawn from him. No anxious multitude applauds him—no senate chamber resounds with his eloquence—no public press teams with his praises, and no sympathy of friends cheers him in his daily labors. Each day brings with it the same round of duties, and each evening the same fatigue and exhaustion. His labors exhibit their ripened fruit but once in a generation. The heedless boy must grow to manhood and the laughing girl become a matron before he can be certain that his labors have not been in vain.”

Phone: (313) 647-4418

http://www.umdl.umich.edu/moa/Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of General Robert E. LeeDigital Library Initiativeslecture by Charles Davies