News Of History


Thus far the Commission has participated in planning for editions of the papers of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Archbishop John Carroll, Bishop Asbury and John Wesley Powell, among others. It has also begun assembling materials for two major publications that are badly needed and that should properly be issued under the Federal government’s auspices—a documentary history of the ratification by the states of the Constitution and its first ten amendments, and a similar work embracing the debates and proceedings of the first Congress under the Constitution, 1789–1791.

Perhaps the most important task the Commission has undertaken so far is a Guide to Archives and Manuscripts in the United States. This will be a one-volume directory of all institutions known to hold historical manuscripts, together with brief descriptions of their holdings and references to more extended descriptions in print. More than 1,800 depositories have now been listed.

The Detroit Institute of Arts has established the Archives of American Art, for the collection in one central place of documentary material on American painters, sculptors and craftsmen. The Archives will consist of original records or reproductions of records preserved permanently in other collections.

The big idea here is to assemble everything that will ultimately make the collection the most effective center for research on American art. Whatever may throw light on the arts in America, from the first landings of Europeans down to date—letters, journals, sketchbooks, clippings, biographies, monographs, catalogs, periodicals and photographs of works of art—will be included. The Archives will be administered by the Institute’s reference library and will be open for free reference by accredited scholars under proper safeguards.

Records of collectors, dealers, critics and historians will be selected largely as they pertain to American art, and those of institutions and societies will be concerned with art and artists rather than with the records of the institutions themselves. The epithet “American” is intended to cover North America through the colonial period. After the revolution, the scope is confined to the United States. Native Indian art will be excluded unless the artist is known by name.

The Archives is supported by private contributions under the management and framework of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Funds are on hand for a preliminary survey of available material in leading institutions, and an initial gift of original letters from a number of American artists has been made.

Under the supervision of the director of the Nebraska State Historical Society’s museum, an archaeological field party has finished its study of a prehistoric Indian village site which presently will be lost to view forever under the rising waters of the Missouri River, impounded in the Fort Randall Reservoir near Chamberlain, South Dakota. The work was carried on as a cooperative project with the U. S. National Park Service.

The village site contains depressions marking the existence of some fifty house floors, all enclosed by a deep ditch dug by the original inhabitants for defensive purposes. On a lower terrace, an earlier group of people had built houses, overlaid now by the remains of the later people. Houses of both groups were rectangular in form; both groups were farmers as well as hunters, and their storage pits contained charred corn cobs and the remains of other crops.

The work done here is an example of an attempt being made by state and federal institutions to salvage the early history of Missouri Valley people before extensive river improvements submerge lands where ancient village sites are to be found.

An extremely unusual course in American history is offered this year by the State Teachers College of Oneonta, State University of New York, in cooperation with the New York State Historical Association and its Farmers’ Museum at Cooperstown. This course, titled “History of New York Folk,” carries three hours credit each semester, and meets Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings in Fenimore House and the Farmers’ Museum to study the way life was lived when New York State was a frontier. It deals with the origins, migrations, folkways and habits of life and thought of early New York settlers, takes students into museums and crafts shops, and apparently represents the first time that American museums and history resources have been used by a college course in this way.

A fifteen-year publishing venture centered around the papers of four generations of the Adams family is under way.

Announced at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the work of editing and publishing this unparalleled private collection of 300,000 manuscript pages of diaries, letters and other writings, will be carried on under the joint auspices of the Society, the Adams Manuscript Trust, Harvard University and Life , Lyman H. Butterfield, director of the Institute of Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, Va., who was associate editor of the Thomas Jefferson papers from 1946 to 1951, will serve as editor-in-chief.

The collection, of which less than one-third has been published, covers four complete diaries of John Adams, John Quincy Adams and two Charles Francis Adamses, dealing with subjects, according to Mr. Butterfield, “as far apart as the campaigns of the French and Indian War and the political parties of the Garfield-Cleveland era, and with the whole vast sweep of American life in between.”