Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Arnold and Deanne Kaplan began collecting Americana in the early 1970s at Renninger's Antique Market near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, supplemented with trips to paper and book shows in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England. Beginning in the early 1980s, they became active in auctions New York. With the growth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, the Kaplans discovered yet another source for collectibles. Besides their fine work building the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica, they built a small collection of American non-Jewish material as well, consisting of printed works, manuscripts, and photographs.
The Kaplan collection of Americana is divided into two series: manuscripts and photographs. The manuscripts are further divided by function: account books, ciphering books, diaries, letter books, penmanship notebooks, and recipe books. The photographs all come from the educational department of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
Three account books are included in the collection. One kept by Edward Gould of Portland, Maine, runs from January 1, 1824 to December 7, 1830. Made up of four small ledgers bound into one pocket-sized book, the entries give the impression of a well-to-do gentleman, listing expenses for such items as lobster, oysters, a silk umbrella, a velvet vest, frequent hair cuts, theater, lottery tickets, mending of clothing, expenses at a museum, gymnasium, a microscope, and so on.
A second account book was apparently kept by a member of the Van Valzah family in either Centre or Union County, Pennsylvania, 1813-1841. A handmade index at the beginning of the substantial book includes almost 800 individual names whose accounts were kept in the book. Individual entries, however, do not provide significant information about the types of expenses notated, but simply list strings of monetary expenses and their totals. The Van Valzahs had numerous doctors in the family as well as those involved in the mercantile business.
The final account book in the collection records farm labor, produce, and dry goods for an unnamed small farmer from 1814 to 1830. There are 51 names in the handmade index at the front of the volume of about 32 numbered pages.
The largest subseries of manuscripts is a collection of 22 ciphering notebooks dating from 1764 to 1870. These exemplars provide a superb view into the ways mathematics was taught in the United States through the mid-nineteenth century. The "cyphering tradition" allowed students of various ages and abilities to prepare their own ciphering books by employing formulaic presentations of mathematical rules followed by the computation of particular practical exercises. Only one book clearly comes from the copying of printed texts: the notebook of Jacob Samuel Hillegass indicates it was copied from An introduction to mensuration, and practical geometry by John Bonnycastle and A treatise on surveying by John Gummere. All of the notebooks were created by boys with the exception of two volumes created by one Amanda Maires. In a few cases the ages of the children can be extrapolated from inscriptions of their birth dates. The level of attainment among the ciphering books is wide-ranging. Beginning arithmetical principles include exercises in notation and numeration, the four operations, compound operations, currency exchange, reduction, the various rules of three, vulgar and decimal fractions, and percentage. More advanced topics include exercises on loss and gain, barter, brokage, tare and tret, annuities, fellowship, equation of payments, and mensuration. Practical problems deal with cloth, land, liquid, long, and dry measures; avoirdupois and apothecary weights; and the work of masons, carpenters, joiners, slater, tilers, painters, and glazers. Despite a certain formulaity to the notebooks, they are each distinguished by a unique script and decoration (or lack thereof), their layout and design, and their paper and binding structure, and many contain marginal notes, drawings, and inscriptions.
A diary in two volumes was kept by Benjamin Franklin Cary, a farmer from Hartford, Maine, from January 1860 to November 1863. Employing two partially-used school register books (which notate names of both boys and girls, their age, and marks in various subjects), Cary maintained his diary in monthly calendar form, with a small square of space for each day's entry. As would be appropriate for a farmer, entries mostly concern the weather and the cycle of crop maintenance. There are also notes about deaths of family friends, trips to other towns and cities, and the selection of elected officials. During the start of the Civil War, Cary was involved in the processing of Union soldiers from Maine.
A single letterbook of 360 numbered pages is from the firm of Samuel Bettle & Son, a Quaker merchant family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which dealt primarily in woolens and other cloth. Samuel Bettle, Sr. (1774-1861) and his son Edward (1803-1832) ran the business together during the period represented by this letterbook, 1824-1830. Included are copies of letters to and from the firm with their clients in England and the United States. These include the following names and their locations when known: Henry Allison (Lynchburg), H.J. Bayne, Samuel Benson (Baltimore), Benjamin Burns (Baltimore), George & David Crockett (Nashville), Samuel Ditty (Washington), Charles Edmondston (Charleston), C. Fitzsimons (Charleston), Ephraim H. Foster (Nashville), Foster & Fogg (Nashville), Alexander Henry (Manchester), A. & S. Henry (Manchester), Samuel Henry (New York), Arthur Howell, William James & Son (Fredericksburg), William Jewell (Georgetown), Caleb Lee (Pittsburg), Garrett Mallery, Bradley McCrery & Son, William McCrery (Richmond), George McNeer, Samuel B. Marshall & Co. (Nashville), William P. Mills (Baltimore), Peter Nichols, Thomas Nowland, Jr. (Richmond), O'Callaghan & Johnson, David Offley, Rathbone Bros. (Liverpool), Samuel Salter (Trowbridge-near-Bath), Thomas Sheppard (London), Peter Spilman (Fredericksburg), Samuel Thompson (Pittsburg), Tucker & Thompson (Washington), Joseph Tucker (Baltimore), Thomas White (Princeton), Samuel Woods & G.G. Webb (London). Detailed letters describe the quality and amount of cloth being bought and sold, and there is frequent mention of specific packet ships and their sailing or arrival dates.
There are four penmanship books in the collection, three completed and one unused. Each contains entries of common phrases written multiple times on the page for practice. Each notebook in this series was produced as a printed blank book, sold for the purpose of practising handwriting or other school work. They date from 1836 to 1854 and two are undated.
Finally, the manuscript series contains two recipe books, both of which contain medical recipes and treatments. One, produced between 1815-1825 by an unknown compiler, includes copies of medical remedies for "Elix. Vitrioli", "Spiritus Lavendulae Compositus", "Cure for aking bone", "Camphor pills", "Stomach Bitters", and "Cure for the Dysentary", but also recipes for "Varnish", and "Liquid Blacking for Boots". The recipes are numbered through 92 (plus 14 additional) and include two that are written on scratch paper and pinned into the volume.
The second is a Medical Prescriptions and Recipes book of Dr. George Randolph Parry of New Hope, Pennsylvania, from 1893. It is comprised of pastedowns of medical recipes and treatment clippings and brochures, including "Antipyrin in Nose Bleed", "Suggestions Regarding the Cure of Gonorrhea", "Milk and Onion Juice in Dropsey", "Cocaine in Facial Neuralgia", and "Beef Tea". These have been pasted on top of an already existing manuscript accounting book of Charles Knowles, dated 1834. Several scratch sheets including receipts associated with Knowles were found within. An inscription reads, "Geo. Randolph Parry, M.D., O.A.G, Jan. 1st 1893. Started Collection of Medical Receipies, some of them in his possession at this date for over thirty (30) years -- and used by him during that time in his practice as a Physician and Pharmacist."
The second series of the Kaplan collection of Americana is comprised of 70 photographic cards produced by the Philadelphia Commercial Museum. Founded in 1894 by University of Pennsylvania professor of botany, William Powell Wilson, the Commercial Museum was created to promote international commerce through exhibitions and publications. Beginning in 1900 its educational department created 250 cases of specimens and photographs, which it shipped free of charge to schools around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The cases were divided into individual trays, each of which contained examples of the raw materials of commerce including, for instance, rice, cotton, sheep, carbon, or rubber. The accompanying photographs were associated with these products and showed the growth, preparation, and manufacture of the materials in locations around the world. Each card is made up of a 9 x 7 in. silver gelatin print mounted to a stiff board, with a caption below each image. Extensive text on the subject, "giving the information needed by teachers and pupils to make clear just what the photographs should teach," appears on the verso of each print.
These photographic cards have been arranged here in the approximate order of the individual trays, as outlined by the curator of the Commercial Museum, Charles R. Toothaker, in the government publication, Educational Work of the Commercial Museum of Philadelphia. This publication can be used to identify the specific tray a photographic subject was assigned to. This set of 70 images is not complete, nor do all of the images come from a single case. There are several duplicates as well as some images not found in the Toothaker publication. One card (Box 4, Item 18) has been stamped, "Property of Higbee School, Lebanon, Pa."
(Sources: Internal; Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements, Rewriting the History of School Mathematics in North America 1607-1861: The Central Role of Cyphering Books (New York: Springer, 2012); Charles R. Toothaker, Educational Work of the Commercial Museum, Bulletin, 1920, no. 13 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1921)).
Gift of Arnold and Deanne Kaplan, 2012.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- John Anderies
- Finding Aid Date
- 9 July 2015
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.