Tales from Under Grounds II: Pastimes, Play Time, Illustration, and Literature

This is the second in a series of four blog posts, spotlighting the mini-exhibitions of fall semester 2014 students from USEM 1570: Researching History.  The following is the abridged version of the students’ final projects, featured at their outreach program, Tales from Under Grounds II.


Regina Chung, First-Year Student

Regina Chung

Photograph of Regina Chung by Sanjay Suchak, November 18, 2014.

Monticello Music

Thomas Jefferson declared that music “is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism.” Jefferson practiced the violin three hours a day and would later share his love for music with his wife, Martha, and then his daughters. He would not only spread this passion among his family, but also as a political tool that would lead to wide popularity with his lively campaign songs.

Using scrapbooks, notebooks, music programs, political campaign songs, and newsclippings, this exhibition displays the passion Jefferson held for music in his personal and work life.

This scrapbook of 18th century songs, ballads, and cantatas were collected by Thomas Jefferson and his family. There are 95 titles in this volume from Jefferson's distinct music collection.

Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbook of Sheet Music. This scrapbook of 18th century songs, ballads, and cantatas were collected by Thomas Jefferson and his family. There are 95 titles in this volume from Jefferson’s distinct music collection. (A 1723-90 .J4 no. 1. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History)


TJ Newsclipping

Newsclipping of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his daughter Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, n.d. After Jefferson’s wife’s death, he strongly enforced music upon his eldest daughter, Martha (“Patsy”). In this reprinted letter, he encourages her to continue to learn new music. (MSS 6696. Thomas Jefferson Foundation)


Lily Davis

Lily Davis

Photograph of Lily Davis by Sanjay Suchak, November 18, 2014.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was a 19th-century American author. He is known as a “romancer,” examining the inner nature of man, and as a “realist,” using literature to articulate the flaws in American society. Many of his stories have a common theme of probing human nature and criticizing culture. In his books, he examines and scrutinizes Puritan society, which points back to his long line of Puritan ancestors.

The photograph of Hawthorne with his signature across the bottom was taken around the time he wrote The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables, pieces of literature that are still read and loved today. The Scarlet Letter, probably Hawthorne’s most well-known book, provides insight to his Puritan background. The House of Seven Gables was published shortly after The Scarlet Letter and is also set in 19th century New England. Centuries later, Hawthorne is still considered a great American author.

Title page of The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1850. The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850, tells the story of Hester Prynne and her illegitimate child Pearl in Puritan society. This novel was inspired by Hawthorne’s strict Puritan background. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great grandfather, John Hathorne (1641-1717), lived in Salem, Massachusetts and was a prominent judge in the Salem witch trials. Nathaniel Hawthorne eventually added the “w” in his true family name of “Hathorne” (changing it to “Hawthorne”) to distinguish himself from his ancestors. In reading the Scarlet Letter, it is obvious that his writing points to his background.(A 1850 H39 S3. Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History)

Signed Carte de Visite of Nathaniel Hawthorne, ca. 1850s. (MSS 6249. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature)


Mary Elder, First-Year Student

Mary Elder

Mary Elder discusses her exhibition with visitors, November 18, 2014. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

Games of American Children in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era is viewed as a time of rapid development and change, and it is easy to overlook the role of children in this era. Many of people’s ideas come from films such as A Christmas Carol, and characters such as the grandmother of American Girl’s Samantha, but much can be learned by looking at the toys and games that children enjoyed during this time.

Games and stories can often reveal the values of the time they were played, and Victorian Era games frequently had educational value, or intended to teach moral lessons. Other times, they were simply to keep children occupied quietly. Outdoor and recreational activities were also encouraged to allow children to run and play, but were sometimes limited to boys as many still held the belief that girls should be quiet and dainty.

These games can tell a story as they give us a glimpse into the lives of the younger generation in the late 19th-century. Many of the games and concepts might be familiar to people today and can show the continuity in children’s attitudes toward fun and perpetuity of childhood pleasures.

Toy Catalogue

Selchow & Righter, New York, Manufacturers and Wholesale Dealers in Games and Toys, 1894-1895.  This trade catalog for toys and games provides images, cost, and descriptions of the games. Frequently sold by dozens, costs vary greatly, but many are in the $7-$10 range. Many items, such as the church and blocks, have religious associations, while others, such as the Spelling Boards and reading cabinet, are educational. Many items, such as a ring toss, dolls, toy pianos, and air rifles, would be familiar to children today. (TS199 .A5 T62 no.16. Albert H. Small American Trade Catalogs Collection)

Ruhig Blut Game

Ruhig Blut. New York: Dr. Richter’s Publishing House, 1899. This puzzle, whose name in English is “Be Quiet,” has instructions in German, English, and several other language. It resembles what is now known by many as a Tangram, and the small shaped masonry pieces could be combined in a variety of ways to create pictures. (Lindemann 05868. The McGehee Miniature Book Collection)


Grace Kim, First-Year Student

Grace Kim

Grace Kim talks to Rare Book Cataloger Gayle Cooper about her exhibition, November 18, 2014. (Photograph by Sanjay Suchak)

John Tenniel: An Illustrator with a Punch

Originally, John Tenniel was a classic artist who created oil paintings for the Royal Academy. Dissatisfied, he left to join the illustration world. In 1850, he found a position at the British political magazine Punch, where he would work for fifty years. Citizens soon recognized his drawings, and his work at the magazine would soon allow for other illustrating opportunities. He drew for Thomas Moore’s oriental romance novel, Lalla Rookh, which was considered to contain his best illustrations. He was also the illustrator for The Arabian Nights edition, created by the engravers the Dalziel brothers. Tenniel would constantly go to the Dalziel brothers for the engraving of his drawings.

Tenniel preferred not to use real life models to help him form his illustrations. Instead, he claimed that he could draw anything through the use of memory. This may have helped him when he worked with Lewis Carroll, otherwise known as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, to create Alice’s fantastical world.

In 1893, John Tenniel became knighted for his work in political cartoons and illustrations. After he retired from Punch about a decade later, he would not take on any other projects.

Illustrations from Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Illus. by John Tenniel. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1866. Most well known for his work with Lewis Carroll, Tenniel includes forty-two of his illustrations in this first American edition. Originally, Carroll wanted to draw the illustrations himself; however, a friend, Thomas Combe, suggested a professional illustrator instead. Lewis Carroll wanted no one other than John Tenniel. His work at Punch led the surreal author to become a big fan. In this particular book, the color marking comes from the original owner, Alice Huff Johnston. (PR4611 .A7 1866. Gift of Clement Dixon Johnston)

Note from Tenniel to Ponny

Note from John Tenniel to Ponny, ca. 1869. Sir John Tenniel reflects on his own reputation in a note to his friend, Ponny, stating, “You say my name is as good as a bank note – I wish you could prove it.” (MSS 6693-a. Gift of Clement Dixon Johnston)

This Just In: New in the McGregor Library

Every autumn the U.Va. Library hosts the annual Tracy W. and Katherine W. McGregor Distinguished Lecture in American History. This year the speaker was Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and formerly professor of history at U.Va., who on October 28 delivered a brilliant talk on “The Shape of the American Civil War.” October is also the month during which we compile a listing of books and manuscripts added over the past year to the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Here are a few highlights.

Increase Mather's notes for a Thanksgiving day sermon, December 2, 1718

Increase Mather’s notes for a Thanksgiving day sermon, December 2, 1718

Manuscripts by the Puritan minister Increase Mather are of great rarity, hence we were delighted to acquire these notes for a sermon, “Thanksgiving throughout ye province,” delivered in Boston on December 2, 1718. Written when Mather was 79, these notes confirm contemporary accounts of his working methods. After decades of experience, Mather no longer needed to write out sermons in full; rather, he preached from memory after sketching out sermons in notes such as these, which he carried to the pulpit as a memory aid. What makes this acquisition even more special is that it had once resided in the celebrated Mather collection formed by a descendant, William G. Mather. When Tracy McGregor purchased Mather’s collection in 1935, he permitted Mather to retain a few items, including this manuscript. Now that it was once again available, we promptly reunited it with the Mather Collection after, coincidentally, a 79-year absence.

Woodcut of a Sioux Indian "queen" from Der Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und clarke ... (Lebanon, Pa., 1811)   (A 1811 .T73)

Woodcut of a Sioux Indian “queen” from Der Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und Clarke … (Lebanon, Pa., 1811) (A 1811 .T73)

Perhaps the year’s most gratifying acquisition has been Die Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und Clarke, which had long been on our desiderata list.  Given that Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson both had deep Charlottesville roots, we have long been interested in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Thanks to the McGregor Library, U.Va. has a superb collection of primary printed sources relating to the expedition. The only significant lacuna was this very rare work—a gap now filled. Lewis and Clark returned home in 1806, but publication of the official expedition report was delayed until 1814. Meanwhile the public’s intense interest in the expedition and what it found out west was whetted piecemeal by expedition participants’s published memoirs, newspaper articles, and the like. In 1809 an unauthorized account, culled from published sources, was issued in Philadelphia under the title, The Travels of Capts. Lewis & Clarke. Two years later this abridged German translation helped spread news of the expedition to the Mid-Atlantic’s substantial German-American population. Included are four full-page woodcut Indian portraits copied from the Philadelphia edition.

Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839 ... [Vandalia, Ill., 1839]   (A 1839 .I55)

Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839 … [Vandalia, Ill., 1839] (A 1839 .I55)

This unprepossessing (and very rare) three-page Illinois state document, Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839, might not seem of much interest. However, it takes pride of place as item #1 in the standard bibliography of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, being his first separate publication. Then a 29-year-old Illinois state legislator, Lincoln urges that Illinois borrow $5 million to purchase the 20 million acres of state land then held by the federal government. Income from land sales would fund the state’s ambitious program of public works while simultaneously paying off the loan. The resolution was approved, but Illinois’s senators and congressmen were unable to secure passage in Congress of the requisite federal law.

Augustus Q. Walton [i.e. Virgil Stewart], A history of the detection, conviction, life and designs of John A. Murel ... (New York, 1839)   (A 1839 .W26)

Augustus Q. Walton [i.e. Virgil Stewart], A history of the detection, conviction, life and designs of John A. Murel … (New York, 1839) (A 1839 .W26)

A livelier read is this very rare popular biography of one of early America’s most notorious bandits. Born in Virginia ca. 1806, John Murel (or Murrell) grew up in Tennessee, where he and his brothers pursued lives of crime. Murel’s gang was most active along the Natchez Trace—the trail winding southwest from Nashville down to Natchez on the Mississippi River. His criminal activities all but ended in 1835 when Murel began a ten-year jail term, but his legend was just beginning. The chief trial witness, one Virgil Stewart, promptly published under a pseudonym this sensationalist (and mostly fictional) biography, in which he identified Murel as head of a 455-member “mystic clan” masterminding a national slave insurrection planned for December 25, 1835. Stewart’s warning was widely believed in the South and provoked a series of deadly vigilante actions. Murel’s legend lives on in such venues as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Eudora Welty, and even a Hollywood western starring Humphrey Bogart.

William Wells Brown, A lecture delievred before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem ... Nov. 14, 1847 ... (Boston, 1847)   (A 1847 .B74)

William Wells Brown, A lecture delivered before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem … Nov. 14, 1847 … (Boston, 1847) (A 1847 .B74)

A lecture delivered before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem at Lyceum Hall, Nov. 14, 1847 is the second published work by William Wells Brown, one of the most prominent African Americans of the 19th century (and the subject of a newly published biography). Born into slavery in 1814, Brown escaped to Ohio in 1834 and soon joined the abolitionist movement. In 1847, shortly before delivering this impassioned lecture, Brown published an autobiography, which for a time made him as prominent a figure in abolitionist circles as Frederick Douglass. Brown was in England when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, and he remained abroad rather than return and risk capture. There, in 1853, he published what is considered the first novel written by an African American, Clotel. Brown eventually returned to Boston, where he was prominent in its African American community and published several more books.

Robert A. Slaney's account of a Richmond, Va. slave auction, from his Short journal of a visit to Canada and the states of America, in 1860 (London, 1861)   (A 1861 .S53)

Robert A. Slaney’s account of a Richmond, Va. slave auction, from his Short journal of a visit to Canada and the states of America, in 1860 (London, 1861) (A 1861 .S53)

A new addition to the McGregor Library’s comprehensive collection of American travel narratives is this fascinating and candid diary kept by Robert A. Slaney, a member of Parliament, while traveling in the entourage of the 18-year-old Prince of Wales during his 1860 American tour. From Boston the prince traveled to Niagara and then to Detroit, where Slaney found the residents to be “all pale, none fat. How is this? … Detroit is laid out with noble, wide streets … there are many nice villas, as of retired or rich persons, in and about this flourishing town.” In Chicago they witnessed a torchlight procession supporting Abraham Lincoln’s presidential bid. From St. Louis the party journeyed overland by train to Washington, DC, which they explored at length. President Buchanan’s White House reception for the prince was somewhat disappointing: “No refreshments but two large bowls of punch.” Perhaps of greatest interest is Slaney’s disapproving account of the slave auctions he witnessed in Richmond, Va., which reflects his liberal leanings. Indeed, this rare work was one of the first printed at the Victoria Press, established by English women’s rights advocate Emily Faithfull and entirely staffed by women.

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company, with full explanation of their laudable object ... [St. Louis?, 1866]   (A 1866 .G73)

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company, with full explanation of their laudable object … [St. Louis?, 1866] (A 1866 .G73)

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company is the only recorded copy of a fascinating prospectus, distributed by a New Orleans real estate agency, promoting emigration to Venezuela. Immediately after the Civil War, Henry M. Price of Scottsville, Va. (just south of Charlottesville) secured from Venezuelan officials a grant of 2400 square miles. There he hoped “to provide a home for those in the South, that had the foresight enough to see, could not remain in their old homes, under the domination and rule of their heartless victors.” Unreconstructed Southerners who bought company shares would receive a substantial land grant and promises of greater freedoms than they expected under Reconstruction. The first 50 settlers claimed their land in 1867, and dozens more soon followed, but the expatriate colony shut down in 1869.

This Just In: New McGregor Library Acquisitions

The opening last week of Collecting American Histories: the Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75—the major new exhibition of highlights from our world renowned McGregor Library of American History—prompts us to describe a few of the many acquisitions made for the McGregor Library in recent months.


Noticia certa, e manifesto publico da grande batalha, que tiveraõ os francezes, e inglezes, junto ás ribeiras do Obio em 9 de julho de 1755. Com a noticia individual de todas as acçoens obradas nesta expediçaõ. Morte do celebre General Braddock, e de outros officiaes, e soldados, ficando muitos prisioneiros … Lisbon: Domingos Rodrigues, 1755.     (A 1755 .N67)

The French and Indian War began badly for Britain. Sent to rout the French from western Pennsylvania, General Edward Braddock’s forces suffered a disastrous defeat on July 9, 1755, at the Battle of Monongahela near present-day Pittsburgh.  Braddock was among the hundreds of British casualties before a young junior officer—George Washington—was able to lead an orderly retreat.  The McGregor Library contains some important primary sources concerning the battle—two are included in the 75th anniversary exhibition now on view—and this very rare, ephemeral pamphlet is the latest addition. News of Braddock’s defeat spread quickly by letter, word of mouth, newspapers and other printed accounts. This newsletter conveyed the news to a Portuguese audience. Following a brief description of the battle (no mention is made of Washington, however) and the diplomatic aftermath, it lists the names of British officers who were killed or wounded.

M1[Thomas Cooper, 1759-1839?] Extract of a letter from a gentleman in America to a friend in England, on the subject of emigration. [London?, 1794?]     (A 1792 .G45)

Likely the first edition (of two published in England ca. 1794) of this concise description of the United States. Written from the perspective of an Englishman contemplating emigration, it offers carefully reasoned arguments for and against settling in specific states. Particular consideration is given to the frontier regions of New York and Kentucky, though the anonymous author concludes that Pennsylvania is the better option. Indeed, that is precisely where the probable author, Thomas Cooper, settled later in 1794 after touring the United States; the letter was likely addressed to, and published at the behest of, Joseph Priestley, who also emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1794. An economist and liberal political thinker, Cooper soon developed a thriving Philadelphia law practice which helped to earn him the esteem of Thomas Jefferson. In 1819 Cooper was the first professor appointed to the faculty of the as-yet-unopened University of Virginia, but he resigned in 1820 following controversy over his religious views. Later he served as president of the University of South Carolina.

M5Christian Gottlieb Glauber, 1755-1804.  Peter Hasenclever.  Landeshut, 1794.     (A 1794 .G53)

Privately printed in a small number of copies, this is a biography of Peter Hasenclever, a German entrepreneur who, by establishing several business enterprises in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York between 1764 and 1769, became Colonial America’s leading industrialist. With the coming of peace following the Seven Years’ War, Hasenclever raised over £50,000 from English backers to open a network of iron mines and ironworks and a potash manufactory, and to raise hemp and harvest timber. His enterprises were staffed by the over 500 German workers who heeded his invitation to emigrate. Hasenclever spent lavishly on his businesses, only to be plunged into bankruptcy in 1769 when his English partners withdrew financial support. After returning to Germany, Hasenclever was able to rebuild his fortune in the textile trade. The biography concludes with a lengthy appendix of letters written by Hasenclever during his American sojourn.

M3Hole in the wall; or A peep at the creed-worshippers. [Philadelphia], 1828.     (A 1828 .H65)

This rare and unusual tract was an important salvo in the bitter schism, or “Great Separation,” between orthodox Quakers and their Hicksite adversaries. By the 1820s significant tensions had arisen between Philadelphia’s wealthy Quaker merchants and the Quaker farmers of southeastern Pennsylvania, who were attracted to the teachings of Elias Hicks—tensions comparable to those between New England Congregationalists and Unitarians. Unable to settle their differences at the 1827 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the two camps set up competing Meetings, with the orthodox Quakers adopting and enforcing a doctrinal creed. This pamphlet, which vigorously promotes the Hicksite view, is “embellished” with three accomplished satirical engravings by the anonymous author.

M4Frances Wright (1795-1852). Course of popular lectures, historical and political, Vol. II.  As delivered by Frances Wright Darusmont, in various cities, towns and counties of the United States. Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1836.     (A 1836 .W75)

During the 1820s and 1830s, Fanny Wright was perhaps the most notorious woman in the United States. Born in Scotland, Wright visited the United States from 1818-1820, recording her observations in the bestselling Views of society and manners in America (1821). Having befriended Lafayette, Wright accompanied him on much of his 1824-1825 tour of America. She then launched a career as a radical political and social reformer. An ardent feminist, freethinker, and friend of labor, Wright visited Robert Owen’s utopian community at New Harmony, Ind., before setting up her own settlement, Nashoba, near Memphis. The objective of this multi-racial community was to promote the abolition of slavery by preparing slaves for freedom. By 1830 it had failed, and Wright henceforth promoted her views through journalism and a career as America’s first prominent female public speaker. This very rare pamphlet in its original wrappers prints the text of three lectures from Wright’s 1836 lecture tour: two praise Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian republic and condemn the contrasting Hamiltonian vision, and a third outlines her abolitionist views.

M2Robert Hubbard (1782-1840).  Historical sketches of Roswell Franklin and family: drawn up at the request of Stephen Franklin. Dansville, N.Y.: A. Stevens for Stephen Franklin, 1839.     (A 1839 .H85)

A rare and very early work of American local history, published in a small town some 40 miles south of Rochester, N.Y.  Written by the local minister at the behest of the Franklin family, most of the book is a biography of the family patriarch, Roswell Franklin (d. 1791 or 1792), drawn primarily from family oral tradition. Born in Woodbury, Conn., Franklin fought for the British in the West Indies and Cuba before moving his family to northeastern Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley in 1770. With the outbreak of revolution, Franklin and his fellow patriots found themselves in a frontier war zone, besieged by British forces and their Iroquois allies. Included here is a vivid account of the 1778 Battle of Wyoming, in which Franklin was one of few patriots to survive. Subsequent chapters describe the family’s role as pioneers, following the expanding frontier northwestward into west central New York, and the tremendous contrasts between Roswell Franklin’s time and America in 1839.

McGregor Library 75th Anniversary Exhibition Opens

Entering the exhibition, Collecting American Histories: The Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75.

Entering the exhibition, Collecting American Histories: The Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75.

Seventy five years ago, on June 13, 1938, the University of Virginia Library announced its greatest single gift up to that time: the magnificent 12,500-volume library formed by Detroit philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor. Presented by the McGregor Fund, the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History instantly elevated the U. Va. Library to the top rank of the nation’s great research libraries. The McGregor Fund generously financed construction of the elegant McGregor Room on the second floor of Alderman Library to serve as the collection’s new home. On what would have been Tracy McGregor’s 70th birthday—April 14, 1939—the McGregor Room was formally dedicated.


In celebration of the McGregor gift, and to mark its successful 75-year partnership with the McGregor Fund to care for and enlarge the collection, the U. Va. Library has opened a major new exhibition, Collecting American Histories: The Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75. On display until July 2014 in the main floor gallery of the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library, Collecting American Histories features over 125 rare books, broadsides, manuscripts, maps, and prints from the McGregor Library.

"Expanding Westward," one of the stories explicated in Collecting American Histories.

“Expanding Westward,” one of the stories explicated in Collecting American Histories.

Tracy McGregor built a comprehensive and broad-based collection of primary sources relating to American history, with emphases on the exploration of the New World, British North America, and the early American Republic. Over the past 75 years, with unswervingly generous support from the McGregor Fund, Library curators have more than tripled the collection’s size, adding a major new strength in the early history of the American South. Today the McGregor Library is world renowned for the rarity, quality, and significance of its holdings.

Puritan ministers Richard, Increase, and Cotton Mather profoundly influenced the history of colonial New England. Their stories are told here through books, broadsides, manuscripts--even a bookbinding from the family library--from the McGregor Library's superlative holdings.

Puritan ministers Richard, Increase, and Cotton Mather profoundly influenced the history of colonial New England. Their stories are told here through books, broadsides, manuscripts–even a bookbinding from the family library–from the McGregor Library’s superlative holdings.

The genius of the McGregor Library is that it documents a multiplicity of histories and not simply a single national narrative. McGregor and the Library’s curators endeavored to build a collection that is neither too broad and lacking in focus, nor too narrow and distorted in viewpoint. Primary sources have been acquired not only for their rarity and significance, but also for their utility in revealing new facets of the American experience.


Collecting American Histories features a range of items selected for the diversity of stories they tell about our nation’s past. Some are famous rarities, while others are less well known and have yet to receive the attention they deserve. Some form part of the original library formed by Tracy McGregor, while others have been acquired as recently as this year. Some offer welcome insights into the past, while others are uncomfortable reminders of more challenging aspects of our nation’s history. The stories told range from the early settlement of Virginia to the Mather family of Puritan ministers; to the clash of Britain, France, and Spain over the North American continent; to the diaspora of Native Americans from their ancestral lands; to the servants and slaves on whose backs the American economy depended; to the boundaries of social order and disorder; and to the impressions of America recorded by visitors from abroad.

Tracy W. McGregor inspecting a book from his library.

Tracy W. McGregor inspecting a book from his library.

Collecting American Histories also relates the fascinating story of Tracy McGregor and his wife Katherine Whitney McGregor. Born in 1869 in Sandusky, Ohio, McGregor left college in 1891 in order to run his late father’s pioneering homeless missions in Toledo and Detroit. Tracy married Katherine, one of Detroit’s wealthiest heiresses, in 1901. Together they devoted most of their fortune to significantly improving the lives of residents in the rapidly growing and industrializing “Motor City.” In 1925, following a tour of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, McGregor resolved to form a collection of rare books and manuscripts pertaining to America’s early history. He built his extraordinary library over a single decade, with the express intention of donating it to a deserving institution. Today the McGregor Fund remains a mainstay of Michigan philanthropy, dispersing over $7 million a year in grants.

The story of how Tracy McGregor formed his magnificent library in little more than a decade is told in this case.

The story of how Tracy McGregor formed his magnificent library in little more than a decade is told in this case.

It has been my privilege to curate the exhibition, and I invite you to come view Collecting American Histories. Those who cannot visit in person will soon be able to browse the exhibition virtually—watch this blog for a link to the online exhibition.