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.

The ABCs of Special Collections: A is for…

There are so many items in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library that it would be impossible to tell you about each and every one.  However, in our new series, the ABCs of Special Collections, which will run every two weeks for the next year, the library’s staff will share with you some of the unsung as well as better-known items of Special Collections.  So today, we bring you the letter…

A is for Atkinson Tuscan Roman (light), which is one of 75 alphabets represented in Frank H. Atkinson’s Atkinson Sign Painting up to Now: A Complete Manual of Sign Painting. Chicago: Frederick J. Drake & Co., 1915 (not yet catalogued. Gift of Nicholas Curtis. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

A is for abecedarium

An abecedarium is an alphabetical wordbook used as a primer for teaching reading and spelling.  Among the many examples in Special Collections are those published by Henkel Press, a German language press in New Market, Virginia, that supplied newspapers, religious materials, and children’s books to communities throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Also shown here are examples of fine press and mechanical books as well as modern primers using various subjects to present the alphabet.

Contributed by Edward Gaynor, Head of Technical Services and Specialist for Virginiana and University Archives

Both of these alphabet books, written in German, were authored by Ambrose Henkel. The opened book is entitled Das grosse A B C Buch and was published in 1820. The closed book is entitled Das kleine A B C Buch, oder erste Anfangs Buchlein and was published in 1816. (Das grosse A B C, PF3114 .H35 1820, Gift of Chevalier E. Reynolds and Das kleine A B C, PF3114 .H38 1816, from the Henkel-Miller Family Papers, MSS 14434. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Jolly Jump-Ups ABC Book was illustrated by Geraldine Clyne and published in 1948. (PZ92 .F6 J66 1948b, Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Amos Bronson Alcott

Amos Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May, friend of Emerson and Thoreau, was a leading figure of the Transcendentalist Movement in the middle of the 19th-century. His efforts at educational reform and utopian living were considered radical at the time, and though ultimately unsuccessful, his writings remain influential today. A search of VIRGO, our online catalog, features 27 hits related to Alcott, including letters to his famous daughter, and books he authored.

Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant

Amos Bronson Alcott, n.d. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Louisa May Alcott and actor James Murdoch, n.d. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Letter from A. Bronson Alcott to his daughter Louisa May on the occasion of their shared birthday, 29 Nov. 1848. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The verso of Alcott’s November 1848 letter to his daughter Louisa May. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Ambrotype

Ambrotypes are sharply detailed, one-of-a-kind photographs on glass, packaged in protective cases similar to those used for daguerreotypes.  An ambrotype is essentially a collodion on glass negative that is intentionally underexposed so that the negative image appears as a positive image when viewed against a dark background.  The process of making ambrotypes was patented in the United States in 1854 by James Ambrose Cutting.  The popularity of ambrotypes was short-lived, however, and the process was soon displaced by the growing popularity of albumen prints.

Contributed by Eliza Gilligan, Book and Paper Conservator, University of Virginia Library; text from the George Eastman House Photography Collections Online Glossary

Featured is the ambrotype of “Mammy Kitty” from the Ellis Family Daguerreotypes. Accompanying the image is a note that reads, “The faithful servant of Charles and Mrs. K. Ellis.” Died in Richmond in 1864. Our mother’s mammy.” (MSS 2516-c. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for American History

One of the cornerstones of the University of Virginia Special Collections is the American history library of Tracy W. McGregor (1869-1936).  A unique call number classification scheme for the McGregor Library begins with “A” and is followed by the date of publication.  A further delineation identifies the specific volume.  The earliest volume in the collection is “A 1475 .P76” for the first edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, printed in 1475.  It represents pre-discovery science and geography of the world before Columbus.

Contributed by Margaret Hrabe, Reference Coordinator

Tracy W. McGregor in an undated photograph. (Prints File, Gift of Mildred White. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)


Ptolemy’s Cosmographia. (A 1475 .P76, Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Assiduous

It might also, in this case, stand for “artist” as they both define the life and personality of Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). His paintings are a legacy of devotion to divine detail.  Creativity flowed from him like oil from a tube of artist’s paints, to the extent that the color cobalt blue came to be known as “Parrish Blue” by generations of artists who followed in his footsteps. Even his autographs reflect the care, detail, and flair of a born artist; why give in to mundane repetition when an upstroke here, a hook there, and a swash everywhere would embellish the letter more beautifully?

Contributed by Donna Stapley, Assistant to the Director

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature).


Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish created detailed, stunning paintings. This one is from “The History of the Young King of the Black Isles.” The Arabian Nights: Their Best Known Tales edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. The caption, which accompanies this illustration, reads, “When he came to this part of his narrative the young king could not restrain his tears.”

We hope you enjoyed today’s selections from the letter A, from the A is for Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library!