American Studies
American Studies

American Studies undergraduate Jackie Lynch returns from summer intership in NYC

Fri, August 10, 2007

New York University's Department of History sponsors the Margaret Sanger Papers Project. Currently, the Project is working on publishing a four-volume edition of Sanger's papers. While in New York, I researched for the fourth volume subtitled Round the World for Birth Control, 1920-1966. This volume is dedicated to exploring Sanger's least understood contributions -- her international efforts to spread birth control. Volume IV should contain approximately 250 of Sanger's international papers. One other intern and I were in charge of doing research on the people, places, and ideas in Sanger's papers that needed footnoting. The editors then took our pages of research and turned them into footnotes. I concentrated most of my research on China, with the occasional switch to other countries so that I didn't go crazy. I used secondary sources such as: Chinese Encyclopedias and books on random aspects of Chinese history from the warlords, to the Sino-Japanese war, to birth control. Much of my research, however, came from primarmy sources including: newspapers from ProQuest Historical Newspapers and Sanger's old letters, diaries, and calendars found in the Sophia Smith and Library of Congress collections. My favorite part of the research was definitely reading Sanger's world trip diaries. It was so interesting to read Sanger's first-hand accounts of other countries; she really got to do some amazing things and meet some amazing people! Working for the Project was one of the most interesting things I have ever done. Sanger touched the lives of many people and was active in many places. Researching really gave me a broad understanding of what was going on in the world in the 20th century. The Gilder Lehrman History Scholars Program is designed to promote the study of American history amongst college students. This year's program concentrated on the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. As a History Scholar Finalist, I was awarded a fellowship to attend the week-long program in New York City. During the program, I had to opportunity to interact with eminent historians who discussed historical issues and possible professions in history. These historians included: Thorin Tritter, Carol Berkin, James Horton, Edward Baptist, Christopher Leslie Brown, Steven Mintz, and Dante James, among others. The Program also took us on behind-the-scenes visits to archives. Our first trip was to the New York Historical Society. If you are ever in New York, you should definitely go see this! Despite what its name suggests, this museum is open to the public. The NYHS has open storage in the top floor of the building. Lincoln's death mask, FDR's leg brace, old political buttons, Civil War artifacts, Gouvernour Morris's peg leg, Hamilton's desk from Congress, and many other treasures are all located here. One of my favorite highlights was the cast of Lincoln's hands after his election campaign tour. His right hand is about double the size of his left from shaking so many hands!

We also visited the Gilder Lehrman Collection in the basement of the NYHS building. The Gilder Lehrman Collection is the largest privately-owned collection of American historical documents. Although the Collection has items from all periods of American history, the majority of the documents come from the Revolutionary, Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras. The archives librarian showed us some amazing documents including: handwritten letters from George Washington, Lincoln's handwritten last State of the Union Address, a letter from Frederick Douglass, and a famous depiction of the Boston Massacre credited to Paul Revere. Later, we visited the New York Public Library, and the rare books librarian pulled out some treasures for us to see. He showed us the only known copy of Columbus's 1493 letter to Queen Isabella announcing his discovery of America! I couldn't believe that I got to see a document as rare as that letter! We also saw the 1583 Mercador Map, which was the first map to label North and South America as such, the 1590 Edward Debree Volume depicting famous copperplate engravings of American Indians, the first book printed in the Americas, the first book printed in British America, the first money printed in New York, and the Articles of Agreement written by Benjamin Franklin, which laid out the Mason-Dixon Line. Among others, we saw the first edition of Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Parson Weem's fifth edition of The Life of Washington, which is where George Washington's cherry tree fable originates. Besides getting to see more historical documents than I could have ever imagined seeing in a lifetime, I also had the opportunity to meet 50 other college students, who love American history as much as I do. Meeting those scholars was probably the best part of my experience; nothing compared to having the opportunity to interact with and learn from peers who share and excel in my passion. Thus, I wanted to share my experience, in the hopes that other American Studies scholars would enjoy reading about my activities and would realize all the wonderful opportunities available to us.

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