Article in NY Sunday Dispatch?

Peter Knupfer's picture

For my research on the public feud between Emma Willard and Marcius Willson in 1845-1848, I am trying to date Willson’s letter to a New York newspaper attacking Willard’s history textbook.  I am hoping that someone on this network might have access to the newspaper or direct me to a repository that does.

The letter, “Willard’s History of the United States -- inaccurate or perverted!” was published in the Sunday Dispatch some time in 1847.  I encountered a clipping of it in the Emma Hard Willard Papers microfilm edition carefully curated by Anne Firor Scott.  The entry simply indicates that it is undated and the clipping image does not include a date.  I am estimating that it was published between April and October 1847, when the authors’ pamphlet war reached its climax.  My university’s interlibrary loan staff has been unable to locate the newspaper or a “repository willing to loan” it, and searches of newspaper databases have not turned it up.  I am pretty certain that this was a New York paper — the authors and their publishers focused their public pronouncements on that vital educational market.

I’d be grateful for any clues that members can offer concerning this item.

thank you

Peter Knupfer, Michigan State University, knupfer@msu.edu

Thank you to readers who offered suggestions on where I might find the Sunday Dispatch article I asked about.  I still haven’t located the article, but I’m following leads so helpfully sent to me and welcome any further ideas.

One interesting find is, I am told, already well-known among researchers of New York history, the Old Fulton Post Cards site, http://fultonhistory.com, run on a private server in Fulton, NY.  The site offers much more than post cards and views of the town — it’s a digital archive of New York newspapers, many of them small town periodicals but also including the usual suspects — the Tribune, Times, Herald, etc., plus Oswego county probate records and many other local documents, and a large number of papers from outside the state.

The site’s search engine is primitive.  However, a search overlay has been created at http://fultonsearch.org that harvests results directly from the Fulton history archive, doesn’t require Flash (the Fulton history creator is finally rewriting the code to eliminate the Flash plugin requirement, a smart move for all kinds of reasons), and avoids the occasional background sound effects that erupt at the original site.  The results at fultonsearch.org are easier to sort and view, they allow you to move to adjacent pages, and a plain text OCR of the image is available.

The archive is a tremendous resource — I was able to locate a number of items relating to my subject that filled in missing pieces of the story — but it also suffers from the pitfalls of amateur digitizing programs.  I mean “amateur” only in the clinical sense that the effort is idiosyncratic and lacks standards-compliant storage, search, and preservation practices that could improve its usefulness and assure its survival beyond the life of its creator.  The Fultonsearch.org search engine is a great improvement, but it too relies on private donations.  There doesn’t appear to be any off-site backup or independent power supply for the archive, but I’m only going on what the creators tell us at their sites and in the feedback forum at fultonhistory.com.  There are some images of the scanning process here.  It's all pretty much a one-man operation.

The imaging is basically page-by-page raw scanning of microfilm; no useful metadata is stored with the images, so in the case of, say, a newspaper or court record that did not print a header with the page number, title, and date of the issue, the viewer has to find and store that information with the image when downloading or try to find it on another page of the same issue.  (The “browse newspapers” link was offline when I tried it, but a backdoor entry to that function is at https://fultonsearch.org/papers/).  The OCR scanning of the images, like all such harvesting efforts, is about as good as the clarity of the image, which itself is being taken from microfilm.  This means that searches will probably get you in the ballpark but may pass over potentially good material.

This is a remarkable resource that obviously requires a great deal of effort and investment by its creator.  I hope that it will grow and improve as much as possible.  If anyone has suggestions for more effective searching and use of this terrific archive, I’m all ears.

Good wishes,

Peter