A Cabinet of Conundrums: An 1846 List of Proposed “Curiosities” for the Smithsonian Institution

by Leslie Myrick and Martha Rust

In July 1836 the United States Congress was the contingent beneficiary of a $500,000 bequest made by English scientist James Smithson (1765-1829) for the establishment of a new National Museum in Washington, D. C. to be known as the Smithsonian Institution. Smithson, the illegitimate son of Hugh Percy, the first Duke of Northumberland, never married and named a nephew as heir to his considerable fortune. When the nephew died without issue six years after Smithson’s death in Genoa in 1829, the bequest was duly transferred to Congress for the foundation of an American National Museum. A museum, as noted in our recent post “L’allure de liste,” can be a site that both contains list-like arrangements of objects and inspires written lists of the same. In the case of the Smithsonian museum, a curious list of proposed objects suggests that the list form itself could be the subject of a museum exhibition.

Continue reading “A Cabinet of Conundrums: An 1846 List of Proposed “Curiosities” for the Smithsonian Institution”

“Just” a list: Ingredients for a toxic brew

Just in time for the annual appearance of children dressed up as ghosts, goblins, wizards, and witches, this “‘Just’ a list” post is from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act IV, scene 1), in which the three witches cook up a stew for conjuring apparitions of the dead. Suggesting the idea of a list as a container, the First Witch begins by mentioning the container for the brew; its ingredients follow.[1]

Continue reading ““Just” a list: Ingredients for a toxic brew”

“Every Variety of Professions”: Ships’ Passenger Lists from Two New England Gold Mining Companies in 1849

Robert B. Honeyman, Jr. Collection of Early California and Western American Pictorial Material, The Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California

by Leslie Myrick

In honor of Labor Day this post takes a look at what a couple of member lists of mining and trading companies that left for the California gold rush early in 1849 can tell us about the exodus of skilled tradesmen from Eastern cities and towns and the economic impact of that exodus. An estimated 50,000 people, primarily young men, traveled by land and sea from the Eastern states to seek new opportunities in California in the year 1849 alone.

Continue reading ““Every Variety of Professions”: Ships’ Passenger Lists from Two New England Gold Mining Companies in 1849”

“Just” a list: from Robert Herrick’s Hesperides

English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) is best known for his single, yet voluminous book of poems, Hesperides (1648), which includes such perennial favorites as “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,” beginning with “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may”; and  “Delight in Disorder.” The collection is less well known for being, according to the Poetry Foundation, “the only major collection of poetry in English to open with a versified table of contents”: that is, with a list. Herrick gives this list the title “The Argument of His Book”: Continue reading ““Just” a list: from Robert Herrick’s Hesperides”

“Just” a list: Ovid’s gathering of trees

This post inaugurates a new Listology series entitled “’Just’ a list.” Each of the posts in this series will offer a list without commentary or analysis, just the list, which will be drawn from (or be added to) our list of literary lists. The quotation marks around “just” in the series’ title is meant to register our opinion that a list is never “just” or “merely” a list, as our posts that comment on lists always show. Timed to celebrate the grand leafing out of trees in the northeast of the US and in other regions of a similar latitude, our selection for this inaugural post in the “’Just’ a list” series is the list of trees that concludes Ovid’s story of Orpheus in his Metamorphoses.

Continue reading ““Just” a list: Ovid’s gathering of trees”

Lists of Knightly Accolades in the Liber Memorialis Friderici III. Imperatoris

by Alicia Lohmann

In 1436, shortly after his accession to power as duke, Frederick V, who would later become Emperor Frederik III, decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After his return he created a list of knightly accolades, or dubbings (“Ritterschlagsliste”), in the so-called Liber memorialis Friderici III. imperatoris (Vienna, Austrian National Library, Cod. 2674, f.3), which provides information about the nobles who were knighted alongside Frederick at the Holy Sepulcher.[1] The young duke traveled to the center of the Christian medieval world, accompanied by at least 50 nobles and Bishop Marinus of Trieste. The list reads as follows:

Continue reading “Lists of Knightly Accolades in the Liber Memorialis Friderici III. Imperatoris”

Yet another

In the wake of the shooting of Daunte Wright on April 11 2021 in Brooklyn Center Minnesota, adding yet another name to a list that should not exist, our hearts are broken, and we think of a list in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me. It appears in the course of his recounting the killing of Prince Jones (9/1/2000): “And the plunder was not just of Prince alone … Continue reading “Yet another”

“Piles of most beautiful bacon”: Lists of Jettisoned Goods on the 1849 Oregon Trail

by Leslie Myrick

In a previous post, I examined outfitting and provisioning lists compiled by travelers in preparation for their trek along the northern route to California in 1849, the opening season of the rush for Californian gold. Those going by ox- or mule-drawn wagon (as opposed to by pack mule) were particularly prone to overpacking, and thus overburdening their stock. Guidebooks and previous travelers to the west recommended a load limit of 2500 pounds per wagon, but the exigencies of travel over muddy or sandy roads and unbridged rivers made the lightening of loads necessary, sometimes as early as the first day out of camp. Continue reading ““Piles of most beautiful bacon”: Lists of Jettisoned Goods on the 1849 Oregon Trail”

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