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”

“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”

L’allure de liste: The Look of a List

by Martha Rust

Is it right to call a collection of images or things a list? In an early Listology post, “Ten Essentials for hiking,” we raised this question and in subsequent posts, “#adorablepets: Why Instagram Loves Lists” and “Lists and/as Artworks,” we answered it with a resounding “yes.” Following those entries, my own “Two Lists of Labors in Honor of Labor Day” and a “A list on the work of things” took the propriety of both “visual lists” and lists of things all but for granted. 

Continue reading “L’allure de liste: The Look of a List”

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”

List Restoration: An Interview With Athena Kirk

When asked to name the most famous and also oldest and longest list in literature, many a listophile would choose Homer’s catalogue of ships in the Iliad, and we would probably be correct. But would any of us have a sense of what an infinitesimal fraction of ancient Greek lists Homer’s ship list represents? Athena Kirk’s book Ancient Greek Lists: Catalogue and Inventory Across Genres (Cambridge University Press, 2021) raises the curtain on the multitudinous lists produced by the list-loving culture in Greece during Homer’s age and for generations to follow. Given its field-opening findings, we are pleased to introduce Kirk’s book to our readers by way of  the following interview with her.

Continue reading “List Restoration: An Interview With Athena Kirk”

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”

Literary Lists: Lists of and in Books

by Eva von Contzen

Alex Johnson’s A Book of Book Lists is a treasure hoard of reading lists, lists of books to read and lists having to do with reading. It contains to-read lists, inventories of bookshelves, collections of library slips, and book recommendations by writers, pop stars, presidents, and terrorists; there are prospective, fictional, metaphorical, and impossible reading lists. Continue reading “Literary Lists: Lists of and in Books”

“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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