Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SC/UA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018
In our previous posts we talked about Dutch Reformed minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691–c. 1747) as well as his enslaved servant Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, whom he purchased from his parishioner Cornelius Van Horne and converted to the Calvinist faith. This post and the next will be about the fate of Frelinghuysen’s five sons, who all became ministers themselves, but died within a short time.
The Frelinghuysen family
Not too long after Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen became the new minister of the Dutch congregations of Raritan, Three Mile Run (including New Brunswick), Six Mile Run, and North Branch he married Eva Terhune from Flatland, Long Island.1 They were given a farm near the Three Mile Run church to live in, and the first child, Theodorus Jacobus Jr, was born in 1723. His four brothers Johannes (John), Jacobus, Ferdinandus, and Henricus were born between 1727–1735 and two more girls, Margaret and Anna followed in 1737 and 1738.
We do not know exactly when Frelinghuysen purchased Gronniosaw in the 1720s, but the young African must have known all the children since they were very little. He was there when Theodore Jacobus Jr. left for the Netherlands in 1743 to study, be licensed, and ordained, and then answered a call to Albany, NY. He saw Johannes leaving for the Dutch Republic too in 1747, the year when Theodore Sr, fell ill. He helped care for the minister, who told him on his deathbed that he had freed Gronniosaw in his will.
Though a free man, Gronniosaw decided to stay to serve the widow. According to his Narrative he was heartbroken when Eva Terhune died, either shortly before or after her son Johannes’ return. The three younger brothers were between 15 and 20 years old at the time, their sisters 11 and 12.
Johannes Frelinghuysen and Dina van den Bergh
After Eva’s death, according to his Narrative, Gronniosaw subsequently served her five sons, until they all died too. He may have started with Johannes. The young man had received a call from the parishes of Raritan (Somerville), North Branch (Readington), and Millstone (later Sourland, then Harlingen), written on May 18, 1749.
When Johannes received the letter he was living in the parsonage of the Dutch pietist minister Gerardus van Schuylenburg in Tienhoven. Van Schuylenburg must have introduced him to the pious merchant’s daughter Dina van den Bergh in Amsterdam, with whom he had been corresponding. When John asked her in September to marry him and come with him to serve the parishes in the Raritan Valley the young woman was stunned.
There are many stories about Dina, who signed her letters as Dina Van Bergh. She was so pious that she had refused the dancing lessons her parents wanted her to take. As a teenager she was said to have stopped her father and his friends playing cards for money by starting to pray when she walked into the room. She kept a religious journal in 1746-1747 and in 1749, which has been translated into English. In the last part she documented her struggles to accept John’s proposal under the heading “Some few notes on how my heart, through hidden instructions, was prepared and afterwards bent by the Lord towards marital relations with the Rev. Mr. Johannes Frielinghuysen, minister at Raritan in New Netherland.”
Life with John in the parsonage
Dina hoped to send Johannes to New Jersey and fetch her one or more years later, but when a storm prevented him from leaving, she felt it was a sign from God to join him. According to local lore, the ship in which the couple finally sailed almost did not make it to the New World because of a terrible storm that caused a leak. In one story Dina had her chair tied to the mast of the ship and prayed throughout the ordeal, until the winds stilled. A swordfish was later found to be wedged in the crack, stopping the leak.
Another story tells us the ship carried bricks for the new parsonage in Raritan to be built in by the three congregations. Constructed in 1751, the sturdy brick house is presently known as the “Old Dutch Parsonage” in Somerville. Before it was moved to its present location, according to a description of the building the parsonage had slave quarters and two wide fire-places and an oven in the basement. Though a free man, Gronniosaw would have slept in the basement, along with the enslaved servants Dina would refer to in a letter to Henricus in November 1754, published along with her diary.
The couple had two children; Eva (born 1751) and Frederick (born 1753), the ancestor of the Frelinghuysen family of Somerset County. They were only toddlers when their father unexpectedly became sick and died in September 1754 during a trip to Long Island to attend a meeting of the Coetus (an assembly of Dutch ministers and elders). Dina went to fetch the body herself. The story goes that when the boat carrying the coffin pulled into the dock it could not come close enough to debark. Dina then ordered the coffin to be used as a bridge across the gap, telling the passengers “‘Tis only a shell, his spirit is gone. Cast it across.”
Marriage to Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh
The parsonage had also been used for teaching young aspiring Dutch ministers at the parsonage, who boarded there. One of Johannes’ students was future president of Queen’s (Rutgers) College Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh from Ulster County, NY, son of Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), who lived in a large house called “Rosendale” in what was still Hurley at the time. Jacob was eighteen when Johannes died and, as a boarder, must have known Dina well. Although he was probably aware that she wanted to go back home he proposed to the eleven years older widow to marry him instead. ”My child, what are you thinking about?” she reportedly exclaimed.
Unwilling, Dina continued to make preparations for her trip home. But when a storm prevented her from leaving, she felt it was another sign from God. They moved in with Jacob’s parents in Ulster County, where he finished his studies. Formally called to be Johannes’ successor, Jacob married Dina two years later in Raritan and the family moved back into the Dutch parsonage. A dress that was passed down though the family as her wedding dress is kept at Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives.
Why Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh did not go to the Netherlands to be licensed and ordained, like Theodore Jr., and John Frelinghuysen before him, we will hear in the following blog post: The Terrible Fate of the Frelinghuysen Brothers, Part 2: Ulster County.
1I am following genealogical findings published in Barbara Terhune, “The True Parents of Eva (Terhune) Frelinghuysen and her sister, Annetje (Terhune) Schuurman,” New Netherlands Connections, vol. 12, no. 3 (2007). An early version can be found online here
Contents of this blog post were shared in a presentation “’That class of people called Low Dutch,’ African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018)
Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018
In our previous post we shared information about Cornelius Van Horne, the Dutch merchant in New York who enslaved Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c. 1705-1775) on his plantation on the Raritan and sold him to his minister, Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. In this post we share insights about A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772), the first book by a Black person to be published in Britain. According to historian Ryan Henley it should be seen in the context of the propaganda war between pro- and antislavery Calvinists in England, where Gronniosaw went to find George Whitefield, charismatic leader of the Great Awakening.
Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691- c. 1747)
Dutch reformed minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was 28 when he gave his first sermon to the Raritan congregation in January 1720, later the First Reformed Church of Somerville. The congregation had sent a call for a minister to Amsterdam together with the congregations of Three Mile Run, Six Mile Run, and North Branch (later the First Reformed Churches of New Brunswick, Franklin Park, and Readington, respectively). He resided in Three Mile Run, where he and his wife Eva Terhune–whom he met soon after his arrival–were given a farm.
great laxity of manners prevailed throughout his charge … that while horse-racing, gambling, dissipation, and rudeness of various kinds were common, the [church] was attended at convenience, and religion consisted of the mere formal pursuit of the routine of duty.
Passionate and blunt, Frelinghuysen caused a stir. Convinced that he could distinguish between the “generate” (the spiritually and morally reformed) and the “ungenerate,” he excommunicated three members of the community. This led a group of disgruntled families from all four congregations to appeal to the church authorities in the Netherlands (the Classis of Amsterdam), a conflict that lasted eighteen years.
Among Frelinghuysen’s listeners was James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, whom the pastor had purchased after hearing how the young man had warned his mistress not to swear. He had asked a tutor, Peter Van Arsdalen (described as ‘Vanosdore’ in Gronniosaw’s Narrative) to teach him to read and write and school him in the Dutch Calvinist faith. It is no wonder that Gronniosaw underwent the experiential conversion that Frelinghuysen preached. According to theologian Joel Beeke “Frelinghuysen taught that only those are truly saved who have experienced conversion, which includes [ . . . ] not only the knowledge of sin and misery, but also the experience of deliverance in Christ, resulting in a lifestyle of gratitude to God.”
According to Ryan Hanley, “the final criterion of Frelinghuysen’s vision for salvation was fulfilled when Gronniosaw ‘blest God for my poverty, that I had no worldly riches or grandeur to draw my heart from him’.” But most important for pro-slavery Calvinists was what was written next. “Gronniosaw reconciled himself to his own enslavement, declaring that he ‘would not have changed situations [ . . . ] for the whole world.’”
George Whitefield (1714-1770)
Gronniosaw’s conversation was in line with what many Americans in the 18th century experienced in what became known as the “Great Awakening,” a time of spiritual renewal in the colonies among protestant congregations, with parallels in Europe. Presbyterian revivalist Gilbert Tennent (1703-1763), minister in New Brunswick since 1726, was one of the movement’s early leaders. He was great friends with Frelinghuysen and claimed to have learned a lot from his preaching.
The most important leader of the movement, however, was Anglican evangelist George Whitefield, founder of the Methodist movement in England together with the brothers John and Charles Wesley. Preaching mainly outdoors, he drew crowds in England as well as in the American colonies, which he toured seven times between 1739 and 1770. On November 20, 1739 he preached in New Brunswick three times at Gilbert Tennent’s church. In his journal he described Frelinghuysen as a “worthy old soldier of Jesus Christ,” who was the “beginner of the great work which I trust the Lord is carrying on in these parts.”
According to his autobiography, Gronniosaw was so impressed with Whitefield’s preaching that after the death of Frelinghuysen’s widow and sons he decided to go to England to search for him.
Gronniosaw was not the only Black person who was impressed by Whitefield. Among the thousands of people who came to hear Whitefield preach, a substantial number were enslaved. After traveling through the South in 1739 Whitefield wrote a passionate “letter to the inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, North, and South Carolina,” published in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. He chastised Southern slave owners for mistreating their servants and not helping them convert to the Christian faith.
However, by the mid 1740s Whitefield owned a plantation and enslaved workers himself. Realizing he could not raise funds for an orphanage in Georgia without enslaved workers he became a leading proponent of legalization of slavery in Georgia, where slavery had been banned. According to church historian and biographer Thomas Kidd, Whitefield’s relationship to slavery represents the “greatest ethical problem in his career.”
Selina Hastings (1707-1791)
Whitefield died in 1770 during his seventh tour in the American colonies. In his will he had left his plantation and slaves, as well as the orphanage that he founded, to his patroness Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who played an important role in the religious revival and Methodist movement in England and Wales. Though she and Whitefield were originally close to John Wesley, they grew apart over the Calvinist concept of predestination.
They disagreed about slave ownership too. In 1774, Wesley published his anti-slavery views in Thoughts on Slavery, while Selina Hastings had financed the publication of Gronniosaw’s Narrative two years earlier. Written with the help of a woman in Hasting’s circles, in the Narrative Gronniosaw seemed to embrace his enslavement as a means to get to know God.
In a preface of the 1790 edition minister Walter Shirley – a cousin of Selina Hastings – stated that the book provided the answer to the question how God will deal with “those benighted parts of the word where the Gospel of Jesus Christ hath never reached.”
For Walter Shirley the answer was clear. “Whatever infidels and deists may think; I trust the Christian reader will easily discern an all-wise and omnipotent appointment and direction in these movements.”
The financiers, producers, and readers of Gronniosaw’s text were “Calvinists seeking to prove that freedom was not necessary to achieve salvation,” Hanley concludes. “Many of them derived the bulk of their wealth from the institution. It can hardly be surprising, then, that the Narrative does not call for the abolition of the slave trade as some of its more famous successors would.”
The Frelinghuysen sons
When Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was dying he told Gronniosaw that he had freed him in his will. Gronniosaw, who had already served the Frelinghuysen family for over twenty years, decided to continue to serve the widow and her children. All five sons became ministers, and the two daughters married ones.
The tragic story of the five Frelinghuysen brothers will be told in another post.
Contents of this blog post were shared in a presentation “‘That class of people called Low Dutch’: African Enslavement Among the Dutch Reformed Churches of Ulster County and New Jersey’s Raritan Valley,” by Helene van Rossum and Wendy Harris at Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, NY (April 7, 2018)
Balmer, Randall H. 2002. A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hanley, Ryan. “Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.” Slavery & Abolition 36, no. 1 (2015): 360-381.
Helene van Rossum is a Dutch-born researcher and writer, who worked at SCUA as public services and outreach archivist in 2016-2018
Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) [source]
When Scarlet and Black’s first volume Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History came out in 2016, it was Rutgers’ connection to Sojourner Truth that made the headlines. The chapter about James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, enslaved servant of Dutch minister Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen–an early advocate of Queen’s College–did not get much attention. That is not difficult to understand, because Gronniosaw’s 1772 autobiography–the first book of a Black person to be printed in England–did not fit in the genre of abolitionist “slave narratives.” Just before the Scarlet and Black volume came out British historian Ryan Hanley published an article in which he not only identified the Dutch parishioner who sold Gronniosaw to his pastor, he also placed Gronniosaw’s book in the context of the propaganda war between pro- and antislavery Calvinists in England.
James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (c.1705-75)
Obituary in the Chester Chronicle or Commercial Intelligencer, Chester, England, October 2, 1775 (Source)
Although he had spent most of his life in New Jersey, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (who also used the name James Albert) died in England only three years after the publication of his book. According to his Narrative he was born an African prince, who willingly left his family and country as a young teen, because he was mocked for his belief in a power higher than the sun, moon, and stars that were worshiped at home. He ended up being sold to a Dutch captain who sailed to Barbados, where the boy was purchased by a young Dutch merchant with the name “Vanhorne,” who lived in New York.
Put to work as a house servant, the teenager’s second language became Dutch, which apparently included a lot of swearing. Everybody swore, according to Gronniosaw, so he did so as well. An old enslaved servant named Ned overheard how he scolded a servant girl and “called upon God to damn her.” Ned warned him about a “wicked man called the Devil, that lived in hell” and would burn all people who used those words.
Quote from A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw (1772) [source]
Terrified, Gronniosaw immediately stopped swearing. When he overheard his mistress swearing herself he felt obliged to warn her about the consequences. She shared the story with everybody in the neighborhood, which must have included Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen. He had been minister of Raritan and three nearby Dutch churches in the Raritan Valley since 1720. But if she lived in New York, how would they have met?
Cornelius Van Horne (1693-1768)
The Van Horne family was a prosperous family of merchants in New York. According to Jan Cornelis Van Horne and his descendants the family’s founder and his young family emigrated from the Dutch city of Hoorn to New Amsterdam by 1645. His son Cornelius, a furrier and hat dealer, had three sons who all became wealthy merchants: Jan or John (1669-1735), Gerrit (1671-1737), and Abraham (1677-1741) van Horne. They traded, among others, from Barbados, owned land in New Jersey, and can be found among the sloop owners bringing captives into New York.
Looking for the “young, Dutch merchant” among the next generation Ryan Hanley identified Jan’s son Cornelius Van Horne (1693-1768) as the one who purchased Gronniosaw from a Dutch captain sailing from Barbados. That would have made Elizabeth French, who married Cornelius Van Horne in 1718, the young, swearing, mistress whom Gronniosaw wanted to save from hell. Her father, wealthy New York merchant Phillip French, had owned a property of 2754 acres on the Raritan River in Somerset County, which was split between his two surviving daughters in 1722, when Elizabeth’s sister Anna got married to Joseph Reade.
The above map that accompanied the deed shows how Philip French’s property, which bordered the estate of the prosperous Dutch farmer Michael van Veghten in the west, was divided between the two sisters and their husbands. All buildings are circled in red, including the homes of Van Veghten and of Cornelius Van Horn and Elisabeth French, known as “Kells Hall.” The home of Joseph Reade and Anna French on the eastern side was purchased by Cornelius Van Horne’s son Philip in 1750, known as “Phil’s Hill,” presently the Van Horne House. In addition, the map shows the Dutch church on Michael Van Veghten’s property, close to the bridge that he built at the location of the present-day Van Veghten bridge. Known as the Raritan church, it was one of the four Dutch churches where itinerant pastor Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen preached.
The Van Horne plantation
In a list of members of the Council of New Jersey, Van Horne, who served on the council from 1727 to 1740, is described as dwelling about 22 miles northwest from (Perth) Amboy. In 1774 the estate was described as containing about 1400 acres of land, with a large brick dwelling house (Kell’s Hall), orchards, a grist mill, a smelting house, barns, stables and various outhouses. How many enslaved laborers worked on the plantation we do not know, because Cornelius’s will is only known as an abstract.
When Cornelius Van Horne and his wife Elisabeth were assigned their half of the estate in 1722–with the Raritan church at walking distance from their home–Gronniosaw was about seventeen years old. We do not know when he was purchased by Van Horne and how long he worked for the family before he was bought by Frelinghuysen, sometime in the 1720s. But Gronniosaw, who served in the house and not in the fields, may very well have known Tom, the tall Black man with the “grave look,” who according to the above ad that Cornelius van Horne placed in September 1724 ran away from the plantation that month.
Emotionally attached to the Frelinghuysen family, however, Gronniosaw would make very different choices, as will be seen in our following blog post “Updates about Ukawsaw Gronniosaw. Part 2: Frelinghuysen’s convert.”
With thanks to retired librarian, poet, and professional genealogist Sharon Olson, for verifying this Cornelius Van Horne is the young merchant who purchased Gronniosaw (possibly through his father Jan) and sold Gronniosaw to Frelinghuysen. Sharon is the author of ‘The Early Sandford Family in New Jersey Revisited,’ a series of nine articles in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey. (2016-2019)
Cooper, Nathalie F. “New Insights Into Old Places, “Kells Hall,” “Phills Hall,” and the Janeway and Broughton Store.” Somerset County Historical Quarterly 1882-1982 commemorative issue, (1982): 3-12
Hanley, Ryan. “Calvinism, Proslavery and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw.” Slavery & Abolition 36, no. 1 (2015): 360-381.
For the past few years, Special Collections and University Archives has been creating coloring book pages based on our collections. The annual #ColorOurCollections week (usually the first full week of February) was created by The New York Academy of Medicine Library (NYAM) in 2016 and is a way for libraries, museums, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world to share their coloring pages. In 2018, the NYAM created a website to bring together all of the pages and allow people to download images throughout the year.
This year Special Collection and University Archives decided to focus our coloring pages on the work of the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (NJDNP). The NJDNP is a collaboration of the Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, and the New Jersey State Library to make New Jersey Newspapers available as part of the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America project. This project is funded by a grant for the National Digital Newspaper Program, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
You can download our NJDNP inspired 2021 Color Our Collections. You can also check out our other coloring page here or you can check out the coloring pages from other New Jersey institutions:
Happy 2020! We’re kicking off the new year with this piece by Emily Crispino, a graduate student in the Library and Information Science Department at Rutgers’ School of Communication and Information. During the fall 2019 semester, Emily was a public services intern in Special Collections and University Archives. In this position she assisted researchers at our busy reference desk and researched and responded to a variety of inquiries from around the world related to New Jersey history and genealogy through our virtual reference service.
While I cannot claim enough knowledge to call myself an herbalist, my shelves full of dried plants would seem to qualify me as an herbal enthusiast. I brew a yearly elderberry syrup to ward off winter colds, drink teas for just about every ailment, and occasionally concoct something new after consulting my personal library of herbals. Written by everyone from New Age gurus to a former botanist for the USDA, these books outline the medicinal properties of plants, accompanied by physical descriptions, dosage information, and recipes for preparations such as salves and tinctures. Often, photographs or botanical sketches accompany each entry.
Ideas about health and medicine have changed a great deal over the last 300 years, but the herbal format has remained largely the same. Special Collections and University Archives holds many examples of historical herbals, including two that I would like to examine in this post. The first is a 1798 edition of Nicholas Culpeper’s English Physician and Complete Herbal, first issued in 1652. The second is A Curious Herbal by Elizabeth Blackwell, a 1751 edition of a work first published in 1737. Just like my New Age gurus and government workers, Culpeper and Blackwell approached herbalism from entirely different points of view. Yet both books are written in the service of healing, designed to help people help themselves.
Nicholas Culpeper was a character to say the least, boasting a colorful career as an herbalist, astrologer, and sometime soldier against the King during the English Civil War. A non-conformist both in medicine and politics, Culpeper frequently received criticism from the more traditional physicians of his day. In 17th century London, the medical profession was dominated by the Royal College of Physicians, whose Censors bestowed licenses upon those whom they deemed worthy to practice. Culpeper loudly criticized their methods and accused them of overcharging for their services, making medical care inaccessible to the poor. In his own practice, he saw patients regardless of their financial status and examined them holistically before diagnosing and treating them. (2)
Elizabeth Blackwell’s herbal was born of more personal motivations. After her husband, a physician, was thrown into debtor’s prison, she began work on A Curious Herbal as a means to raise the funds to free him. While Blackwell was a skilled botanical illustrator and may have had some training as a midwife, she does not appear to have been an herbalist in the strict sense. The medical information in her book was primarily derived from another herbal, the Botanicum Officinale, with the permission of its author. Nevertheless, Blackwell spent years carefully sketching, engraving, and coloring plates of medicinal plants for her herbal, supported in her endeavor by a number of respected physicians and apothecaries. A Curious Herbal received significant praise and sold well, successfully paying her husband’s debts and securing his release. (1)
The differing backgrounds of Culpeper and Blackwell are clearly reflected in their herbals. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal contains a great deal more text than A Curious Herbal, including information on common ailments and preparing medicines in addition to his alphabetical directory of herbs. Sparing no words when explaining their properties, Culpeper’s physical descriptions of plants are surprisingly inconsistent, and he entirely neglects to describe those that he believes are commonly known. “I hold it needless to write any description of this,” he explains, referring to the elder tree, “[since] any boy that plays with a potgun, will not mistake another tree instead of elder.” The missing descriptions are not well supplemented by the illustrations, which are tiny and crammed onto designated pages.
Even these are 1798 additions, with the first edition of Culpeper’s herbal including no images at all. A Curious Herbal, on the other hand, is built around Blackwell’s illustrations. These full-page plates depict seeds, roots, and flowers in addition to the main bodies of the plants and are detailed enough to help readers identify them in the wild.
The images in the first edition were colored as well, adding to their accuracy. At the same time, the accompanying text is minimal, lacking the depth of medical information contained in Culpeper’s herbal. There is also no distinguishable order to the entries, requiring one to flip through the entire book to find information on a specific plant.
Of particular interest is the front matter of A Curious Herbal, revealing a further difference between the two books. A large illustration of ancient Greek botanists Theophrastus and Dioscorides precedes the official endorsement of the College of Physicians, signed by its then-president and Censors.
The recommendations do not end there, as a subsequent page proclaims the approval of nine more physicians and “Gentlemen.” This reception to Blackwell’s herbal could not be more unlike that of Culpeper’s, which, despite its immense popularity, received no such praise from the College. The College’s opinion of Culpeper may be summed up in a comment from member William Johnson, who proclaimed one of his works “a paper fit to wipe one’s breeches withal.” (2)
New editions of Culpeper’s Complete Herbal are published to this day, testifying to the enduring attraction of traditional medicine and home remedies. Elizabeth Blackwell too is slowly gaining recognition, and a calendar featuring her work has been released for 2020. Although they came to herbalism from very different backgrounds, those who come to it today are no less diverse. Alongside countless modern additions to the body of herbal literature, the centuries-old works of Culpeper and Blackwell have continued to inspire new herbalists—and herbal enthusiasts.
1 Madge, B. (15 April 2003). “Elizabeth Blackwell—the forgotten herbalist?” Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1471-1842.2001.00330.x
2 Wooley, B. (2004). Heal thyself: Nicholas Culpeper and the seventeenth-century struggle to bring medicine to the people. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Over the past two months, I have been conversing with Dr. Glyn Thompson, a retired art history professor from Leeds University, in regards to our holding of early twentieth-century pottery company trade catalogs in the Sinclair New Jersey Collection. His research question is a fascinating one: Did Marcel Duchamp create the iconic 1917 ready-made Fountain? Dr. Thompson argues that Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was the creator of Fountain by supporting a counter narrative of the creation of one of the most important works of art in the twentieth century.
The art history Fountain myth goes like this:
Duchamp began creating ready-mades in 1913, when he chose a spinning bicycle wheel as a work of art. Ready-mades are just as they sound: commercially manufactured everyday items. Part of the allure of the ready-made is in the artistic choice of the object; the other is in the reading of the form in an attempt to find meaning. In 1917 Duchamp bought a urinal from the J. L. Mott Pottery Company which had a showroom in the Upper West Side. He turned the urinal on its side, and signed it “R Mutt 1917”. R Mutt, or the full Richard Mutt, is a word play on the name Mott and also the cartoon characters Mutt and Jeff. Duchamp then submitted the urinal to the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, of which he was a member. The society was formed by artists who were subverting the typical exhibition favoritism of other art clubs by accepting anything that an artist submitted. Artworks were to be hung/displayed alphabetically. Duchamp challenged the society’s liberal take on art and artists, pushing to see if they would accept anything as a work of art. Members of the society were appalled by the submission, and refused to display it, hiding the urinal in a back room. After the exhibition, Duchamp resigned from the society because of the conservatism. Alfred Stieglitz photographed the urinal at Gallery 291 and ultimately the original urinal was lost.
With Fountain, Duchamp was pushing the boundaries of the definition of art and authorship in asking questions like: “What is a work of art? Who gets to decide, the artist or the critic? Can a work derive from an idea alone, or does it require the hand of a maker? These questions strike at the core of our understanding of art itself.” Is it art because it’s made by an artist? What is the difference between a tea cup and a sculpture that looks like a tea cup? Why are functional items not art?
Other than several articles published in Blind Man issue number 2 from 1917, there was little to nothing published about the urinal, including the identity of Richard Mutt. In the 1950s and 1960s Duchamp took credit for, and authorized replicas to be made of The Fountain. This art history narrative of the creation and eventual attribution of Fountain to Duchamp serves to fuel the status of Duchamp as a misunderstood, avant-garde genius whose whole life was art, creating this myth and mythical artist that has ignored facts and obvious faults.
But it doesn’t seem to matter to art history if Duchamp created Fountain. Stated rather succinctly in a 2017 Artsy article: “But to try and establish the true authorship of the Fountain is exactly the kind of quixotic undertaking that would have had Duchamp in stitches. Let’s take a moment to recall that Monsieur Duchamp took a urinal, turned it upside down, signed it ‘R. Mutt,’ and submitted it to a salon; the pursuit of truth was decidedly not his quest.” Ignoring the questionable authorship of one of the most important artworks of the twentieth century because Duchamp is your favorite artist is a quixotic and fundamental misunderstanding of the intersection of feminism and art history. I’m willing to look past Joseph Beuys’ lies about his origin story in order to see his artistic merit because at least his ideas were original. Women artists deserve more than to be regulated as the kooky sidekicks, the sexy muses, or the martyred wives whose work gets stolen by their male counter-parts. Why is Marcel Duchamp a genius and Elsa a kook?
The evidence that Fountain was chosen and submitted by Marcel Duchamp is largely based on statements made by Duchamp in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Glyn Thompson is attempting to interrupt the Artist-as-genius narrative with his research into the Trenton Pottery Company. The counter-narrative he produces is a convincing argument that one of the greatest works of art was, in fact, created by a woman. More information can be found in Thompson’s eBook Duchamp’s Urinal? The Facts Behind the Façade.
The following are Thompson’s core arguments:
1.) In a 1917 letter to his sister, Suzanne Duchamp, Marcel writes:
“April II  My dear Suzanne- Impossible to write- I heard from Crotti that you were working hard. Tell me what you are making and if it’s not too difficult to send. Perhaps, I could have a show of your work in the month of October or November-next-here. But tell me what you are making- Tell this detail to the family: The Independents have opened here with immense success. One of my female friends under a masculine pseudonym, Richard Mutt, sent in a porcelain urinal as a sculpture it was not at all indecent-no reason for refusing it. The committee has decided to refuse to show this thing. I have handed in my resignation and it will be a bit of gossip of some value in New York- I would like to have a special exhibition of the people who were refused at the Independents-but that would be a redundancy! And the urinal would have been lonely- See you soon, Affect. Marcel”[emphasis mine]
The letter is translated and published in Francis Naumann’s 1982 article, though Thompson observes that in footnote 18 Naumann is confused as to why Duchamp would write about this woman friend, refusing to acknowledge that it may be true. The letter is housed in Jean Crotti’s Papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.
2.) Duchamp could not have purchased the urinal from J. L. Mott Pottery Company because
a. You couldn’t just walk in and purchase a urinal from their showroom in New York. You needed a tradesman to be the moderator between you and the company (a practice that is similar today). Additionally, the urinal itself would have been made in and purchased in Trenton, New Jersey, where the factory was. These protocols can be found in the company’s trade catalogs.
b. Mott didn’t make a urinal similar enough to the 1917 image of the urinal.
c. Therefore, the name R. Mutt couldn’t have come from J. L. Mott Company.
3.) The Trenton Potteries Company created the Vitreous China, Bedfordshire No. 1 Flat Backed Lipped Urinal between 1915 and 1921 and it visually matches the Stieglitz photograph of Fountain. This is confirmed both through trade catalogs, and the urinal that is in Glyn Thompson’s personal collection.
4.) Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was a German-born Dada artist living in Philadelphia who was one of the only women who could have created Fountain.
5.) R. Mutt is a Dada play of words on the German word “armut” which translates to poverty or destitution. Poverty of morality was a possible theme of the urinal since on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. On April 9th, the urinal reached the exhibition. Also on April 6th, regulations were passed to control movements of German-born individuals on U.S. soil.
It’s difficult to prove without a doubt that Elsa submitted the urinal, choosing it to be a work of art. My initial reaction was, and continues to be: of course she did. Because Elsa WAS Dada. She was Art. She once wore postage stamps as makeup, a birdcage around her neck, and carpet sample rings as bracelets. When she showed up to be George Biddle’s model, she removed her jacket revealing these everyday items and he was shocked. Pictures of her in simple Google searches show a woman making strange gestures and poses for the camera. While Dada performances were meant to make the bourgeois uncomfortable, Elsa made everyone uncomfortable all of the time.
And then there’s God (1917). Previously attributed to Morton Schamburg, God is composed of a twisted drainpipe secured onto a miter box. Readings of the work are tenuous at best, but I like to think that God symbolizes the impotence and mediocrity of “important” men.
Additionally, her poem Astride mimics an orgasm, the climax in a flurry of nonsense words:
HEE HEE HEEEEEEAAA
It is not a stretch then, to think that the Baroness would choose a urinal to send to the Independents exhibition: she used everyday objects in her art, she was keen on word play and bodily functions, and she used herself and her art to make people uncomfortable.
But Elsa tends to get a bad rap. She is often described as: “eccentric”, “crazy”, “visionary”, “strange” and “outrageous”. Like the cult of Frida Kahlo, the Baroness’ sexual exploits and her life take larger precedent than her work: a subheading to a Timeline article states “Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was once arrested for walking down Fifth Avenue in a men’s suit.” In comparison, H.P. Roche describes Duchamp as thus: “When I met Marcel Duchamp in New York in 1916, he was twenty nine years old and wore a halo…From 1911 to 1923 my memories of him as a person are even more alive than my recollections of his work…He was creating his own legend, a young prophet who wrote scarcely a line, but whose words would be repeated from mouth to mouth…” The comparison and hypocrisy is hardly unique to someone who studies women artists, and yet it continues to be infuriating.
It’s doubtful that in Elsa’s archives there will be a diary entry stating “And on this day I mailed a urinal to Louise Norton to be submitted to the Society of American Artists under the name R Mutt, signifying poverty.” Even if there was a diary entry existed, I doubt that it would change peoples’ minds. She was a liar, so you can’t trust her; she was crazy so you can’t believe anything she says; she was just looking for a buck; she was taking advantage of that poor man for her own sake; and all of the other things that people say in order to discredit women who speak out about their experiences. It’s difficult to think of a way to end this post without falling into a pit of despair. Perhaps it is through Dr. Thompson’s efforts to shout into the abyss with his book, his articles, his interviews, and his exhibitions that a change for Elsa will occur. After all, an unwillingness to be quiet is one of our best feminist tools.
 Dr. Glyn Thompson, Duchamp’s Urinal? The Facts Behind the Façade (Wild Pansy Press, 2015), 11-13.
 Exhibitions: Challenge and Defy, at Sidney Janis Gallery, 1950, New York. International Dada Exhibition, at Sidney Janis Gallery (15 April-9 May 1953), New York; Retrospective Dada, Dusseldorf (5 September- 19 October 1958). Interview: Text:
 There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the talent of certain artists, but insistence on the status of the Artist as Genius disallows criticism and unconvincingly simplifies the narrative of their life and work. In addition, modern women artists are almost never described as geniuses. See Linda Nochlin’s “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” for a more succinct analysis of the rhetoric associated with male and female artists.
 Francis M. Naumann, “Affectueusement, Marcel: Ten Letters from Marcel Duchamp to Suzanne Duchamp and Jean Crotti,” Archives of American Art Journal (vol 22, no. 4 1982), 8. Written extensively by John Higgs in “The Shock of the New,” Stranger Than You Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 2015), 35-51. Argued by Thompson in Duchamp’s Urinal?, 17-18.
 Louise Norton could also be a potential creator of Fountain. In the Stieglitz photograph, the exhibition entry card is still attached, which lists Norton’s address as R. Mutt’s address. Additionally, she wrote an article in Blind Man about R Mutt. To my knowledge, there is no archival collection, book, or article about her art for comparison.
 Thompson, Duchamp’s Urinal?, 70.
 Additional questions arise, for me, from Duchamp’s story that he simply submitted the piece to the exhibition and that those in charge censored his avant-garde poke at the supposedly liberal Society. The story makes Duchamp seem like he was just a member of the art society, when in fact he played a large administrative role. According to the exhibition catalog for the 1917 exhibition, Marcel Duchamp a director of the Society, and was the director of the hanging committee (See Figures). The catalog can be seen in full here. The hanging committee included George Bellows and Rockwell Kent. Because there were no juries and no prizes in the Society, as long as the artist paid their dues then their work would be hung. In order to prevent hierarchies and favoritism, the pieces were hung alphabetically. This was a very liberal take on annual art exhibition for clubs and societies which often attempted to mark ‘the best” through juries and strategic hangings. But how can you say that those in charge denied your readymade when you were the one who was in charge?
#AskAnArchivist day is an effort from the Society of American Archivists to bring awareness to the archival community, but also an opportunity for repositories to answer questions about their collections and their jobs. This year Rutgers Special Collections and Univeristy Archives participated for the first time on Twitter (@Rutgers_SCUA). Digital archivist Caryn Radick and processing archivist Tara Maharjan were available for an hour and a half to answer questions.
Throughout the day, they shared other fun facts about the collections in SC/UA. Such as, what is the most glittery item? That would be this untitled work by Miriam Schapiro.
What is the oldest item? A Didrachm coin minted between 280 B.C.E.-276 B.C.E.
Newest acquisition? That would be this folding chair that President Barack Obama sat in during his Rutgers 250 anniversary commencement address.
Oddest item? Probably a mummified cat. It was donated in 1954 and not much is known about it except it is from Egypt.
We were able to share some behind the scenes videos and photos of our collections to answer question like have you ever wonder about the trip our materials take from our closed stacks up to our reading room in the dumbwaiter? Well now you can wonder no more.
Ever wonder about the trip our materials take in the dumbwaiter? Wonder no more. Let's take a trip! #AskAnArchivist
We were able to share some other fun facts, including that not all of our materials are stored on-site. We have other facilities on the Rutgers Campus which hold some of our boxes. Here is one such building with an archivist for a size reference.
We shared some of the toughest things about being an archivist. First, the handwriting can sometimes be tough to read:
Can you read it? It says, “…is away from her and now Old Rutgers means much more to me than ever before. I am…”
Second would be how physical being an an archivist really is – it requires people to lift ~40 pounds, to be able to move pallets of boxes, and use the movable shelves.
But one of the best things about being an archivist (we think) is stumbling across images with cute animals.
We had so much fun with #AskAnArchivist Day. We look forward to participating again next year. If anyone has questions about our archives or about being an archivist you can always reach out on social media @Rutgers_SCUA or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will leave you with some more highlights from the day.
In February 2017 Rutgers University announced that it will name an apartment building on its historic New Brunswick campus after the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (c.1797-1883). The decision followed research findings, published in Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, that Sojourner Truth had been enslaved as a child to members of the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790). However, Sojourner Truth–who was born with the name Isabella–never lived in New Jersey but grew up in Ulster County, New York. She was born enslaved to Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh’s brother, Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), after whose death she and her family became the property of his son Charles. Johannes Jr. has been confused with his father, Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), a founding trustee of Queens (later Rutgers) College. Not only did they share a name and lived in Hurley, near Kingston. Both also had a son named “Charles” and served as “Colonel” in the Revolutionary War.
The narrative of Sojourner Truth: “Colonel Ardinburgh”
Sojourner Truth, who never learned to read or write, dictated her life’s story to fellow abolitionist Olive Gilbert (1801-1884), which was published as the Narrative of Sojourner Truth in 1850. According to Gilbert (who spelled the names that Truth provided as she heard them), Isabella was “the daughter of James and Betsey, slaves of one Colonel Ardinburgh, Hurley, Ulster County, New York.” After his death, Isabella, her parents, and “ten or twelve other fellow human chattels” became the legal property of his son Charles. Not older than two when her first owner died, Truth only remembered her second master. When he died too, she was about nine years old and was auctioned off to John Neely, a storekeeper who lived in the area. Her new master severely beat her because of her inability to understand orders. Having been raised in a Dutch Reformed household, she had only learned to speak the language of her masters: Dutch.
“That class of people called Low Dutch”
According to the Narrative Isabella’s first two owners “belonged to that class of people called Low Dutch.” These people were descendants of Dutch Reformed families who had emigrated from the Netherlands (the “Low Countries”) in the 17th century and settled in New York and New Jersey. Uninhibited by their Dutch Reformed faith, they farmed their lands with the help of enslaved blacks, like their English-speaking neighbors. (Read about the farm ledgers of Johannes G. Hardenbergh). In 1707 the grandfather of Sojourner Truth’s owner, also named Johannes Hardenbergh (1670–1745), had purchased a tract of two million acres of land in the Catskill Mountains from a leader of the Esopus Indians. For this land (spread across today’s Ulster, Sullivan and Delaware Counties) Hardenbergh and six others were granted a patent in 1708, which became known as the “Hardenbergh Patent.” By the time of the first federal census of 1790, fifteen heads of Ulster households had the name “Hardenbergh,” of whom ten listed enslaved people. Advertisements for runaway slaves in the Hudson River Valley (including three from members of the Hardenbergh family) indicate that many slaves spoke Dutch as well as English. Sojourner Truth herself always kept a distinct low-Dutch accent, and never had the Southern black accent that the white abolitionist Francis Gage gave her when publishing the speech that became known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” (compare this speech, written 12 years after the original speech, with a more authentic version).
Col. Johannes Hardenbergh (1706-1786), Rosendale, Hurley
As can be seen in Myrtle Hardenbergh Miller’s The Hardenberg family; a genealogical compilation (1958) many male members in the Hardenbergh family inherited the name of the Hardenbergh patriarch in Ulster County. Miller makes a clear distinction between the older Colonel and the younger Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh (1729-1799), the owner of Sojourner Truth. But the older Colonel Hardenbergh (1706-1786) was more famous: he was a field officer under George Washington in the Continental Army, and served in New York’s Colonial Assembly. He lived with his family in “Rosendale,” a house with many rooms as well as slave quarters, formerly owned by his grandfather Colonel Jacob Rutsen. The house, in which Colonel Hardenbergh entertained Washington in 1782 and 1783, burned down in 1911. In the New York Census of Slaves of 1755 Hardenbergh is listed as living in Hurley owning six slaves, which made him one of the largest slaveholders in the county. In 1844 Hurley’s town boundaries changed, however, and the house became part of the newly formed town Rosendale. (View a map of Ulster county, 1829)
Col. Johannes Hardenbergh Jr. (1729-1799), Swartekill, Hurley
Like his brothers and sisters, Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh was born in the family home “Rosendale.” He left home when he was around seventeen years old to prepare for the ministry at the home of John Frelinghuysen (1727-54), a young prominent Dutch Reformed minister, who served five congregations in central New Jersey, and lived in what is now known as the “Old Dutch Parsonage” in Somerville. When Frelinghuysen unexpectedly died in 1754 the young Hardenbergh took over the five pulpits. He married Frelinghuysen’s much older widow, the pietist Dina van Bergh (1725–1807) in 1756 and was ordained to the ministry in 1758. Whether he also retained the three slaves (including a child), whom Dina had inherited according to her first husband’s will, is not known. But they did have at least one slave at the parsonage: in a letter from Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, written (in Dutch) to his father in 1777, he wrote that he had to hurry “because the negro is getting ready to go” (“wijl de neger gereet maakt om af te gaan“).
In 1781 Hardenbergh was called by the congregations of Marbletown, Rochester, and Wawarsing in Ulster county, and left New Jersey to move back into his parental home “Rosendale” with his family. He returned to New Jersey in 1786 to serve as minister in New Brunswick and president of Queen’s College. Whether he maintained any enslaved people during these last four years of his life we do not know. There are no slaves mentioned in his will.
This blog post was extracted from the presentation “Land, Faith and Slaves: the shared heritage of the Hardenbergh family, Rutgers University, and the Dutch reformed Church on June 17, 2017