Today in our Archives at Home series, we bring you the Civil War letters of brothers John E. Van Fleet of Clover Hill, Hillsborough Township, Somerset County, New Jersey and James O. Van Fleet who served in the 9th New Jersey Infantry. Accompanying the letters are a photograph of Van Fleet and several documents, 1889-1891, relating to a pension, based on Van Fleet’s service, received by his mother (Ann).
This transcription was completed by Ilya Slavutskiy.
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 email@example.com. 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.
On April 6, 1917, one hundred years ago, the United States entered The Great War (as it was known then) or the First World War (as we know it today). New Jersey contributed 72,946 draftees and 46,960 volunteers—with more than 140,000 serving by the war’s end—for the final seventeen months of the war. Although the Garden State is teeming with over 160 memorials dedicated to the brave individuals who served in the Great War, their names were largely forgotten until recently. In this blog post we will feature two of these long forgotten New Jersey heroes, using materials from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau and the Terradell Family Papers at the Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives. These materials, along with many other one-of-a-kind artifacts, are currently on display in “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War.
With a growing number of Rutgers men in Uncle Sam’s olive drab, Earl Reed Silvers (RC 1913) established the Rutgers College War Service Bureau (RCWSB) in August 1917 to keep the 800 men in service up to date with frequent news of the college and each other. “As far as can be ascertained, no college or university in the United States kept in such close touch with her alumni and undergraduates in the army or navy,” reflected Silvers, “nor has any college the mass of material, war letters and relics, which were sent to old Rutgers by her appreciative sons.”
Counted among the alumni who corresponded with Silvers and the RCWSB was Theodore “Theo” Rosen (1895-1940), Rutgers College Class of 1916, who served as First Lieutenant in the 315th Infantry, 79th Division.
Creeping and crawling toward the German line in search of a machine gun nest on the early morning of November 4, 1918, Rosen found himself in the path of fire. One bullet rendered his right arm useless; the other tore through his left cheek, filling his mouth with blood and taking out seven teeth. The 23-year-old would lose the top of his left thumb, break his left wrist, have his right arm amputated, and suffer impaired hearing and vision before the onslaught was over. He only recovered consciousness as a P.O.W. on the operating table at Longwy, where he remained prisoner for the eight days before the Armistice in November 1918. Commendation letters in Rosen’s RCWSB file stressed Rosen’s status as a medical marvel thanks to a “masterpiece of surgery.” Noting his “gallantry in action and meritorious services,” Rosen garnered high praise from a department dealing with the paperwork for nearly 4 million American troops.
Following his early death, the war hero’s perseverance and valiance was preserved in the sole issue of Real Heroes (1941) in a comic entitled “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be Licked!” In short, Rosen’s story truly gives new meaning to the phrase “mind over matter.”
Click to read the complete details of Rosen’s “Remarkable Story” from the RCWSB’s Selected Letters, which Earl Reed Silvers intended to turn into a book.
But for every story of Great War survival, there are hundreds of stories of heroes who never made it back home to New Jersey. Counted in the tally of the 3,836 New Jerseyans lost to combat, accident, and disease, was Trentonian Russell “Russ” J. Terradell (1897-1918), whose story is housed in the Terradell Family Papers.
Around a week after Rosen fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Emma L. Terradell tore open this six-page letter from her son, Private Russell Terradell, 61st Regiment, 5th Division. According to Dr. Richard Grippaldi of Rutgers University, such final “just in case” letters were written by soldiers to their families on the eve of battle since the early days of the Civil War, and remain a custom in combat units to this day.
Slain-in-action on October 17th 1918, Terradell’s begins with the introductory understatement, “To the dearest of Mothers, When this reaches you you will know that I have passed over, Mother I know how horribly upset you will be over this and that the scar will always remain.” The 21-year-old patriotically justified his death as he attempted to console his family, “But we shall live forever in the results of our efforts. I did not make much of my life before the war but I believe I have done so now. Often one hears ‘Poor fellow cut off so young without ever having a chance of knowing and enjoying life.’ But for myself thanks for all you have done for me. I have crowded into twenty-one years enough pleasures and experiences of a lifetime, and that is why it is no hardship for me to leave this world so young.” The wrinkled onionskin paper still bears the marks of his mother’s tears one hundred years later, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up over this difficult-to-read letter.
If you’re interested in learning more about New Jersey servicemen like Rosen and Terradell, please check out our latest exhibition, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: New Jersey in the Great War. On display through September 15, 2017 in Alexander Library. Curator’s tours are available byappointment, please email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives has an unusual amount of Dutch materials among its collections. Readers of a previous post know that this is because of the close connection between Queen’s College (renamed Rutgers College in 1825) and the Dutch Reformed Church. As can be seen in our recently updated guide to Dutch manuscripts the majority of the documents relate to 18th century Dutch Reformed communities in New Jersey and New York.
One exception is a collection of 25 Dutch autographs that we recently found among the papers of John Romeyn Brodhead (1814-1873), author of the History of the state of New York (2 vols., 1853-1871). Stored in folders simply labeled “early Dutch documents” they turned out to be signed by famous Dutch naval commanders, statesmen, and members of the House of Orange, many of whom Dutch schoolchildren encounter when they learn about the Dutch “Golden Age.” During this period, roughly spanning the 17th century, the small, newly independent Dutch Republic became a maritime and economic world power, built a colonial empire, and played a major role in European coalition wars, while the political power in the confederation of seven provinces repeatedly shifted between the “State party” (the regents of the provinces of Holland and Zeeland) and the princes of Orange.
Among the autographs in the collection are signatures from Land’s Advocate Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis de Witt (both lynched by an Orangist mob in the “disaster year” 1672) and the famous admirals Maarten Tromp and Michiel de Ruyter–the latter the subject of the 2015 movie Admiral. Most of the documents have extensive burn marks and were laminated decades ago with a fiber-like material no longer used by present-day conservators. How did these Dutch autographs, which should have been in the Dutch National Archives, end up among Brodhead’s papers? Why did they all relate to war ships or other naval matters? And why did most of them have burn marks? With the help of the Dutch historian Jaap Jacobs, who specializes in 17th-century Dutch and colonial history, we were able to unravel the mystery.
John Romeyn Brodhead (1814-1873)
Brodhead was the son of a prominent clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church and a descendent of one of the English conquerors of New Amsterdam in 1664, who settled with his family in Esopus, New York. John Romeyn Brodhead graduated from Rutgers in 1831 and was admitted to the bar in New York in 1835. Rather than pursuing a career in law, however, he devoted himself to the study of American colonial history. When he obtained an appointment as attaché to the American legation at The Hague in 1839, he scoured the Dutch archives for materials about the early Dutch history of New York. In 1841 he was appointed by New York governor William Seward to procure and transcribe documents in European archives concerning the colonial history of the state. In 1844 he returned from Europe with 80 volumes of transcriptions from Dutch, English, and French archives, which he listed in The Final Report in 1845.
Familiar with Dutch history and 17th century handwriting, Brodhead must have easily recognized the names on the documents that we found among his papers. So how did he obtain them? Were they stolen? When we showed Jaap Jacobs the scorched documents, he was able to provide an explanation. At the time Brodhead visited European archives in the early 1840s, the archives of the five Dutch admiralties, which administered naval matters in the Dutch Republic, were held at the “Ministerie van Marine” (Ministry of Naval Affairs) in The Hague. On January 8, 1844, a huge fire broke out in the building, when a maid lighting a candle in the minister’s quarters accidentally set the curtains on fire. The quickly spreading fire is described in detail in a pamphlet with folded-out images of the building before, during, and after the fire. To save the archives, people threw the smoldering papers out the window, but the blazing wind spread them across the city in the sleet and snow. According to the finding aid to the Admiralty Archives in the National Archives only part of the materials was returned: these can be viewed (with similar burn marks) under their respective folder-level descriptions (see example). Many ended up in the hand of collectors such as Brodhead.
Paperwork during a naval war
Although the people who signed the documents were important historical figures, the contents themselves relate to less significant matters. The 1613 letters from Johan van Oldenbarneveldt, for instance, who had played a major role in the Dutch Republic’s struggle for independence but was beheaded for “treason” in 1619, merely concerned getting somebody a job, and providing a ship for a captain to carry certain letters. As a whole, however, the documents provide a fascinating glimpse of the day-to-day administration of running the navy, at a time when the country protected merchant ships and engaged in warfare during the Eighty Years’ War against Spain (concluded in 1648), the first three Anglo-Dutch wars (1652-1674) and the Franco-Dutch war (1672-1678). The letters to the admiralties address a wide variety of practical issues: from the provision of safe passage of foreign ambassadors, to naval blockades, smugglers, and, as in the letter displayed above, Dutch sailors who were captured at sea and required intercession from the Dutch ambassador at the English court (in 1665 temporarily residing at Oxford to evade the plague in London).
The most interesting letters are those from Dutch admirals who report to their employers about their commissions, detailing their travels, who they met, and the weather. The letters include requests for new orders and supplies and sometimes complaints, such as in the case of Vice-Admiral Johan de Liefde, who reported about ‘stinking beer’ (1665). The greatest surprise was an undamaged resolution by Michiel de Ruyter and his Council of War aboard the ship “De Neptunis,” two days after the battle of Plymouth on August 26, 1652 (August 16 according to the English calendar). During this early battle in the first Anglo-Dutch war, General-at-Sea George Ayscue attacked a Dutch convoy of 60 merchant ships sailing to the Mediterranean, escorted by De Ruyter’s squadron. Although the English fleet had more ships and was better armed, De Ruyter won the battle and the English had to retreat to Plymouth for repairs.
The resolution by De Ruyter and his Council of War states that after long deliberations they had decided–when the circumstances would allow them and with the help of God–to “attack, capture, or at least burn and ruin the English fleet, as much as they were able as soldiers and sailors” (“aen te tasten, te veroveren, oft ten minsten te verbranden en te ruijneren, soo veel naer soldaet en zee-manschap ons mogelyck sal syn”). Historians know that De Ruyter very much wanted to go after Ayscue’s ships while they retreated for repairs (ultimately, the winds just did not work out in De Ruyter’s favor). But who would have thought it would be expressed in an official resolution, written on paper, and signed aboard the ship?
Disability pay for a sailor, 1781
Only one autograph in Brodhead’s collection dates from the 18th century, a time that historically is viewed less favorably than the glorious “Golden Age.” The Dutch themselves already considered the century as a time of decline, reaching its depths during the fateful 4th Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784), which England declared because of secret Dutch trade and negotiations with the American colonies. Discontented burghers, who called themselves “Patriots” and were inspired by the American Revolution, blamed Prince William V, Commander-in-Chief, for the inability of the fleet to protect Dutch merchant ships, as illustrated by the Battle of Dogger Bank, on August 5, 1781.
The autograph is a letter from Prince William V to the Admiralty of Amsterdam in support of a request by Johan Christoff Munsterman, a sailor who had lost his left arm during the Battle of Dogger Bank. Instead of the 350 guilders that were promised, Munsterman preferred to receive a silver ducat a week throughout his life–an early form of disability pay. Did the Amsterdam Admiralty grant this wish? Hopefully the answer can be found in the Admiralty Archives in the National Archives in The Hague. Thanks to modern technology, the documents in the Brodhead Collection are now digitized and virtually united with the other documents in the Admiralty Archives.
With greatest thanks to Jaap Jacobs for his help with the transcriptions and providing context for the documents
Visitors to our new website may recognize the image in the top right corner as the yellowed pencil sketch in our recent exhibit Rutgers through the Centuries. Nothing is known about the artist C.C. Abeel, but we do know the original lithograph on which his drawing is based: J.H. Bufford’s View of the City of New Brunswick, N.J. taken from the Rail Road Hotel at East Brunswick. The lithograph, which can be found in our Pictorial Collection, was published about 1838 with a helpful list of the sites depicted. In this blog post we will have a closer look.
The railroad and the Rail Road Hotel
The Railroad Hotel was established shortly after the opening of the railroad from Jersey City to New Brunswick by the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company in 1836. The line ended at the terminus on the eastern bank of the Raritan River in what was known as East Brunswick (now Highland Park). Passengers to New Brunswick had to go down steep stairs from the tracks and take a carriage across the Albany Street bridge. Some passengers, however, went to the Railroad hotel instead, advertised as “a most desirable retreat during the summer months” for its “beautiful location” (right). It was from this hotel that the young artist and lithographer John Henry Bufford (1810-1870) drew his View of New Brunswick shortly after the building of the railroad bridge, which put an end to the East Brunswick terminus.
The Raritan River and sloop canal
As Jeanne Kolva and Joanne Pisciotta describe in Highland Park: Borough of Homesthe new two-tier railroad bridge, which carried pedestrians, carriages and wagons on its lower level, caused competition for the old Albany Street bridge. The wooden toll bridge, built in 1794 (#2 on the left), was left to deteriorate and was ultimately demolished in 1848. Parallel to the Raritan (#1) on the New Brunswick side of the river was the newly dug Delaware & Raritan Canal or, in Bufford’s words, “Sloop Canal” (#4). One of the major engineering feats of the era, it was created between 1830 and 1834 for three million dollars, dug by immigrants, mainly by hand. Canal boats carrying freight were towed by mules along the canal, but in Bufford’s lithograph there are only one-masted sailboats (sloops). To complete the picture of New Brunswick as a transportation hub, Bufford drew a steamboat from New York, one of the many managed by Cornelius Vanderbilt or one of his competitors (#3).
Railroad bridge and view to the right
The new bridge, built in 1838, was the first railroad bridge across the Raritan river. Bufford’s depiction of the lower tier (#7) makes the noise and darkness experienced by passengers and horses easy to imagine. To the north of the new railway bridge was the canal lock that allowed boats to move from the upper to the lower level of the Raritan & Delaware Canal at New Brunswick.
Bufford drew the canal lock as well as structures that he listed as “Water Works & Mill seats” (#8). Maps of New Brunswick from our Map Collection shed light on what Bufford depicted. While a map of 1837 only displays the water power plant behind the lock, a later map reveals an adjoining saw mill and paper and cotton factory. In the distance Bufford drew Rutgers College, founded as “Queens College” in 1766 (#9). The first cornerstone of the building, presently known as “Old Queens,” was laid in 1809 but it was only expanded to its present size in 1825 after financial support was received from various sources, including the philanthropist Henry Rutgers, who also donated the college’s bell.
Admiring the view
As described inViews and Viewmakers of Urban America businesses greatly benefited from the portrayal of their cities as bustling centers of industry, commerce, and progress. In stark contrast with the novelties of the canal, railroad, and bridge is the tranquility of the scene at the front. Seated on a tree trunk is a company of wanderers (5), admiring the view, which includes the sloops on the canal (#4) and the spires of the Dutch Reformed Church (6, left) and Christ Episcopal Church (6, right). On the left is a horse rider following the path along the river; on the right we see a man and a dog, hunting birds. They all look like they will soon have refreshments at the Railroad Hotel.