Document Spotlight-More Woolen Overalls and a Medicine Chest

July 12th, 2012

Your would not think there was much to say about woolen overalls. A recent blog post here told us what they were and how they were worn. So we thought we’d follow up with a specific reference. In a letter recently transcribed by Nsalomone, Henry Knox refers to a shipment of overdue overalls. The letter informs us that three boxes of them (along with a medicine chest) are finally headed to Pittsburgh. The letter was written in November, 1791, so one rather suspects that they were eagerly anticipated.

Read the original document here.

It is not too late–there are many more documents awaiting transcription. Take a moment to register ( and choose a document to begin your adventure. You will be doing important work by adding to the historical record, and you never know what you will read!

Hamilton’s Illness, Redux

July 10th, 2012

A few weeks ago, we posted a document that referred to Alexander Hamilton’s illness, which was unnamed in the document. The astute transcriber (Nsalomone) did some research and provided a wealth of background to that illness and the circumstances. Here is a hint: It was yellow fever.

Nicole Salomone points out several key aspects of the epidemic, including its breadth. She also demonstrates the fascinating political implications of Hamilton’s choice for his personal doctor.

Read Nicole’s entry here.

Celebrating the 4th with a Bang

July 3rd, 2012

The Society of the Cincinnati in Providence, Rhode Island, made sure to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in an explosive manner. That year, 1787, they cajoled Jeremiah Olney, inspector of public and military stores, to give them twenty-four pounds of gunpowder from the public magazine. The powder was damaged and might not have been good for use in guns, but it certainly worked for shooting off cannon to celebrate Independence.

Olney explain the use of powder in a letter to Henry Knox, where he says he was “prevailed upon” despite some concern about the propriety of using public stores for such a purpose. He was eventually convinced by “the unanimous vote of the Society & combining with it the consideration & importance of the day” and hoped that Knox would approve.

Knox did not approve, although he did understand Olney’s motivations. “Nobody can doubt your affection or mine both to the Cincinnati, and to the glorious day on which Independence was declared,” wrote Knox, but public stores should not be disposed of without specific orders. Olney’s uncertainty about the incident reassured Knox that he was unlikely to make the same mistake again, and it was, after all, for a good cause: celebrating America’s Independence!