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National History Day Resources

Poster image of two apples on a branch, one labeled "OUR U.S.A." with a small white worm labeled "ISMS" coming out of it.

National History Day 2021

Communication in History: The Key to Understanding

Primary Sources at the Boston Athenæum

The Boston Athenæum holds a wide range of materials related to the 2021 National History Day theme.

Students can:

Teachers can:

The items listed below are examples of materials that may be useful to students working on History Day projects. This is list not comprehensive.

Contact Hannah Weisman at weisman@bostonathenaeum.org or 617-720-7617 for help identifying materials related to individual projects, to request images of collections items, to set up live virtual viewings of primary sources, or to arrange research and library orientation for a group of students.

The Massachusetts Historical Society is the state sponsor for National History Day in Massachusetts.

[Image: Think American Institute (issuing body). Because they work slyly from within - foreignisms are doubly dangerous enemies of our home and country. Graphic. Rochester, NY: Kelly-Read & Co., between 1940 and 1941. The Richard W. Cheek WWII Graphic Arts Collection, 2016.]


The Boston Directory

The Boston Directory helped people in the City of Boston find each other. It appeared in 1789 and was published off and on until 1825, when it began to be published each year. The directories include listings of residents and businesses, contain advertisements, and sometimes maps. The Boston Athenæum has digitized Boston Directory from 1789 to 1900.

Links to catalog records:

1789-1830
1831-1846
1846
1847/1848
1848/1849
1850/1851
1851-1943

Digitized directories


Maps

Maps are an important visual form of communication. They can provide information about the natural and built environments, about geography, politics, cultural perspectives, and ideologies.  The Athenæum’s map collection consists primarily of maps published in Europe and the United States, about 200 of which have been digitized. Examples include:

Münster, Sebastian and Hans Holbein. Typvs Cosmographics vniversalis. Basil: Io. Hervagivm, 1532.
Catalog record
Digital image
Map of the world illustrated with woodcuts.

Plan of Back Bay and Vicinity: Prepared from Surveys Made under the Direction of Simon Greenleaf, Joel Giles, Ezra Lincoln…Boston: Tappan & Bradford’s Lith., 1852.
Catalog record
Digital image

Purchas, Samuel. Purchase his Pilgrimes…[Map of North America]. London: Printed by W. Stansby for H. Fethersone, 1625.
Catalog record
Digital image
As was common for European maps of North America at the time, this map depicts what is now California as an island.

Watson, Gaylord. Watson’s New Railroad and Distance Map of the United States and Canada. New York: George Watson, 1869.
Catalog record
Digital image


Tracts (Pamphlets)

The BA has thousands of tracts, pamphlets that were inexpensive and quick to publish and distribute. They were a popular form of communication in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and helped people of all kinds—politicians, clergy, activists, poets, etc.—communicate their opinions and share their ideas. Tracts cover many different topics, including politics, religion, local affairs, obituaries and eulogies, immigration, abolition and slavery, social welfare, and more. They also provide examples of the rhetoric people used to build support for a range of causes. Examples include:

Brown, William Wells. The Anti-Slavery Harp: A Collection of Songs for Anti-Slavery Meetings. Boston: Bela Marsh, 1849.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

Crocker, Hannah Mather. Observations on the Real Rights of Women: with Their Appropriate Duties, Agreeable to Scripture, Reason and Common Sense. Boston: Printed for the author, 1818.
Catalog record
Digital copy

Grimké, Angelina Emily. Appeal to the Christian Women of the South. New York, NY: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1836?
Catalog record
Digital copy

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America.Philadelphia: R. Bell, 1776.
Catalog record
Partial digital image
The Athenæum holds several copies of Common Sense. The copy linked above belonged to George Washington, who inscribed his name on the title page.


Wartime Propaganda: World War I

The Boston Athenæum holds an extraordinary collection of nearly 1,800 World War I posters from fourteen countries. Seventy of the posters have been digitized, including:

Is Your Home Worth Fighting for? It Will Be Too Late to Fight When the Enemy Is at Your Door. So Join To-Day. Dublin, Ireland: Hely’s Limited, Litho., 1915.
Catalog record
Digital image
Poster showing a family at home, surprised by German soldiers bearing bayonets.

Leete, Alfred. Wanted Smart Men for the Tank Corps. Let Professor Tank Teach You a Trade. London?: J.W. Ltd., 1919.
Catalog record
Digital image
Poster depicting a professorial figure with the head of a human and body of a tank, pointing to a blackboard containing a tank diagram. A British infantryman sits with his back to the viewer.

Oppenheim, Louis. Die Beste Sparkasse: Kriegsanleihe! [The Best Savings Bank: The War Loan!]. Berlin: Hollerbaum & Schmidt, 1918.
Catalog record
Digital image
Poster shows German paper money falling into a German soldier’s helmet.


Wartime Propaganda: Richard W. Cheek World War II Graphic Arts Collection

Nearly 2,000 posters provide information about World War II and about life in the United States and the impact on every aspect of life for soldiers and civilians. Themes found in the collection include fundraising, war production, recruitment, patriotism, and the home front. Approximately 735 of the posters have been digitized. Examples include:

Morley, Hubert (artist) and United States. War Food Administration. Your Victory Garden Counts More than Ever! Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1945.
Catalog record
Digital image
An American poster encouraging the cultivation of victory gardens. In the background is a view of a garden with a man and woman cultivating and weeding. The foreground shows an arrangement of various vegetables, including peas in the shell, cabbage, and carrots.

National Association of Manufacturers and National Industrial Information Committee. “Industry is an Indispensable Factor in War”. United States: National Association of Manufacturers, between 1941 and 1945.
Catalog record
Digital image
Poster shows a photograph of General MacArthur alongside a quote expressing the importance of war work.

Skemp, R. In No Other Land is the Price of Freedom so Small. United States: Stewart-Warner Corporation, between 1941 and 1945.
Catalog record
Digital image
On the right side of the poster is a request that people pay their taxes to ensure the war is funded. On the left side is an image of a prosperous white American family, surrounded by images of horrors taking place around the world.

Think American Institute. Because They Work Slyly from within - Foreignisms Are Doubly Dangerous Enemies of Our Home and Country. Rochester, NY: Kelly-Read & Co., between 1940 and 1941.
Catalog record
Digital image
An American propaganda poster predating the United States’ entry into World War II. The poster depicts two apples, representing "Our U.S.A.," hanging from a branch. A worm labeled "isms" is seen crawling out of the apple on the left.


Communication for People with Disabilities

The Athenæum’s collections also contain information related to communication technology and forms of communication for people with disabilities, including:

Bell, Alexander Graham. Address upon the Condition of Articulation Teaching in American Schools for the Deaf. Boston: N. Sawyer & Son, 1893.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]
Delivered June 29, 1892 at the opening of the second summer meeting of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. Bell controversially advocated teaching Deaf students to communicate orally rather than with sign language.

Clark, Harold T. Talking Gloves for the Deaf and Blind; Their Value to Men Injured in the Present War. Cleveland, 1917.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

Clerc, Laurent. An Address Written by Mr. Clerc, and Read by his Request at a Public Examination of the Pupils in the Connecticut Asylum before the Governour [sic] and Both Sides of the Legislature. Hartford, CT: Hudson and Co., 1818.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]
This speech, written by Laurent Clerc and delivered by Thomas Gallaudet, promotes the use of sign language. The school, still operating in West Hartford, CT, was renamed the American School for the Deaf.

Howe, S. G. Atlas of the United States: Printed for the Use of the Blind at the Expense of John C. Gray. Boston: N. E. Institution for the Education of the Blind, 1837.
Catalog record
Partial digital image
The atlas is printed in raised letters without ink. Each map made of raised lines is followed by a page of explanatory text.

Moon, William. Dr. Moon’s Alphabet for the Blind. Brighton, England: Moon’s Society, 1888.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]
A promotional pamphlet detailing the origins and success of Dr. Moon’s type for the blind. The front contains an alphabet printed with ink paired with William Moon’s embossed alphabet for the blind.


Other Materials on Communication Technologies and Forms of Communication

Examples from the collection include:

Gannett, Ezra S. The Atlantic Telegraph: A Discourse Delivered in the First Church, August 8, 1858. Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Company, 1858.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

Smith, John T. Signal Book, for Boston Harbor . Boston: White & Potter, 1853.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine Signal Chart. Boston: Army and Navy Signal Publishers, 1918.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

United States. Congress. An Act to Establish Post-Office and Post-Roads. Philadelphia, 1793.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]

Vail, Alfred. The American Electro Magnetic Telegraph: with the Reports of Congress, and a Description of All Telegraphs Known, Employing Electricity or Galvanism / Illustrated by Eighty-One Wood Engravings. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1845.
Catalog record
[Item is not digitized]


Contact Hannah Weisman at weisman@bostonathenaeum.org or 617-720-7617 for help identifying materials related to individual projects, to request images of collections items,to set up live virtual viewings of primary sources, or to arrange research and library orientation for a group of students.