News and Exhibits

A Paragon of Political Satire

Thomas Nast Mark Twain in Canada Harpers Weekly wood engraving

Thomas Nast was a paragon of political satire in 19th-century America. Cartooning for the popular New York-based magazine Harper’s Weekly from 1864 to 1886, Nast’s penchant for the indelible and the mordant made his images of political and cultural critique among the most influential of America’s postbellum decades. Indeed, it… Continue reading »

Out and About with Outing

Outing magazine cover February 1896

During America’s Gilded Age, the advent of a new managerial class quickly begot that class’s rapacious interest in sports and sporting. Baseball, basketball, tennis, and golf. Bike rides, carriage rides, and eventually car rides. Anything outdoors and active, spectatorial or slightly thrilling, came to serve as leisure for this… Continue reading »

The Humours of a Country Wake

The Humours of a Country Wake by John Marshall 1794

“A Country Wake you here behold / Gentle and simple, young and old.” As if! Flirting and fighting, smoking and cajoling, interspecies revelry and booze galore — this commemoration seems anything but funereal. John Marshall, the publisher of this hand-colored etching held by the Chapin Library, was well-known in… Continue reading »

Black Americans in the U.S. Congress

Afro-Americans in Congress print

Hiram Revels was the first Black American elected to the United States Congress, serving as a senator from Mississippi between February 1870 and March 1871. Staunch and serious, he shares in this commemorative print held by the Chapin Library the honor of largest and most central portrait with Blanche… Continue reading »

Doctor Syntax on Tour

The Cellar Quartetto, lithograph by Thomas Rowlandson

One of the 19th century’s most indelible caricatures — a hilariously unrelenting image of haplessness and blissful ignorance — was made after a man largely undeserving of such unfortunate remembrance. Warranted or not, though, the English reverend William Gilpin got thoroughly roasted by William Combe and Thomas Rowlandson in their… Continue reading »

Clare Leighton’s Garden Path

Clare Leighton wood engraving Blackbird on Nest ca. 1934

In the early 1930s, the celebrated wood-engraver Clare Leighton bought a patch of unpromising land in the Chilterns, a picturesque escarpment in the English countryside. Along with her partner Noel Brailsford, who like Leighton had little gardening experience, she cultivated her enclosure painstakingly and largely by trial and error. Continue reading »

Transcribe-a-thon 2021

Transcribe-a-thon poster

Join us on Monday, February 15 for the second annual Williams Transcribe-a-Thon! Drop in between 3pm and 6pm EST to help us make our historical collections more accessible online. Please sign up to receive the Zoom invite. Continue reading »

Death Reigns

Death Reigns woodcut by Kathryn Louise Gerlach

In his excellent 1983 article on the history of American funerary arts (which saw their heyday, unsurprisingly, in dreary colonial New England), James Hijiya describes an 18th-century transition in Americans’ attitudes towards death, which was paralleled by a transition in the embellishments to the gravestones they designed. As “the… Continue reading »

Carmona’s America

Engraving America by Juan Antonio Salvador Carmona after Luca Giordano

All four of the paintings in Luca Giordano’s late 17th-century series The Four Parts of the World were destroyed in the turbulence that brought Portugal out of authoritarian rule in 1974 — a fire at the Spanish embassy in Lisbon, where they had been lent by Spain’s heritage agency… Continue reading »