I know we have it but I can’t find it: The Annual Report of the American Historical Association

Every library has its hidden secrets; every library has its quirks.

My favorite quirk at the McNairy Library is the unfindable Annual Report of the American Historical Association.

The many volumes of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association, which contain some of the most esoteric essays that I have ever seen [more on that below], are misshelved [the Oxford English Dictionary does not list the word “misshelved”, so it must exist only in the “library world”. You can find a definition for “misshelve” at the online Dictionary for Library and Information Science, http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_m.aspx].

Every library has misshelved books. In our case, a few years ago the library building was renovated from top to bottom. So when the books were moved back into the building, it’s understandable that a very few of the several hundred thousand volumes would end up misshelved. I happened upon them by accident while reviewing our print indexes.

Even if you knew the library had the many volumes of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association, you would still be stymied by the fact that the books are listed under the bizarre, usually-never-seen, government call number system that consists of “SuDoc” numbers (see https://www.lib.msu.edu/branches/gov/for-libns/ for more information).

Let’s take a look at the bibliographic record: http://proxy-millersville.klnpa.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat01805a&AN=mill.331826&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Notice the call number towards the bottom of the record: “SI 4.1”. Even the most experienced library user may not recognize this as a SuDoc call number. A visit to our bookshelves, which use the Library of Congress call numbers, would be fruitless. You’re not gonna find the Annual Report of the American Historical Association in the “SI” section, because there is no “SI” section in the Library of Congress call numbers.

The books are ILL, i.e. in “Internal Library Limbo”.

But what makes the volumes of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association so interesting is the content.

I picked three volumes randomly. Here are some of the essays they contain:

1- “The Expenditures by Foreign Governments in Behalf of History”, by Prof. J. Franklin Jameson

Most foreign countries have had a much longer history than ours. In most, historical scholarship has reached a more advanced stage of development. If, therefore, as is generally believed, the American Government may properly be expected to do more in behalf of history than it has hitherto done; and if, as is much to be desired, a prominent share in the suggestion of such labors is to belong to this Association, it is important that we should inform ourselves thoroughly as to the policy and the experience of foreign, and especially of European, Governments in respect to these expenditures.

2- “The History and Determination of the Lines of Demarcation Established by Pope Alexander VI between the Spanish and Portuguese Fields of Discovery and Colonization”, by Prof. Edward G. Bourne

The history of the line of demarcation established by Pope Alexander VI separating the Spanish and Portuguese fields of discovery and colonization has received comparatively little attention from English writers…In view of the approaching period of Columbian anniversaries and the reawakened interest in all things pertaining to the discovery of the New World a brief history of this curious yet momentous transaction will be appropriate.

3- “The Enforcement of the Slave Trade Laws”, by W.B.B. [sic] DuBois

When President Jefferson, in his sixth annual message congratulated his fellow-citizens on the near approach of the period when they constitutionally could suppress the trade, it seemed as though the time had come to crown the efforts of a century and a half by a careful statute, and thus to annihilate the slave trade at a blow.

4- “Lord Lovelace and the Second Canadian Campaign, 1708-1710”, by Gen. James Grant Wilson

[I love that the following passage is one complete sentence]

Largely by reason of the execrable behavior of Lord Cornbury, the people had come to rise up in arms (figuratively speaking as yet) against the royal prerogative, and with a unanimity as surprising as it was significant, considering the serious divisions that had arisen out of the Leisler troubles; for many of those who had stood out on the side of constituted authority, and whose adherence to the line of policy had caused the sharp line to be drawn between the Leislerians and anti-Leislerians ever since, were forced into a position of antagonism to the royal claims as interpreted by the extravagant demands for money and the arbitrary exercise of his functions on the part of the ruined spendthrift and profligate who had just been superseded.

5- “Correspondence of John C. Calhoun”, edited by J. Franklin Jameson

[The entire 1218 pages of this volume, volume II of 1899, are dedicated to this 19th century hero of the secessionist South]

6- “A brief history of the sheep industry in the United States”, by L. G. Connor

[This essay is broken down into six periods:
First period (until 1808)- The sheep industry part of a self-sufficing economy
Second period (1808-1830)- Wool growing becomes a commercial enterprise
Third period (1830-1845)- The East supreme in wool production
Fourth period (1845-1860)- The westward shift in wool production
Fifth period (1860-1870)- The Civil War
Sixth period (1870-1915)- Continuation of westward shift]

7- “Dr. John Mitchell, naturalist, cartographer, and historian”, by Lyman Carrier

Publishing books anonymously was quite common 150 years ago, and Mitchell seems to have possessed that habit to an aggravated degree. There is good reason for thinking that he was the writer of another publication of which the authorship has never been determined…Rich lists a publication entitled “A New and Complete History of the British Empire in America,” 1756…All of which, the scope, title, arrangement, and maps is typically Mitchellesque.

8- “Historical aspects of the surplus food production of the United States, 1862-1902”, by William Trimble

In the time of the Civil War, however, only one food product was especially potent as a surplus, namely, wheat; and in this time of crisis wheat proved itself more powerful even than King Cotton, whose might southern statesmen had boasted. From the time of the repeal of the English corn laws in 1846, exports of wheat from the United States to England had been increasing. But a series of bad years in England, 1860-1864, together with abundant harvests in the United States during these years, brought a startling upward leap.

9- “Early days of the Albemarle Agricultural Society”, by Rodney H. True

Perhaps best of all, a large majority of those present belonged to the ranks of those who with intelligence and industry faced the problems of the soil and the season and who, baffling frosts, insects, and mildews, fed Virginia and her sister States to the northward. Here in this group were gathered statesmen, physicians, lawyers, and farmers. Political differences were set aside and Presbyterian forgot his quarrel with Episcopalian; all were intent on bringing their best efforts to bear on those plain elemental problems which have ever been able to fix the wandering attention of the world on those greatest of all democratizing influences, the problems of food and clothing.

If you would like to peruse any of these essays or the other volumes of the Annual Report of the American Historical Association, please contact me at nathan.pease@millersville.edu. Or, if you wait a few weeks, you may be able to find them yourself. The books are being re-shelved to their rightful place!

Annual report of the American Historical Association. (n.d). Washington : G.P.O., 1890-.

Items 1-4 are from the 1891 volume.
Item 5 is from volume II of 1899.
Items 6-9 from volume I of 1918.

The image at the top of this post is taken from “Aiken’s Landing, Virginia (vicinity). Young girl at Aiken house” from the Library of Congress Collection, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003004884/PP/