Monday, October 25, 2010
Tormentor of Massachusetts
George H. Moore (1823-1892), the first paid librarian of the New York Historical Society (1849-1876) and later librarian of the Lenox Library in New York City (1877-1892), was also a noted historian in a "new school" of historical study which sought to approach history in a much more non-partisan and objective fashion than had previously occurred. In particular, Moore, in his 1866 book Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, challenged the prevailing view that Massachusetts had historically opposed slavery. Moore's efforts in revealing "Massachusetts' hypocrisy on the slavery question" resulted in his being referred to as the "tormentor of Massachusetts". Moore's philosophy of historical analysis is dealt with extensively in the book Slavery, Race, and American History: Historical Conflict, Trends, and Method 1866-1953 (M.E. Sharpe ,1999 ) by John David Smith. As is often the case, I was exposed to this knowledge about an early librarian through my research related to a postal artifact. In this instance the postal artifact was another stampless, folded letter (shown above). This one was sent to George H. Houghton by George H. Moore in August of 1842. An unusual aspect of this letter is that it has the "free frank" of a member of Congress. Although the signature used for the free frank is difficult to discern, I'm pretty sure it is for John Randall Reding of New Hampshire who served in Congress from 1841 to 1845. Moore's home state was New Hampshire. As he writes this letter, Moore is in Washington, D.C. doing research at the Library of Congress. Houghton and Moore were friends and recent graduates of the University of the City of New York. Both would be returning for graduate work in the fall. Moore makes reference in his letter to his work at the Library [at the New York Historical Society] where he worked while in school and he wonders if he will be able to "study law" and continue to work at the library at the same time. George H. Houghton is an interesting figure in his own right and becomes a prominent minister in New York City at "The Little Church Around the Corner". Houghton's church received this designation when an Episcopal priest refused to conduct the funeral service for the comic actor George Holland and suggested they try "the little church around the corner" where Houghton was the minister.