“[L]ittle difficulties will get to be great difficulties”: Joel Palmer and the Office of Indian Affairs in the Oregon Territory, 1853-56

Using primary sources from ‘Frontier Life’ - an Adam Matthew collection

The collection focuses on the letters and correspondence of Palmer (1810 – 1881), the superintendent of Indian affairs in the Oregon Territory, from 1853-57. He believed that, since white settlers had occupied the valley lands, the only means of saving the Indians was for the government to provide reservations and assistance for them, in order that they could become settled people[1]. Palmer was responsible establishing many reservations, negotiating nine secession treaties from tribes in the surrounding areas. ‘Frontier Life’ has a cross-section of correspondence and other texts relating to Palmer’s career. Continue reading

‘The Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform’: Understanding Hydropathy in Antebellum America

Using primary sources from ‘Popular Medicine’ - an Adam Matthew collection

A highlight of Adam Matthew’s ‘Popular Medicine’ collection is its rich repository of magazines and periodicals. These publications reveal the confluence of two important nineteenth century trends – the proliferation and democratisation of American print culture, and the development and diversification of American medicine and health reform. One of these periodicals was the Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform, the foremost publication of the hydropathy movement in the United States. Hydropathy, which advocated the internal and external application of water to the body as a means to promote health, happiness, and longevity, was one of several alternative medical practises which gained popularity in the antebellum United States. Continue reading

Creating Model Americans: The Mississippi Choctaw Billie Family and Relocation

Using primary sources from 'American Indian Histories and Cultures' – an Adam Matthew collection

This 1956 photograph captures a smiling couple with their four children, all dressed in their Sunday best – crisp white shirts for father and son, frilly dresses for the two little girls. The family poses around an armchair in front of their television set, displaying their homely apartment. This is not your average white middle-class family, however. Paul Billie and his wife were members of the Mississippi Choctaw Tribe, who relocated from Mississippi to Chicago in 1953. The only giveaway to the family’s background is their dark hair and skin. Continue reading