Thursday, October 1, 2009

A New Contributor

Hello readers,

I am the newest member of the Poplar Grove team, and consider it a privilege to begin adding my contributions and observations to this blog. I hope the time that has passed since the original discovery of this material has not diminished interest in the project; many of the most intriguing finds are still going on, and I hope to make this apparent throughout my work with the Poplar Grove Collection this Fall.

First, however, I should provide some information about myself. I am Christian Skipper, a recent graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland. I graduated with honors, majoring in English and History; this program culminated in a lengthy Senior Project that took me a year to complete. I am no stranger to long-term projects, and I think this will serve me well in my time working with the Poplar Grove papers.

I came to the Maryland State Archives in June, 2009 as an intern, and, after taking part in an extensive project to enhance the accessibility of the Brown Books,* I was assigned to assist my coworker Nathan scan several series of the Poplar Grove collection. This has proven a very fruitful task, as I hope to reveal in my upcoming blog postings.

Nathan and I have been given the responsibility of scanning Series 17 and 10, two of the most damaged and disorganized collections. We have built on the foundation created by previous Poplar Grove workers, and in the case of Series 10 extensively organized ten boxes full of material. Much of this material, of course, is of interest primarily to those concerned with financial transactions carried out in the nineteenth century. Receipts abound, for goods as innocuous as empty bottles and transactions as high-profile as land exchanges. We have found documents discussing Tilghman Island in the Chesapeake, as well as the sale of several farms on the Eastern Shore. These could prove very helpful to the large body of historians interested in the development of Maryland's landowning culture. The receipts also shed light on any number of businesses operating in Maryland throughout the 1800s, especially in the Baltimore area. Several receipts suggest the buildup of the Poplar Grove Stock Farm (an important location in the 1890s, as we know from E. B. Emory's high level of financial correspondence during that decade).**

Perhaps most bizarre, though, is the Estate of William Tilghman. We intend to highlight this as one of the prizes of the series, as a lengthy legal and social drama played out around William Tilghman's death. His failure to leave a will necessitated the hire of a third party to negotiate the legal quagmire brought on by residing in Pennsylvania but owning a large amount of land and slaves in Maryland. Social historians should take note of this battle, as the documents that pertain to it dovetail significantly with a body of slave-related papers found in this series. The apparent miscellany and largely financial quality of Series 10 fell away to reveal a bevy of intriguing sources concerning the period immediately preceding the American Civil War.

Please return to this blog regularly; I intend to post updates as I am able, and ideally will provide new looks into our work once a week. This may be naive, given the large amount of work that we have yet to do on Series 10, and the following task of making these documents accessible to the wider public in a digital format. Even so, I hope to provide you with new insights into the remarkable Poplar Grove Collection quite frequently.

-Christian Skipper

* a collection of important Revolutionary-era documents compiled on microfilm in the 1940s.
** this correspondence forms the majority of items in Series 17.

2 comments:

Forrest said...

Christian,

Welcome aboard!

As a follower of the Poplar Grove Project blog from the very beginning, and one time resident of Maryland, I am very excited to have you working on the papers and posting your experiences on this blog. I can't wait!

Anonymous said...

Hello Christian!

I'm excited to hear more about the Poplar Grove Project. Thanks for keeping us updated.