Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ongoing Research & Transcription

My name is Allison and I am an intern with the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland research department! I have been working with David, who previously posted, specifically about our efforts to transcribe and contextualize some of the massive Poplar Grove Collection in order to make suggestions about slavery on the Eastern Shore, particularly in the 19th century.

I am also a graduate student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, finishing up my Master's thesis and graduating in May. I have tried to utilize the Poplar Grove collection throughout my thesis, specifically looking at records from John Tilghman and Thomas Emory. It has been a rewarding experience...although the sheer size of the Poplar Grove Collection has kept my research limited.

Ultimately my research and thesis illuminate how Queen Anne's County residents understood the institution of slavery and how they felt about the growing free black population in the wake of Nat Turner's Rebellion. Most whites in Maryland were in shock at the possibility of slave uprising and in 1832 the Maryland Legislature took measures to restrict free blacks' rights. They also supported funding for the Maryland State Colonization Society, which embraced the cause of removing free blacks from the state.

Through analysis of one document in particular--the petition of Queen Anne's County Residents to the MD General Assembly--from February 1832, my study reveals that slaveowners fought for the right to manumit their slaves. But, I also explore how the rhetoric they used mirrors rhetoric used in proslavery arguments from states further South. It seems counter-intuitive that slaveowners would want to manumit their slaves--right? They are in support of slavery...they want to keep slave labor relevant and thriving! But once you read the petition found in the Poplar Grove collection, you see their reasoning more clearly.

Most of the men who signed the petition were slaveowners and they did not like the idea of government intervention in the decisions they made as slaveowners. In the petition they maintain that manumissions will keep labor cheap or free. They occasionally throw in some religious reasoning and they also purport that the "hope of emancipation" keeps slaves from rebelling. Thus, they clearly defend their right to manumit; they consciously used manumission as an effort to control their slaves.

All in all, the document is a marvelous find and I am thankful to the archivists who salvaged it! I defend my thesis this month and will be publishing it through ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. Hopefully I will be able to post a link to the pdf of it at a later date, I'd love for all of you to check it out!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hello everyone,

My name is David Armenti and I am a researcher at the Maryland State Archives, Legacy of Slavery project. Our department has been tasked with documenting the 19th century experience of slavery in five Eastern Shore counties (Queen Anne's, Talbot, Dorchester, Caroline, Kent), which conveniently overlaps with the extensive papers attached to the Poplar Grove estate. As the bulk of the Poplar Grove Collection has been scanned and made available online, we have begun to look into the range of activities and individuals that affected African-American lives during that time.

The diverse sampling of documents found in Series 13, has been a valuable starting point for this investigation. One of the more fascinating topics is John Tilghman's ambitious experiment with renting slaves to the growing cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana. As many Eastern Shore slave holders were deciding to sell their chattel outright, Tilghman instead employed a different strategy which seemed to result in more frustration than economic success. There are numerous correspondences(pp. 170 - 190) with his southern agent Samuel Grayson, regarding costs, disputes with planters, and the health/condition of the slaves themselves. This series also provides insight into the flight of slaves from Poplar Grove and other surrounding plantations (pp. 128, 194). The Emorys/Tilghmans maintained a close network of family and business associates throughout the mid-Atlantic region that kept them abreast of potential fugitives, particularly in the black communities of southern New Jersey.

Thomas Emory's papers, Series 4, are similarly significant to our study. Emory was one of the patriarchal figures at Poplar Grove from the 1820's to 1840's, a period that saw great upheaval in the status of slaves and free African-Americans on the Eastern Shore. As a large slave holder and a state senator, he had a huge role in the debates of that time. Free blacks, whose numbers were rapidly increasing, came to be seen as an evil force that was categorically incompatible with the existence of slavery. They were blamed for the discontentment of formerly happy slaves, who were "enticed" to escape their benevolent masters. The free black Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia fueled much of the fear that was already prevalent among Maryland whites.

During the late 1820's to early 1830's, many solutions were proposed by whites for this "problem", including laws to limit manumissions, expel all free blacks from the state and send them to Liberia. As a state legislator, Thomas Emory was one of many recipients of a petition by Queen Anne's residents, requesting that the Liberia Colonization plan be expanded along with the "binding out" of poor free children, rather than forcing blacks out and restricting manumissions. The state did in fact promote colonization and adopted variations of these ideas into law over the next few years, though Emory's exact role in process is undiscovered as of yet.

Needless to say, there are quite a few fascinating topics to explore within these personal letters, petitions, and business correspondence that can illuminate our current study on Eastern Shore racial matters. While we do have staff dedicating attention to this research, I would like to welcome the contribution from individuals interested in continued investigation of Poplar Grove. If you would like to assist in document transcription, or research of issues/individuals mentioned here, please contact me at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Update, 26 Jul 2010

Greetings comrades,

It has been far too long since we last spoke. Nevertheless, I thought a little update on our work here in Annapolis would find you in good stead. With all of the scanning that has been done over the past two years, I am pleased to report that everything has been completed, and the scans are ready to be placed into ebooks for all of you to see via the internet. The very next step involves taking the jpgs for each series and running them through the ebook software.

By my count, there are approximately 28,406 images in the Poplar Grove Collection. That's a staggering amount of scans. Better yet, it's 28,406 glimpses into the past — some of which will surely offer viewpoints that have not previously been touched upon or known to exist. Just imagine all of the things that are waiting to be found.

For instance, one of my favorite documents, (which I will enclose an image of), is this land document from 1664: It details various "parcells" of land that were laid out at the head of the Wye River. To give a little bit of context, at this point in time, Maryland was still a Province — under control of the British Crown — some 112 years away from declaring its independence with the rest of the 13 Colonies. In fact, when this document was originally penned, with a quill undoubtedly, the Governor of Maryland (or Proprietary Governor for that matter) was this guy:(Charles Calvert, 3rd Baron Baltimore, 2nd Proprietor Governor of Maryland), from the original painting in the collection of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Maryland.

Any local document that survives from the seventeenth century already carries a great deal of importance. But as someone who has been fortunate enough to hold this one in his own hands, I can honestly tell you that it's in absolutely superb condition. It's truly a pleasure to be able to work with a collection like this.

Until next time,

Jas. Goldſborough Bigwood

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friends and Family at Poplar Grove

Hello readers,

You may have noticed the absence of a blog entry last Friday. This was due to the significant amount of work that Nathan and I were doing in preparation for the digitization of the Poplar Grove materials. The good news is that this made many new images available to share with you on the blog. The bad news is that this work has carried over into the new week, and I still have little time to provide one entry before we leave for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the interest of the gathering of families and friends over the coming week, I have decided to provide you with several photographs of people coming together in the past.

We have, first, several photos from a curiosity found in Series 18 of Poplar Grove. This is a photo album depicting friends of E. B. Emory from Virginia. The date is especially interesting, as the album seems to have been compiled in 1866. With the Civil War having concluded in the recent past, friendship was needed to begin healing a wounded nation. As with so many of these items, we don't yet have a strong sense of context in which to place this album, but I hope you will enjoy it simply for the photos from a semi-distant past in which friends, as today, kept in touch over significant distances. The images to the left and right are one such example, as a person who seems to have been a friend from University of Virginia wrote E. B. Emory some kind words about friendship. Regular readers will be reminded of the warm friendship between Emory and Mary Holladay, discussed in an earlier post.

I also have some other images, these of family life in the early twentieth century. Above, one finds a young couple in front of a house, and below is an elderly man watching over a young boy in a yard. These images of family life in America remain timeless, except perhaps for the old man's hat, which certainly speaks of an earlier era.Unfortunately, we cannot yet identify the people in these photographs. Even so, they stand out as distinct reminders of the real emotions and relationships enjoyed by those in the past. These photos provide a visual insight into some of the figures, admittedly unknown, that passed through the lives of those living at Poplar Grove. I hope you have enjoyed this brief entry, and I look forward to giving you many more posts after I return from the Thanksgiving holiday.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Around the World in Six Photographs

Good afternoon,

Friday has come around again, and that means I have some new images for you. I'll leave this post somewhat slim on description, and focus on the images. The last two posts have been fairly heavy on information, so I will allow these photos some breathing room, providing only what limited context I have available.

As a bit of context before presenting the images, these items were found in a series of Poplar Grove concerning the early twentieth century. They are primarily photos and postcards from the wanderings of one or another member of the family. In the case of postcards from Europe, it is not immediately clear who the buyer or intended recipient was, as they do not have any information written on them. They are fascinating, however, in their documentation of a place now foreign to us.

This is a picture, as indicated by an inscription, of Jacob Martenis and his wife "around 1900," in Wilmington, Delaware. Their facial expressions are somewhat mysterious. The woman in the photograph wore an amused visage, while her husband looked down, expressionless.

To the right is a photograph from Barcelona in 1929. It depicts a street scene in a bustling metropolis. Barcelona, in 1929, was hosting the International Exposition, and populated streets like this would be unsurprising. What is somewhat chilling about the pleasant quality of this image, however, is the looming shadow of the Spanish Civil War, which would erupt in the following decade. On a more amusing note, click on the image to the lower-left to find a building being constructed. This church, the Sagrada Familia, was begun in 1882 and remains unfinished. It actually looks quite similar today, since much of this work was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War, and has proceeded under several different architects since then. Feel free to type the name into google and find more recent photos in which the surrounding area has changed but the facade has remained very similar.

The next photo, to the right, is an admittedly context-free addition. I find it simply evocative of an early twentieth-century American landscape. Train tracks run by a row of shops with hills rising in the distance. This is likely an image of a potential boom-town, but any information beyond that is elusive. The dog left at the store-front seems a particularly personal touch, and one wonders if the dog belonged to the photographer or some patron of the store.

The final two images are documents from Lloyd T. Emory's South American expedition. Emory was searching for resources that might be exploited by the United States, and took any number of photos of a modernizing Brazil. One of the most evocative pictures of the difference between the country's past and its future was this photo of what appears to be a nineteenth century sailing vessel.

To the right is an image very similar to the second one, found above. This scene is probably from a Brazilian town at the beginning of the twentieth century, suggested by the labeled photos that bookend it. This picture was, of course, far less populous than the photograph from Barcelona, but again juxtaposed the old and the new. Men and women in twentieth century clothing walked past nineteenth century buildings set against a much older fortress in the background. The photo captured the scenery of a moment in time that has since disappeared.

I hope these images provide a brief and interesting glimpse into the past. Typically, we present written documents for you to observe, but this week I thought some photos might bring you closer to the experiences of those living at Poplar Grove. This international character is one that we have not covered significantly so far, and we hope to explore it further in the future. Hundreds of other photos are being scanned at the moment, and all will be accessible once the collection is online. Thanks for reading, and please do add any insights you can to these somewhat mysterious documents by posting in the comments section below.


Friday, November 6, 2009

E. B. Emory's "Holladay" - Correspondence from 1897

Good afternoon readers,

This letter, written by Mary Holladay, was addressed to E. B. Emory and provides a brief look into the life of a young woman recently relocated from the Eastern Shore to Annapolis. The year was 1897, and that provides a context for some of the more intriguing pieces of this document. On the first page, displayed above, Mary recounted a recent fox-hunt in which a Tilghman and some others participated, at Annapolis. This was a relief from the apparent boredom felt by the author.

One wonders about that boredom, however, when "Experimental Psychology" is discussed several pages later. Mary was enjoying a series of lectures being given by Professor Alfred Dumm. The humor of the lecturer's name was not lost on Mary, who asserted that E. B. Emory "must not judge him by his name, for he is far from dumb." Besides the amusement associated with Professor Dumm's name, this situation intrigues me. American psychology had hardly become a common subject by 1897, and Mary was on the cutting edge of psychological research. The topics being covered by the lectures immediately preceding and following the letter were "The Dermal Sense" and "Kinaesthetic and Static Sense," respectively. Perhaps most curious, Alfred Dumm was referred to as a native of Kansas City; research methods and principles must therefore have been disseminated somewhat rapidly to the Midwest during the 1890s. Sadly I can find no more information on this professor, so we are left to wonder to what extent he represents the academic world of Kansas City. Regardless, it is fascinating to read the admittedly brief observations of a student of this now-common discipline from the era when it was in its infancy.

The letter also touched upon local politics, discussing Governor Lowndes (1896 - 1899). He was "playing politics very hard," Mary wrote. She added the personal touch that the governor was attempting to make Annapolis his legal residence because of "his inclination of not going back to Cumberland," the town from which he had come. His wife was helping him as well, because "she is also anxious to go back to Washington," where Lowndes had been a State Senator earlier in the century. Sadly, they did not succeed in this venture; Lowndes returned to Cumberland and died there in 1905.*

Perhaps there are more observations in other letters from Mary Holladay to E. B. Emory, found in Poplar Grove Series 17. We are working hard to render these papers accessible to our readers in their entirety; this task will ideally be accomplished by the end of the year. Until then, these fragments of personal correspondence must suffice to whet the appetite.


* Much of this biographical data was obtained from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, available at

Friday, October 30, 2009

Running a Horse Farm in the 1890s - E. B. Emory

Good afternoon,

I hope Nathan's update on the status of the Poplar Grove Project was well-received. If you've not yet had the chance to read it, please scroll down and gain some insight into the progress of this project.

My own post today will be on a subject heretofore absent from the blog, but one that is conspicuously present in the collection. I am writing, of course, about E. B. Emory's stock farm at Poplar Grove. This was big business in the 1890s, and the papers collected in Series 11 reflect that fact.

Several documents reveal the different aspects of E. B. Emory's presence in the horse industry. The first is almost certainly the most prosaic. It is a list of prices one might pay to board an animal at the Poplar Grove farm. There are many duplicates of this item in the series, and one wonders why so many remained at the farm rather than being passed into the hands of potential clients. One finds, perhaps surprisingly, that horses were not the only kind of livestock able to be boarded at the farm. Pigs, lambs and calves were all welcome at Poplar Grove for a price. The most expensive, however, were horses. This seems reasonable, taking into consideration the prices associated with well-bred horses in the 1890s.

We know from this document on the left, for example, that E. B. Emory spent quite a bit of money on his horses. Advertising space did not come cheap, as Emory paid sixty-three dollars for advertising space, according to these two letters. Another, to the right, gives an example of a similar advertisement; it is a Baltimore Sun ad for Happy Russell, the sire of Happy Bee, a prize-winning Emory horse.

These ads would be meaningless, however, without success on the racetrack. Emory had needed to develop a reputation in order to fulfill hopes of money-making success at Poplar Grove. The above reference to Happy Bee is critical here, as we find from another document in this series that Happy Bee was a prize-winning horse on the racing circuit. In the letter presented, one Robert Hough congratulated E. B. Emory on his horse's success in Buffalo and Rochester, mentioning plans to race the horse again in Hartford. With Happy Bee's apparent success in racing, Emory could expect to receive more offers to board animals at Poplar Grove and offers on his other horses.

The business of running a stock farm was a multifaceted one, clearly, and E. B. Emory took part in all aspects. Whether he was boarding animals, selling horses through newspapers, or sending other horses to race throughout the country, Emory was quite involved in the 1890s horse industry. You can expect to see his name more often as we present other parts of the collection, upon which he was a significant influence. As always, comments and questions are appreciated.