Subscribe to From the Stacks

From the Stacks

“From the Stacks” offers a regular helping of Newberry sustenance for the hungry intellectual. Learn about one of our hidden treasures, meticulous maps, or enduring ephemera, highlighting the resonance between the Newberry’s 125 years of collecting and the timely—and timeless—issues of today. These items, covering a wide range of subject matter and form, are presented here in all their scholarly pathos and quirky splendor.

A Civil War Valentine

George Deal

VAULT Case MS 10030, Box 1, Folder 9

On January 30, 1863, George Deal, a Union Army soldier in Company K of the 20th Ohio Regiment, sent his wife, Sarah, a letter and a valentine (pictured here). Very likely illiterate, Deal dictated his letters to fellow soldiers, some of whom introduce themselves to Sarah in the letters.

“I will send you this valentine just because I thought it was nice,” the letter reads. “I know you will keep it till (sic) I come home if I am so permitted. I would be glad to see you all, even the cat, but I must close as I have told you about all I can think of at this time.”

A Priory Story

4A 7028

The Masterpiece Theater production “Downton Abbey,” the fourth season of which premiers in January, has inspired many with a new fascination for England’s great houses. This week’s selection from the stacks, an auction catalog for August 11, 1834, gives insight into the story of one such great house: Lee Priory. The building is particularly remarkable because for 10 years in the early nineteenth century, it housed a private printing press.

Neuer Americanischer Calendar

VAULT Ayer AY851 .Z7 1751

This beautiful German calendar, with a binding that includes leaves tied with twine along the spine, is highlighted by a woodcut vignette of Christopher Columbus, looking out a window with his navigational instruments, on its cover. Calendars inside include black and red symbols for tracking the planets, the moon, the zodiac, and weather conditions, and auspicious times for planting, chopping timber, cutting hair, even trimming fingernails. It also includes saints’ days, astrological information, and a calendar of market days for a variety of towns and villages.

The "Noble Experiment" Ends

John T. McCutcheon

McCutcheon Box 19, Folder 568

“An obvious flop, Prohibition nonetheless continued to hang on until the onset of the Depression and the election of Franklin Roosevelt,” wrote Chicago Tribune journalist Rick Kogan in an essay for the book Chicago Days. “Its final undoing came at the hands of Utah, which became the 36th state to ratify repeal in the form of the 21st Amendment.”

Passed on December 5, 1933, that amendment contains two short but important sentences:

Talking Turkey for 150 Years

Winslow Homer

Folio A5 .392 v. 8

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the third Thursday of November would, for the first time, be a national “day of Thanksgiving and Praise” to honor the “sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” of the Civil War.


Edward Everett

Case Y 2275 .E92

Published in 1864, one year after the consecration of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this book includes the full program of events at the consecration ceremony along with a plan for the cemetery. Compiled by orator and politician Edward Everett—who also spoke at the ceremony—the book includes what is believed to be the first appearance of President Abraham Lincoln’s landmark speech, here called a “dedicatory address,” now simply known as the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln delivered the 272-word speech on November 19, 1863.

The Civil War in Letters

George Deal

Vault Case MS 10030, Box 1, Folder 2

This letter by George Deal to his wife, Sarah, is one of more than 100 items on display in “Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North,” the Newberry’s exhibition marking the sesquicentennial of the conflict. It is a part of the George Deal papers, which include 55 letters, photographs of George and Sarah, photocopies of army service reports, confederate bills, and genealogical notes from their grandson.

Newberry Hauntings

Heinrich Insitoris

folio Inc. 526

The Malleus Maleficarum, or “Hammer of Witches,” was a popular medieval handbook for witch hunters, prosecutors, and executioners—and the source of a popular Newberry ghost story.

In 1985 the Chicago Tribune reported that, while part of an exhibition on the Inquisition at the Newberry, the “Hammer of Witches” turned slightly in its cradle everyday. According to the Tribune, the Malleus Maleficarum, in a locked case and untouched by anyone, magically moved 30 degrees over a weekend.