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Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana

Ms. Coll. 1094

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana
1764-ca. 1900
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 1094
2.125 linear feet (6 boxes, 2 volumes, and 1 oversized folder)
The Kaplan collection of Americana consists of account books, ciphering books, diaries, letter books, penmanship notebooks, and recipe books. There are also a selection of photographs from the educational department of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
Cite as:
Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
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Arnold and Deanne Kaplan began collecting Americana in the early 1970s at Renninger's Antique Market near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, supplemented with trips to paper and book shows in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England. Beginning in the early 1980s, they became active in auctions New York. With the growth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, the Kaplans discovered yet another source for collectibles. Besides their fine work building the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica, they built a small collection of American non-Jewish material as well, consisting of printed works, manuscripts, and photographs.

Scope and Contents

The Kaplan collection of Americana is divided into two series: manuscripts and photographs. The manuscripts are further divided by function: account books, ciphering books, diaries, letter books, penmanship notebooks, and recipe books. The photographs all come from the educational department of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.

Three account books are included in the collection. One kept by Edward Gould of Portland, Maine, runs from January 1, 1824 to December 7, 1830. Made up of four small ledgers bound into one pocket-sized book, the entries give the impression of a well-to-do gentleman, listing expenses for such items as lobster, oysters, a silk umbrella, a velvet vest, frequent hair cuts, theater, lottery tickets, mending of clothing, expenses at a museum, gymnasium, a microscope, and so on.

A second account book was apparently kept by a member of the Van Valzah family in either Centre or Union County, Pennsylvania, 1813-1841. A handmade index at the beginning of the substantial book includes almost 800 individual names whose accounts were kept in the book. Individual entries, however, do not provide significant information about the types of expenses notated, but simply list strings of monetary expenses and their totals. The Van Valzahs had numerous doctors in the family as well as those involved in the mercantile business.

The final account book in the collection records farm labor, produce, and dry goods for an unnamed small farmer from 1814 to 1830. There are 51 names in the handmade index at the front of the volume of about 32 numbered pages.

The largest subseries of manuscripts is a collection of 22 ciphering notebooks dating from 1764 to 1870. These exemplars provide a superb view into the ways mathematics was taught in the United States through the mid-nineteenth century. The "cyphering tradition" allowed students of various ages and abilities to prepare their own ciphering books by employing formulaic presentations of mathematical rules followed by the computation of particular practical exercises. Only one book clearly comes from the copying of printed texts: the notebook of Jacob Samuel Hillegass indicates it was copied from An introduction to mensuration, and practical geometry by John Bonnycastle and  A treatise on surveying by John Gummere. All of the notebooks were created by boys with the exception of two volumes created by one Amanda Maires. In a few cases the ages of the children can be extrapolated from inscriptions of their birth dates. The level of attainment among the ciphering books is wide-ranging. Beginning arithmetical principles include exercises in notation and numeration, the four operations, compound operations, currency exchange, reduction, the various rules of three, vulgar and decimal fractions, and percentage. More advanced topics include exercises on loss and gain, barter, brokage, tare and tret, annuities, fellowship, equation of payments, and mensuration. Practical problems deal with cloth, land, liquid, long, and dry measures; avoirdupois and apothecary weights; and the work of masons, carpenters, joiners, slater, tilers, painters, and glazers. Despite a certain formulaity to the notebooks, they are each distinguished by a unique script and decoration (or lack thereof), their layout and design, and their paper and binding structure, and many contain marginal notes, drawings, and inscriptions.

A diary in two volumes was kept by Benjamin Franklin Cary, a farmer from Hartford, Maine, from January 1860 to November 1863. Employing two partially-used school register books (which notate names of both boys and girls, their age, and marks in various subjects), Cary maintained his diary in monthly calendar form, with a small square of space for each day's entry. As would be appropriate for a farmer, entries mostly concern the weather and the cycle of crop maintenance. There are also notes about deaths of family friends, trips to other towns and cities, and the selection of elected officials. During the start of the Civil War, Cary was involved in the processing of Union soldiers from Maine.

A single letterbook of 360 numbered pages is from the firm of Samuel Bettle & Son, a Quaker merchant family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which dealt primarily in woolens and other cloth. Samuel Bettle, Sr. (1774-1861) and his son Edward (1803-1832) ran the business together during the period represented by this letterbook, 1824-1830. Included are copies of letters to and from the firm with their clients in England and the United States. These include the following names and their locations when known: Henry Allison (Lynchburg), H.J. Bayne, Samuel Benson (Baltimore), Benjamin Burns (Baltimore), George & David Crockett (Nashville), Samuel Ditty (Washington), Charles Edmondston (Charleston), C. Fitzsimons (Charleston), Ephraim H. Foster (Nashville), Foster & Fogg (Nashville), Alexander Henry (Manchester), A. & S. Henry (Manchester), Samuel Henry (New York), Arthur Howell, William James & Son (Fredericksburg), William Jewell (Georgetown), Caleb Lee (Pittsburg), Garrett Mallery, Bradley McCrery & Son, William McCrery (Richmond), George McNeer, Samuel B. Marshall & Co. (Nashville), William P. Mills (Baltimore), Peter Nichols, Thomas Nowland, Jr. (Richmond), O'Callaghan & Johnson, David Offley, Rathbone Bros. (Liverpool), Samuel Salter (Trowbridge-near-Bath), Thomas Sheppard (London), Peter Spilman (Fredericksburg), Samuel Thompson (Pittsburg), Tucker & Thompson (Washington), Joseph Tucker (Baltimore), Thomas White (Princeton), Samuel Woods & G.G. Webb (London). Detailed letters describe the quality and amount of cloth being bought and sold, and there is frequent mention of specific packet ships and their sailing or arrival dates.

There are four penmanship books in the collection, three completed and one unused. Each contains entries of common phrases written multiple times on the page for practice. Each notebook in this series was produced as a printed blank book, sold for the purpose of practising handwriting or other school work. They date from 1836 to 1854 and two are undated.

Finally, the manuscript series contains two recipe books, both of which contain medical recipes and treatments. One, produced between 1815-1825 by an unknown compiler, includes copies of medical remedies for "Elix. Vitrioli", "Spiritus Lavendulae Compositus", "Cure for aking bone", "Camphor pills", "Stomach Bitters", and "Cure for the Dysentary", but also recipes for "Varnish", and "Liquid Blacking for Boots". The recipes are numbered through 92 (plus 14 additional) and include two that are written on scratch paper and pinned into the volume.

The second is a Medical Prescriptions and Recipes book of Dr. George Randolph Parry of New Hope, Pennsylvania, from 1893. It is comprised of pastedowns of medical recipes and treatment clippings and brochures, including "Antipyrin in Nose Bleed", "Suggestions Regarding the Cure of Gonorrhea", "Milk and Onion Juice in Dropsey", "Cocaine in Facial Neuralgia", and "Beef Tea". These have been pasted on top of an already existing manuscript accounting book of Charles Knowles, dated 1834. Several scratch sheets including receipts associated with Knowles were found within. An inscription reads, "Geo. Randolph Parry, M.D., O.A.G, Jan. 1st 1893. Started Collection of Medical Receipies, some of them in his possession at this date for over thirty (30) years -- and used by him during that time in his practice as a Physician and Pharmacist."

The second series of the Kaplan collection of Americana is comprised of 70 photographic cards produced by the Philadelphia Commercial Museum. Founded in 1894 by University of Pennsylvania professor of botany, William Powell Wilson, the Commercial Museum was created to promote international commerce through exhibitions and publications. Beginning in 1900 its educational department created 250 cases of specimens and photographs, which it shipped free of charge to schools around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The cases were divided into individual trays, each of which contained examples of the raw materials of commerce including, for instance, rice, cotton, sheep, carbon, or rubber. The accompanying photographs were associated with these products and showed the growth, preparation, and manufacture of the materials in locations around the world. Each card is made up of a 9 x 7 in. silver gelatin print mounted to a stiff board, with a caption below each image. Extensive text on the subject, "giving the information needed by teachers and pupils to make clear just what the photographs should teach," appears on the verso of each print.

These photographic cards have been arranged here in the approximate order of the individual trays, as outlined by the curator of the Commercial Museum, Charles R. Toothaker, in the government publication, Educational Work of the Commercial Museum of Philadelphia. This publication can be used to identify the specific tray a photographic subject was assigned to. This set of 70 images is not complete, nor do all of the images come from a single case. There are several duplicates as well as some images not found in the Toothaker publication. One card (Box 4, Item 18) has been stamped, "Property of Higbee School, Lebanon, Pa."

(Sources: Internal; Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements, Rewriting the History of School Mathematics in North America 1607-1861: The Central Role of Cyphering Books (New York: Springer, 2012); Charles R. Toothaker,  Educational Work of the Commercial Museum, Bulletin, 1920, no. 13 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1921)).

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  9 July 2015

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by John Anderies

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Source of Acquisition

Gift of Arnold and Deanne Kaplan, 2012.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At the University of Pennsylvania:

Manuscript material from the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica.

Printed material from the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica.

Printed material from the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana.

Institutions with significant collections of ciphering books include the the American University Library, Clements Library at the University of Michigan, the David Eugene Smith Library in the Butler Library at Columbia Unievrsity, the Houghton Library at Harvard University, the Huguenot Historical Society (New Paltz, NY), the New York Public Library, the Phillips Library (Salem, MA), the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary, the Thomas P. Hill collection at the University of California, and the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina.

Records of the Quaker Bettle family may be found at Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College, Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford College, and the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Institutions with materials that come from the former Philadelphia Commercial Museum include the Independence Seaport Museum, the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania State Archives, the Philadelphia City Archives, the Philadelphia Free Library, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Commercial America archives at the Slought Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • Commercial Museum (Philadelphia, Pa.)‏.
  • Account books
  • Copybooks
  • Diaries
  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts, American--18th century
  • Manuscripts, American--19th century
  • Photographs
Personal Name(s)
  • Bettle, Edward, 1803-1832
  • Bettle, Samuel, 1774-1861
  • Kaplan, Arnold
  • Kaplan, Deanne
  • Business
  • Commerce
  • Education
  • Education--Museums
  • Education--United States
  • Mathematics--Problems, exercises, etc.
  • Medicine
  • Medicine--Formulas, recipes, etc.
  • Navigation
  • Penmanship
  • Quaker businesspeople

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Collection Inventory


Account books.

Box Folder

Account book of Edward Gould (private cash account current book, comprised of four small ledgers bound in one), Portland, Maine, 1824 January 1-1830 December 7.

1 1

Account book of Van Valzah family (with several pieces of scratch paper, including ones inscribed "Buffalo Cross Roads," "Spring Mills, Centre County, Pennsylvania"; and "William M. Van Valzah, Mifflinsburg, Union County, Pennsylvania"), 1813-1841, 1886.

Box Folder

Account book, author unknown (recording farm labor, produce, and dry goods), place unknown, 1814-1830.

1 2

Ciphering notebooks.

Box Folder

Notebook of Solomon Drowne (includes birth dates for Sarah Drowne (August 22, 1750 Old Style), Solomon Drowne (March 11, 1753, New Style), and William Drowne (April 7, 1755, New Style), 1764 June 26-1765 October 1.

1 3

Notebook of George Holstone, Jr. (includes annotation on front flyleaf "From David Bricker of Liltiz, Pa."; pastedown obituary of "Mrs. Henry Gockley of West Myerstown, December 20, 1900"; annotation on back inside cover "Belonging to Annie Richter, Selin's Grove, Pa."), Heidelberge Township, Pennsylvania, 1786 January 16-1791 June 26.

1 4

Notebook of John Bready (bound in pink and green floral wallpaper), 1799-1801.

1 5

Notebook of Joshua Carman (includes inscription on back flyleaf, "Joshua Carman was born September 24th, in the year of our Lord, 1785"), 1803.

1 6

Notebook of Cyrus Wood, Leominster, Massachusetts, 1807 January 1.

1 7

Notebook of Elias Moore (bound in red, yellow and blue wallpaper), 1814 August 11-1817 January 21.

1 8

Notebook of Peter Ruth, and Nathan L. Ruth (headings in blue, red, and brown ink; includes the names John Ruth, Jacob Ruth, Catharine Ruth; also inscriptions of Bessie May Troutman and Earl Franklin Reedy, April 7, 1917; loose piece of scratch paper), 1816, 1847-1851.

1 9

Notebook of Ephraim Hill, Richmond Schoolhouse, Richmond Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, 1822 November 18-1823 February 12.

1 10

Notebook of Ephraim Hill (includes accounts in both English and German Kurrent script), Richmond School, Berks County, Pennsylvania, 1825-1832.

2 1

Notebook of Samuel Rothwell (signature of 18 pages, with flourishes and figurated initials), Washington County, Pennsylvania, 1829 January 6-March 2.

2 2

Notebook of Samuel Henderson (includes loose slip from a receipt book), 1828 March 6-1830 March 13.

2 3

Notebook of William H. Riegel ("the fourth book"; in marbled cover; includes receipts and "Howard and Lester: A Dialogue of Learning and Usefulness"), Saucon, Pennsylvania, 1834 February 6-1845 March 2.

2 4

Notebook of Moses R. Sayer ("my School master... where Peter Cleaves"), Friedensburg, Oley Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, 1832-1835.

2 5

Notebook of Jacob Marker (bound in board and corduroy, crudely stitched), Westminster, Maryland, 1835-1837.

2 6

Notebook of James Cunningham, Jr. (includes pastedown and several scratch sheets), Fairfield, Adams County, Pennsylvania, 1841 May 3-1842 January 14.

2 7

Notebook of Jacob Samuel Hillegass (includes notes: "This is thee End of Bonnycastle Mensuration, December 21st 1842"; and "This is thee Beginning of Gummerers Surveying, December 22nd 1842"), 1841 April 9-1844 February 8.

2 8

Notebook of John M. Sherlin (in blank book with engraved image and description of "White Bear" on front cover; printed mathematical tables on the back cover; includes hand-painted drawing of a house), 1844 January 18.

2 9

Notebook of John C. Bloom, place unknown, 1845 January 30-February 26.

2 10

Notebook of Amanda Maeris (in blank book with engraved image and description of "Indian Jugglers" on front cover; printed mathematical tables on the back cover; includes scrap of paper with printed poem and advertisements from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 1846 March 18.

2 11

Notebook of Amanda Maeris (in blank book with engraved image and description of "A Family Scene" on front cover; printed mathematical tables on the back cover; includes poems "Reflections in a Graveyard"; "To a Friend" and "My Dear Father"), 1848 March 5.

3 1

Notebook of Amos G. Brooks (includes several loose pieces found within: sample ballot for Republican candidates, April 11, 1908; notices of public sale of land in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on behalf of Mary Brooks, minor, by Samuel Brooks, 1857; three receipts, 1853 and 1855; small scrap of paper inscribed "Elizabeth"), 1849-1850.

3 2

Notebook of William B. Updegrove (also includes early 20th-century records of cattle; farm accounts; recipes for animal feed, removing warts, rheumatism), Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1869 January 1-1870 January 19.

3 3



Diary of Benjamin Franklin Cary (farmer's daily calendar entries within older and partially used school register books; 2 vols.), Hartford, Maine, 1860 January-1863 November.


Letter books.


Letterbook of Samuel Bettle and Son, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1824-1830.


Penmanship notebooks.

Box Folder

Notebook of Aaron H. Shull (primarily a copybook; front cover includes pastedown hand-colored illustration of "Bayern"), 1836.

3 4

Notebook of Henry F. Lied (printed illustration of street scene on front cover; "Leary & Getz" book advertising on inside and back covers), Lancaster Co., Leary & Getz, Booksellers, No. 138 North Second Street, ten doors below New Street, Philadelphia, 1854.

3 5

Notebook of Margaret Weit (in German Kurrent script; illustration of George Washington on front cover; arithmetical tables on back cover), undated.

3 6

Blank notebook of J. J. Taylor ("Printing" and "Flying Artillery" illustrations and poem on front cover; "New School Books, &c." advertised on back cover), undated.

3 7

Recipe books.

Box Folder

Medical Recipe book, author unknown, place unknown, 1815-1825.

3 8

Medical Prescriptions and Recipes book of Dr. George Randolph Parry (pastedowns in earlier account book of Charles B. Knowles), New Hope, Pennsylvania, 1834, 1893.

3 9

Commerical Museum photographs, circa 1920s.

Box Item

Making Tortillas, Mexico.

4 1

5. Making Tortillas, Mexico.

4 2

Harvesting Rice, Louisiana.

4 3

Transplanting Rice, Japan.

4 4

Cutting Rice, Japan.

4 5

Separating Rice from the Straw, Japan.

4 6

Paddy Fields, Ceylon.

4 7

Drying Coffee, Costa Rica.

4 8

Coffee Drying Machinery, Costa Rica.

4 9

Drying Cacao, Trinidad.

4 10

Chocolate Factory, Dorchester, Mass.

4 11

Cocoanut Plantation, Ceylon.

4 12

47. Cocoanut and Sago Palm Trees, Hawaii.

4 13

Making Cocoanut Oil, Ceylon.

4 14

48. Copra Rack, Caroline Islands.

4 15

Picking Cotton, Arkansas.

4 16

Picking Cotton, Arkansas.

4 17

Cotton Gins, Arkansas.

4 18

Cotton Gins, Arkansas.

4 19

Baling Cotton, Arkansas.

4 20

Baling Cotton, Arkansas.

4 21

Cotton Market, Montgomery, Alabama.

5 1

Cotton Market, Montgomery, Alabama.

5 2

Harvesting Flax, Washington.

5 3

82. Feeding Silkworms, Japan.

5 4

Feeding Silkworms, Japan.

5 5

81. Chinese Silkworm and Moth.

5 6

Reeling Silk, Japan.

5 7

Steam Silk Reeling, Shanghai, China.

5 8

Shearing Sheep, New South Wales, Australia.

5 9

Oil Wells, Los Angeles, California.

5 10

Asphalt Lake, Trinidad.

5 11

Hauling Logs, Vancouver, British Columbia.

5 12

66. Longwood Tree, Jamaica.

5 13

43. Cutting Bananas, Jamaica.

5 14

Pineapple Field, Jamaica.

5 15

Tapioca Factory, Singapore.

5 16

Cutting Tobacco, Mexico.

5 17

Drying Codfish, Provincetown, Mass.

5 18

Jinrikisha and Carrying Chairs, Hong Kong, China.

5 19

Wheat in Bags Awaiting Shipment, Gerocery, N.S.W.

5 20

A Country Road, Ceylon.

5 21

Cutting Sugar Cane, Hawaii.

5 22

19. Grinding Sugar Cane, Java.

5 23

Sugar Factory, Java.

5 24

20. Sugar Mill, Java.

6 1

Picking Pepper, Singapore, Straits Settlements.

6 2

40. Drying Allspice, Jamaica.

6 3

Drying Allspice, Jamaica.

6 4

Cutting Cinnamon, Ceylon.

6 5

Cutting Up a Camphor Log, Formosa.

6 6

Tapping a Rubber Tree, Amazon Valley, Brazil.

6 7

69. Curring Rubber, Amazon Valley, Brazil.

6 8

Ceara Rubber Tree, Ceylon.

6 9

Central American Rubber Tree, Trinidad.

6 10

Tapping a Rubber Tree, Chiapas, Mexico.

6 11

Sisal Hemp Plants, Bahama Islands.

6 12

Cleaning Manila Hemp.

6 13

Bamboo, Jamaica.

6 14

Sorting Rattan, Singapore, Straits Settlement.

6 15

61. Dressing Rattan, Singapore.

6 16

Tan Yard, Chile.

6 17

Iron Furnace, Hankow, China.

6 18

Blast Furnace and Molding Floor, Alabama.

6 19

Blast Furnace and Molding Floor, Alabama.

6 20

Hydraulic Mining, Otago, New Zealand.

6 21

Mining, Mexico.

6 22

Blowing Glass, Philadelphia, Pa.

6 23

Salt Evaporation, California.

6 24

Marble Quarry, Vermont.

6 25