“In the fullness of time,” wrote the American historian George Bancroft in 1866, summarizing the nation’s previous 250 years, “a republic rose up in the wilderness of America.” From the foundation of the Jamestown Colony in 1607, as peoples transplanted from the British Isles, western Europe, Africa, and elsewhere came to what would eventually be called the United States, encounters with Native American cultures and with each other resulted in cooperation and conflict over the land and its resources. The exhibition begins with early English settlement and contact with the native peoples, and then traces the growth of the American nation to the end of the Civil War, against the background of evolving natural and built environments. The treasures on display from the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and the Scheide Library bear witness to the people and events that created an enduring political union and shaped the American experience.

Anna Chen, Assistant Curator of Manuscripts, organized this exhibition with the help of Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts. The Library is particularly grateful to the late Margaret P. Nuttle, mother of Philip E. Nuttle, Jr. (Class of 1963), for establishing the Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund to support the work of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on early American history, especially during the time of her famous ancestor Patrick Henry. This exhibition would not have been possible without the generosity of Princeton alumni, past and present, and their families. Major donors of the Americana on display include Sinclair Hamilton (Class of 1906), André de Coppet (Class of 1915), William H. Scheide (Class of 1936), Lloyd E. Cotsen (Class of 1950), Leonard L. Milberg (Class of 1953), J. Dennis Delafield (Class of 1957) and Penelope Johnson, and Sidney Lapidus (Class of 1959). The Library thanks William H. Scheide and Paul Needham (Scheide Librarian) for permission to exhibit some of the Scheide Library’s greatest treasures.

Image: John Hill (1770–1850) after William Guy Wall (1792–1864), “View near Hudson,” from the Hudson River Portfolio (New York, 1820). Gift of Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953. Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection, Graphic Arts Collection.