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First day in the Houghton Library

It’s not everyday that you come face to face with a figurine made almost two centuries ago but today I had the wonderful experience of meeting a Staffordshire figurine of Jean Margaret Davenport. She arrived rather unceremoniously at my table in the Houghton reading room but she was captivating. I took many photos of her charming self and cannot wait to share them… she looked every inch (probably 6 inches) a star!

As it turns out, I had a chance to commune in some way with all four of my major child stars today – JMD, Master Betty, Charles Stratton, and Clara Fisher. I spent a long time transcribing reviews from an biography about Clara Fisher and an even longer time transcribing a delightful biography of “Thomas Thumb” from 1849, which was written especially for American children (a fact repeated multiple times throughout). The authors of the “Thomas Thumb” book were at pains to stress the superiority of American culture, society, and governance, with real digs at the corruption of the British nobility. Such amazing evidence for discussions of children, ideology, and the instrumentalization of children for imperial ends. The description of the blending of national symbols in Tom Thumb’s “coat of arms” is particularly rich. Can’t wait to dig in further!

I ended the day reviewing pamphlets written about Master Betty – most of them laudatory, others less so. I also learned today from one of my sources that there were at least 20 books/pamphlets written about Betty between 1804 and 1805.

Tomorrow I’m going to continue working on the Betty material and hopefully view some print material AND more figurines!! Figurines, figurines, figurines!!!