Skip navigation
1 2 Previous Next


24 posts

There are some really hidden treasures in all these letters and indecipherable cursive. I hit one today that was just SO cool to discover I have to share.  I used to write newspaper columns about this sort of thing.


So I'm working on page 666 and 667 of the Roosevelt papers, series 1, letters and related materials, puzzling over what the heck is that word and this word and what is Teddy being invited to and it occurs to me that we have a Date on the letter, May 1, 1901, when (indecipherable squiggle) is required by law to start and it is clear from the letter that Teddy is being invited to be at that, whatever it is.


The person who did the first try at transcribing this guessed it was signed by someone named Mark Williams.


Nice guess.  I agreed at first. Cursive writing will fool you.  But I got curious: What was this letter about?


OK, in 1901 Teddy was an important guy and his whereabouts were often in the press.  He would only be invited to important things. What was happening on May 1 in 1901 that he would be at?


Well, in 1901 he was Vice President of the US.First and last pages of John Milburn's letter to TR


NYTimesMachine finds that, on May 2, 1901, there was a story about the opening of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo the previous day.


Buffalo?  That letter was written by a guy in Buffalo.


Google the address 1168 Delaware Ave., Buffalo NY.


Wow--historic stuff!  In 1901 it is the residence of John G. Milburn, president of the board of directors of the Pan-American Exposition of '01. (Indecipherable squiggle) starts with what looks like a cursive capital E, or at least John Milburn's version of one.


So the president of the Exposition is asking the vice president of the US to come help kick off the festivities. And, yes, if you ponder the signature on the letter that is a capital G. in the middle, which makes the rest of the signature make sense as John G. Milburn.


It gets better.


Roosevelt isn't mentioned in the news account in the NY Times.  He wasn't particularly excited about being Vice President, it seems, so even though Milburn said his attendance was critical and would be the key to the festival's success, he apparently didn't go, or if he did the Times ignored him?  Hard to believe.


Who did go? President McKinley, in September.  He stayed with the Milburns and on Sept. 6 he was shot at the Exposition and taken --  yup -- to the Milburn house. The Milburns moved elsewhere and McKinley lingered there in their house until the 14th when he died. His funeral was held there on the 16.


At which point the Milburns got their house back and Teddy became President.


The house went through the usual devolution of stately homes of the Victorian period, passing through various owners and being turned into apartments and finally demolition in 1957.


There's a marker at the curb, but I've been tingling for the last hour at all the connections in this one simple letter.

Charlie Trentelman

Ogden, Utah



This blog is by Library of Congress Manuscript Historian, Dr Julie Miller

June 4, 2020


The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress mostly document the life of George Washington. There’s nothing surprising about that. What is surprising is that Washington’s papers also contain a lot of fragmentary, often eloquent information about the lives of much more ordinary people. These are people we would know nothing about except that their lives happened to intersect with Washington’s. They include servants, slaves, grocers, dentists, wine merchants, bakers, tavernkeepers, landladies, seamstresses, and laundresses. Many of them were women.


One of the best places to find out about these people in Washington’s papers is in the meticulous records he kept of his public and private spending. These invoices, receipts, and ledger books constitute the thirty-four volumes of Series 5. The receipted bills Washington kept of his spending during the Revolutionary War, in Series 5, Volume 29, are the focus of our latest crowdsourcing project, “Ordinary Lives in George Washington’s Papers: The Revolutionary War.”


I would like to introduce you to one group of women you will meet as you work your way through these receipts. They are the laundresses who worked for Washington during the Revolutionary War.


Washington’s steward Caleb Gibbs made an understandable mistake when he wrote that Margaret Thomas received “twenty eight pounds seventeen shillings & sixpence Pennsylvania currency in full for Washington done for his Excellency General Washington” for almost eighteen months of washing. Washington was on the move during this period, so Thomas probably traveled with his household. She signed the receipt herself.


Martha Morris probably lived in New York, since the single bill she submitted to Washington, in October, 1776, is dated from there. It describes her and her work this way: “cloas washd by Marther the negor wench.” The back of the receipt, similarly: “Negro wench’s bill for washing linnen.” When the British occupied New York after Washington fled, just after the date of this bill, they offered freedom to escaped slaves. If Morris was among them, she might have chosen to stay in the city. Read more about her here.


Between July and September, 1776 Andrew Marschalk submitted five bills for washing and mending performed by “Mrs. Marschalk.” Because Marschalk’s bills end when Washington left New York, it’s likely the family lived in the city. Mrs. Marschalk’s labor supported the family, but Anglo-American law entitled her husband to her earnings, as these receipts demonstrate.


In May, 1776 Sarah Einglis submitted a bill for washing Martha Washington’s aprons, handkerchiefs, and ruffles. George Washington’s letters show that he was in New York on that date. This receipt is a piece of evidence to show that his wife was there, too. Einglis appears to have written out this receipt herself.


The bills submitted by this diverse group of women are a window into their working and economic lives, and add a rich layer to our understanding of the Revolutionary war as it was experienced by ordinary people. We hope you enjoy puzzling out these receipts, and helping researchers and students of the future to more easily search and access these small, but important documents.

This blog is by Library of Congress Manuscript Historian, Dr Julie Miller


Today we're releasing a new By the People Campaign featuring handwritten receipts and interrogations of deserters--documents found in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. Read this blog and then visit “Ordinary Lives in George Washington’s Papers: The Revolutionary War” to transcribe, review, or read these historic materials.


In 1782, during the Revolutionary War, the American artist John Singleton Copley painted this portrait of thirteen-year-old Augustus Brine, a sailor in the British Royal Navy. The boy’s capable hands and confident stance, startlingly combined with his rosy cheeks and curly hair, are a clue that the redcoats we learned about when we were children may not have been exactly as we imagined.


Augustus Brine (1769–1840) painted as a young boy by Anthony Copley. He stands with his body slightly turned away from us, his right hand in his pocket, his sandy hair long and falling around his shoulders. Artist: John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London) Date: 1771 Medium: Oil on canvas. Painting held at the Met and made available online under Creative Commons Zero (CC0).

More evidence to prove the truth of this is in two small notebooks in Series 6A of the George Washington papers at the Library of Congress. These contain notes made by Washington’s aides as they interrogated British deserters and escapees. The interrogations took place around New York City in 1782 and 1783 while the city was occupied by British troops.


These men constituted a diverse group. They were Americans pressed into British service, sailors captured from French ships, escapees from British prison ships, Hessian mercenaries, and Americans serving in loyalist regiments, including the one commanded by Benedict Arnold after his defection. Responding to a set of questions, they give their names and histories, describe conditions at British encampments, and tell where, how, and why they left.


Christian Reidenby, a Hessian mercenary, deserted his regiment on Governor’s Island because he owned land in Georgia and preferred to stay in the United States. John Carrol, a sailor originally from Philadelphia, had been impressed by the British and imprisoned in Jamaica. Then he sailed on a privateer, and finally escaped from a British ship on Lake Champlain. Richard Green and Daniel Lane deserted from the loyalist corps headed by Benedict Arnold. They had enlisted with Arnold in order to get out of jail in British-occupied New York. James Nealy, a fifer, escaped his regiment on Long Island. He reported that “great uneasiness prevails” in his corps, probably because they had learned of the impending evacuation of New York and the shipment of British troops to the West Indies, where they knew that heat and disease threatened the lives of British soldiers.


George Washington used the information he learned from these and other deserters in his plans. Today these capsule biographies, which range from one sentence to several paragraphs each, should interest anyone who wants to gain a complex understanding of the British or British-allied men and boys who occupied New York during the Revolutionary War.

Hi all,


To round out Poetry Month (April) we're proposing a Walt Whitman challenge! Read more about it on the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature blog.


As part of this challenge we're joining with colleagues from the Learning and Innovation Office at the Library and the National Council of Teachers of English. Join us Friday, May 1 for a review-a-thon webinar geared towards educators to learn more about using By the People in their classrooms (virtual or in-person!) and Whitman primary sources such as his drafts and the printed journals where his works often appeared before he gathered them together in Leaves of Grass.


We won't be making daily updates on progress here as we normally do for challenges, but as of 11am on April 30, 2020 1,246 pages in the Poetry project still need to be reviewed. Once these are all reviewed we can bring all of the almost 4,000 Whitman pages back to the Library's main website where they'll enhance search and accessibility.


Thanks for your help!

Victoria and the By the People team

Today we launched "Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents," featuring pages written in Spanish, Latin, and Catalan between 1300 and 1800. Our aim is to transcribe the documents word-for-word so that researchers can more easily discover these materials. This Law Library Collection is our first entirely non-English campaign! It includes papers pertaining to laws, statutes, instructions, and decrees of Spanish kings, government officials, and the Catholic Church, including the Spanish Inquisition and papal bulls. Aside from English language titles and short descriptions created by the Library, we know little about the texts or the topics, individuals, and significant historical moments documented within the collection. Most names, places, geographical regions, and other details that would be of interest to scholars are still waiting to be discovered. Legal documents shed light on what societies and individuals value, and the struggles, hopes, and triumphs of people across the societal spectrum.

Delve into European history and practice your skills reading and transcribing Spanish, Latin and Catalan as you help the Law Library of Congress uncover the mysteries of this collection. Remember, you can contribute at your own pace and at times that are convenient for you. While foreign language skills are helpful, you do not need to read or speak Spanish, Latin, or Catalan to participate.

Read more about this new Campaign in English on the Law Library blog, and in Spanish on the Hispanic Division blog.

We've created some special resources to help you get started with this campain, including 2 webinars: How and Why to Transcribe Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents on Thursday, February 27th, and How to Host a Transcribe-a-thon on Thursday March 12th. These webinars will be offered in separate English and Spanish versions. Choose your language when you navigate to the sign up page using the links above. You can also find some helpful guides for transcribing Spanish and Latin on our resources page.

Finally, we hope you'll join our Herencia transcribe-a-thon on March 19th! You can take part online from anywhere, or in-person here at the Library of Congress! Our on site event coincides with a National Book Festival Presents program featuring Jeffrey Rosen who will discuss his new book Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty and Law with Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate. Learn more about the virtual and in-person event and register here.

"I felt I was lynched many times in mind and spirit. I grew up in a world of white power . . .”

These words rock us with their hard truth. They were written by Rosa Parks sometime after her arrest in 1955 for defying a Montgomery, Alabama, bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. They can be found among her autobiographical writings in the Rosa Parks Papers. Today, February 4th, Parks' birthday, we're launching these and other materials from her collection "Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words". The pages include letters to and from friends and family, records about her activism and lifelong fight for equal rights, programs from events that featured or honored her, and a small number of miscellaneous items, including her "Featherlite Pancake Recipe" with a secret ingredient.

We hope transcribing Rosa Parks’s writings, notes, and statements will bring you insight into her upbringing and family, her arrest and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the pernicious impact of racism and Jim Crow segregation. Parks was a powerful writer whose strong words and keen insights hit home. Many of these writings and notes are in draft form. She wrote on scraps of paper, often using the backs of incoming letters, event and sermon programs, and envelopes. The purpose of these writings isn’t always clear. Many were notes for speeches. Some may have be been intended for memoirs long before she wrote Rosa Parks: My Story (1992). Parks may have used writing as a way to process her arrest, the boycott, and their aftermath. Most of her writings are undated, although dates can be inferred from the dated letters and programs on which she wrote and from stationery letterhead. Many are featured in the Library's current exhibition (also titled Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words), which inspired this campaign.

Your transcriptions may lead to new discoveries about when and why some of these notes and drafts were written. One of the great archival myths is that archivists have time to read every word, untie every knot, and solve every mystery in a collection. They don’t, and unresolved mysteries abound. These documents have only been available for a large public audience for a few years, and to date they have not been transcribed and made word-searchable online, which is what you're doing when you take part in any By the People Campaign. What will you discover?

Explore the Rosa Parks Campaign

Update 2/3/20:

Congratulations on completing another successful challenge! Together we moved the number of completed pages in the Alan Lomax Campaign from 1,732 to over 3,000 to celebrate Alan Lomax's 105th birthday. To thank volunteers, our partners at the Association for Cultural Equity, and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress made a special playlist of Lomax recordings inspired by the campaign that you can access via Spotify. Songs include "Worried Now, Won't be Worried Long," by Sidney Carter, "The Moonshiner," by Daw Henson and "Sink 'Em Low," by Bessie Jones. We hope you'll listen as you keep reviewing Alan Lomax pages! The more we review, the more we can publish on, and the sooner we'll bring out new Lomax materials for you to transcribe.


Update 1/31:

As of 4pm ET on January 31st we're so close to meeting our goal, but we're not there yet. 2,962 out of 3000 pages. Can you help us get over the line? As an incentive, and a big thank you for all your hard work so far, our friends at the Association for Cultural Equity, which champions the legacy of Alan Lomax and those whom he recorded, has made a special playlist for our challenge. Help us close it out while you listen to the songs and interviews of some of the very documents you're reviewing!


Update 1/15: 

As of January 15th, 2,200 pages have been completed -- 800 to go by the end of the month!


Original post:


You all are so good at challenges, we have another for the month of January! We're featuring Alan Lomax, whose 105th birthday would be on January 31st. Lomax was the most famous American folklorist of the 20th century. From 1936 to 1966 he traveled the country and the world recording thousands of musicians, storytellers, and other tradition-bearers. He worked with friends and family, as well as cultural icons such as Zora Neale Hurston and Pete Seeger. His detailed field notebooks document encounters with Muddy Waters, Lead Belly, Bessie Jones and others.


So far we've made U.S. and Caribbean materials available, and are waiting until these are mostly complete before releasing materials from the United Kingdom. So this month we ask you to put your considerable talents and energy towards reviewing pages to bring the "completed" count to 3,000 by Alan's birthday on Jan. 31. This will let us start bringing transcriptions back to, and will move us closer to adding new materials. Jump in to Lomax review here!


As of January 1st, 1,732 Lomax pages were complete -- 1,268 to go!

Update! Volunteers completed transcription of all of "This Hell-upon-earth of a prison", Samuel Gibson's diary and letter, in less than 36 hours!*  We then challenged you to review "Disabled but not disheartened" and volunteers jumped in to move 371 pages to completed!  Incredible work!  We hope that you'll share your reflections and takeaways from these campaigns in the comments below. 


Stretch goal, "Disabled but not disheartened":

So, "what's next?" you ask. With the holiday still a few days away, we hope you're up for a 2nd Veteran's Day challenge!


Let's complete all 1,572 pages needing review in the "Civil War Soldiers: 'Disabled but not disheartened'" Campaign by the end of Veterans Day. This is a lot of material, but you all have shown yourselves to be an incredible community, and we think you can do it! This campaign features entries from the left-handed penmanship competition created by a reformer, poet, editor, and clergyman named William Oland Bourne for Union soldiers who lost their right arms in the conflict. Reviewing these pages you'll encounter soldiers' personal accounts of battle and loss, as well as their lives after the war, when they trained themselves to write left-handed and returned to civilian life and work.


This was one of our original campaigns launched in October 2018. It would be amazing to round out the review of these letters by wounded soldiers, so that we could publish the full set of transcriptions back on That would be a lot to be proud of, and grateful for, this Veterans Day.


Join in by visiting "Disabled but not disheartened"


Progress: 371 pages completed! (since challenge launch 11/8, 9am EST)



Not started

In progress

In review


Thursday 11/7,  2pm EST031,5723,572

Friday 11/8, 9am EST

Friday 11/8, 5pm EST001,4273,720
Saturday 11/9, 8:30 am EST021,3713,774
Saturday 11/9, 6:15 pm EST021,3503,795

Sunday 11/10, 9:00 am EST

Sunday 11/10, 5:00 pm EST021,3043,841
Monday 11/11, 9:00 am EST021,2903,855
Monday 11/11, 5:15 pm EST021,2303,914
Tuesday 11/12, 12:00 pm EST011,2033,943



Original challenge, "This hell-upon-earth of a prison":

“Today is the holy sabbath: but there is no sabbath here; Oh Liberty; Law & Order! Thou canst not be appreciated till thou art once lost”

So wrote Union soldier Samuel J. Gibson in the depths of his agony while held as a prisoner of war at the notorious Andersonville prison camp in Georgia. Gibson’s diary of 1864-1865 documents part of his military service, capture, experience at Andersonville, and ultimate release. Today we are publishing the 200-page diary, as well as a letter Gibson wrote to his wife as "This Hell-upon-earth of a Prison."  We launch this new campaign to challenge you, the By the People community, to completely transcribe and review Gibson's writings by the end of Veteran's Day (November 11th). Once all of the pages have been reviewed we can publish the transcriptions back on where they’ll will make these important documents fully searchable.

Documents such as these connect us all to the past, but for some people this connection is personal. Several of Samuel Gibson’s descendants are alive today, including his great granddaughter, Peggy. Read her experience of learning about the diary here.

This week we invite you to engage deeply with Gibson’s writings, and to treat your volunteer service as a chance to think about the veterans in your own life and your own history. We'll track daily numbers here, so check in to see progress toward our goal!

If you’re new to review, read through our How-To Review guide before getting started.


Join in by visiting "This Hell-upon-earth of a prison": Samuel J. Gibson's Andersonville Diary






Not started

In progress

In review


Monday 11/6, 9am EST90000

Monday 11/6 6:30pm EST

Tuesday 11/7 9:10am EST17082
Tuesday 11/7 1:10am EST01089


*As of 11/12 one Gibson page remains "in progress" to to a user page reservation.

Starting Tuesday, October 1 the staff of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division reference team will join your By the People community managers in moderating and responding to CROWD History Hub posts. We're piloting this approach to better leverage their deep collections and public service expertise and work towards long term sustainability for Library of Congress crowdsourcing.


LOC Manuscript Division is already active in the community, responding to your collections-related question with their fantastic expertise. You've probably already seen their many helpful and illuminating posts (like Re: Anna E. Dickinson mother -- Marmee or Maumee?)! This new responsibility will be managed by a different staff member each month, so you'll get to meet many more of the folks who work behind the scenes with our fabulous collections to facilitate research.


Don't worry, your trusty community managersVictoria and Lauren are still around to help out with your crowdsourcing queries and learn from the experiences and findings you generously share in this space.


Please join us in welcoming the LOC Manuscript Division further into our community!

We've got something new we think you're going to love! Today we're launching a new By the People campaign The man who recorded the world: On the road with Alan Lomax. The work of 20th-century folklorist Alan Lomax is the bedrock of our understanding of twentieth-century folk music. Discover rich folk traditions by transcribing his field notebooks and correspondence with family, fellow musicians, colleagues, and collaborators.

The Lomax campaign includes notes on performances and interviews with artists like blues guitarist Robert Johnson, folk singer Woody Guthrie, country musician Burl Ives, and blues singers Lead Belly and Muddy Waters. Lomax is credited with bringing all of these artists to popular public attention. The collection also documents Lomax’s extensive travels, including his time as a Library of Congress employee, and the toll his years of fieldwork took on his personal life.

According to Bob Dylan, “Alan was one of those who unlocked the secrets of this kind of music”. Now, we need your help to unlock these documents and make them available to musicians, music lovers, and researchers all over the world. Ride along in the back seat of Lomax's sedan on the way to interview Robert Johnson’s mother, or browse through Muddy Waters’ record collection to see what inspired the iconic bluesman.

We're starting off with materials from across America and the Caribbean, and will later release materials from Lomax's fieldwork in the British Isles, Spain, and the Soviet Union.  Read more about the campaign in our Folklife Today blogpost.


And then dig in to spend some time traveling along with Lomax!

Photo of Alan Lomax and Raphael Hurtault listening to playback of an audio recording. La Plaine, Dominica. June 1962

Many pages on By the People are written in languages other than English or contain words and phrases with accents, such as café or coup de théâtre. Writers such as Mary Church and Clara Barton spent time in Germany and France, and sometimes practiced their language skills by writing in the local language. Abraham Lincoln received correspondence from speakers of many other languages, and Alan Lomax and his collaborators wrote down songs and stories in French, Creole, German, Finnish, Swedish, Polish, and Hungarian. We want to capture these languages as they appear on the page, just as the authors wrote them down. Here’s how you can use or adapt your existing keyboard.


How to Type Accented Characters and diacritic marks on Mac

For accented letters:

  1. Press and hold down the letter you wish to accent until a menu with character accents appears
  2. Choose the character accent with the mouse or press the number corresponding below the accent in the menu. These numbers appear in light grey below the accents.


Another way to type diacritics and ligatures on a Mac is to use key combinations:


  • é, ó – Acute: Hold down OPTION key + e, then type the letter you want to accent
  • à
  • ô – Circumflex: Hold down OPTION key + i + the letter
  • ñ – Hold down OPTION key + n + the letter
  • ö – Trema: Hold down OPTION key + u + the letter
  • ç – Cedilla: Hold down OPTION key + c
  • ø – Hold down OPTION key + o
  • å Å – Hold down OPTION key + a
  • Æ – AE Ligature: Hold down OPTION key + ‘
  • œ – OE Ligature: Hold down OPTION key + q
  • ¿ – Hold down OPTION key and SHIFT key + ?
  • ¡ – Hold down OPTION key + 1


How to Type Accented Characters and diacritic marks on Microsoft Windows


Below you will find links to instructions on the Microsoft support pages for how to add and switch between different languages on your Windows device. You can install as many language keyboards as you want. Instructions vary for different versions of Windows.


If you are unsure which version of Windows is running on your device, here are instructions on how to find that information:


For entering Spanish, French, and German accents, install the "United States - International" keyboard. To add Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian and other languages, select the relevant language from the list of available keyboards in the Windows list. You can find this list by following the directions linked above.


To switch between different language keyboard settings on Windows


  • For Windows XP, 7 and 10 press left-Ctrl + left-Shift
  • For Windows 10 you may also press and hold the Windows key + Spacebar

A new challenge has arrived, volunteers! From August 12-19, help By the People complete 1,000 pages of "Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote".

This new topic highlights the 70 year battle for women's right to vote, marking its’ 100th anniversary in 2019. Meet suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Mary Church Terrell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Anna Dickinson! Engage with their personal letters, travel diaries, and organization ledgers to watch history unfold before your eyes. You'll see Susan B. Anthony affectionately give her friends nicknames and Elizabeth Cady Stanton write the book that almost rips the movement in half. Transcribe your way from the White House lawn to the beaches of South Africa.

Volunteer review is the crucial final step required to mark pages complete so they can return to for research use. Honor the work of these  tireless suffrage advocates by helping meet the 1,000 page goal! Anyone can take part, you just need to register for an account to jump into review. We also hope you'll spread the news of this challenge and invite others to join us as we engage intimately with suffrage history.

If you’re new to review, read through our How-To Review guide before getting started.


Join in by visiting Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote!


We’ll log daily numbers here, so check in to see progress toward our goal!


Progress so far:

By 6pm EST on Wednesday, you'd already completed over 1,000 pages!  Amazing!!!  Clearly we underestimated your suffrage zeal, so we're setting a stretch goal. Can we complete a total of 2,000 by Monday??  Are you up for it?!

Monday, 8/19, 9am EST --

2,258 pages completed!


DateNot startedIn progressIn reviewCompleted
Monday 8/12, 9am EST19,9661,74215,6526,257

Monday 8/12, 5:30pm EST

Tuesday 8/13, 9am EST23,8051,79716,1436,635
Tuesday 8/13, 5:30pm EST23,7351,82116,5786,836
Wednesday 8/14, 9am EST23,0591,85216,9787,081
Wednesday 8/14, 6pm EST22,4811,92317,1877,379
Thursday 8/15, 9am EST22,1591,95117,3637,497
Thursday 8/15, 5pm EST21,6301,96317,6937,684
Friday 8/16, 9:30am EST21,2871,98917,8227,872
Friday 8/16, 5pm EST20,9982,02417,8868,062
Monday 8/19 9am EST19,7712,07118,6138515

("Not started" numbers may went up on 8/14 due to publication of new Suffrage pages!)

Carrie Chapman Catt and other suffragists gather to fight for their right to vote. Protesters hold banners, shields, and American flags.


Today, June 4, 2019, we're releasing the papers of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Anna E. Dickinson for you to transcribe and review, in celebration of the centenary of women's suffrage and the passage of the 19th Amendment. The struggle for women’s voting rights—considered the largest reform movement in American history—lasted more than seven decades, from 1848 to 1920. Determined women organized, lectured, petitioned, lobbied, paraded, picketed, and went to jail for daring to demand the right to vote.


In addition to these four new Campaigns we've added new functionality called "Topic", which allows us to group materials thematically. You'll now find the papers of Mary Church Terrell, advocate for the rights of African Americans and universal suffrage, alongside the papers of other leading suffragists such as Stanton and Anthony, whose works were we've just added.

Explore the daily lives of these determined leaders and their stories of hope, perseverance, sacrifice, courage, creativity, and conviction. Learn how everyday Americans and people around the world participated in and reacted to the suffrage movement. You can choose from letters, diaries, speeches, articles, address and appointment books, and much more!


Find your perfect page


You can use the exciting new activity prototype to search for suffrage papers to transcribe or review. Log in and search for materials by Campaign or Topic. Further instructions about the prototype are available here, and you can fill out this survey to tell us about your experience.


A new exhibition


The "Suffrage: Women Fight For the Vote" Topic is launching the same day as the Library of Congress's fantastic new exhibition, "Shall not be denied: Women Fight for the Vote", which tells the story of the suffrage movement through documents, images, and objects housed at the Library. The exhibition will be open from June 2019 to September 2020 and is free to visit. Watch out for free tours and talks, and learn more about this key period of American history.

Today By the People is launching the Activity Prototype! Test out a new way of browsing pages and finding something to transcribe or review. In this interface volunteers can:

  • Sort and filter pages all in one place
  • Choose another page to read or work on at any time
  • See more information and context about the page you are working on
  • Access basic instructions and keyboard shortcuts in the help panel

Below are detailed instructions to help you get started. This new functionality will be available through the end of July and we want to hear from you! Can you tell us more about the ways this experience makes tasks easier or harder than they were before?

Try it out and let us know what you think by filling out this survey.


How to get started:

First, you will need to log in or register.  Then jump in on the home page or go to Homepage carousel


Start by choosing what you want to do - “Transcribe” or “Review”, by clicking on one of these buttons in the top left of page. Then look for a page that looks interesting to you! You can also choose an option from the “Sort by” drop down list to group images by “Most Recently Updated”, “Most Difficult”, and “Year”. Use the campaign drop-down menu to view one campaign at a time. You can use one or more filters of your choice.



Adjust the size and number of pages you see using the slider at the top right. Once you see something you want to work on, click it.


Find resources to help you transcribe or review under "More info" and the "Help Panel".

Click “More Info” above the text window to see more context about the page and the larger collection of which it is one part. The context can help you decipher significant names, locations, and dates and includes broader campaign and project information.



Click the ? tab to the right to open the help panel. Here you will see basic transcription and review tips, a link to the complete instructions in the "Help Center", and keyboard shortcuts for the image viewer.



In review, carefully compare the transcription to the original page and check for accuracy. Click “Accept” if accurate or “Edit” if the page needs correction. Clicking “Edit” will move the image back into transcribe mode so another volunteer can make the needed changes.



If you are transcribing, click “Save” as you go to save your work in progress. It’s ok to transcribe only part of a page, “Save”, and move on. Click "Save" and “Submit for review” when you have completely transcribed the page.



Share pages with friends and fellow volunteers online. Click the arrow above the page name to post on Twitter and Facebook or copy the link to add to an email or save it in a document.



Choose another page to work on at any time in the right hand panel. Don’t forget to save before navigating away from your current page!



A message with a person icon will appear over pages you are unable to work on. This might indicate that someone else is already working on that page or that you have already worked on it.



To go back to view and filter all pages click “Browse All” in the top right corner.
























To transcribe or review in the original interface, click on the image number



Try it out and let us know what you think by filling out this survey.

Final Update: Our original 500-page review goal was well exceeded by Memorial Day morning!! Incredible work! We issued a stretch goal for the final day of 750 completed... and hit it out of the park too! Final totals as of 10am ET the following morning:  862 pages completed


Thank you immensely to everyone who participated.  We are still eager to hear about what you learned from the men who entered the Left-Hand Penmanship Contest.  Share your stories here!



Not started

In progress

Need Review


Mon., May 20, 9am





Mon., May 20, 5am





Tue., May 21, 9:30am4173,3051,213
Tue., May 21, 5:15pm26113,2961,233
Wed, May 22, 9:30am2293,2951,240
Wed, May 22, 5:30pm17113,2811,257
Th, May 23, 10:30am8103,2361,312
Th, May 23, 5:00pm0123,1691,385
Fri, May 24, 9:00am063,1281,432
Fri, May 24, 4:00pm063,0501,510
Mon, May 27, 7:30am042,7951,767
Mon, May 27, 7:30pm052,7131,848
Tue, May 28, 10am062,5821,978


In the lead up to Memorial Day (May 27) we challenge you to “Make It Meaningful” by completing review of 500 pages of “Civil War soldiers: disabled but not disheartened” campaign in honor of those who have served.


This campaign features entries from the left-handed penmanship competition created by William Oland Bourne for Union soldiers who lost their right hand or arm during the conflict. The handwritten pages include reflections on war and loss. Without transcription the digitized images of the original documents are not keyword searchable or accessible for many users with sight or cognitive disabilities. Focusing on review this Memorial Day offers you the opportunity to honor the sacrifices of service members by exploring and meditating on these soldiers’ experiences and helping make them accessible for others.


"There are many men now in hospital, as well as at their homes, who have lost their right arms, or whose right arm is so disabled that they cannot write with it. Penmanship is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment. As an inducement to the class of wounded and disabled soldiers here named to make every effort to fit themselves for lucrative and honorable positions, we offer the following premiums..."


Thus began an announcement in the June 1865 issue of “The Soldier's Friend,” a newspaper edited by poet and reformer William Oland Bourne that focused on the needs and interests of Civil War veterans. The ad invited Union soldiers and sailors who lost use of their dominant arm during the Civil War to submit penmanship samples in competition for a monetary prize. Bourne served as a chaplain at Central Park Hospital during the war, where he was exposed to the often debilitating injuries sustained by soldiers and sailors. Winning entries were displayed in New York and Washington to advocate for the capacity and resilience of disabled veterans. The writings tell the individual veteran’s stories of service and sacrifice and were used by Bourne to advocate for the injured soldiers' value and experiences in post-war society.  Learn more about Bourne and the contest here.


And speaking of learning more, we have a special Challenge blog post by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Manuscript Division. It tells the story of Alfred D. Whitehouse, one of the soldiers who entered Bourne’s penmanship contest twice. This post was written to inspire you during this challenge, and as a way for us to mark and reflect upon the significance of Memorial Day. What other stories can you find in this campaign?  Or in the Letters to Lincoln or Clara Barton Diaries?


We'll start the clock at 9am ET May 20 and will track review and completion progress here. Can we review 500 Left-Handed Penmanship Contest pages by the end of Memorial Day? Jump in!