The Nineteenth Century in Print: Books

Sampler of Collection Themes:
Introduction | The Civil War | Slavery and Abolition | Religion | Education
Self-Help and Self-Improvement | Travel and Westward Expansion | Poetry

Self-Help and Self-Improvement

Illustration from Phrenology book

Many nineteenth-century Americans believed strongly in the individual’s capacity to improve and educate him- or herself, as well as in the importance of formal education. American society was also thought to be more fluid in its class structure than many European societies, a conviction which fostered the widespread faith that perseverance and hard work could enable the individual to rise in rank and in prosperity. At the same time, the growth of literacy and the waning of traditional structures of apprenticeship and household training made it both practical and necessary to offer in print form the kinds of practical instructions that an earlier era might have transmitted orally. The Nineteenth Century in Print accordingly offers a number of works of self-help and self-improvement, from advice on domestic economy and agricultural practice to hints on how to acquire the attributes of personal gentility that might speed one’s entry into a higher social class. Here is a sampling of these titles:

Thomas F. Adams, Typographia; or, The Printer's Instructor: A Brief Sketch of the Origin, Rise, and Progress of the Typographic Art, with Practical Directions for Conducting Every Department in an Office, Hints to Authors, Publishers, &c. (1854).

American Farmer's New & Universal Handbook. . . . or, An Improved and Complete Guide to the Treatment of Soils; The Operations of Productive Field Husbandry; Kitchen Gardening . . . the Whole Embodying a Plain, Practical, and Comprehensive Detail of Agricultural Economy in All Its Departments, throughout, the United States and the Canadas . . . By Practical Agriculturists (1854).

The Bazar Book of Decorum. The Care of the Person, Manners, Etiquette, and Ceremonials (1873).

Thomas Bridgeman, The American Gardener's Assistant. In Three Parts. Containing Complete Practical Directions for the Cultivation of Vegetables, Flowers, Fruit Trees, and Grape-Vines ([c1866]).

Christopher Crowfield [Harriet Beecher Stowe], House and Home Papers (1869).

A. J. Downing and George Wightwick, Hints to Persons about Building in the Country. By A. J. Downing . . . & Hints to Young Architects. Calculated to Facilitate Their Practical Operations. By Geo. Wightwick . . . with Additional Notes by A. J. Downing (1859).

George B. Emerson and Charles L. Flint, Manual of Agriculture, for the School, the Farm, and the Fireside (1862).

O. S. Fowler and L. N. Fowler, The Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology: With over One Hundred New Illustrations, Including a Chart for the Use of Practical Phrenologists ([1889])

S. A. Frost, Frost's Laws and By-Laws of American Society: A Condensed but Thorough Treatise on Etiquette and Its Usages in America, Containing Plain and Reliable Directions for Deportment in Every Situation in Life ([c1869]).

E. C. Gardner, Homes, and How to Make Them (1875).

Mrs. Goodfellow, Mrs. Goodfellow's Cookery As It Should Be. A New Manual of the Dining Room and Kitchen ([1865]).

Marion Harland, Common Sense in the Household; A Manual of Practical Housewifery (1872).

Cecil B. Hartley, The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness; Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman's Conduct in All His Relations towards Society . . . From the Best French, English, and American Authorities ([1873]).

George Winfred Hervey, The Principles of Courtesy: With Hints and Observations on Manners and Habits (1856).

George Winfred Hervey, Rhetoric of Conversation: or, Bridles & Spurs for the Management of the Tongue (1853).

B.B. Hotchkin, Manliness. For Young Men and Their Well-Wishers ([1864]).

Freeman Hunt, Worth and Wealth: A Collection of Maxims, Morals and Miscellanies for Merchants and Men of Business (1856).

“A Lady of Philadelphia” [Hannah Mary Bouvier Peterson], The National Cook Book ([c1866]).

Mathew Carey Lea, A Manual of Photography: Intended As a Text Book for Beginners and a Book of Reference for Advanced Photographers (1868).

Dio Lewis, The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children, with a Translation of Prof. Kloss's Dumb-Bell Instructor and Prof. Schreber's Pangymnastikon (1864).

Henry Lunettes [Margaret Cockburn Conkling], The American Gentleman's Guide to Politeness and Fashion, or Familiar Letters to His Nephews (1858).

William Mathews, Getting on in the World; or, Hints on Success in Life (1874).

Ira Mayhew, Mayhew's Practical Book-Keeping Embracing Single and Double Entry, Commercial Calculations, and the Philosophy and Morals of Business (1866).

Edmund Morris, How to Get a Farm, and Where to Find One (1864).

Harvey Newcomb, How To Be a Lady: A Book for Girls, Containing Useful Hints on the Formation of Character (1850).

Plain Talk and Friendly Advice to Domestics; With Counsel on Home Matters (1855).

Noah Porter, Books and Reading; or, What Books Shall I Read and How Shall I Read Them? (1877).

Timothy Titcomb [Josiah Gilbert Holland], Lessons in Life. A Series of Familiar Essays (1862).

Sereno Edwards Todd, The Young Farmers' Manual (1860).

Madame L. B. Urbino, Henry Day, and others, Art Recreations: Being a Complete Guide to Pencil Drawing, Oil Painting . . . Moss Work, Papier Mache . . . Wax Work, Shell Work . . . Enamel Painting, etc., . . . with Valuable Receipts for Preparing Materials. Splendidly Illustrated (1863).

G. S. Weaver, Aims and Aids for Girls and Young Women, on the Various Duties of Life (1856).

G. S. Weaver, Hopes and Helps for the Young of Both Sexes. Relating to the Formation of Character, Choice of Avocation, Health, Amusement, Music, Conversation, Cultivation of Intellect, Moral Sentiment, Social Affection, Courtship, and Marriage (1854).

Daniel Wise, The Young Lady's Counsellor, or, Outlines and Illustrations of the Sphere, the Duties and the Dangers of Young Women ([185-?]).

Augustus Woodbury, Plain Words to Young Men (1858).

A. S. Wright, Wright's Book of 3000 Practical Receipts, or Complete Book of Reference, Containing Valuable and Important Receipts for Medicine, Cookery, Pastry, Preserving, Pickling, Confectionary, Distilling, Perfumery, Varnishing, Chemicals, Dyeing, and Agriculture ([1869]).

Introduction | The Civil War | Slavery and Abolition | Religion | Education
Self-Help and Self-Improvement | Travel and Westward Expansion | Poetry

The Nineteenth Century in Print: Books