Hurricane history

As I am writing, hurricane Harvey is still happening.  At the moment (the evening of August 27th, 2017) it seems poised to swing out into the Gulf, pick up energy, and swing back to deluge inland Texas again (as an aside, I saw someone on twitter claim that Hurricanes are powered by cold, therefore climate change is “not a thing.”  Hurricanes get their power from warm, moist air, often found over oceans.  NASA has a great primer on the mechanics of hurricanes here.)

I don’t want to take attention away from the rescue efforts that are taking place in Texas, but I did want to get some thoughts down about why hurricanes are simultaneously forecastable and unpredictable, and why that tension makes them a particularly fraught kind of disaster.

Hurricanes are easy to forecast.  They are large, and (mostly) easy to follow, predictable weather events.  The Galveston Hurricane (1900), which is in the running for deadliest recorded hurricane in American history was predicted by Cuban meteorologists (their prediction was ignored by American meteorologists).  Katrina (2005) was forecast.  Sandy (2012) (which resonates particularly with me, because I am from NJ and lived in NJ at the time) was forecast.  With some variation of strength and landing points, meteorologists know that hurricanes are coming, and where they will make landfall.

I think that for people who are unfamiliar with the Atlantic and Gulf seaboard, hurricanes feel like disaster-lite.  They are not tornadoes, which can appear, seemingly in seconds, and wreck damage that is so extreme that the most common comparison is a runaway freight train.  They are not earthquakes, which seem to strike capriciously.  They are not fires, which – often being caused by human negligence – are almost impossible to predict.  For people who do not live in hurricane country, hurricanes seem like easy disasters.  “Once you know they’re coming” – backseat disaster pundits say – “just get out of the way.”

Despite the confidence of forecasts, damage from hurricanes is incredibly difficult to predict.  Some  damage comes from storm surges (where the barometric pressure of the hurricane – basically, the weight of the water – physically pushes the ocean onto land).  This is what happened during Sandy, and during the Galveston hurricane.  Some damage comes with gale-force winds, which drive the sea onto and over coastal spaces.  Some hurricanes hit in places where natural defenses against flooding are insufficient.  Most spaces are at the intersection of these hazards. This is what happened during Katrina, and seems to be what is happening with Harvey.

This uncertainty is why one of the dominant themes in oral histories of Katrina is that, having survived previous hurricanes, many people of New Orleans thought that Katrina did not seem to pose that much of a risk.  If previous evacuation orders resulted in minimal damage, there was no incentive to leave.  However, the more significant predictor of failure to evacuate  is access to capital.  Evacuation requires a car.  It requires access to money to buy food.  It requires confidence that work will be cancelled the next day.  It requires a financial cushion that means that loosing material goods to looting can be recovered from.  Put pithily: people with social, political and economic capital can afford to evacuate; poor without, cannot.

This is why there are so many people pleading in Twitter for rescue.  This is why so  many people sheltered in place.  This is why so many people trusted government officials when they said that a few inches of water wasn’t dangerous.  This is why so many people where surprised when a few inches of water became a few, several, many feet.  Hurricane damage is unpredictable, and the people who are most subject to that unpredictability are the people who have least.

American hurricanes have a long history.  While individual storms seem capricious, in the last century and change, patterns have begun to emerge.  They are worth attending to as we face the midst, and aftermath, of the latest deadly storm.

What do we do about archival violence? (#DH2017 talk)

I’m in the process (after the book manuscript is submitted!) of revising this into a more formal paper.  But in the meantime I wanted to put it out in the world.  (The slide deck is here: Also, this includes the story that I didn’t have time to tell.  Again.  Some day I will give this talk and get to the story.

Data is fraught with peril.

I want to do two things today. The first is to talk about how archives enact epistemic violence on some of the subjects they preserve. The second is to talk about how DH methods, combined with insights from scholars who study marginalized people, can be used to undermine the inhumanity of that data.

This is both about not accepting the epistemologies of historical actors, and being critical about how our own work can enact violence. (I’m echoing stuff from alternative histories of dh yesterday.)

In the 1840s, Ireland had a famine. One million people died. One million people fled. You only need to know this because the vast majority of these immigrants sailed for New York.

The Atlantic crossing from Ireland could take more than a month, and the ships were rife with typhus and cholera. Irish immigrants’ experience of ships was deeply corporeal. New York City’s experience of them was as potential liabilities.

In response to the thousands of immigrants arriving in New York in the nineteenth century the city passed a law requiring that the master or captain of every ship originating outside of the state of New York commit funds in case immigrants became sick and were cared for in city institutions.

Some ships paid. Others sold their obligations to brokers. In New York, immigrants were transformed into sickness futures. Because of this, it was important for the city to produce data on them.

Simultaneously, when immigrants occupied public spaces in New York in ways unacceptable to bourgeoisie New York – either because they were ill or because they were simply the wrong kind of bodies – they were extracted and incarcerated – most often in public health institutions.

There, clerks recorded more information – name, age, profession, nationality – but also the names of the people who referred immigrants and, most importantly for nineteenth-century Americans, the ship or broker that was obligated to cover the new inmate’s fees.

They were then medically assessed.

Some were diagnosed with recognizable diseases. But the most interesting category, the one that tells us to question the conditions of production of this data, is that of “recent emigrant.” This diagnosis covered twenty percent of all Irish inmates.

After they were diagnosed, these inmates were distributed throughout New York’s public health system. Some were sent to the hospital. Others were sent to the workhouse. Still more ended up in the most dismal spaces,

described by one Almshouse administrator as “constantly filled with paupers, and at various periods numbers have had to occupy the garrets and cellars. The dead House recently erected had to be opened for their admission. The Chapel also has been converted into sleeping apartments and shanties [have been] built.” (we are going to spend some time in the garrets later)

I want to close this section with a quotation from Friederick Kapp, a New York City official who described this era of immigration as one in which “the emigrant is not a subject, but an object…they appear as a numerical quantity; they seem to have no individual existence, and the student of contemporary history does not take the trouble to study their individual motives, misfortunes and aspirations.”

I should say here that, in making the claim that the quantification of people, particularly aboard ships, transformed Irish immigrants from humans into some other kind of object in the eyes of the state is not original. I’m drawing on the work of the exemplary historians of slavery Marisa Fuentes, Jennifer Morgan, Stephanie Smallwood and Sowande Mustakeem. I am NOT (because that is a terrible meme) comparing Irish immigration to the heritable slavery that people of African descent were subject to. I am saying that something about entry into the New York public health system rendered – in the eyes of dominant groups, at least – Irish immigrants other in a process that was related, but very, very different from the middle passage, and that we can do something both with and against that violence.

Why does all of this history matter? I want to suggest three reasons and then expand on the last.

The first: as DH practitioners, we have to contend with the kinds of work that historical data creation enacted upon marginalized people and with the work that historical data producers thought they were doing. For my data, this means that I need to think about, for example, discrepancies between what we know about immigrants and what is revealed in the data, and what kind of explanatory power those discrepancies have.

The second: unfortunately, we have no archival records that describe the internal mechanisms of Bellevue. These processes were largely invisible to us, and remain largely archiavally invisible. But in looking at how thousands of immigrants moved through this system, we can start to see the institutional forces pushing on immigrants.

Finally, and this is what I want to close with, we can use quantitative methods to identify particular moments of contingency. Put another way, we can identify variables (each of which signifies one stage in immigrants’ passage through the almshouse) which significantly predict or are correlated with some other stage or experience, and then drill down into those moments, and imagine the ways in which immigrants within this system might have exercised agency.

An aside: this data consists of a lot of categorical variables. I used logistic regression. I can talk a bit about this in the Q and A.

I wanted to explore why immigrants ended up at particular places within the public health system. The models I built suggested that immigrants’ age, gender and profession did not significantly contribute their ultimate site of incarceration.

Several things:

Being diagnosed as a “recent emigrant” was correlated with being sent to marginal spaces (garrets, shantytowns on the Bellevue grounds, Blackwell’s Island where I suspect they were being used as labor to build new asylums)

Flipping the model around and looking at what ultimate sites predicted about diagnosis revealed that having been sent to the garrets of Bellevue meant that an inmate was likely to have been a recent emigrant. So if an immigrant was in the garret, they were likely to encounter other people who had been incarcerated for their immigrant status.

Being diagnosed as “recent emigrant,” was also significantly predicted by who was doing the sending. Two officials in particular, Moses G. Leonard and the Superintendent of the Out Door Poor (a man named George W. Anderson), were significant in predicting whether the person they were sending to the hospital would have been diagnosed as an emigrant and whether they were sent to the garrets.

Other diagnoses that would seem to do similar work of signaling the unsuitability of an immigrant for public spaces in New York – like destitution – were not strongly associated with any particular individual.  So we know that for an immigrant in New York, encountering these men was more likely to result in this immigration diagnosis, and likely to be sent to the Bellevue garrets.

So all of this is interesting (I think) but I want to take a stab at making this human.

On February 27th, 1847, John Conway and two children, Mary and Margaret disembarked in New York, having left Sligo (in Ireland) a month before. John might have been May and Margaret’s father. He might have been their grandfather, uncle or other distant relative. These three left Ireland alone. They were either not bonded to the ship, could not provide the information, or refused to provide it. (I found them on the manifests) Four days after arriving in New York, all three were sent to Bellevue. The men who dispatched them were George W. Anderson, the Superintendent of Out Door Poor, and the Alderman of the 12th ward, which in 1847 was everything north of fourteenth street. All three were classified as “recent emigrant” and all three were sent to the garrets. We don’t know how they felt about Bellevue. We do know that they would have found a community. In the garrets with them were other families, most of whom were also “recent emigrants.” They might have met the McClahey family, all of whom arrived on the Thetis from Belfast on February 25th, were sent by the same men that dispatched the Conway family, and were classed as “recent emigrants.” They might also have encountered Thomas McDonal, a laborer who had been on the same ship as they had from Sligo. Bellevue’s garrets, then, became a space of potential community, where families from across Ireland might share common cultural parlance, if not the same history.

This is a story we can tell because of the data. These are stories we need to tell if we are going to work with historical data designed to strip people in the past of their humanity.

Diagnostic tools – or – the pretty visualization is not the end

As the semester and my first graduate digital history class wind down, I’ve been thinking a lot about building DH things for investigation vs. argument.  There’s a lot of good work on tools-as-theory, and whether a digital thing can be a satisfying argument, and an upcoming conference on argumentation in the digital humanities – so I’m not the only one.

I also just finished writing 1-2 pages – maybe 1,000 words – based on a diagnostic tool that it took me over a month to build.  I’m hoping to spin what it tells me out into a longer article in future, but for now I thought I’d share it here, with some commentary on how I made it, what it told me, and why it is not an effective argument.

One of my book chapters is on a group of enslaved and free people in Richmond who raised funds for victims of famine in Ireland.  The First African Baptist Church of Richmond raised just under $35 in 1847. While the amount per congregant was low (the church listed thousands of active members, but many of them were not able to regularly attend because of their enslavement) the donation itself was relatively unique in the church’s history.  This was one of the first times that this congregation raised funds for people not connected with the church.  I have a much longer argument on the political work that this donation did, but I wanted to be able to make some concrete statements about congregants’ experiences in the 1840s.

This was helped by the church minute books, which recorded the names of baptized, excluded and restored members (there were a lot of exclusions for adultery in the 1840s) as well as the names of the men and women who owned the congregants who were enslaved.  So I built a network (using Gephi, which benefits tremendously from the recent update) that showed only relationships characterized by slavery, to see if any white Richmonders were particularly over-represented. (made with sigma.js and the Gephi plugin created by OII)

While some men and women owned more than one congregant, by and large this network was fairly diffuse.  Congregants obviously shared the religious and physical space of the church, but their relationships outside of the church did not seem to be conditioned by their enslavement by particular men and women. (There is an excellent and robust literature on enslaved people in urban spaces, resistance and community building, which I won’t recap here – but suffice it to say that scholars have charted many other ways of relating beyond ownership by the same person, and I assume those modes were at play in 1840s Richmond).

As I put together the database of congregants, I realized that many and unusual names (Chamberlayne, Poindexter, Frayzer, Polland, among others) recurred among both slaveholding and enslaved people.  So I made another network, this one assuming that people who shared a surname had some kind of relationship (this is not a 100% defensible assumption – some of the more common names might have been happenstance).  With those kinds of connections, the network (which includes all of the same people as above) becomes much more dense, with clusters that signify relationships based both in slavery and (most often coerced) sex.

It’s interactive!  It’s dynamic!  It’s a network!

It is not an argument.

At best, this is a tool that lets me locate an individual and see connections.  It relies on two kinds of relationships (and likely overstates the certainly of genetic relationships or previous ownership based on shared surnames).  It helped me to write two pages about the density of connections among black and white Richmonders, and bolster claims about the broader relationships that the First African Baptist Church was embedded in.  It remains an investigative tool.

I think it could be helpful, which is why I am putting it on the internet, but it does not constitute argument.  It does not even constitute analysis (that happened behind the scenes in R).  It did take – from the start of transcription to now – over a month to build.

Was it worth it?  Well, I was able to see connections among the 800+ congregants mentioned in the minute books from 1845-1847 that I would not have been able to see just by reading the names.  I was able to place individuals in a broader social context.  I wrote two pages.  I think that work like this can be tremendously generative, but either happens behind the scenes and only lives on a researcher’s computer, or is presented as the end of an investigative process. This is firmly in the middle of the investigation, but I suppose that has value too.

Quick note: Timeline of famine philanthropy

I’m sitting down to tackle my introduction, and wanted to say something specific about the timeline for famine philanthropy. Tableau helped to track the total number of donors by organization.  This is a better measure than the total amount of donations – at least until I go back and standardize British pounds and U.S. dollars, but it gives a good sense of time timeline of relief.


Re(cursively)-conceptualizing Atlantic History

Next semester, for the first time, I get to teach an Atlantic history survey.  I’ve taught a lot of courses that think Atlantically, but never one which has the Atlantic as a specific subject.  Looking back over the syllabuses I designed when I was on the market, I realized that I was subject to the (common, I think, but hopefully increasingly uncommon) trap of too-often letting British imperial history stand in for Atlantic history.  So, a few days before book orders are due, I’m tearing apart the course and stitching it back together.  Shamelessly riffing on Michael Jarvis’s syllabus, I want to try to arrange the class around sites where Atlantic processes and identities are constructed.  I’m hoping this will mean that the historical specificity of encounters will become clear to students, which the broader arc of the class will illustrate the ways in which the Atlantic has been constructed and reconstructed over time.

In pursuit of some case studies, I pulled up a timeline that my colleagues at NYU and I created in 2007-8 as we were preparing for exams.  We pooled our expertise, and tried to identify the major turning points, events and eras in Atlantic history, along with the scholars who wrote about them.  This morning, I dropped the entire thing into Timeline.js.  In some ways, the resulting document says more about our early-grad school conceptions of the field than anything else – our decisions about what makes colonialism different from imperialism seems under theorized, for example. However, I also think it does a good job of showing the spaces that Atlantic history touches.

Hopefully, the 8-years-past versions of ourselves won’t be judged too harshly for our categorization and periodization – and perhaps this thing might even become useful for other budding Atlanticists in the future.  I might continue to add to this – or I might just leave it as an artifact of what the state of Atlantic history seemed to be for five anxious people at NYU nearly a decade ago.

Digital History “From Below”: a call to action (and an abstract)

I’ll be heading to Kraków this summer for DH2016 – here’s the paper I’ll be giving.


Humanists – inclusive of digital humanists – are preoccupied with telling stories. Some of our most interesting subjects, however, have left only the barest of marks on historical records. Their stories are among the most captivating, but also some of the most difficult to access. This paper knits together recent trends in digital humanities practices that have helped us to elevate unrepresented voices with a discussion of how to elevate the marginalized within the DH community. It showcases select projects that undermine archival silences.[1]   It then argues that digital humanities practitioners should add these theories to the collection of tools currently used to forward social justice projects in DH spaces.


Elevating the Archivally Silenced

Various methodologies have been adopted to address the problem of how to tell stories about people who left behind few records.   In the 1970s and 1980s, practitioners of “history from below” worked to elevate narratives about “people with no history,” by chronicling the everyday lives of peasants and non-elites.   At the same time, practitioners of the “new social history” turned to cliometrics – and adopted methods that would be familiar to those who work with “big data” today – to highlight trends about marginalized peoples from historical data like censuses, probate records and financial documents.


There have been various resurgences and developments in these methods in the intervening four decades. These include practices of reading archives “against the grain” to get at the unstated assumptions that historical actors made about those they held power over.   They also include theoretical approaches that advocate the reading of silences to understand those whose voices were intentionally obscured by official recorders and gatekeepers.


Marginalizations Within DH

Questions about whose voices are elevated and whose are silenced have also long been a theme in DH scholarship and discourse. These questions seek to unpack the ways in which DH as a field is exclusionary. This former is a much (though still not enough) referenced problem in panels at former DH conferences, which have asked how DH research can address (and remedy) social problems.


Digital humanities scholarship has also begun to address problems of access within the broader DH community, and the barriers erected to women and people of color in particular. For example, Adeline Koh has argued that we need to examine the ways in which DH publics are constituted, in order to better understand the creation of “limits of the discourse that defines the idea of a digital humanities ‘citizen.’”   Similarly, Tara McPherson has argued that we must see the evolution of DH as a field shaped by structural inequalities – of race, class and gender – which accompanied the rise of computation technologies.


A Knitted View

These are much needed interventions, and help us to understand the evolution of our field as one in which certain groups have been marginalized and others have been centered. These conversations also mirror methodological debates within history about whose voices to elevate, and under what circumstances. This paper complements extant work by arguing that theoretical interventions concerning current structural inequalities must be brought to bear on the past, and that digital methodologies are ideally suited to elevating subsumed voices in the present. It further demonstrates that these projects, the theories that underlie them, and current work to make DH more equable should be read together to further the practice of digital history and humanities “from below.”


Bastian, J. (2003). Owning Memory: How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Bhattacharya, S. (1983). ‘History from Below.’ Social Scientist, 3–20.

Farge, A. (2015). The Allure of the Archives, New Haven: Yale University Press

Fuentes, M. (2010). Power and Historical Figuring: Rachael Pringle Polgreen’s Troubled Archive. Gender & History 22, no. 3: 564–84.

Gallman, R. (1977). Some Notes on the New Social History. The Journal of Economic History 37, no. 1: 3–12.

Koh, A. (2014). Niceness, Building, and Opening the Genealogy of the Digital Humanities: Beyond the Social Contract of Humanities Computing. Differences 25, no. 1: 93–106. doi:10.1215/10407391-2420015.

McPherson, T. (2012). Why Are the Digital Humanities So White? Or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation. in Gold, M (ed) Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Trouillot, M. (1995). Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press.



[1] These might include work like Ben Schmidt’s, elaboration upon late twentieth-century cliometrics and use of “big data” methods to explore historical sources (; maps like Vincent Brown’s “Slave Revolt in Jamaica” which uses sources produced by slaveholders to argue for the agency and tactical prowess of enslaved people (; and Michelle Moravec’s use of metadata to “unghost” lesbian women in the past (

Davidson’s Imbibable Past

{Cross Posted on the Davidson Archives blog}


Lewis Bell came to Davidson College in 1865 and graduated in 1870. Though he was a student during the Reconstruction Era, it is likely that most of his college experiences were mundane. He was a member of the Eumenean Literary Society. Among his papers held in the college archive is a donation request from the society from the year after he graduated. Like many Davidson students, he also seems to have been concerned with his grades. His papers also contain a list of Davidson College students and their grade averages from 1865 to 1868. We know little more about Bell’s time at Davidson, except that he also seemed to have an interest in spirituous liquors. A final item in the John Lewis Bell collection is a well-used recipe for “Mother’s Bitters,” which was comprised of “tanzy, Wormwood and Barbary Root, a good handful of Star root, the same of Columbo and Chamomile.”


Bitters are an aromatic flavoring agent, made by infusing roots, bark, fruit peels, herbs, flowers and botanicals in alcohol. These spirits are used in fancy craft cocktails today, but were historically put to more medicinal purposes. In his history of bitters, Brad Thomas Parsons situates these infused spirits in a long history of “a cure for whatever ailed you” – beginning with Stroughton Bitters, which were patented in 1712, and which contained “1/2 drachm cochineal, 1 pint alcohol, ½ canella bark, ½ ounce cardamoms” and were made by being left to “stand eight days; draw it off clear and bottle it. For medicinal purposes use French Brandy instead of alcohol.” (From Monzert, Leonard. The Independent Liquorist: Or, The Art of Manufacturing and Preparing All Kinds of Cordials, Syrups, Bitters, Wines … John F. Trow & Company, 1866.)

Why would Bell have kept a recipe for bitters amongst his Davidson paraphernalia? He might have been keen on bitters for recreational imbibing purposes. Americans were certainly interested in mixed drinks during the years that Bell attended Davidson, and cocktails had a long history. People in England in the eighteenth century were known to mix patent bitters with brandy, and by 1806 the word “cocktail” had developed to mean “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” However, in the latter decades of the nineteenth century, Davidson College was very concerned with limiting students’ access to alcohol. It prohibited the sale of alcohol in college-owned properties, and brought suit against stores that sold spirits to undergraduates. Perhaps Bell was unable to buy bitters for cocktails in the town, and had to resort to making them himself.

Bell might equally have been using “Mother’s Bitters” as a patent medicine. In the late nineteenth century bitters were sold as a remedy for all manner of ills. In 1866, the American Agriculturalist noted that bitters could aid in “weak digestion or a debilitated state of the system, if properly taken under medical advice.” Similarly, Rowney in Boston (1892) spoke to the benefits of “mother’s bitters, made of dandelion root, and such wholesome things.” In her study of alcohol and botanicals, Amy Stewart writes that from the eighteenth-century forward, people “realized that adding wormwood to wine and other distilled spirits actually improved the flavor or at least help disguise the stench of crude, poorly made alcohol.” Chamomile, barberry root and tansy also have practical purposes – all work as anti-inflammatories, and chamomile additionally works as a sedative. The combination of herbs in “Mother’s Bitters” consequently seem to have been medically beneficial. Perhaps Bell was in need of an anti-inflammatory, or means of calming an upset stomach. There were several stores on Main Street in the 1870s that might have sold bitters, but the college’s prohibition against the sale of alcohol might just as well have prevented Bell from purchasing them in town.

The Scofield Store was one among a few stores that might have sold bitters on Davidson’s Main Street.

So, while he might have been collecting recipes in order engage in an illicit cocktail culture, Bell might also have been trying to make a well-known remedy for a “weak destitution” or “debilitated system.”

Although Bell’s use of the “Mother’s Bitters” recipe can never be known, we can still get at Bell’s experience. I recreated Bell’s recipe, using dried herbs and roots, and steeped the whole mixture in alcohol for two weeks. The resulting concoction was distinctly flavored. It didn’t taste like the bitters we use in cocktails today. Rather, it had an anise flavor, not dissimilar from pernod. This is due to the combination of wormwood (which, on its own has a menthol-like flavor), tansy (which tastes like peppermint), chamomile, barberry root, and star anise (which has a warm flavor, and was often included in absinthe along with wormwood). On a recent Monday night, a group of faculty and staff drank our “Mother’s bitters” in seltzer. We experienced it as a largely medicinal taste, and found that the smell of wormwood did indeed obscure other scents. While knowing what the bitters taste like doesn’t get us much closer to Bell’s everyday experiences of Davidson, it does help us bridge the divide between the 1870s and the present, and to imagine how a Reconstruction-era Davidson student might have imbibed.The finished bitters

d3.js + R > Gephi (or, why network analysis helps with history)

Gephi is a very useful tool.  I’m very much looking forward to the new release that seems always on the horizon.  In the meantime, though, every time I open Gephi it crashes, and then I dive down a long rabbit hole of trying to re-write the program code, and then I get angry and go home.  So I’ve been delighted to find that a combination of R (for manipulating and analyzing the data) and d3.js (for visualizing the data) does most of the work of Gephi with much less frustration.

I’ve been using Kieran Healy’s work on Paul Revere and network centrality and applying it to a cohort of men who served on the boards of philanthropic organizations in New York in the 1840s. I am particularly in the officers General Relief Committee for the Relief of Irish Distress of the City of New York. These men – Myndert Van Schiack, John Jay, Jacob Harvey, George Griffin, Theodore Sedgewick, Robert B. Minturn, George Barclay, Alfred Pell, James Reyburn, William Redmond and George McBride Jr. – were deeply politically connected, but don’t seem to have had much of a relationship to one another.

Healy’s script, and Mike Bostock’s d3 blocks helped me to build a matrix which tracked relationships between philanthropists via organizations, making note of the number of organizational connections that different pairs of men shared; and another matrix which tracked relationships between philanthropic organizations and social clubs via philanthropists, making note of the number of men that each organization shared.  I used the former to build a force-directed network diagram, which, in combination with some R based analysis, suggests that while the New York Famine Relief Committee officers didn’t often serve on other committees together, they shared other social connections.

For example Jonathan Goodhue was not a member of the famine relief committee, but served on other committees with nearly every General Relief Committee officer.  Of the New York famine relief committee members, Jacob Harvey was the most centrally connected member.  This data has pointed me in some new archival directions, but also give a much better sense of the ways in which people were connected to one another than comparable textual descriptions might do.



I also built a network diagram showing relationships among different newspapers reporting on the famine, which cluster newspapers more inclined to cite each other.