Upcoming Seminars

The Institute for Constitutional History sponsors or co-sponsors a variety of events during the academic year. Here is a partial list of upcoming and recent events:

Upcoming Events


February 20, 27, March 6, 13, 20 and 27, 2015
Sponsored by the Institute for Constitutional History


Emancipation Proclamation

October 07, 2005
October 16, 2005

Rarely seen by the public, and considered to be among the three most important documents in the U.S. (along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights), the Emancipation Proclamation, is on display here for nine days. It is on generous loan from the New York State Archive.

Fascimile of the Emancipation Proclamation

October 20, 2005
March 26, 2006

The New-York Historical Society displayed a facsimile of the original hand-written draft of the Emancipation Proclamation that President Abraham Lincoln wrote while waiting in the telegraph office of the War Department for favorable news from the war front during June and July of 1862. It was written in pencil and on paper that was just lying about the office. President Lincoln read this document to his Cabinet on September 22, 1862 and told them that he firmly believed in its principles, though he would accept minor changes of wording. Except for some revisions by Secretary of State William H. Seward and the Chief Clerk, the document is otherwise entirely in Lincoln's hand. Lincoln signed the official Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which declared, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." The proclamation fundamentally transformed the character of the Civil War and announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.

Carry Me Home: Dispatches from the Civil War

January 26, 2007
September 03, 2007

Drawing upon the extensive Civil War collections of the New-York Historical Society, Carry Me Home: Dispatches from the Civil War will explore the ways in which those in the field recorded their experiences, shared information among themselves, and conveyed details back to those on the home front. Throughout the Civil War, soldiers, prisoners and hospital workers documented their experiences by writing letters, keeping diaries and drawing pictures. Their primary audience was family and friends but their outpourings were also attempts to come to grips with what they experienced and, at least in a few cases, conscious efforts to chronicle details for future generations. They were joined in the field by newspapermen, illustrators and photographers, many of whom were assigned to specific units and traveled with the troops, the first generation of  "embedded" journalists.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Special Artist of Harper’s Weekly sketching battle field of Gettysburg, 1863. New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Elihu Spicer

All these dispatches, whether conveyed through the intimacy of letters, the intention of journalism or with at least a small desire for profit, were dependent on revolutionary developments in technology: the creation of vast networks of railroads, the recent invention of the telegraph, sophisticated printing techniques that made illustrated newspapers possible, and an increased use of cameras. These technological advances lent an immediacy and vividness to the depiction of the war never before possible.




Highlights of the exhibition, which will feature letters, diaries, sketchbooks, drawings, prints, photographs, newspapers, broadsides, song sheets and posters, all produced between 1861 and 1865, include:




  • Letter written by Walt Whitman in 1863 to the parents of Erastus Haskell, a soldier dying of typhoid fever in a Washington D.C. army hospital where Whitman was a frequent visitor
  • Photographs from Mathew Brady's "Incidents of the War" series
  • Stereographs of camp life and battlefield scenes, many by Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan
  • Hand-colored Currier & Ives print, 1862
  • Manuscript smuggled out of a Richmond prison and published in 1862 as Prison-Life in the Tobacco Warehouse at Richmond
  • Sketches drawn by a Confederate prisoner at Point Lookout, MD; 1864
  • Prison Times, manuscript newspaper produced by Confederate prisoners at Fort Delaware; April 1865

Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society


Two thousand images highlighting 12 collections of prints, posters, photographs, manuscripts and ephemera relating to the Civil War are featured on the Library of Congress American Memory site. This project (1998–2000) was undertaken in collaboration with NYU and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Click here to view the full collection.


Books and Pamphlets


Books and other published materials constitute the bulk of the Klingenstein Library’s collection. These include current monographs and supporting  sources on the history of New York and the United States, as well as an array of religious tracts, city directories, atlases, rare Native American language dictionaries, contentious pamphlets of the American Revolution, pro- and anti-slavery literature, Civil War regimental histories, institutional annual reports, and travel and entertainment guides. Search for these through the Klingenstein Library's online catalog.




The Klingenstein Library holds the fourth largest collection of American newspapers published before 1820; it encompasses the most complete set of colonial New York titles such as Zenger’s controversial New-York Weekly Journal. For the 19th century there are nearly complete runs of commercial dailies, and some obscure publications espousing political, religious, and ethnic viewpoints. Also present are many of the principal newspapers from Northern and Southern localities up through the Civil War. The New York City dailies continue into the 20th century for which period there are also some pictorial supplements. For more information, see the Klingenstein Library’s Newspaper Research Guide.


The First Shot: 1861

James M. McPherson
Craig L. Symonds
Adam Goodheart
Harold Holzer
Thu, 04/07/2011 - 18:30
Thu, April 7th, 2011 | 7:30 pm

A century and a half after Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter to ignite the Civil War, leading historians ask and answer the crucial questions: What really caused the conflict? Could the Civil War have been avoided? Did Lincoln invite the first shot—or did the Union “get lucky?” This program marks the start of an ongoing New-York Historical Society focus on the great American tragedy with the first of several discussions and lectures.

Members price: 
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Lincoln and New York

October 09, 2009
March 25, 2010

Abraham Lincoln—the quintessential westerner—owed much of his national political success to his impact on the eastern state of New York—and, in turn, New York’s impact on him.

The Lincoln Family, ca. 1865, Francis Bicknell Carpenter, 1830-1900, Oil on canvas, Gift of Warren C. Crane, 1909.6

Click here to visit the exhibition website

This exhibition of original artifacts, iconic images and hand-written period documents, many in Lincoln's own hand, will for the first time fully trace the evolution of Lincoln's relationship with the nation's largest and wealthiest state: from the time of his triumphant Cooper Union address here in 1860, to his efforts to hold the Union together in 1861, to the early challenges of recruitment and investment in the Civil War, to the development of new military technologies and the challenge to civil liberties in time of rebellion. Lincoln's evolving stance on slavery issues alternately pleased and infuriated New Yorkers. African-Americans, many of them veterans of the anti-slavery movement and Underground Railroad activism, saw Lincoln as slow to deal with the numerous slaves escaping during the war. These "contraband" forces clamored to join the Union army which for several years excluded colored troops—be they free men or the newly freed. Meanwhile free black New Yorkers readied volunteer regiments.

New York's role as the Union's prime provider of manpower, treasure, media coverage, image-making and protest, some of it racist—the 1863 Draft Riots and the robust effort to unseat Lincoln in 1864—will be traced alongside Lincoln's concurrent growth as a leader, writer, symbol of Union and freedom, and ultimately as national martyr. This show will demonstrate how through all, from political parades to funeral processions, New York played a surprisingly central role in the Lincoln story—and how Lincoln became a leading player in the life of New York. This exhibition commemorates the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial. A catalog will accompany the exhibition.

Lead Sponsor:

This exhibition has been developed with grant funds from the
U.S. Department of Education
Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program

Additional project support has been provided by The Bodman Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities


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