Charles F. Heartman’s collections
He stood, he said, five feet four inches in height, weighed 148 pounds, had brown hair and grey eyes.
Born in Braunschweig, Germany, on 4 April 1883, he came to America in 1911, arriving on the 19th of May on the Mauretania.
His full name was Charles Frederik Heartman and, he said, he was a bookseller.1
He was still living in New York when he became a naturalized citizen in 1916, listing his occupation then as “publisher.”2
But what he became known for, as a resident of New York, New Jersey, Vermont, and later Mississippi and Louisiana, was acquiring, reselling and eventually collecting historical books and manuscripts.
You can find him in the newspapers as early as 1914 offering rare manuscripts and books for sale: a Bible printed in 1485 offered in a 1914 sale;3 a note about Rare Americana in a 1916 sale in Connecticut;4 or letters by George Washington in a New Jersey sale in 1932.5
Heartman went on to found a retreat and cooperative in Mississippi called The Book Farm, but it wasn’t commercially viable. He went back to book sales and collecting through his death in New Orleans in 1953.
And it was what he collected that makes him so interesting to The Legal Genealogist… and such a treasure for all of us who research the past: “He specialized in rare Americana, which is considered his most important contribution to the literary world. One of his strongest legacies is in the field of Afro-Americana. Two significant collections of Heartman’s Afro-Americana exist. One is at Xavier University in New Orleans; the other is at Texas Southern University in Houston, and is perhaps the largest such collection in the United States.”6
The Heartman Collection at Texas Southern University is described this way:
The Heartman Collection contains over 11,000 books, pamphlets, slave narratives, journals, musical scores, and other documents relating to the black experience in the United States and the world. The University acquired the original collection from Heartman in 1948 for the sum of $20,000. The Heartman Collection is named for Charles Frederick Heartman, a well-known antiquarian book dealer. One of his strongest legacies is in the field of Afro-Americana. During his lifetime, he developed two Heartman Collections; one collection is at Xavier University in New Orleans and the other is at Texas Southern University and is considered the largest African American collection in the southwest. The Department of Special Collections continues to purchase books that are culturally, political and socially landmark works that interpret and preserve the African American experience. The collection now includes over 22000 volumes.7
And at Xavier University of Louisiana — oh my — what we have is a massive digitization project, for a collection entitled the Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection: “The Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection consists of over 6000 pieces dating from 1724 to 1897, and relate directly to the social, economic, civil, and legal status of enslaved Negroes and Free People of Color in Louisiana and especially in New Orleans. The manuscripts are written in French, Spanish, and English.”8
Heartman “admitted to chasing pro-slavery materials simply because no one else would” and said he wanted to keep his collection in somewhere in the south:
“What I would like to see is the transfer to an institution in the deep South, where a headquarters for Negro culture is more necessary than anywhere else. There is a deplorable lack of understanding about the importance and value of the cultural heritage among the Negroes at large, but more particularly in the South. In the desire for economic betterment and pressure for political advantages, it is too often overlooked how necessary it is to be fully conversant with past achievements and an analytical knowledge of the whole question.” – Charles F. Heartman, “The Charles F. Heartman Collection of Materials Relating to Negro Culture,” News Sheet Number One, January, 1945.9
So… what can we find, digitized and available free online, in the Heartman Collection? All kinds of records, mostly about Louisiana and many from New Orleans, but some from other jurisdictions as well — Virginia, the Carolinas and more. These include:
• Debit Statement Showing Costs of Feeding and Caring for Blacks in the Chain Gang – July 1816
• Bill of sale for female slave child, 12 years of age named Cordelia. New Orleans, Sept. 10, 1819.
• Mortgage of 76 Slaves to Settle Estate of William Davis, 1822.
• Bill of Sale for 5 Slaves (Plummer, Joseph, Amos, Cordelia, and Nelly), 1834.
• Printed Bond for George Haresan, Master and Commander of the British Bark “Lady Flora Hastings” For Two Free Men of Color Named Alexander Williams and Pritehard Reynolds, 1845.
• Voucher for Work Done by Negro Slave Adam in the Chain Gang, 1846.
If you descend from the enslaved or the enslavers of Louisiana — or if you just want to understand better the records, the laws, the context and history of the time — this collection is amazing.
And it exists because of one German immigrant who thought “how necessary it is to be fully conversant with past achievements and an analytical knowledge of the whole question” — and made it his mission to collect the evidence on the whole question.
Image: Bill of Sale for Female Slave Child (Cordelia), Xavier University of Louisiana, Archives and Special Collections.
- Declaration of Intent, Charles Frederik Heartman, 16 September 1912, Supreme Court of New York County, New York; digital images, “New York, Naturalization Records, 1882-1944,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 July 2018), citing Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944, NARA Microfilm Publication M1972, Roll 139. ↩
- Ibid., Petition for Naturalization, No. 19360, Charles Frederik Heartman, 12 September 1916. ↩
- “George Moore MS. in Auction Market,” New York Times, 25 January 1914, p. 14, col. 4; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- “Various Matters,” Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin, 15 April 1916, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- “Valuable Items Will Be Sold at Auction Monday,” The Sunday Times (New Brunswick, NJ), 21 February 1932, p.1, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- Biographical/Historical Sketch, Heartman (Charles F.) Papers, Special Collections, The University of Southern Mississippi — McCain Library and Archives (http://www.lib.usm.edu/spcol/collections/manuscripts : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- “Special Collections: Heartman Collection,” Robert J. Terry Library, Texas Southern University (http://www.tsu.edu/ : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- “About this collection,” Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection, Xavier University of Louisiana – Digital Library (http://cdm16948.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
- “Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection Guide,” LibGuides, Xavier University of Louisiana Library (http://www.xula.edu/library/index.php : accessed 3 July 2018). ↩
This is an interesting collection. Thanks for posting about it. While I’m not related, I noted the “Calvit” name. They were early residents in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Good article Judy!
How fascinating! You know so little about so many of your German ancestors, but what Heartman did with his life tells you so much about him as a person. Do you have any idea at what point in his life he began to collect specifically African Americana? I’ve forgotten exactly what his connection to you is, but it’s certainly one to be proud of, as we come up on this celebration of the Fourth!
Charles Heartman isn’t a relative of mine — I wish he was! — but simply someone whose work contributes to all of us.