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1999-2000 Visiting Fellows

Stephen Aron

Associate Professor and Vice Chair
Department of History
University of California, Los Angeles

The fellowship from the Friends of Princeton University Library offered me an opportunity to mine the McCarter and English Papers at the Mudd Library. "Mine" is the appropriate word, for the collection proved to be a bonanza to my research on the Missouri Valley frontier. Within the forty-three boxes of materials, I unearthed scores of valuable historical documents that gave me a new understanding of the complexities of intercultural and international relations in the Missouri Valley. As I hoped, the Papers contained a comprehensive record of the land dealings and treaty councils involving Iowa, Sauk and Fox, Missouri, and Osage Indians and French, Spanish, British and American officials. Also extremely useful were the ethnographic accounts included in the McCarter and English Papers.

To be sure, most of these documents are not original to the collection; almost all of the papers could have been accessed elsewhere. But the staff of McCarter and English did an exceptional job bringing the materials together. This saved me (and other researchers) the trouble and expense of visiting numerous archives. As important, the transcriptions and translations made by McCarter and English made reading through the materials a much more pleasant exercise (and made it possible as well for me to work my way through forty-three boxes in a limited time). Kudos, too, to Alfred Bush, whose calendar made digging through this treasure of a collection much easier.

Valuable as the historical documents proved, I found myself unexpectedly drawn to the legal drama that unfolded within the collection. I say unexpectedly, because I had not even intended to look at the legal documentation that the attorneys of McCarter and English meticulously assembled to buttress the case of the Indian clients. And yet, as I worked my way through the boxes, I grew increasingly fascinated by the legal maneuverings. To be honest, I don't yet know what, if anything, I will do with this material. Certainly, it will not be a part of the book I am now writing on the Missouri Valley frontier. Still, it will keep me thinking--and that is, perhaps, the most rewarding result of my fellowship.


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