New Records Available for Research Online

Thanks to our dedicated volunteers and staff, two more sets of death records have been added to our online Death Certificate Index. That’s over 35,000 new records for you to search!

Columbus Death Certificates, 1904-1908.
Previously unavailable, the Columbus Death Certificates from this time period are now fully indexed.

Updates to the Stillborn Death Certificate Index, 1942-1947.
The original Ohio Department of Vital Statistics main death index included stillborn deaths from 1908-1935. Our Ohio Historical Society staff has begun indexing the remainder of these records and has now added 1942-1947 to the searchable index.

In addition, the Ohio Death Certificate index itself is getting a facelift and a content review. When the 1913-1935 index was originally digitized, the Ohio Historical Society used a software program to translate the hard copy records into online searchable text. Unfortunately, the original records were often difficult to read, resulting in a number of omissions or errors. Currently, our staff is working diligently to cross-check the online index against the original hard copy records to ensure that they are all included.

Example of an Ohio State Death Certificate.  This one is for Orville Wright, Inventor of Airplanes.

Example of an Ohio State Death Certificate. This one is for Orville Wright, Inventor of Airplanes.

In order to make searching for specific individuals easier, we are combining all of our online indexed public records into one comprehensive database. Not only can you search our Select Ohio Public Records Index for death record listings, you’ll also find the indexes for Ohio Girl’s Industrial School records 1869-1943 and Ohio Boy’s Industrial School records, 1858-1944.

Click here to search or learn more about our online Select Ohio Public Records Index.

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How to Overcome Brick Wall Problems in German-American Research at the Ohio History Center, March 15

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The Ohio Historical Society, in partnership with Franklin County Genealogical & Historical Society and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, is proud to host nationally-renowned genealogist Dr. Michael Lacopo at the Ohio History Center on Saturday, March 15, from 10:30am – 12:30pm, as a part of 2014 Genealogy Workshop Series. Dr. Lacopo’s workshop, “How to Overcome Brick Wall Problems in German-American Research” will use Pennsylvania and German American case studies to highlight the different ways in which genealogical researchers can revisit their own research “brick walls” to make a breakthrough. His point-by-point lecture will explore how to formulate a genealogy research plan, how to use lesser-known resources, and how to critically analyze information that is found.

The following post is a guest post submitted by Dr.Lacopo:

People of German descent have long dominated the Ohio landscape, with the most numerous settlers in the pre-1850 period coming from the Middle Atlantic states, particularly Pennsylvania. Many of these were good “Pennsylvania Deutsch” whose ancestors had come from Germany in the 18th century. When the state began experiencing the influx of European immigrants in the first part of the 19th century, the vast majority of them came from Germany. By 1850, nearly one half of Ohio’s immigrant population came from the various regions that would become modern Germany. This is most obviously reflected in the 2000 United States census, where German ancestry was the predominant heritage reported in nearly every county in Ohio. When speaking about Ohio ancestors, there are definitely Germans among us!

2000 census map indicating ancestry per county

2000 census map indicating ancestry per county

Those of us with German ancestry are lucky, as Germans are notorious for their obsession with record-keeping. Unfortunately those records often elude us, and I hope to illustrate with a number of interesting case studies how you can find clues to your German ancestors. We will discuss records that will be useful to people of all levels of German ancestry, regardless of whether your German forefathers came in 1728 or 1928. Hopefully you will go home with that little gem of information that will break down your brick walls!

Cost to attend this workshop is $15 for OHS and Franklin County Genealogical & Historical Society members; $20.00 for non-members. Space is limited. To register online, visit the Ohio History Store at: https://connect.ohiohistory.org/workshops/genealogy1. To register over the phone, or for more information, call 614-297-2510.

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Celebrate Ohio Statehood and Women’s History

Curators’ talks for the month of March celebrate 211 years of Ohio statehood and the pioneering achievements of Ohio women.

March 1
Happy Birthday Ohio!

Celebrate Ohio’s 211th birthday and learn about the efforts that led to Ohio’s statehood on March 1, 1803. Join State Archivist Fred Previts for a look at some of the state’s significant documents from this period, including some of Ohio’s earliest legislative records.

March 8
Ladies of the House

The Ohio Statehouse that is. Join government records archivist Connie Conner to learn more about the first ladies to serve in the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives.

Photograph of the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio, circa 1860s.

Photograph of the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio, circa 1860s.


March 15
A Doctor In Columbus

Frances Janney Derby practiced medicine in the 1880s and 1890s in Columbus, Ohio. Join reference archivist Liz Plummer to hear about this pioneering female physician’s journey from the Boston University School of Medicine to providing medical care to patients in Columbus.

March 22
Shake Hands?

Everyday scenes like a young woman with flour covered hands reaching out to a visitor in her kitchen were the subjects of popular 1800s artist Lilly Martin Spencer. Join history curator Emily Lang to learn more about how a wife and mother from Marietta, Ohio supported her large family with her artistic talent.

March 29
Transformation: Changing Role of Women

Join history curator Emily Lang for a tour of the exhibit, Transformation, to find out how the objects in the exhibit illustrate the changing roles of women throughout history. This is your last weekend to see Transformation before the exhibit closes!

The curators talks are part of a busy schedule of activities at the History Center in March. Check out our full calendar of programs.

If you go:

Day and Time: Saturdays in March at 2:00 PM

Location: Ohio History Center at I-71 and 17th Ave.

Cost: Free with museum admission

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Finding the Leaves of Your Family Tree in the Pages of Online Newspapers

Newspapers contain a wealth of information for those researching their family history. Whether it’s a birth announcement, death notice, business advertisement or report about a crime, you can find all kinds of things in newspapers.

A short list from the Medina Sentinel of what they consider to be newsworthy.  Other newspapers featuring local news would have published similar information.

A short list from the Medina Sentinel of what they consider to be newsworthy. Other newspapers featuring local news would have published similar information.

And while these historical treasures hold the promise of confirming, denying or even unveiling entirely new truths about your family’s history, researching with them does come with a major challenge. Because so few are indexed, it can take hours (or even days) of exhaustive searching through page after page of hardcopy or microfilmed newspapers to find that one bit of information you are looking for.

There is a silver lining, however: Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’s free digital newspaper database, has over seven million digitized newspaper pages that have been transformed into full-text searchable images, allowing you to simply type your terms into a search box and instantly find pages where your search results appear.  There are currently over 240,000 pages of Ohio’s historic newspapers—with another 60,000 on the way—to search through on Chronicling America in addition to papers from over 30 other states published between 1836 and 1922.

The easiest way to start your search is by simply typing in your family member’s name into the Search Pages (Basic Search) on Chronicling America’s front page:

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But if that yields too many or too few results, here are a few tips to help you better find family history information on Chronicling America.

1. Know what is available.  Newspapers on Chronicling America are digitized through grant projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  States awarded grant funding can only digitize 100,000 pages for each two-year grant cycle, and for most states, that is only a small fraction of their newspaper collections.  Before you start your search, use the All Digitized Newspapers, 1836-1922 tab to see if a paper from the area of the country you are researching is available.  You can sort your results by State, Ethnicity or LanguageClick here to see a list of Ohio’s available newspapers.

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2. Use the Advanced Search option to limit your search and avoid irrelevant results from the beginning.  Try using the Advanced Search to limit your results to a specific state or newspaper from the city in which your family was living.  This is especially helpful if you are researching a family name that is common (like “Smith” or “Johnson”).  

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3. Combine a person’s name with another search term to find information about specific events.  When searching for a specific name, try searching it as a phrase or as a proximity (“…with the words…”) search in the Advanced Search.  If you are looking for a particular type of information, like a birth or death notice, add the word “birth” or “death” after your search. For example, “John Smith death.”

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4. Use variations in spellings or words.  Newspapers do not use a standardized vocabulary and mistakes, like misspellings and typos, could happen.  If your family name is unique or foreign, search different variations of the name (for example, “Smith” and “Schmidt”).  Sometimes names were abbreviated (for example, “Thos.” might have been used for “Thomas” or “Jno.” for Jonathon).  Married women may have been referred to by their husbands’ names as well (for example, Mrs. John Smith).

Wedding news from the Logan Ohio Democrat (June 27, 1901, Image 2, col. 4).

Wedding news from the Logan Ohio Democrat (June 27, 1901, Image 2, col. 4).

In addition, unlike today’s newspapers, 19th and early 20th century newspapers rarely had columns dedicated to events like births, deaths and marriages.  Sometimes these announcements were printed amongst advertisements, court news and other articles, so it might be helpful to search with variations of the words describing the event you’re researching: if “John Smith death” doesn’t work, try “John Smith died.”

News of John Smith’s death from the Stark County Democrat (July 14, 1898, Image 5, col. 1).

News of John Smith’s death from the Stark County Democrat (July 14, 1898, Image 5, col. 1).

5.  Search by a town or county name instead of a family name.  Newspapers, particularly ones in rural areas, often served communities well beyond their city limits.  Personal news could be organized by town or county name, and it’s often easier for the search engine to find those words than it is of a person because the town or county name could be printed larger and bolder.  If you find your town or county name listed, read through the news to see if your person is mentioned. You can also try searching by a university or college name as some newspapers would report students’ comings and goings.

“Neighborhood News” in this issue of the Fremont Weekly Journal was organized by county name.  (April 9, 1869, Image 2, col. 4).

“Neighborhood News” in this issue of the Fremont Weekly Journal was organized by county name (April 9, 1869, Image 2, col. 4).

When you use this search technique, it’s a good idea to limit your results to a specific year or date range in the Advanced Search so you don’t have as many page results to read through.

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There are even more tips about how to use Chronicling America for family history research available in a webinar hosted by National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio staff at the beginning of January.  You can view a recording of the webinar and learn more about how to use newspapers for genealogy research by clicking here.  Happy searching!

Chronicling America is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922.  National Endowment for the Humanities awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress at Chronicling America. As part of the project, the Ohio Historical Society contributed over 200,000 newspaper pages to the project between July 2008 and August 2012 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2014. 

Jenni Salamon, Project Coordinator, NDNP-OH

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An Ordinary Shawl with an Extraordinary Story

Sometimes the story of how we acquire an object is just as fascinating as the object itself. So is the case of a plain shawl donated in 1943.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

James Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. Hughes was from a prominent African-American family with Ohio connections.  In 1835, his grandfather was the first African-American to attend Oberlin College. Hughes lived with his grandmother until he was 13.  After moving back in with his mother and her husband, the family eventually resided in Cleveland, Ohio. Hughes began writing poetry while attending Cleveland’s Central High School.  He published poems in The Belfry Owl, a school magazine.

In 1920, Hughes left for Mexico, returning to the states a year later to attend Columbia University in New York City. He left Columbia in 1922 due to increasing racial prejudices. Hughes continued to be active writing poetry in the Harlem area. After spending time in England, Hughes moved to Washington D.C. in 1924. He was working as a busboy at hotel restaurant when he met poet Vachel Lindsay. Hughes showed Lindsay some of his poetry, who ultimately used his connections to promote Hughes’ poetry.

Cover of A Pictorial History of the Negro in America by Langston Hughes.

Cover of A Pictorial History of the Negro in America by Langston Hughes from the Society’s library.

After receiving a scholarship, Hughes graduate from Lincoln University in 1929. He published his first book, Not Without Laughter, shortly after. For years, he frequently toured the US, Europe, and the USSR reading his poetry and short stories. Hughes became one of the best known poets in the United States, publishing countless volumes of poetry, short stories, and plays. On May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes died from complications of prostate cancer.

In addition to once calling Ohio home, Hughes made a lasting contribution to Ohio History.  On April 30, 1943, Langston Hughes donated this shawl (H 6806) used by Sheridan Leary to the Ohio Historical Society.  Sheridan Leary was an African-American harnesses maker from Oberlin, Ohio who was killed during John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry. Leary was the first husband of Hughes’ grandmother, Mary Patterson.

Shawl, call number  H 6806, donated to the Ohio Historical Society by poet Langston Hughes.

Shawl, call number H 6806, donated to the Ohio Historical Society by poet Langston Hughes.

In his note to the society, Hughes explained, “It (the shawl) was worn at John Brown’s Raid where Sheridan Leary was killed and since his widow, who was my grandmother, states that it had been handed down in the Leary family from Sheridan’s grandfather, I think we would be safe in dating the shawl at thirty to forty years preceding John Brown’s raid, certainly in the first quarter of the 1800’s.” The shawl was reportedly found in the mud after the raid and returned to Leary’s grieving widow.

Closeup of shawl.

Closeup of shawl.

The shawl demonstrates the need for good documentation of an object; without a provenance, it would appear to be very ordinary.  With its connection to the raid on Harper’s Ferry and Langston Hughes the shawl is one of the most treasured objects in our collection.

Have you ever come across an object with a fascinating story of how it got to where it is?

Emily Lang, History Curator

References:

A&E Networks Television. “Langston Hughes Biography.” Bio.com. http://www.biography.com/people/langston-hughes-9346313 (accessed February 10, 2014).

Hughes, Langston, Arnold Rampersad, David E. Roessel, and Benny Andrews. Langston Hughes. New York: Sterling Pub., 20061994.

The Poetry Foundation. “Langston Hughes.” The Poetry Foundation. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/langston-hughes (accessed February 12, 2014).

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Riddles, Puzzles, and…More Ohio Newspapers Added to Chronicling America!

When looking for a quick laugh to rest your mind or a brainteaser to stretch it, it’s practically second nature for us to turn to the countless jokes, puzzles and other diversions available on the Internet.  But have you ever looked in an historic newspaper for amusement?  Newspapers were great sources of entertainment for our ancestors and often published conundrums, enigmas and other word games.  Although some were intended for children, they were likely read, solved and shared by people of all ages.

An "enigma" published in the November 15, 1870 issue of the Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy (p. 3, col. 3).  This one is intended to be the "simplest" of its kind in order to "aid those who have not been  initiated into these little mysteries."

An “enigma” published in the November 15, 1870 issue of the Woodsfield Spirit of Democracy (p. 3, col. 3). This one is intended to be the “simplest” of its kind in order to “aid those who have not been initiated into these little mysteries.”

In an article that claims that they “have met worse conundrums than the following”, editors of the Weekly Lancaster Gazette ask “What winds would a hungry sailor wish for at sea?” and “When is a hedge dangerous to walk in?”  Through the Ohio Historical Society’s latest contributions to the National Digital Newspaper Program and Chronicling America, even more of these riddles of the past (and their answers—click here for the ones above) are easier than ever to access, giving you yet another online resource for humor.  Issues from the following Ohio papers are now freely available and keyword searchable at Chronicling America:

From Ashland (Ashland County):

·         From Ashland (Ashland County):

o   Ohio Union, 1852-1854

o   Ashland Union, 1854-1868

o   States and Union, 1868-1871

·         From Canal Dover and New Philadelphia (Tuscarawas County):

o   Ohio Democrat and Dover Advertiser, 1839-1840

A group of conundrums from the April 19, 1850 issue of the Lancaster Gazette (p.1, col. 6).

A group of conundrums from the April 19, 1850 issue of the Lancaster Gazette (p.1, col. 6).

o   Ohio Democrat, 1840-1845

·         From Cincinnati (Hamilton County):

o   Tägliches Cincinnatier Volksblatt, 1914-1918

·         From Cleveland (Cuyahoga County):

o   Toiler, 1920-1921

·         From Eaton (Preble County):

o   Eaton Democrat (1843), 1854-1856

o   Preble County Democrat, 1857-1859

o   Democratic Press, 1860-1865

o   Eaton Weekly Democrat, 1870-1873

o   Eaton Democrat (1875), 1875-1887

·         From Ironton (Lawrence County):

o   Spirit of the Times, 1853-1856

·         From Lancaster (Fairfield County):

o Lancaster Gazette (1846), 1847-1852

o   Weekly Lancaster Gazette (1852), 1852-1855

o   American Lancaster Gazette, 1855-1860

o   Gazette and Democrat, 1860-1860

o   Weekly Lancaster Gazette (1860), 1860-1863

o   Lancaster Gazette (1863), 1863-1870

·         From Pomeroy (Meigs County):

o   Meigs County Times, 1844-1844

o   Meigs County Telegraph, 1851-1859

·         From Portsmouth (Scioto County):

o   Portsmouth Inquirer, 1850-1855

·         From Steubenville (Jefferson County):

o   True American, 1855-1858

·         From Wellington (Lorain County):

o   Wellington Enterprise (1867), 1879-1886

o   Enterprise, 1889-1899

o   Wellington Enterprise (1899), 1899-1899

·         From Woodsfield (Monroe County)

o   Spirit of Democracy, 1844-1886

These papers join over seven million newspaper pages and more than 1,200 newspapers from all over the nation, including over 40 from Ohio, to chronicle United States history from 1836 to 1922.

A "jaw-cracker" (tongue twister) from group of conundrums from the February 7, 1840 issue of the Ohio Democrat and Dover Advertiser (p. 1, col. 2).

A “jaw-cracker” (tongue twister) from group of conundrums from the February 7, 1840 issue of the Ohio Democrat and Dover Advertiser (p. 1, col. 2).

To find your own riddles, puzzles and other entertainments, type one of the following terms into the Search Pages box on Chronicling America: conundrum, enigma, puzzle, youth department. And while some of the jokes you’ll find will fall flat and the enigmas may seem impenetrable, it is still enjoyable to read the puns and other items that amused our ancestors over one hundred years ago.

Search Box

Over the coming months, even more of Ohio’s historic newspapers will become digitized and freely available on Chronicling Americathrough the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio.

The National Digital Newspaper Program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the HumanitiesLibrary of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922.  National Endowment for the Humanities awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress at Chronicling America. As part of the project, the Ohio Historical Society contributed over 200,000 newspaper pages to the project between July 2008 and August 2012 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2014.

Jenni Salamon, Project Coordinator, NDNP-OH

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Robert Duncanson: From Fame to Obscurity to Fame Once More

How does an African-American artist prominent in the mid 1800s fall into relative obscurity and make a comeback in the late 1900s?

Robert Duncanson was born in Seneca County, New York in 1821. Duncanson’s grandfather Robert, was a former slave from Virginia who, along with his son, was emancipated and moved to New York state in 1790. After his grandfather’s death, Duncanson’s father, John, moved his family to what would later become Michigan and became a successful housepainter and carpenter.

Portrait of John Northrop by Robert Scott Duncanson from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

Portrait of John Northrop by Robert Scott Duncanson from the collections of the Ohio Historical Society.


Robert Duncanson was raised and apprenticed in the family trade of house painting. At the age of 17, Duncanson and an associate, John Gamblin, formed a partnership in the painting business following the family tradition. By April 1839, Duncanson’s painting firm disbanded. Lured by personal freedom and economic opportunity, Duncanson moved to Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the late 1830s, Cincinnati boasted the first art academy and the most lucrative cultural environment for artists in the Midwest. The Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge exhibition in 1842 marked Duncanson’s debut when he exhibited the painting Infant Savior and a Fancy Portrait.

According to art critics at the time, Duncanson’s most impressive portrait of this period is the Portrait of William J. Baker. Duncanson likely painted this portrait on commission for William’s father, a Kentucky gentleman. While the family was generous in awarding Duncanson the portrait commissions, author Joseph Ketner speculates, “Whether they wished to maintain the subordinate relationship of blacks to whites in the southern states. This financial situation appears to be common in Duncanson’s early commissions and is evident in his other portraits of the women and children in patron’s households.” Patrons did support Duncanson in his early years, but he was usually only granted less significant commissions than white artists.

Duncanson achieved much success by the mid-1840s. He started to transition from painting portraits to genre compositions during this time, being commissioned for scenes of estates and land along the Ohio River. Duncanson faced greater difficulty securing commissions from white patrons, who were largely unwilling to support an African American artist.

After spending time on the road, Duncanson ultimately chose Cincinnati for his home in 1850 for a number of reasons. Cincinnati had a reputation as a center for the “free colored” population in the United States and was considered by many to be a hotbed of antislavery sentiment.

Nicholas Longworth

Nicholas Longworth


Duncanson studied under landscape painter William Sonntag. With Sonntag’s guidance, Duncanson grew as an artist and within weeks attracted the attention of local press with his new work. Duncanson’s progress as a landscape painter caught the attention of Nicholas Longworth, a major landholder and one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Longworth was known for strict antislavery principles. In 1850, Longworth commissioned Duncanson to decorate his home with landscape murals. This ended up being the largest project of Duncanson’s career. The commission consisted of eight large landscape decorations and two eagles over the arched entrances of the hall. Ketner explains, “These murals stand as the most ambitious and accomplished domestic mural paintings created in the United States before the Civil War.”

Duncanson exhibited extensively after the murals. After touring Europe and some travel in the states, Duncanson moved to Montreal as the Civil War was causing social unrest in Ohio. He immediately became an integral part of the local art culture and was regarded as the best landscape artist in Canada. Duncanson returned to Cincinnati, but his deteriorating mental health ultimately led to his internment in the Michigan State Retreat in 1872. On December 21, 1872, Duncanson died at the sanatorium. Despite his international fame, his work fell into relative obscurity after his death due to the changing cultural tastes at the time and also increasing racism.

Although not very well known by the general public, Robert Scott Duncanson had a significant impact on American art. Duncanson was the first African-American artist to tour Europe through the sponsorship of a white patron. He was the first American painter to take up residence in Canada and focus on its landscape. Duncanson is considered by many to be a pioneer of American Art through his seamless infusion of landscape and greater social issues. In recent years, Duncanson has been extensively researched as there is an increasing interest in the artist because of his skill and background.

Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio

Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio


Duncanson’s paintings can be found across the country today including at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Longworth commissioned murals at still on exhibit at the Taft Museum of Art; the museum even has a Duncanson Society which honors the artist by annually recognizing the achievements of contemporary African-American artists. TheOhio Historical Society has three paintings by Duncanson, John Northrop (H 18006), Jessie Northrop (H 18011), and Ruins of Carthage/Light and Shade (H 85981).

Painting titled "Ruins of Carthage/Light and Shade" from the fine art collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

Painting titled “Ruins of Carthage/Light and Shade” from the fine art collections of the Ohio Historical Society.

What impact do you think Duncanson has had on art today?

Emily Lang, History Curator

Sources:
Ketner, Joseph D. The Emergence of the African-American artist: Robert S. Duncanson, 1821-1872. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993.

Moore, Lucinda. “America’s Forgotten Landscape Painter: Robert S. Duncanson.” Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/americas-forgotten-landscape-painter-robert-s-duncanson-112952174/ (accessed January 29, 2014).

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