Last week Fred Reed asked about the current whereabouts of original copies of Raphael P. Thian's monumental Register of the Confederate Debt. In his Bank Note Reporter column, Fred has been exploring all of the writings of this tireless Federal employee. The September 8 column is available on Numismaster.com. Here's an interesting excerpt about Thian's compilations of Confederate Treasury Documents.
Although limited in number the existence of these important—albeit rare—volumes cannot be underestimated. When Douglas Ball researched in the National Archives in the 1960s, he was completely ignorant of these Thian compilations of Treasury documents and correspondence. He was even unaware of their use by previous scholars Eugene Lerner or Richard Cecil Todd. Writing in the "Foreword" to the 1972 Quarterman reprint of the Thian Register, Ball wrote: "No history of Confederate finance or history of the Civil War which touches on economic events in the South can ignore these (Thian's) works. The reason for this is simple, as I discovered after nine months' work in going through the same papers." He adds parenthetically: "In my ignorance I did not know the Thian books existed."(2)
Ball continues, "The mass of papers [from the Rebel Archives held by the National Archives] is beyond the patience of any single individual except one who is mad about Confederate finance. After I made copies of the Thian works I found that I had only 300 letters of importance which he did not have, and of these fully 200 were not available to him at the time."(3) Elsewhere Ball says Thian's compilations have proven "a high degree of accuracy,"(4) so much so that although "I [Ball] may have seen the original reports, letter, or ledger entries on note issues, I use the Thian books for ease of citation,"(5) Ball wrote in the "Introduction" to his excellent 1991 work Financial Failure and Confederate Defeat.(6)
Absent patient and time-consuming researches in the National Archives of the original documents themselves or more likely of the microfilm copies prepared after August 1966, they represented a mother's lode of primary evidence for historians, economists and other scholars of 19th-century America.(7)
As elusive as the Thian volumes are, and as problematical as reviewing microfilm over extended periods of time can be, the enormity of Thian's achievements only really became apparent to collectors in generally with the republication of the Thian microfilm materials (Treasury Reports and Correspondence to and from the Treasury) on CD as "Records from the Confederate Treasury" in May 2004. The presentation was perfected when a more comprehensive edition appeared in DVD searchable electronic format in June 2006 as "The Works of Raphael P. Thian." The DVD included the previous Thian publications as well as desirable additions, such as other Thian works and his personal reference albums archived at Duke University.
Collectors, and historians too for that matter, owe a great debt of gratitude to George Tremmel, Tom Carson and Bob Schreiner for these publications. Their DVD makes the Confederate correspondence readily accessible. It is one of the most important events in the history of CSA currency collecting in this writer's opinion.
The correspondence is so much more important historically than Thian's Register. And also the scanning of the Thian's personal albums among the Duke University materials allows collectors, researchers, and historians the opportunity to actually examine the Thian albums page-by-page, which would be prohibitively costly for people traveling to Duke, and would subject these materials to unnecessary endangerment too, I suspect.(8)
Thian believed that the "history of the purse" was as important as the "history of the sword." If Thian had gone no further with his personal quest to perpetuate the "history of the purse" than to publish the five volumes thus far considered he would have performed immeasurable service to history and posterity, but the government clerk had far-reaching additional goals.
To read the complete article, see:
Raphael Thian's Tomes Important
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
QUERY: REGISTER OF THE CONFEDERATE DEBT INFORMATION SOUGHT
Wayne Homren, Editor
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