A small book housed in the Faculty Author Collection at Greenblatt Library represents one example of one man’s intellectual curiosity and his desire to instruct and share his knowledge with others. This book is Interesting Chemical Exercises in Qualitative Analysis for Ordinary Schools by George W. Rains and published in 1880.

The inscription written by George W. Rains inside the book “Interesting Chemical Exercises in Qualitative Analysis for Ordinary Schools”

Rains was born in North Carolina in 1817 and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1842, third in his class and first in scientific studies. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Engineers, but within two years of his graduation, he was chosen to serve as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Geology, and Mineralogy at West Point. The Mexican War of 1846 drew him away from academic life and to full military service. Shortly after he married in 1856, Rains left the army to serve as president and partly own the Washington Iron Works in Newburgh, NY.

In 1861 Rains offered his services to the Confederacy. He was commissioned as an officer and given autonomous authority to select the location and nature of the plant necessary for manufacturing ammunition for the Confederate military. He chose Augusta, Georgia and within seven months the largest and most complete powder manufactory was supplying ammunition for the Confederacy.

After the war ended Rains and his family remained in Augusta and in 1866 he returned to the academic life by becoming the Professor of Chemistry at the Medical College of Georgia. His faculty appointment to MCG was unusual in that he was not a medical doctor nor had he attended a medical school. Rains was given an honorary doctor of medicine degree by the MCG Board of Trustees. The Academy of Richmond County was next to the Medical College on Telfair Street and Rains was on the ARC faculty as the chemistry teacher. Rains served as dean of MCG from 1880 to 1884.

Title page of “Interesting Chemical Exercises in Qualitative Analysis for Ordinary Schools” and illustration of the chemical stand described in the book.

Rains’ Interesting Chemical Exercises is not a book of recounted scientific and chemical facts. It was written for the amateur scientist providing instructions on how to conduct chemical experiments. Rains included a drawing of a compact chemistry set with a written description of the set and address of the vendor. Interesting Chemical Exercises was Rains’ contribution to the expansion of chemical and scientific explorations of young minds in the late 19th century.

– Renée Sharrock, Curator

The rare book I’ve chosen to highlight this month is an etiquette book entitled The Operative’s Friend, and Defense: or Hints to Young Ladies, who are Dependent on Their Own Exertions by Rev. James Porter. Published in Boston in 1850, this book was an unusual etiquette book. Unlike the typical treatises of the time addressing expectations society put on women—to be good mothers and mild-mannered and at all times obedient—Porter provided advice and support for women who found themselves working in non-traditional roles outside of the home.

Book cover of The Operative’s Friend, and Defense
Book cover of “The Operative’s Friend, and Defense: or Hints to Young Ladies, who are Dependent on Their Own Exertions”

Written by an abolitionist, it was aimed at women who had to work for a living, particularly those in New England factories. Even though he appeared to be an advocate for the working woman, he also offered advice on a woman’s role in the household, proper behavior, and ways to improve character. In this way, it was not so different to the other messages women would have received in the etiquette books of the period.

Title page of "The Operative’s Friend, and Defense"
Title page of “The Operative’s Friend, and Defense: or Hints to Young Ladies, who are Dependent on Their Own Exertions” by Rev. James Porter

Here in Reese Library’s Special Collections, we have many books from the same time period (pre and post-Civil War) which would have been considered essential reading for young ladies. This book, and others, are a part of a display just outside the rare book room on the second floor of Reese Library. There you will find etiquette books, travel books, and facsimiles, a representation (though by no means a comprehensive one!) of the most popular subjects covered in the rare book room.

– Maranda Christy, Special Collections Assistant

About the Heritage Unit: The University Libraries have a department devoted to the preservation and archival keeping of the campus’ unique histories. The Historical Collections & Archives (HCA) is located on the 2nd floor of the Greenblatt Library on the Health Sciences campus. Special Collections & Institutional Archives is located on the 3rd floor of the Reese Library on the Summerville campus.