Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Using DEVONthink Pro with Zotero for Historical Research

            Zotero is a marvelous tool to use for capturing, managing and citing sources but once the notes and sources are in a Zotero library collection, moving them around inside it is a very clunky process. It can be done, but not easily. In order to organize my notes with ease and print the information out, I move copies of the notes from Zotero into DEVONthink Pro and do my sorting, organizing and printing there.

            DEVONthink Pro (DT Pro) is a Mac-only app and unlike Zotero, it is not free. DT Pro costs $80. DT sells DT Personal for $50 but I decided to buy DT Pro primarily because it can create multiple databases—DT Personal can only create one database.
            I move copies of the notes from Zotero into DT Pro by dragging and dropping them into folders—DT Pro calls them Groups. Next, I tag each note using the same tag I used for the note in Zotero because I want to be able to find the note again in Zotero without difficulty, if I need to. Once the notes have been moved into DT Pro, it is easy to sort them manually or by the first words in the note, and then print the notes out.

            Before I drag and drop a note from Zotero into DT Pro, I copy the source’s title and paste it at the end of the note in Zotero. I do this so that later on when I am referring to the note in DT Pro as I am writing in Word, I can select the correct source in the Zotero word processor plug-in to enable it to automatically create the correct citation.

            The DT Pro databases are located on my computer, not in the Cloud, and are backed up on iMac’s Time Machine. I like the fact that I do not have to rely on being able to get on the Internet in order to access my research.
            If I need to find a note or source in DT Pro because I did not use the correct tag or put the item in the correct Group, DT Pro has a box that can be used to search for the missing item in all databases.

            DT Pro’s online help is rather extensive. You can find answers to questions in tutorials, a help manual and a user forum. If you continue to be stumped, DT can be contacted by email. They have answered my questions within one day.
            At this writing, I am researching and writing two major projects for two upcoming books. My workflow involves using Zotero and DT Pro. I plan to update this report on the use of these computer applications for historical research as I move forward.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Using Zotero for Historical Research

      When it comes to the tools to use for historical research, it is easy to debunk pen, paper and index cards as old-fashioned, no matter how comfortable and reliable their use may be. In the 21st century, computer applications are the way to go for taking notes, keeping track of sources and organizing information. But which applications will do the job you want them to do? One of the programs I use most often is Zotero.

      A free program that collects, manages and cites research sources, Zotero works as an extension in Firefox, Safari and Chrome. I use it in Firefox because Zotero has been available for use with Firefox the longest.  The first step I took to use Zotero was to download its library plugin for Firefox from Zotero’s home page. The plugin enables me to create a library collection and add references directly to it from databases and websites. In addition, it also makes it possible for me to add references to the library collection manually and to drag PDF’s into it from my hard drive. Next, I downloaded Zotero’s word processing plugin for Word. This plugin allows me to insert citations and bibliographies directly into a Word document as I write it.
      With Zotero in place, saving the bibliographic information of promising sources is as easy as making one click on the mouse or trackpad. For example, if you use ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times and locate an article you would like to use, click the Zotero folder icon on the URL address bar, and a PDF of the article and a snapshot of the web page it is on, will be automatically downloaded into your Zotero library. In addition to the article itself, bibliographic information about its source will also be automatically downloaded into the library. The same procedure can be followed to collect articles from Google Scholar, JSTOR and other databases. If you use information from books that are in Google Books, or in other sources of digitized books, you can download the link to the book together with its bibliographic information right into your library with one click.

When you find a source on the Internet that has no Zotero folder icon to click, you can click on the “Create Web Page Item From Current Page” button on the Zotero toolbar, and download a snap shot of the desired page along with its bibliographic information into your library. If you want to take notes from a source that is not on the Internet such as a letter, magazine article or book, you can click on the “New Item” button on the Zotero toolbar and fill in the bibliographic information yourself.
      Despite all of Zotero’s technological bells and whistles, the bibliographic information often has to be tweaked, but this is very easy to do.
      For each source you want to take notes on, Zotero provides a resizable box for that purpose in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The notes are attached to the information for the source, as is a snapshot of the web page the source was on, and a PDF of the information, if there is one.

      The notes and the sources themselves can be tagged with as many tags as you like so that you can find this information easily as your research progresses. There is also a very good search engine that will locate words or phrases in all the fields and tags in the library collection should you need to do so.
      All the notes, PDF’s, and snapshots of web pages are stored locally on your computer, and on Zotero’s servers. Zotero gives you 300 MB of free storage. If you want more than that, 2GB of storage costs $20 per year. For me, Zotero’s storage system means that I can take notes on my desktop computer at home, and then travel to a library with my laptop and do research and take notes there, and when I return home and sync with Zotero’s servers, all my research can be accessed on both computers. In addition, I like the idea that if my Internet service provider goes down and I cannot access Zotero’s servers, I am able to work with all the information in Zotero because it is also stored on my computer’s hard drive.
      When it is time to start writing, the Zotero word processor plugin for Word makes citing sources a breeze. To add a footnote or endnote as I write, all I have to do is place the cursor where I want the citation to be inserted, click on the “Zotero Insert Citation” icon in the word processor plugin toolbar, select the proper source from the library, and Zotero creates and inserts the correct citation for me. If necessary, I can add a page number or a prefix or suffix to the citation.

      Another nice feature of Zotero is its ability to generate reports and create bibliographies from selected items in the library. To do that, I simply select the items I want, right click, and choose “Generate Report from Items” or “Create Bibliography from Items” in the context menu. If I am writing and have inserted citations into my piece, with one click on the “Zotero Insert Bibliography” icon in the word processor plugin toolbar, a bibliography is automatically created and inserted wherever I have placed the cursor.
      Unfortunately, there is a downside to Zotero. It is not a very user-friendly application nor is it particularly intuitive. Help is limited. Zotero has an online user guide called “Documentation” on a tab on its home page. Another tab on Zotero’s home page, “Forums,” takes you to several discussion groups where you can pose questions and get answers from fellow users and Zotero experts. I have also found that many major colleges and universities have made user guides to Zotero available online. For example, here is one from Oregon State University and another from Georgia State University. In addition, this user guide, Mastering Zotero, has been very helpful to me at times. Two Zotero experts wrote it.

      For me, Zotero’s biggest weakness is how difficult it is to move items around in a library and sort them. Zotero can be very “clunky” and often it is impossible to sort notes and sources the way I want before printing them out. For that reason, my workflow for historical research also includes using the database, DEVONthink Pro. I collect my research and take notes in Zotero, and then I move the notes I want to use into DEVONthink Pro for sorting and organizing. In a future post, I will write about DEVONthink Pro.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Boxing history—Yankee Sullivan v. John Morrissey, Part VIII, epilogue

            After losing to John Morrissey, Yankee Sullivan moved to California where he became involved in politics and gambling pursuits. In San Francisco, he was implicated in a ballot box stuffing scheme and was arrested by the San Francisco Vigilance Committee. On May 31, 1856, he was found dead in his jail cell—the main artery in his left arm had been severed with a dinner knife. Some reports said his enemies had murdered him. Other reports, including that of The New York Times, said he had committed suicide because he was afraid he would be deported to Australia, the place from whence he had come in 1840.[1]

From The New York Times, June 30, 1856
            John Morrissey’s next major fight after his bout with Yankee Sullivan was with John C. Heenan. It took place at Long Point, Ontario, Canada, on October 20, 1858. In the match described by the press as the “Great Fight for the Championship of America,” Morrissey was victorious. Using his boxing winnings and fame to advantage, Morrissey subsequently organized one of the first thoroughbred racing meets in Saratoga Springs on August 3, 1863. This successful venture spurred Morrissey on to become one of the founders of the Saratoga Racing Association and the Saratoga Club House, later renamed Canfield Casino.

John Morrissey as a politician

            At this time, Morrissey also ran for public office. He was elected as a Democrat to two terms in Congress, serving from 1867 to 1871, and two terms in the State Senate in 1875 and 1877. On May 1, 1878, he died in Saratoga Springs from pneumonia at the age of 47.[2]

First round of the Sullivan-Kilrain fight
            After the Sullivan-Morrissey fight, bare-knuckle boxing under the London Prize Ring rules continued to be popular in the U.S. for about 35 years. According to boxing historians, the last bare-knuckle heavyweight championship fight took place in 100-degree heat in Mississippi on July 8, 1888 between the reputed champion, John L. Sullivan, and the challenger, Jack Kilrain. Sullivan kept his crown in a fight that went 75 rounds.[3]

[1] “Important from California. Suicide of Yankee Sullivan,” New York Daily Times, June 30, 1856; “Yankee Sullivan No More,” New York Daily Times, June 30, 1856.
[2] Paul Post, “Irish-American Fighting Legend John Morrissey’s Spa City Connection as Successful as His Fists,” The Saratogian, accessed October 3, 2014,; “Morrissey, John,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, accessed October 3, 2014,
[3] Gerald R. Gems, Boxing: A Concise History of the Sweet Science (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 58–59. Sullivan lost the championship to “Gentleman” Jim Corbett in 1892, the first heavyweight title fight under the new Marquis of Queensbury rules that prescribed timed three minute rounds and the use of boxing gloves.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Boxing history—Yankee Sullivan v. John Morrissey, Part VII, the fight

            On October 12, 1853, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 fans watched the bare-knuckle fight for the unofficial American Boxing Championship in Boston Corners, NY between the 40-year-old champion, Yankee Sullivan, and his 22-year-old challenger, John Morrissey—over 3,000 of them had arrived by the New York and Harlem Railroad from New York City according to The New York Times.[1]

            Morrissey entered a ring that had been erected in an abandoned brickyard around 2 pm and tied his colors, a handkerchief of stars and stripes, to one of the ring’s center posts. According to the sports reporters covering the fight, he was six feet tall and weighed 175 lbs.—a light heavyweight in today’s boxing weight divisions. Sullivan came into the ring next and tied his colors, a black handkerchief, to the other center post. He was five feet seven inches tall and weighed 156 lbs.—a modern middleweight.[2]
            In the first round, Sullivan drew first blood by feinting deftly and using his right hand to smash Morrissey’s nose several times. Morrissey rushed after Sullivan but missed him with right and left jabs as Sullivan backed away. He clipped Morrissey’s left eye with a blow and then back peddled and fell through the ropes, ending the round before Morrissey could reach him.
            Morrissey’s face was crimson with blood, his nose was bleeding and his eye was swollen when round two started. Sullivan pounded Morrissey’s nose and eye, and again the challenger chased the champion around the ring. Morrissey finally backed Sullivan into a corner and began to hammer his body with rights and lefts but Sullivan slipped away and smashed Morrissey’s sore eye before going down to save himself.
            Round three began with Morrissey taking a swing at Sullivan that reporters said “might have felled an ox” but Sullivan skipped away from it, counter punching with a hard jolt to Morrissey’s ribs. The two fighters traded blows unmercifully. Morrissey landed several hard body shots and then caught Sullivan’s left cheek, covering him with blood and whirling him across the ring before he went down to end the round.
            The fight went on like this, round after round. According to sports writers who were covering the fight, “Sullivan was far more skillful, more wary, quicker and craftier.” But, “Morrissey had the punch.” Sullivan was the boxer, Morrissey was the fighter.
            During the fight, Morrissey’s face appeared “shockingly mangled” and “slashed beyond recognition” but “he was not tired or weak.” Blood streamed from his nose and mouth in profusion and his seconds lanced his eye to try and bring down the swelling because it was beginning to close.

The site of the fight in Boston Corners, NY

            Sullivan’s head and face also began to swell from Morrissey’s powerful punches. He literally chased Sullivan around the ring but as one reporter wrote, Sullivan was “as elusive as a moth at dusk.” He kept peppering Morrissey’s face with blows getting in five punches to Morrissey’s one.
            Morrissey began to get irritated by Sullivan’s “slippery” style as the fight wore on and began complaining about how fast Sullivan kept going down to end a round. Sullivan in turn began to taunt Morrissey into losing his temper and making mistakes. Whenever he hit Morrissey’s face, Sullivan would laugh at him as he peddled away, taunting him saying, “Now, who’s champion?” Morrissey answered, “That’s to be seen.”
            In the 20th round, Sullivan worked on trying to blind Morrissey’s good eye by slashing at it and then getting away and dropping before Morrissey could hit him. During rounds 31 through 36, both fighters began to tire and their blows were not as hard.
            In the 37th round, Sullivan again began to hit Morrissey’s face and then back away. Morrissey charged after him wildly and eventually caught him. He put his hands around Sullivan’s neck in a clinch, got his back against the ropes and lifted Sullivan completely off the ground, preparing to slam him down to end the fight. The seconds of both men rushed into the ring and began fighting with each other. Howling and clawing spectators followed the seconds and swarmed into the ring. Both fighters disappeared under the wave of an invading horde. Sullivan and Morrissey became separated and swept out of the ring in the uproar. After the tumult settled down a bit, the referee decided that Morrissey had won the fight because Sullivan had left the ring before being given permission to do so.

            The fight lasted 55 minutes and had gone 37 rounds. In a postmortem which called for an end to prize fighting, The New York Times described the Sullivan-Morrissey fight as a “brutal exhibition,” “a hideous affair,” “sickening,” “deplorable,” and “humiliating.”[3]
            Next, Part VIII, an epilogue.

[1] “History,” Town of Ancram, NY, accessed October 3, 2014,; “Sporting Intelligence,” New York Daily Times, October 13, 1853, 1.
[2] In the 1880’s, a middleweight was less than 158 lbs. and a heavyweight was any weight. Richard Kyle Fox, Boxing: With Hints on the Art of Attack and Defense (New York: Richard K. Fox, 1889), 34.
[3] “The Prize Fight between Sullivan and Morrissey-Further Particulars,” New York Daily Times, October 14, 1853, 3; “John Morrissey’s Fight With ‘Yankee’ Sullivan,” California Digital Newspaper Collection, accessed October 2, 2014,; “The Prize Fight.,” New York Daily Times, October 14, 1853, 4.