Links Diagram: H.M. Ranney’s 1849 “Terrific and Fatal Riot”

here I am using a few analytic and visualization tools to get a general sense of how people wrote about the riots in their aftermath.

1. In light of that, here’s a force-directed analysis of H.M. Ranney’s Account of the Terrific and Fatal Riot at the New-York Astor Place Opera House, on the Night of May 10th, 1849, an 1849 summary of the riots with selections from official reports, etc.  I started with Ranney, who is surely an idiosyncratic source, to get a general sense of the possibilities involved in working with texts associated with the APRs.

Here, I used Adobe’s OCR to render the pdf into text and worked with the “Links” tool from Voyant Tools (a collection of data visualization tools that is easy to use):


LinksGraphAPOH Terrible and Fatal draft


The diagram is useful for a couple of things in particular:

1. The size of each word roughly corresponds to its prominence in the text (as in a word cloud)

2. Words are grouped with other words that are associated with it.  The closer the words, the more associated they are with each other, and the farther away, the less (generally speaking, although I am not intimate with Voaynt’s code).  For example, the word “mob” is often associated in Ranney with the word “force.”

The value of diagrams like this is that it lets you see the information is a fresh way, and can supplement any study, even from an analysis as cursory as this one.

General Thoughts

  • “Macready” is the most often used word in the text (a fact that is generally true of the documents associated with the riot that I have noticed), and its use is generally related to “Forrest,” possibly suggesting that Ranney wrote about them in the same sentence or two.
  • Looking at it broadly, there are three main groupings, those around “house,” “mob,” and “Macready.”  These tend to be placenames, nouns denoting conflict and combat, and proper names, respectively.
  • What is interesting to me is the words that link the clusters: here, “theatre” is literally the link between Macready/Forrest/England/ and mob/military/force/stones/troops.
  • “Forrest” is associated with friends and engagement (social and professional words), “Macready” with Stage and Play (artisticish words).
  • “Military,” which connects “House” and “Mob” is closely linked to the term “Sufficient.”  Looking forward, I found that a great deal of the post-1850 discussion of Keywords in Context, tends to group the terms “Military” and “Necessary,” which suggests that the discussion is not just who is at fault, but what was the appropriate response to the mob action.

Any other observations?

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