After realizing the anonymity of this major historical figure, it was clear that one of the foundational ways in which more could be learned about John Bigelow was through his correspondence. As an American diplomat and statesman, Bigelow was heavily involved in diplomatic efforts during the Civil War. Due to the Civil War being a landmark moment in history, I scoped the letters into the seven year time period that encompassed the Civil War and possibly had the ability to illuminate Bigelow’s role in American Politics. In addition, as I was especially interested in Bigelow’s relationships with other historical figures and his communications around political and historical events, I only looked at the correspondence between him and his non-family connections.
I began this process with a table that was filled with filenames and dates, as well as the names of John Bigelow’s correspondents. From this, I looked at the weight of each individual person’s letters; the amount of letters that existed between Bigelow and each individual, how many this individual received and how many they sent. I then separated this information into the specific year in which said letters were sent. These years described the data in ways that both told me who was most important to Bigelow in this time period, as well as how they were connected to the Civil War. For example, in the year 1866, John Bigelow sent most of his letters, other than those addressed to family, to William H. Seward, an abolitionist and former Secretary of State under President Lincoln. These connections and descriptions aid in discovering more about John Bigelow as well as the occurrences during the Civil War and how the Union worked to disband and defeat the Confederacy, both domestically as well as internationally.
Following the creation of my data set, I worked with data visualization programs, such as; Vistorian, Gephi, and Tableau. Through these programs, I was able to create a network graph to demonstrate the depth of Bigelow’s correspondence. Moving forward, I would like to create highlight tables that show the density of Bigelow’s correspondence in consideration to the amount received and sent by Bigelow and his correspondents. In addition, I aim to expand my research to Bigelow’s diaries which will allow me access to his more intimate thoughts and opinions on the major events which occurred during this seven year time period. Furthermore, I would also like to start transcribing letters received by Bigelow rather than only those sent by him, as to understand who was writing to him and what roles he served in the lives of others. On top of these goals, I want to include the letters sent to and from Bigelow’s family as I realized, many of the opinions Bigelow may have not been able to share with his colleagues would have been written to his closest confidantes: his family.