Word Frequencies in Moral Instructor's Notes of Inmates

This app generates word fequencies from the Moral Instructor's notes for each inmates admitted to the Eastern State Pennitentiary. These word frequencies represent information collected in Volumes A, B, and D of the Eastern State Penitentiary's Admission books, which cover the years 1830-1858. Admission Book C, covering the years 1850-1853 remains unaccounted for. These books are held in the collections of the American Philosophical Society.

There are over 1,730 descriptions of inmates in these three Admission Books. Researchers can get a broad sense of these descriptions by looking at the most common words to used to describe the inmates. Researchers can compare descriptions for different populations of inmates, based on a set of selected traits.

This widget will generate a corpus for each set of traits selected in the two sets of drop-down menus. The app will then generate a word cloud for each corups, revealing the most common words used to describe prisoners matching the selected traits. Word frequencies generated from the two corpora can be graphed in relation to one another, gives a different perspective on how word frequencies differ between each corpus. Further down, researchers can use the app to track a keyword through the two corpora, first by seeing the keyword in context and also by seeing occurrences of the word graphed over time.

Choose variables create 'Corpus A'

Choose variables create 'Corpus B'

These word clouds present the 50 most common words that occur in each corpus. The more often a word occurs, the larger it appears in the word cloud.

Wordcloud for Corpus A


Wordcloud for Corpus B


This graph plots word freqencies from each corpus in relation to the other. Words appearing near the red diagonal line appear with equal frequency in each corpus, while words appearing further away appear relatively more frequently one corpus than the the other.


Explore the Corpus with Keywords

Researchers can examine trends for a particular keyword by entering it in the text box below. The app will return examples of that keyword in its original context and graph the use of the word over time.

Here is the keyword as it appears in the descriptions recorded by the Moral Instructor.

Corpus A


Corpus B


This is how the relative frequency of the keyword word changed over time, in each corpus.

Keyword over Time in Corpus A


Keyword over Time in Corpus B