The Camp Chase Gazette (“the first, best, and at present the only nationally distributed publication devoted entirely to the subject of reenacting America’s Civil War”) maintains a 19th Century Slang Dictionary; the opening paragraph of the introduction gives an idea of the type of language included:
Humbug? Shecoonery? Useless truck or gum? Hornswoggling? Honey-fuggling? Not in this book, dear sir! I swan to mercy, a huckleberry above anyone’s persimmon. Some pumpkins, a caution, 100 percent certified by a Philadelfy lawyer. If not, dad-blame it, I’ll hang up my fiddle, and you can sass me, knock me into a cocked hat, give me jesse, fix my flint, settle my hash, ride me out on a rail and have a conniption fit, you cussed scalawag. Now ain’t that the beatingest language you ever did hear? Sure beats the Dutch! Pshaw! Do tell! Bully for you!
It includes copious citations with sources and dates, making it far more valuable than a mere list of items with meanings. A sample:
Huckleberry above a persimmon: a cut above. The phrase had many variations and shades of meaning.
1836: It is a huckleberry above my persimmon to cipher out how I find myself the most popular bookmaker of the day. Colonel Crockett in Texas, p.13
1844: She’s a great gal that! Show me another like her any whar, and I am thar directly. She’s a huckleberry above most people’s persimmons. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, August 24
1885: I’m a huckleberry above that persimmon. Admiral Porter, Incidents of the Civil War, p.204
(Via a Wordorigins thread about the phrase “I have seen the elephant,” interesting in its own right—it’s apparently a southwestern expression meaning either ‘to see it all, to experience it all’ or ‘to undergo any disappointment of high-raised expectations,’ depending on who you believe.)
Addendum. Another source for 19th-century American (linked in the same thread, by aldiboronti) is the Dictionary of Americanisms, by John Russell Bartlett (First Edition, Bartlett and Welford, New York, 1848). The very first entry is quite interesting:
ABISSELFA. A, by itself, A. It will be recollected by many, that in the olden time, the first letter of the alphabet was denominated “abisselfa” when it formed a syllable by itself, [as] in the word able. The scholar, in spelling the word, was taught to say, “a, by itself, a, (rapidly,
abisselfa,) b, l, e, able.” We derive this word and the use of it from England, where it is used in Suffolk County.–Moor’s Glossary.
This is, of course, an anglicized version of “a per se a,” whose equivalent with and (“and per se and”) gave rise to the word ampersand. I wonder how many classrooms used “per se” and how many “by itself,” and when the whole practice disappeared?