I’m New Here: Week Eighteen…

June 14, 2019 by · 2 Comments 

This week I learned to back up my data files with more diligence. I also learned that I shouldn’t boast of finishing a task early, as I am liable to then fall far behind (particularly if I don’t save my work).
Most importantly, I learned that we don’t know what we don’t know, and we can’t learn it until we know something.
As I was immersed in the newspaper coverage of significant dates in American History, I found that my vague idea of the Civil War as being somewhere around 1862 kept me from understanding the significance of Lincoln’s assassination within the timetable of the war of brother-against-brother. The great conflict was in the mopping-up stage; Grant had definitively beaten the Confederate troops. And President Abraham Lincoln, the man who took up the burden of holding together the Union, was shot in a theater where he was out for what was termed by one report as “an evening of respite”.  It’s suddenly more tragic, and those long lines formed by a mourning populace seem so reasonable a response by a shocked nation.

Over the weekend, the relative of a Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers employee was touring the facility and paused over text running down the right margin of the cover of a small periodical from the 1920’s. “You know who that is,” she asserted. We didn’t. We thought it was an issue about the game of hockey, positing the question whether it would or would not last in the United States.
It turns out the featured author of the issue was one Rose Wilder Lane, the woman who penned the tales told by her mother of pioneering days in what eventually came to be called The Little House on the Prairie series. An accomplished writer and reporter, many of her short stories were published in Harper’s Bazaar and Saturday Evening Post.  When Rose was in her seventies, she traveled to Vietnam in order to provide a female perspective on the war for the readership of Woman’s Day Magazine. And I learned all of this because someone who knew a bit, put together pieces and asked a question.
Juxtaposed with this whole journey following strands of the known into discovery of the unknown, was an overheard discussion about the lack of liberal arts education received by the up-and-coming generation. In an era of information available by voice command, almost everything that can be known is, theoretically, accessible. But how will any of us know the questions to ask if we don’t have a base of knowledge from which to begin?    A narrow foundation must by its very nature constrict the breadth of potential growth.

Anyway, this is a great place for contemplation of deep things.  And, since I lost my first draft, I have the opportunity to contemplate the same subject for the second time.  🙂

By the way, the Liberty Magazines are nifty compilations somewhat in the vein of the later Reader’s Digest, packed with advertisements and helpful hints right beside news of the day.

I’m New Here: Week Sixteen…

May 31, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Here in “our neck of the woods” Spring frequently brings tornado warnings. Yesterday, radios, smartphones, and computer displays all sounded the alarm. One of the part-time people working on the labels for Catalog 283 asked what I would choose for my last meal before the tornado hit. I parried with “what would you take into your safe space from the annals?” And my contribution, quickly and easily, was “The American Museum” issues — as many as I could grab from the shelf.
I have one collector who looks for these and he contacts me by email with a list of five or six dates. Every time I search, thinking “there is no way we have any from that month.” Each time I locate one or two, and he happily buys them. During that brief interaction studying dates and verifying the appropriate appendices I have come to find this publication ridiculously beautiful. If I were trapped in a tornado shelter, 18th Century American Magazines would suffice for amusement and instruction. In a single issue there are lexicons for four different Native American languages, methods for preparing dye, a treatise on the Biblical perspective of capital punishment, and political news from around the world. Stock prices are listed alongside poetry. In fact, the complete title enthralls me: “The American Museum: or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, &c. Prose and Poetical”.
Subscriber names, by state, are listed alphabetically over the first ten pages. The issue I randomly pulled has a touching inscription: “Henry Wayman Woods presented by his dear mother August 6, 1832. Wisdom is the principle thing, Henry.” The content feature is Lexington and Concord, but buried within one of the random sections is an article about the first reported African-American doctor and details of the “Virginia Calculator”, a slave from New Orleans who was described as a savant by Dr. Benjamin Rush (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence).
There is so much to learn, packed within these octavo-sized (8” x 5”) papers.  Knowledge was culled from every imaginable subject, in order to educate and enlighten.  A well-informed public, it seems, was deemed critical for the development of the young country.  In my opinion, that’s a lofty goal that would translate well to any civilization at any point in history.

Wisdom is, quite possibly, the principle thing.

I’m New Here: Week Thirteen…

May 10, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

All of my grandparents immigrated to the United States as young adults, and three of them came through Ellis Island. My maternal grandmother spoke six languages since she was from a portion of Europe that had a high degree of ethnic overlap. However, she never taught anything but English to her seven children because my grandfather was adamant that he, his wife, and all their offspring would read and write English fluently and speak it without a trace of an accent. He didn’t count the heavy Jersey City vowels they acquired along the way.

As proud as they were to be Americans, the history of these states was far less important than the political and economic makeup of the land of opportunity.
This week I encountered four different collectors who are tracing their ancestry via newspapers. And, through their eyes, I see different aspects to catastrophes like the Dust Bowl and the Johnstown Flood — the human stories. Each American tale is so varied, so unique, so distinct within the melting pot of  “huddled masses yearning to be free” welcomed by the Statue of Liberty.
Whether family was part of the westward expansion, established in the old blood of Philadelphia, divided along the Mason Dixon Line, or descendant from early coastal fisherman that braved mortality rates to literally eke out a living – pieces of the stories are buried within these old newspapers. One fellow found a pot from the Tennessee foundry in which his great-great-grandfather worked, and then he managed to track down a paper with an article on the workmen facing a strike. “There were only twelve employees,” he told me. “So one of those mentioned was my ancestor.”
I’m a wee bit envious of those of you who can find your folks through the New York Tribune or the New Orleans Picayune, or even D.C’s National Intelligencer .  Still, the next best thing might be pulling a title that contributes a piece to someone else’s puzzle. Thank you for enlisting our help; please keep the requests coming.

And, in honor of “Jack”, Faustina, Stephen and Charlotte, I am including in this post a photograph from an issue of Scientific American. If there is only one piece of American history in your lineage, I think Ellis Island is a pretty hefty one.
Cheers!

Post Script:  The number of staff here is too limited to do more research than pulling titles and dates that have been requested by collectors.  There are many great databases for searching content.  Once you know the paper you are looking for, we are happy to see if we have it!

I’m New Here, Week Twelve…

May 3, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

This week I learned a bit more about major stories that were not covered by news outlets, as well as events and people for whom fame was achieved through failure.

Lindbergh’s flight and the details of his life were a big deal in the world of newspapers. Like Amelia Earhart, many chronicles exist of the events leading up to and including his famous flight path. And those are very popular issues with experienced and novice collectors alike. I enjoy the perspective through the eyes of the reporters of the time – and all of the details on which they chose to focus.

Interestingly, Lindbergh’s renowned success was rivaled by the widely reported failure of Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, who flew to Ireland instead of the return trip to California he had logged in his flight plan. Further research suggests that Corrigan had been denied permission for that “accidental flight” multiple times. My personal opinion is heavily influenced by the photographs I could find which certainly seem to portray the grin of a fellow intent on breaking at least a few rules.

Papers that cover the Chicago Fire of 1871 describe the destruction, the casualties, and even the investigation into Mrs. O’Leary, whose cow is the stuff of campfire songs. The latter made me laugh, as I have always assumed it to be a fictitious rhyme. However, it becomes oddly real when a full column asserts Mr. O’Leary’s adamant claim that the cow was not his, but his wife’s, and he was sleeping at the time of the fire.

Strangely, there is little popular knowledge of fire that burned Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and much of the surrounding area on the same day. It far surpassed the damage to Chicago and is potentially the “deadliest fire in American history”. Two papers, “Peshtigo Times” and the “Green Bay Advocate” appear to have covered it, but the 1500-2500 deaths so far eclipse the three hundred or so that perished in Chicago I am perplexed by the scant notice.

What makes a story newsworthy? In this day of the “24-hour news cycle”, I relish this week’s pause to consider that “truth” has always been in the hands of the publishing houses. Since earliest printings, someone has decided what to tell the general public. The best thing about accessing old newspapers is that each reader can at least verify what was being reported, rather than relying on a current interpretation or paraphrase.
Aldous Huxley said, “Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored.” But what about the facts that no one knows?

I’m New Here: Week Eleven…

April 26, 2019 by · 4 Comments 

Now that I have been here for a couple of months, the fuzziness is clearing a little bit more.  Even better, to my way of thinking, is a growing familiarity with names and voices of some long-time collectors.  It’s a cheery thing to have someone greet you by name with an optimistic lilt to their new request.  At least, it is a very cheerful thing to me and I have a growing collection for whom I feel a certain ownership.  It helps the general air of camaraderie that I am getting it right at least as often as I get it wrong these days.

One of the customers I am silently referring to as “mine” has a list of dates and titles, and he doles them out to me at a rate of about three or four a week.  He fits that category the crew here refers to as “research request”, and I am always happy when he calls or emails.  Like some collectors, this gentleman is pursuing a theme, and his quests for pertinent people or events can span more than two hundred years.  There are sections of our archives that I now find quickly, and those titles are easily located and verified for desired content (by people much more proficient than I).  Occasionally, there is a request that leads me to a part of the archives I would swear was not there the last time I searched that quadrant.

This week an assignment took me up to the ninth row of aisle WC.  After pulling out the very bottom volume (these are anywhere from ten to fifteen pounds each, and stacked four or five high) I swooshed down to find a table upon which to search the pages for the relevant issue.  And that’s where I began to learn brand new things.  This volume, all wrapped and sealed as if ready for shipping, surely required a different process than I had used on previous queries.  But when asked, both of my sources responded with faint groans and some muttered utterances that still perplex me.  The upshot was that it is all the fault of some fellow who wanted to increase the profit margin on newspapers and led the industrial trend to switch from rag paper to newsprint made exclusively of wood pulp.  Consequently, a newspaper from 1600’s or 1700’s is able to be folded and rolled and thoroughly read — while a New York Times from June of 1900 can crumble just from attempting to lift a page.

A name was uttered — and I would repeat it if I knew I had the facts just right.  But I don’t even understand clearly what makes the paper so bad.  It has something to do with acidic materials used to create the wood pulp that damaged the integrity of the pages over a period of time…

It takes me back to Walt Whitman, with apologies for the repetition.  His chatty interview with Robert Ingersoll was published in the pulpish time of  The World (NY) dated October, 26, 1890. The content is rich with dialogue and illustrations, but there aren’t many copies that survived, due to their fragility.  Thankfully, the publishing houses learned from their mistakes and by the 1930’s changes were made.

Anyway, I am pleased to be making your acquaintance, and now know how to treat future pulpish requests, should they arrive.

I’m New Here…Weeks Nine & Ten

April 19, 2019 by · 1 Comment 

Since my entries are personal perspective, and this is a significant week in the Christian calendar, my post carries a tinge of my own religious convictions.  Please skip reading if such things offend you.  After today I’ll endeavor to quash my worldview until a similar time next year…

There are newspapers inventoried in this facility that are so old they preceded the term, and are referred to by those in the know as a newsbook or a “coronto”.  At least, that is my sketchy understanding.  This week I am thinking about things that have survived generations, inventions, wars and cosmic changes.  The listing that caught my eye was a title from 1629, banned in 1632 –but then given special license to continue six years later.  Wikipedia says, “In 1638 they were granted a patent from King Charles I for the publication of news and history, in return for a £10 annual donation toward the upkeep of St. Paul’s Cathedral…”  And, of course, I wanted to see this for myself.  The small volume sold in 2015, just days after it was made available, but I was able to find a German newsbook from 1607 that I could look at. It wasn’t in a vault, but neatly cataloged and filed with all the other items in the seventeenth century inventory.  There are so many treasures, I suppose a vault would have to be the size of a warehouse — which indeed it is.  AUSSFUHRLICHER BERICHT was accessible, and I was able to pull the folder, open it on a surface, and even lift the clear archival cover in order to take a photograph without the obstruction of a reflected glare.  Not many people have the privilege of holding a publication that is over four hundred years old, and I know myself to be ridiculously undeserving.

But this week Paris has superimposed itself on my mental wanderings.  As for much of the western world, images of flames engulfing an icon that has stood for eight hundred years are incomprehensible.  At a certain point old things seem to become everlasting.  Particularly, stone cathedrals are expected to survive history itself.  Invasion, famine, revolution and disease have moved around that block work for nearly a millennium.  But we have records here at History’s Newsstand of many seemingly immovable things that have eventually yielded, and those accounts are interspersed with all the common themes of humanity that seem unhampered by the passage of time.

This is the week that Notre Dame burned.  It is also the week before Easter — the darkness and mourning of “Good Friday” so closely  followed by the joyful resurrection of Easter Sunday.

There is destruction and devastation, but there is also redemption.  It’s the common cycle of the accounts told within these pages of history that are so neatly sorted, labeled, and shelved for retrieval.   Obituaries and birth announcements.  Demolitions and groundbreakings.  Political structures that rise and fall, and new ones that rise again.

“A time to every purpose under heaven.”

Brokenness and healing.

 

I’m New Here…Week Eight

April 5, 2019 by · 2 Comments 

Perhaps the most significant thing I have learned in my weeks here is that I don’t know much.  And, as that sinks in I feel an urgency to get to work, because there is so much lost ground to cover!  Even if Time stopped right now, it’s too late to catch up on the designations within mechanics, medicine, entertainment, science, culture, and everything else.  Yet, I am optimistic of gaining a bit of yardage as I spend my days surrounded by thin slices of information, accumulated at such quantities that facts could be (by someone math-minded) measured in cubic feet.

“What kinds of things are collectors searching?”  That was my early question, and I see now how gracious everyone was with their oft-repeated, non-committal replies.

People are looking for issues concerning as varied a range of topics or content as there are human beings. Early motorcycle polo matches had me perched fifteen feet skyward, balancing five volumes — each of which is half my height and wider than I can put my arms around.  The issue I was seeking had some key content of wide appeal:  Capone and his gang.

Mobsters are popular.  So are serial killers and crime sprees.  I skipped right over the portions of The Devil in the White City that dealt with the monster Henry Howard Holmes, and was instead caught up in the achievements of the human mind as exhibited in the Chicago World Fair.  Here in our annals we have issues of Scientific American that feature Thomas Edison’s inventions, as well as multiple innovations of the 19th century — some of which were presented at that 1893 event!  My mental censorship was so complete that I forgot  the gruesome killings described in Erik Larson’s book altogether.  But many people, for a myriad of reasons, are fascinated by details of historical mayhem.  Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Jesse James‘ headlines still hold mass appeal.

But in this case, the Detroit Free Press of 1928 contained something more valuable to some than the headline “Capone Pal Slain”.  The back page photograph of a group from Yonkers was the treasure I unearthed for a research request.  Scheduled to ship today, that paper will replace a photocopy in a transportation museum — which seems a very appropriate destination for a Michigan publication.

Motorcycles, motion pictures, mobsters, and murder…those are a few things that interest collectors, and after this week things of which I now know a very little bit more.

Post Script:  And, as I was reminded by email, there is a world to observe beyond the “m” words — including last week’s glance at suffrage -SRW

I’m New Here…Week Seven

March 29, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

  • This week I decided to spend some of my hard-earned money on an old (& rare) publication.  I’d already processed searches for sports figures and jazz singers and mobsters and indentured servants — so many interests that whizzed past me as I was busy with phone calls and emails and web orders.  The only way I could think to appease my conscience about taking a pause to look around a little bit for myself was to become a customer.  There is an entire collection — shelves of bound volumes — of publications by women.  I want to dig through and “see what’s what”, as my grandmother always said.  But that would probably take more research time just orientating myself than I feel easy about spending.  Still, that inclination narrowed the scope of this first quest a bit, and a search through notable dates in history led me to the NYC women’s suffrage march of 1912.

“THE REMARKABLE DEMONSTRATION IN NEW YORK LAST WEEK WHEN 15,000 WOMEN OF ALL STATIONS IN LIFE MARCHED THROUGH THE STREETS OF THE METROPOLIS TO EXPRESS THEIR DEMAND FOR THE VOTE”.  The headline itself seems shocked by the occurrence, with subsequent captions numbering the onlookers at 500,000.  It’s a grand photo spread highlighting the oldest, the youngest, and crediting 619 men with “heroically joining their womenfolk upon the march.”  This is the purchase for me.

The Women’s Suffrage movement is just one of the stories for justice and equality well documented through historic publications.  Whether an account of invention, discovery, narrative or relationship, these papers are jam-packed with the details of the human experience.  Sometimes there is an encouraging perspective of what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.  One hundred years after the push began, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.  But, this week I also found an eyewitness account of mob riots in Baltimore — including casualty listings — from  1812.  Evidently, much remains to be learned.

My selection (Harper’s Weekly, May 11, 1912) was on the very top shelf, stacked tightly and bound into a volume with Titanic events and many illustrations of William Taft.  I chose an issue with a damaged front cover since I am not very interested in then Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee “…whose proposed amendment to the Constitution will limit the President’s tenure of office to one term of six years.”

The cover price of 10 cents doesn’t hold, but since the average age-expectancy has drastically increased as well, it’s a modest expenditure.  Taking it home with me, opening it up, and dawdling over the columns as much as I like, seems an indulgent treat.  I might even ask the shipping department if they will package it for me…

I’m New Here, Weeks Five & Six…

March 22, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s a great day when you locate an issue that someone is wanting, particularly when they really want it.  Usually the request begins with, “There’s probably no chance you have this title, but…”  Because of our significant database I can now ascertain the general direction a new search will go, and have learned to further diminish expectations with words like, “Well, you are correct — that is a highly desirable date…”  Occasionally, my computer will display little notes or other indicators that this is possibly something I (with assistance) can find.  Without raising hopes I mention that it doesn’t look promising but there is something I want to double-check before I give a definitive “no”.

This morning’s call from one of our cheery customers delivered a query for a Harper’s Weekly from 1863.  He was looking for Emancipation Proclamation content, although many collectors want that particular issue for the full page Winslow Homer print or the double-page Thomas Nast “The War in the Border States”.  I reverently turned the pages to investigate the text in question, and found it free of foxing or damp stains or tears.  And then I found something else.

Just beside the historical, monumental words, the Harper’s editor placed or approved a first installment of Wilkie Collins’ No Name.   Although I have read his fifth book, I didn’t know that Collins was another contemporary of Dickens and Whitman.  I didn’t even know that “Wilkie” was a man.  And these little rabbit trails clamored for my attention and had me skimming the assertion by William Makepeace Thackeray on The Woman in White:  that it had him “transfixed” – a book that I’d found lengthy and melodramatic upon personal encounter.

I particularly enjoy this multi-layered discovery aspect of collecting/perusing early newspapers, and I grin over the notes back from purchasers describing the bonus treasures.  One that came this week included an exclamation over a Gentleman’s Magazine:  “R is over the moon as we discovered a paragraph about an intercepted letter from Alexander Hamilton complaining about congress and money! It’s just stunning to read these things as contemporary accounts.”

So, feel free to join the conversation and comment about the amazing things you unexpectedly have in your collection that you never intended to purchase. My own W.C. search is ongoing, as all the commentary I can find is that Collins was serialized in Dicken’s “All The Year Round”, with nary a mention of the great Harper’s.  Incidentally, if you are new to this world it might either interest or frustrate you to know the brand encompasses “Harper’s Weekly”,” Harper’s Monthly” (which is also sometimes called “Harper’s New Monthly”), and then the non-newspaper titles of “Harper’s Bazaar” and the various Harper’s books.  The Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspaper inventory contains the first two titles and it is there I will be searching for Chapter Two.

At least, that is how it will begin.

I’m New Here…Week Four (!)

March 8, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

I had begun to think that interest in my little contribution to this blog was waning enough that I would be able to slip right past the post in which I had promised to elucidate my multiple disasters.

Most of the veteran collectors ask for Guy, and yesterday I had to answer that Guy was not available, could I possibly be of any help?  Just before I completed a phone call with Mr. W., he asked me (in the classic gentlemanly manner of many from the southwestern states) for a preview.  Of my calamities.

And so, with a nod toward Arizona, I am sitting down to recount a few of my more unfortunate escapades.  I have called the same person with the same information twice, and neglected ever calling an important other. Through the first ten days I went fuzzy every time I needed to pull a title and date because I couldn’t even begin to locate the identifiers amidst all the fancy, scrolly banner headings. But many such moments were never known to any of the rare newspaper community because the group of people here at Timothy Hughes is absolutely splendid, and they countered most of them before anyone even noticed. I sent the skylift up to the shelf under the roofline, lowered it, maneuvered the 20’ row and parked. I was back at my desk before someone casually reminded me that the unwieldy volume had to be returned to the same location. Friday I answered the phone, forgot the business name, and then just began to laugh — because what else could I do?  It’s hard to be new, but it’s downright ironic in a place so full of old things. Surely the papers yield evidence that I am not, by far, alone in my muddles.

Still, the most colossal so far — including my omission of eBay tracking numbers, which potentially plummeted our heretofore stellar ratings — was the rare paper that I sold to two different people. In case you were wondering, there was only one. We didn’t have a second issue anywhere in the roughly 12,000 searchable square feet. I don’t know enough to help with the hunt, but everyone capable tried any space or collection that could possibly contain this gem. And, remarkably, they looked at me with something akin to regret when each location had been exhausted. Somehow, to their chagrin, they had not saved me from my own folly.

Mercifully, the fellow that I had previously introduced to the paper (I  used the word “stunning” as I described it to him) was very gracious when I called.  But in all sincerity, while I seldom make the same error too many times, I am working to meld all this newness into the well-oiled machine that is Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers …without excessive further ado.

So, if Guy isn’t available, one of these days I really will be able to help.

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