I’m New Here: Week Forty-One…

December 13, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

This week I deepened my acquaintance with Brigham and Gregory.  Guy had introduced me a couple weeks ago following his absence from the office.  While he was away Gregory was urgently needed, and I could not help, uninitiated as I was.  Almost immediately upon his return, Guy rectified that situation, but days and days have passed since, without a deepening of our acquaintanceship.  Today, however, I casually asked how often the Pennsylvania Gazette was published.  And this time it was Tim who walked me to the most Ancient Oracle of Newspaper Publishing – Brigham.  His expertise, it seems, ends in 1890.  But, in the event I ever despair of pertinent cataloging beyond that point, Gregory has the more recent hundred years covered.

So thoroughly were these two scholars made known to me, I have not done any internet research but am glad to recite all the bits and pieces I have gathered.

Long before computer databases, Mr. Brigham compiled the definitive, “History and Bibliography” of existing American publications.  Organized alphabetically by state, and then further broken down by individual city, each entry describes the titles published (with chronologically ordered permutations) and then the known physical location of any issues.  My collector, seeking a Pennsylvania Gazette from 1792, might have found the impact of the Stamp Act a strange side note, as this was one of the publications that sought to circumvent the tariff by removing its title and modifying format to a broadsheet.  Then again, his concern could be for the changing of the editorial board or ownership, as Benjamin Franklin issues are more popular requests.  Scarcity of collections impacts value — and a title held by only one institution is certainly more precious.

The last names of these two compilers appealed to me — as they are in that classification of surnames acceptable as firsts.  However, buried within the publisher’s thanks to all who helped with the massive project are a few lines addressed to the Library of Congress, for the office space provided for “Miss Gregory and her staff.”  Surprised by the gender of the pronoun, I dug a bit more and found Winifred Gregory listed as the editor.

I like these new experts — and I like the balance of scholarship.  Furthermore, I fully intend to deepen this acquaintance with Brigham and Gregory.

In fact, I expect we will become good friends.

 

I’m New Here: Week Forty…

December 6, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

At the start of this week, I was a bit hard-pressed to think of something new I learned.  Winter dramatically closed the Thanksgiving celebrations in our part of the world, and I spent two days trying to determine the best window for travel within two storm systems.  Consequently, I arrived halfway through the day Monday and have been scrambling to catch up with the December crush of orders ever since.  Yesterday I decided that this was a good time to reflect on all the things that have become old hat to me, and how much I enjoy the rhythm of this world of old newspapers and the folks that value and collect them.  However, the end of the day brought home a new lesson.

A quick search of the internet archive yields a total of 1,355 works that are about Harriet Tubman.  Many titles are children’s books, by which young people have learned of Tubman’s many missions to liberate somewhere between 70 and 300 slaves, with heroic disregard for her own precarious freedom.  Her name is closely associated with the Underground Railroad, and she is credited with the altered route into Canada in response to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

And yet.

This week we discovered a report of her death in “The Omaha Bee” for March 11, 1913, out of Nebraska.  It is outrageously brief, and bewilderingly sparse in its acknowledgement of the North American 1800’s “Moses”.

The following is what Tim wrote for an upcoming catalog listing:

Page 3 has a somewhat inconspicuous report on the near death of the famed Harriet Tubman.
The report is headed: “Aged Negress Friend Of Abraham Lincoln Dying” and reads: “Harriett Tubman, a colored woman 95 years old, who is said to be a friend of Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward, and who was associated with John Brown in anti-slavery work, is dying here of pneumonia.
A curiously brief report giving her extraordinary life. A notable that of the many volumes of newspapers in our inventory this is the only report of her death (or nearly so) that we could find.

The new thing I learned this week is that a newspaper can only report on things to which the editorial staff is paying attention, or finding noteworthy.  This seems more than a bit disconcerting, but then again I may have had too many Thanksgiving treats.

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Nine…

November 27, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Sometimes rabbit trails lead to revised destinations – particularly those that meander through the annals of history.  This week is a big deal on the US calendar because of colonists and survival and a heritage of gratitude…and I am a person full of thanks this year, as I have been much of my life.

I obtained permission from Guy to be a bit personal in my post, which he graciously granted, but a communication with a favorite collector in NYC derailed my reflection.  Ms. P told me about Evacuation Day, which commemorated the rousting of the British troops from their occupation of New York City following this nation’s fight for independence from England.  I had never heard of the liberation of NYC, let alone the celebrations that occurred annually until Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation co-opted the seasonal celebrations.  To be honest, I had never considered the duration of conflict following the 1776 declaration.  Anyway, this information came to light in a peripheral way, and the collector who brought it to our attention, attended this year’s anniversary hoopla in the city that was liberated.

It’s a privilege to learn from the staff here, as well as those who are ordering papers.  The collecting community is made up of a broad spectrum of interest and study, and I get to glean from the riches that move through the Rare and Early Newspapers archives.

I am thankful for the people who envisioned the United States of America — this great experiment.  I am thankful for those who kept their convictions through a long, wearying stretch of conflict, and I am thankful for families and communities who continued to manage the stuff of life through the political upheaval.

If you have some time over the upcoming holiday, our catalog is much more fascinating than any Black Friday special.  Whether you find the perfect gift for yourself or another, the time spent perusing the pages is a treat all by itself.

Cheers!

I’m New Here: Weeks Thirty-Seven & Thirty-Eight…

November 15, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Two things jumped out at me recently, and perhaps I recollect both since this week is a planned combination post.  Also, in a strange way, they are related to one another.

First of all, anyone who has visited our facility has probably been struck by the magnitude of material that is literally everywhere, and the evident esteem in which all of these papers are held.  At my desk (which faces a window) I am flanked by two framed issues.  To my right, a Cleveland paper pronounces the Pirates the World Series Champions of 1925.  And the headline hung on my left shouts, “ALLIES PROCLAIM VICTORY IN EUROPE.”  There are nine similarly matted and mounted newspapers in this area that holds a couple of desks, four tables, and seven bookshelves — in addition to nine well-stocked shelving racks.  I am drawn to observe again this strange blend of work and wonder.  This is a business, after all, but it is also a repository of beauty.  The staggering volume of issues does not detract from the appreciation of each distinct title and headline (or buried mention).

A different interesting aspect of this Rare & Early Newspapers environment, is the way it has shifted personal perspective.  Most people hear of a grounded ship moving after one hundred years, and wonder, comment or possibly exclaim.  Here, however, it is a call to research.  “I wonder if we have a report from that incident of Niagara Falls’ history?”  Even random queries are seldom abandoned before at least a cursory glance at either database or archives.  Anniversaries turn into memos to check for same city coverage.  “Do we have a first report?”  And when research brings new facts or figures or labels to old history, the same material is scoured for people or places that used to be commonplace.  A purported  Alexander Hamilton pen name, or the mention of a ship traveling the Erie Canal, or DNA testing for a relationship between a slave and an American President – all can bring a new way to look at old news.

And here, carefully kept among millions of issues, it is likely we have it.

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Six…

November 1, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

This week I discovered another section of the archives previously unexplored — actually, I didn’t even realize it was there.

The walls in these connected buildings are shelved from floor to ceiling, as are the aisles and corridors.  Inside those rigid 15′ dividers are movable racks that provide another layer of coordinates for filing archival folders of old and rare newspapers.  It was here, highlighted by the angle of the tag, that I saw the title and date of voices for abolition.  The Liberator  issues that are housed here go as late as 1865, but I was interested in the ones that preceded the Emancipation Proclamation. What was being written and discussed by this publication from the “Anti-Slavery Office” in Boston in 1859?  What was the tone prior to that April bombardment that marked the start of the Civil War?

The rag paper is full-sized (“folio”, in fact) and consists of four pages, mostly devoted to telling the stories of injustice and accounts that should provoke outrage.  Headed by an illustration intricately representing people divided into groups based on the color of their skin, a banner curves along the bottom proclaiming, “THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF” while a sign above a wooden structure crowded with human beings advertises, “Slaves, Horses & Other Cattle In Lots To Suit Purchase.”  I feel the effectiveness of the graphics, of the pleading tone in the “Letter to Southern Ladies” and the headline which queries, “Shall Massachusetts Be Slave-Hunting Soil?”  But what surprises me the most in this new acquaintance was the attitude toward the forerunner of Abraham Lincoln.  A full front-page column is headed “PRESIDENTIAL FALSIFICATIONS”, and pulls no punches in its criticism of James Buchanan’s avoidance of the situation with the Free State Men of Kansas and the powerful politicians whose support of Slavery  led to an effort summarized with, “The Missourians openly exulted in the sure prospect they had of making Kansas a slave state, in spite of the Free State men.”

I am looking forward to delving into the dates that discuss the events that followed — in all the permutations and compromises and regrets and triumphs.  And I can’t help but wonder how much of a change anyone could have honestly expected after such a long period of such passionate division.

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Five…

October 25, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Sometimes I think that the constant hum of political discourse is unique to our time.  Certainly, the tone is billed as uniquely vitriolic – in stark contrast to the bucolic days of yore.  Except, I keep uncovering these eviscerating denouncements of a certain elected leader, or particular view, or specific cause, or controversial vote – with all the surrounding discussion and debate.  The only difference I can see is that a certain level of pride seemed to stamp each public statement – as if a political position was strengthened by dissent.  These days, nearly as much time is spent disassociating from one’s words as in the pontificating.

Adding a second distinguishing feature, this week I discovered the satirical  Puck – begun in Germany and published in America in 1877.  Interestingly, the founder collaborated with the renowned Leslie’s Illustrated prior to making the transition.  Headed with the Shakespearean character’s wry commentary, “What fools these mortals be,” the clever magazine takes the tone of an outside, slightly mocking, observer.

The one I selected for perusal deals with the Justice System on the cover, and New York’s participation in the World Fair of 1839.  A brief glance at the latter conveys a fairy tale worthy, beautifully colored double page centerfold that on closer inspection mocks the greed associated with the exposition and its participants.

It’s an elevated tone, when compared with the shrill modern volume on television and radio.  Somehow, satire is more palatable to me — a velvet glove of watercolor illustration covering the iron fist of debate in a place where freedom of speech was so highly esteemed that it was almost an art form.

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Four…

October 18, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Today’s post is a bit harried because Guy was away for a few days.  There is nothing like his absence to bring home to me how much I still have left to learn.  Thankfully, he has returned and no one was irrevocably distressed by my continued ineptitude — which was blatantly apparent without his buffering.

That said, I juggled as successfully as I could, and in the process found a sphere of knowledge of which I have somehow remained ignorant.  The covers of Harper’s Weekly publications are often pen and ink constructions that are balanced and aesthetically appealing.  Many collectors purchase these to frame and subsequently decorate walls and offices.  An issue from 1859 passed under my gaze while fulfilling a request that had been paired with a name unfamiliar to me.  The collector was searching for Garibaldi reports.  As I was completely unfamiliar with the name, my shipping room buddy brought the June 18, 1859 Harper’s to my desk before commencing his painstaking shipping process.

Clearly, I have been missing out.  This “famous Italian patriot whose exploits on the slopes of the Alps are at present in every one’s mouth” was featured on the full front page, and continued onto one inside column.  His visage is coldly angular, and his narrowed eyes appeared to find me across the length of my desk.  My reaction must have been noteworthy, because an hour or so later Mike brought me a different date for that same title.  “This artist had a kinder interpretation,” he said as he carefully placed another Garibaldi side by side with the first.  And, the difference was so pronounced I spent a bit of time looking for the minute changes that dramatically influenced the whole.

Then I thought of all the people who search out issues containing Lincoln portraits, or a date among the seemingly unending eight years of Teddy Roosevelt covers.  How funny it is to realize that our collective views of historically foundational people have been based on the interpretation of artists!  Based on the shape of Joseph G.’s eyes, I suspect that some of them had a distinct bias that has unconsciously colored our perspective.

Even with my reasoning braced against my imagination, I find the introductory paragraph to the report does nothing to soften the aggressive life chosen by this commander.  “Joseph Garibaldi is the type of gallant soldier of fortune, to whom the excitement of war is a necessity; but when his country’s opportunity arrives, is never found wanting among her defenders.”

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Three…

October 11, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

This week, while pulling issues that contain Emily Dickinson death notices, I read about the first public appearance of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and also the institution of the Income Tax.  As this was in 1886, I was surprised at the latter.  Actually, I was surprised to see so many famous names and events in just a ten day span within that May.  Oscar Wilde was hosting parties, Chicago was caught up in the Haymarket affair, and Coca-Cola was invented by a pharmacist.  The rabbit trail I chose to follow (after investigating this whole Federal Income Tax thing that has historically been attributed to Woodrow Wilson’s presidency almost thirty years later) began with the following words to the Editor of the New York Times:  “Mr. Putnam’s remarks on the impropriety of republishing [Washington] Irving’s works in their unrevised form, have but one fault; they are not strong enough.”

It is Autumn with a capital “A” in the northeast United States where, flanked by hilly vistas of multi-hued splendor, every street corner proclaims this the month of Hallowe’en.  Washington Irving, author of the famous ghost story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, could easily have been one of the serialized authors featured in the 1869 “Saturday Night” issues I have been pulling for a Philadelphia area collector.  And October is definitely the time of year in which strange, extraordinary and macabre stories would have provided thrilling weekend entertainment to a 19th century culture blessedly devoid of electronic clamor.

I didn’t know about Irving’s first published work, or the misinformation campaign to hype interest prior to the release of A History of New York.  I read about his “Knickerbocker” alter ego whose fictitious disappearance sparked a national following.  This moniker influenced sports teams, architectural structures, social groups, and even a toy company.  To this day, a resident of Manhattan is a Knickerbocker — nicknamed after a man who never was.

So, I am thankful for the censure that drew my attention away from the tax tables and the following words of “THE NEW INTERNAL REVENUE LAW. Topics of Interest to Everybody”:

Among these the Tax and Tariff laws are prominent, possessing an interest for every one, inasmuch as they most sensibly affect the cost of living, enhancing the prices of everything we eat, drink, or wear, adding to the value of articles of both necessity and luxury.  The Tax law especially appeals directly to our pockets; and we find that a share of our profits from manufacturing any article, as well as a proportion of the income which we annually receive, is due to the Government.

I would much rather consider impropriety of a literary kind.

 

 

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-Two…

September 27, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

This week as I was pulling some Gentleman’s Magazines to fill online catalog gaps, I hovered over an issue prior to searching within the computer system.  It was dated July 1776, and I took a minute to let that soak in.  I am regularly awestruck at handling all these papers, but particularly anything from such an important, pivotal year and month in American history.  Actually, I suppose it was significant to world history as well.

This is not a museum, however, but a place of business and conscience compelled me to limit my sighing to less than a minute before turning to the keyboard and pulling up the listing for this title and date.  And, as I read the opening lines of the description, I felt again the great privilege I have to be here.

“It is rare to find newspapers or magazines with the magical date of 1776, let alone ‘July, 1776’.  Here is one.”

These paragraphs are such valuable tools for searching as well as learning.  While Timothy Hughes Rare and Early Newspapers can boast 44 years in existence as a business, the depth of knowledge of history and its significance that is applied to filtering through the millions of papers in order to present each one goes far beyond a mere business listing.  And the one that filled my screen only served to deepen my wonder at this treasure trove chronicling the earliest days of this country.

The first article contains 3 pages of text on events in America, including: “Proceedings of the American Colonists since the Passing the Boston Port Bill” with various reports, one stating that: “…the main army of the United Colonies has changed its situation; and that the head-quarters are now at New-York, where Gen. Washington has already taken up his residence…”.  A proclamation issued by Congress concerning a redress of the grievances of the colonies says in part: “Therefore, Resolved, that it be recommended to the respective Assemblies and Conventions of the United Colonies, where no government sufficient to…their affairs has been…established, to adopt such a government…”, signed in type: John Hancock. Perhaps the most significant report is one mentioning the convention at Williamsburgh containing an important resolve (see) passed by the delegates which reads in part: “…That the delegates appointed to represent this colony…be instructed to propose to that…body to declare the united colonies free and independent…and that they give the assent of this colony to such declaration …..

I remember in my first days here, wondering if I would be required to wear gloves when handling these issues.  My query was shrugged off, but I have been asked the same by friends and acquaintances when I talk about my job.  We are used to seeing important things enclosed and protected behind glass and velvet ropes.  But these papers were made to be read, and passed around so the news could spread.  The older ones are often in better condition than the ones from the past few decades.  Still, they are individually protected within folders, as much to keep the edges safe and protected as to shield from light and other environmental contaminants.  I like that the storage options  we use are the same as those we offer to our collecting community.  Even though the crew here is much more seasoned than I, there is an unspoken acknowledgement that this is really amazing stuff, and I am not the only one that gets a bit awestruck…

I’m New Here: Week Thirty-One

September 20, 2019 by · 1 Comment 

Newspapers were bound into volumes throughout the years for a variety of reasons.  My favorite is that the owner of a large house would send off the papers that had been delivered, ironed, and read throughout the course of a year.  A book binder would glue and sew them together, and they would be returned to the home’s library, to be arranged with all the other years, and thus mark the history within which great homes and great families were housed.

Breaking a volume of bound issues goes against the grain for someone like me.  Perhaps the remembered library hush of early childhood imprinted an aura of solemnity to the world of books; perhaps the shadowed mystery of pre-reading years conjures the aroma that is akin to sacred things.  The most likely reason, however, is reflected in the lifetime acquisitions boxed in spare spaces, despite overflowing shelves in every room.  I like books.  And my forays into the back are exercises in willpower if I am headed toward All the Year Round, Household Words, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s Weekly or Scribner’s Monthly – which are liberally laden with serialized stories from beloved authors.

This week, in a search for details surrounding a Harlem rabble-rouser, I found an article headed “BRITAIN AMERICANIZED, CHESTERTON CONTENDS”, followed by, “He says Existence of Nation Is Being Altered by American Economic Pressure”.  The opening words confirmed my hope that these were indeed opinions offered by the great writer of The Man Who Would Be Thursday, the Father Brown Mysteries, and seventy other titles.  Many American readers, such as myself, have relished the literary works of this sharp-witted, kind-hearted lay cleric of the early 1900’s.

The affection, it seems, was not mutual.

“Speaking last night at the Delphian Coterie dinner, G.K. Chesterton declared that English habit and life, the look of the English town and the whole tone of English existence are being altered by the economic and commercial pressure of America.  He said that if the Kaiser had occupied London with the Prussian Army he could not more completely have denationalized the English nation and city.  ’While I object most violently to the Americanization of England,’ he said, “I have no objection to the Americanization of America.  Most Americans I have known I have liked, but I have like them most when I have known them in America.  Let us approach all international criticism with a good deal of what our fathers called Christian humility.  What Americans call it I do not know because I do not think they ever met it.’”

And, with that, I have nothing more to say.

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