Were you there – 1980? Elton John performs in Central Park…

September 16, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Price being equal, would you typically choose a tangible gift, or an experience? Why do I ask?

Context: My wife and I have been blessed with 6 children. As each approached the end of their high school education, we offered each of them a sizeable (to us – the parents of a large family with only one of us working outside the home) amount of money as a graduation gift, or its equivalent in cost to go on a trip of their own creation. Two of them opted for the $$$ to put toward items they wanted (at the time), while the other four each elected to go on a trip. Many years later, as we all reflect back on the “gifts”, those who chose the “experience” are pleased they did – and have vivid fond memories, and the others struggle to remember what it was they had purchased. The reality is, “things” are typically for the moment, and have short life-spans, whereas memories are for a lifetime.

It is with this in mind we embark on a new, experiential series of posts: “Where you there?” Our hope is that in so doing, those of you who were present will be flooded with good memories of your experience. To kick things off…

On September 13, 1980, Elton John performed a free concert in Central Park, New York. To this day, it remains one of the top ten most-highly attended musical events held in Central Park. Were you there? The ad below was printed in the September 9th, 1980 (f0r the 10th-16th) issue of The Village Voice. Feel free to share your family-friendly memories.

I’m New Here: Week Thirty (gasp!)

September 13, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Even eight months into my first year here, I still have important job skills to acquire. This week Guy introduced me to The Weekly Register, also known as the Niles’ Weekly Register. He actually didn’t provide much of an introduction as there was new inventory to pick up, but he mentioned the title and left me to find my way to the back wall of the annex.

Before I started the metaphorical digging in, I tried to get my bearings first by looking into the background of this publication that stretched from 1811 until 1848. Our own item description mentions “significant coverage of the War of 1812”, so I extracted an issue from the title year, settling on December 5, 1812. Just below the town and date, a centered, italicized quote from Virgil’s “The Aeneid” assured me I would appreciate this new acquaintance.
Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit, “Maybe someday you will rejoice to recall even this.” I wonder if it was intended to bolster the staff or the new country. At any rate, the printing address on the following line is a cheery thing. “Printed and published by H. Niles, South-st. next door to the Merchants’ Coffee House”.
The issue I borrowed from the racks covers the legislatures of New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, where (if the reports are accurate) the members were busily balancing affairs of their individual states with decisions concerning the authority of the president to call out a state’s militia. I was struck by the measured, pragmatic way one William Plumer attempted to persuade the governing body of New Hampshire.  My pile of recommended reading for current politicians is growing taller every day.
A list of the “excellent toasts drank at New York, in commemoration of the evacuation of that city by the British” lauds the particular prowess of American sloops of war and the late Captain Jones, resting “on the bosom of the Atlantic.”
There is a four page section devoted to “Events of the War” packed with locations of ships, letters from various regiments, descriptions of force strength, and even a transcription of a Brigadier-General’s stirring call to arms.

“Rewards and honors await the brave. Infamy and contempt are reserved for cowards.

Companions in arms! — You came to vanquish a valiant foe. I know the choice you will make. Come on, my heroes!”

I can’t help but think that if we continued to work at bringing forth great words we might encourage heroic ideals in a culture so untethered to traditions of excellence in speech and conduct. Then again, I am only seeing the parts of 1812 that made it into print.

Anyway, if you don’t know The Weekly Register, I hope you too have opportunity to become acquainted.  It has certainly been my pleasure.

Snapshot 1968… One of the more eerie ads we’ve seen…

September 9, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The following snapshot comes from the Village Voice, Greenwich Village, New York, June 6, 1968. In a bizarre twist of fate which is a bit stranger than fiction, Robert (Bobby) Kennedy died this same day at the hand of an assassin, and although the coverage was not included since this issue had already been printed, the back page has an eerie ad soliciting help with his campaign which states: “ROBERT F. KENNEDY is alive and living in N.Y.” What could possibly have motivated the one placing this ad to include such wording?

Labor Day – back to school, end of summer, and hurricanes – Oh My!

September 2, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Labor Day weekend is often received with quite divergent emotions. Most children view its encroachment with sadness as marks the end of their summer and a return to school, whereas at least a portion of parents view it in a positive light as a return to a bit of normalcy, and to sports enthusiasts, the onset of football season. However, regardless of which point of view one embraces, for coastal residents in the east and south, their emotions are typically coupled with a bit of trepidation as it also signals the onset of prime hurricane season. In this regard, the Albany Evening News for September 4, 1935 tells of what has become known as The Great Labor Day Hurricane. The image below tells of at least the initial detail of this historic weather-generated disaster. So, as we ask the Lord’s blessing before enjoying our outdoor BBQ’s today, let’s be thankful these tragic events are few and far between.

I’m New Here: Week Twenty-Eight…

August 29, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s probably obvious by now that histories of people are the most intriguing aspect of life to me and it helps me when I enter into the customer service aspect of this job. Each longtime collector, or birthday dabbler, or train-of-thought/rabbit trail follower (I made that term up) is led or driven by his or her own tale. And I am privileged to hear about the whys and wherefores of the quests.
This week I worked with an Earth Science teacher who has been collecting early records of hurricanes, tidal surges and solar eclipses with an intensity I can’t help but appreciate, even though I could barely follow his pontificating. It makes me happy that he is teaching, and I hope his enthusiasm is contagious to at least one of the jaded high schoolers trudging through the eleventh grade of our system of education. A writer in Manhattan checked in five times this week, and added titles that were absolutely vital to the history she is compiling and I have a mental image of scraps of paper covered in scribbles from which she cross checks and matches our latest catalog offerings. Her exclamations of delight are always tinged with the “I really shouldn’t…” tone that most dieters adopt.
Preferences aside, details really matter in this job. Enthusiasm over stories within a volume cannot excuse my neglect to mark the proper location for return. With thirty-one rows of interior shelving that is fifteen feet high and thirty feet long, a misfiled collection may never be found again, however valuable the issues or concentrated the search. Similarly, folks who ordered a hundred times don’t appreciate a letter that welcomes them as a new collector, and our six-digit item codes can’t have a single transposition without becoming wrong. By this error, I did not locate a New York Tribune from the Civil War period but a Scientific American from January 24, 1891. Tracing my mistake to the original point at which I veered from the straight and narrow path of accuracy, I ended up sitting down to a cup of tea and a technical description of the “Electrical Base Ball Bulletin.” It caught my eye because we are located in “The Birthplace of Little League” and host the annual World Series every August. As with the Science instructor, the technical jargon jumbles me a bit so I cannot begin to comprehend how the contraption worked. However, the description is clearly an invention of Mr. S. D. Mott of Passaic, New Jersey from 129 years ago, that was possibly the precursor to the system for the modern scoreboard display.

So, there you have it.

In the world of Rare and Early Newspapers, even a wrong turn (in a timely fashion) can land me in a place I learn something new.

Snapshot 1945… America at Iwo Jima – a melting pot forged in blood…

August 26, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The following snapshot comes from the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, dated April 22, 1945, which shouts of America as the world’s melting pot in a thousand words… and perhaps a million drops of blood.

I’m New Here: Week Twenty-Seven…

August 23, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Vacation is a good thing – as is coming back after a small change of scenery. I was up in Maine on a pond that is larger than any lake in my home state. And, while there, I was introduced to some important, prestigious folks who are third generation cabin (“camp” in the local vernacular) owners . We met at a covered dish supper out on one of the islands, bringing our contributions of bread and pie by way of a handmade wooden boat with a small outboard motor. And the inevitable question, “what do you do?” gave me a temporary fascinating status within the small group that included a renowned city planning consultant, a state representative, a former missionary to one of the Pacific islands and a couple of people who loosely classify themselves as “working in finance”.   And, once again, I can reflect on the wealth that comes to anyone with access to information and knowledge.
Last week I had intended to tell about The National Tribune – a paper packed full of everyday life. My bit of time away in a very small town where people still own the original house that their great grandfather built, or moved, or rebuilt after fire swept through that portion of the town, made me even more eager to share it.
We have here, in the annex, the years of 1885 through 1887. Within these weekly offerings is that strange blend of folksy and elite – the movers and shakers of a national capital as they move around town and shop and advertise and gossip and greet. Unlike that other Washington title The National Intelligencer, the first of the eight pages contains very little news, while the third page is devoted to veteran accounts of the American Civil War, with columns headed by campaign and battle names. Sandwiched between the words of the wife of the Speaker of the House concerning her eight children and the scientific reporting on the application of incandescent mantles to carriage lights are details of Senate hearings and policy matters that still impact us today.
If you have the opportunity, consider purchasing a random date from this collection. It’s less than two movie tickets and popcorn, and will likely enrich your life as much as it entertains. The newsy, small town tone reminds me of my recent time in New England, with the strange familiarity induced by elements we all have in common, whatever our circumstances or position.
Anyway, I plan to wander the New England titles from the 1800’s in my next bit of adventuring time. Life, as described by a community newspaper, is filled with unexpected moments of beauty, kindness and every day heroism.

Note: If you would like to purchase an issue of this title from the 1800’s, feel free to do so at: National Tribune, 1885-1887

I’m New Here: Week Twenty-Six (aka, “She’s Still New Here – the first six months”)…

August 15, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

There has rarely (if ever) been someone who has walked through our archives of historic newspapers and not been overwhelmed by the history that courses through the premises, but what is uncommon is to have such an individual become a member of our staff. Unlike many things that initially overwhelm or amaze us but soon lose their wonderment, if you love history, there are enough hidden treasures buried deep within our stacks to create excitement and appreciation for a lifetime. It was with this unique opportunity in mind we decided to have Stephanie Williams, our new office manager, chronicle her “learning curve” through a series of ongoing posts titled, “I’m New Here…”. Now that she has eclipsed the six-month mark, we thought it might be nice to assemble the posts into one easy-to-access location. Please enjoy her initial 6-month trek.

I’m New Here…

Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-6, 7, 8, 9-10, 11, 12, 13, 14-15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20-21, 22-23, 24, and 25 (this being week 26)

(Also, Stephanie was on vacation so we thought it was a good time to create this chronology.)

Snapshot 1858… A French flying machine…

August 13, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

The following snapshot comes from The National Intelligencer, dated August 7, 1858. It’s a shame those in the article below this snapshot didn’t have access to such an invention.

I’m New Here: Week Twenty-Five…

August 9, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

I began this post with a completely different musing on the world of collecting.  However, one hundred and twenty words into it I received a query concerning the content of an issue posted on one of the web market places.  After my research concluded, I cleared my page to begin again.

We had a 1927 New York Times listed for sale, and the request was to verify whether or not a name was mentioned within the feature story.  And so, for the first time ever, I read about the USS S-4, a submarine that was rammed by a Coast Guard ship off of Massachusetts on December 17th.  Of the forty on board, six crew members survived long enough to signal their location.  For three days the divers heard sounds of life; then the tapping ceased.  One of the rescue team almost lost his life attempting to attach an air hose to the cavity in which the small group had huddled.  His buddy eventually received a medal for saving him.

It is horrible to follow the words of hope and heroic blow-by-blow efforts as diver after diver took a dangerous shift in the turbulence, spurred by the Morse signals from the submarine, “Is there any hope?”  Finally, reluctantly, the tragic designation was issued, “lost with all hands.”

If I read the historical bits correctly, it took three months to raise the sub, which (“who” to all those in the habit of employing the feminine pronoun for a ship) was utilized for another five years following the disaster.  My contact today was looking for the name of his grandfather among the divers who battled weather and odds in the hours following the crash.  And he is there.  The name I was commissioned to seek is nestled within the sentence, “First diver to the scene was ______________”  For a full column the radioed conversations from command to scene are reported word-by-word.  These were clearly the exchanges of men determined to save their fellow men, at great cost and against reasonable hope.  And my imagination had me within that family, hearing bits and pieces of this epic event through the years.  Perhaps he never talked about it at all.  Either way, the very words spoken as one diver worked through the obstacles are here on the pages within an issue that we will carefully package and ship out to his grandson.

For me, this personal narrative embedded within a national tragedy eclipsed every other treasure found in a week packed with collectors seeking titles spanning from Virginia Gazettes to Village Voices.

I just had to share.

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