The title seems to be a bit absurd; or is it? In a land of abundance we often take our blessings for granted. Good health, a roof over our head, knowing where our next meal is coming from, being surrounded by loved ones, having a warm place to stay, safety - all of which we rarely need to question - are before us day in and day out. Our freedoms - of speech, of religion, of the right to bear arms, of political expression, of the pursuit of happiness, etc. - the list of things for which we should be thankful pervade every aspect of our lives. For most of us our greatest concern this Thanksgiving will be deciding on the time we plan to eat and whether we should have dessert before or after the football game. This abundance affords us the luxury to focus on such intellectual discourse as whether or not the Pilgrim story we learned as children actually occurred, or if it occurred in the manner we were taught. There is nothing wrong with this. However, this year, let’s take a respite from our intellectual pursuits and spend time engaging in matters of the heart. George Washington grasped the importance of a thankful heart when he made the first Thanksgiving proclamation:
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America A PROCLAMATION
WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of
the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an
opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the single and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wife, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.
(signed) G. Washington
With Washington’s proclamation set before them, governors and elder statesmen have followed his lead ever since (view an example from October 28, 1829). Similar proclamations and the general national attitude of "thankfulness" have revealed themselves in countless historic newspapers.
Finally, on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s nearly broken heart led him to make Thanksgiving a National (U.S.) Holiday:
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
Matters of the heart. It is interesting to note both Washington’s and Lincoln’s historic Thanksgiving Proclamations came in response to war – moments when the citizenry was moved to lay down their differences to come together in unity (similar to what occurred on September 12, 2001 – the day after), and acknowledge the blessings which were common to all.
Being surrounded by historic newspapers, I am constantly reminded of the great & many sacrifices which have been made so my children can live in this land of abundance – in freedom and in safety. I am moved to challenge myself to take time to count my blessings (which are many), and to “come as a child” to the feast which will soon be set before me. I invite you to join with me in reflecting upon life’s simple pleasures, the memories of old, and the joys which warm the heart. It is with this in mind I leave you with:
A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day
by Lydia Maria Child
Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s house we go; the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood, to Grandfather’s house away! We would not stop for doll or top, for ‘tis Thanksgiving Day
Over the river, and through the wood, oh, how the wind does blow! It stings the toes and bites the nose, as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood and straight through the barnyard gate. We seem to go extremely slow— it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood, when Grandmother sees us come, she will say, “Oh dear, the children are here, bring a pie for every one.”
Over the river, and through the wood— now Grandmother’s cap I spy! Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
Happy Thanksgiving!from the staff of Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers... History's Newsstand [/caption] One of the joys of collecting newspapers is sharing with others, but sharing can be problematic given the fragile nature of early paper. Certainly 20th century newspapers offer the largest & most dramatic headlines--some taking the entire front page--but 18th and 19th century issues can be displayable as well. Civil War era newspapers occasionally had large front page maps, and others included graphic devices which draw much attention. And Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Illustrated issues of the 19th century offer a wealth of displayable prints. Even some 18th century newspapers have graphically appealing mastheads which make them perfect for display, not to mention many with wide, black "mourning rules" signifying the death of someone of prominence. But smaller headlines--typically just one column wide--and major content often appearing on inside pages do present challenges for proper display, but can be done. Such headlines on inside pages can be creatively folded, matted and framed in such a way to feature a somewhat small yet very significant report. This relates to one of the common question received from customers: can historic newspapers be framed? The short answer is yes, in fact many of our issues are framed and hanging on walls in our office. But care must be taken to use only archival materials when selecting mat boards and backing boards so no acids transfer from the framing material to the newspaper. Virtually all professional framers use archival material today so this warning is more for those who choose to do their own work. UV glass is important as well, and again is typically available through professional frame shops. This glass will filter out much of the harmful ultraviolet rays which may, in time, do damage to the newspaper if exposed to sunlight. But just to be sure I take care to hang newspapers in locations where little or no sun will touch the frame throughout the day. So for those beautiful headlines in your collection which beg to be displayed, feel free to do so--but include some common sense as well. Do you have newspapers from your collection framed? Feel free to share. Although I think Tim’s choice was a good one (see his post), my choice for the most important event of the nineteenth century, post-Civil War is the invention of the first practical incandescent light bulb by Thomas Edison. His creation of this light bulb as well as his other inventions make him the most recognized inventor of the nineteenth century and perhaps of all time. In fact, reports about his most significant inventions were featured in several nineteenth century issues of Scientific American, more than any inventor of the era. Newspapers, however, were slow but not reluctant to recognize Edison’s achievements. As a result, there is no single report that marked his most famous invention. The reports were usually topical ones written by staff writers who visited Menlo Park, witnessed demonstrations of his inventions, or interviewed Mr. Edison. Images and a description were featured in the Scientific American issue dated March 22, 1879. Nevertheless, the impact of Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb and his other inventions are immeasurable and far-reaching. They continue to play a role in our daily lives and make the world a better place for all mankind. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Note: Images with a supporting article were featured in the March 22, 1879 issue of Scientific American. David Chesanow, at AmeriCollector.com, recently interviewed Tim to obtain his views concerning collecting newspapers related to the recent election. Two of the questions asked:
- Do you think people will start collecting Obama papers beyond the election?
- Do you anticipate this event raising interest in historic newspapers as a hobby (not investment)?
"Reading the emotion-filled accounts from actual witnesses suddenly opened a new door for me. Before, my viewpoint of history was that it was just a series of dates, names and events. Reading the actual eyewitness accounts made the names and events come to life. Imagine, being able to hold something in your hands that was "alive" when the event happened -- 100, 200 or even 300 years old. For the next four years I literally purchased every old newspaper I could find. By 1969 I realized that I was running out of storage room..." By 1969 he became a mail order dealer in historic newspapers. In 1984 he started a publication for newspaper collectors, "Collectible Newspapers", which featured journalism history articles. Tim fondly remembers the publication and the extraordinary efforts of Rick to bring together newspaper collectors from all corners of the country--and across the globe as well. "Rick was a true hobbyist. He expended much effort and money to provide a channel to bring together all collectors under a common banner--the Newspaper Collector Society of America (NCSA). Never was he motivated to profit by the hobby. In more ways then he might admit, Rick did much to help the fledgling hobby grow. Rick's a terrific guy and remains an extremely valuable resource for the hobby" says Tim. In 1995 he discovered the internet, and by October 1995, Rick had a small website utilizing articles he had first printed in "Collectible Newspapers." By January 1997, the site was getting 25,000 hits per month, and he could no longer justify the publishing costs for 25,000 people, so he ceased publishing the print version with the April 1997 issue. Now, thirteen years later, HistoryBuff.com is reaching nearly 90,000 unique viewers AND 500,000+ PAGE VIEWS monthly. In October 2003, HistoryBuff.com was granted nonprofit status at both the federal and state level. While donations help keep HistoryBuff.com online, Rick fills in with money of his own. As with most nonprofits, financing is always a chore and there is seldom enough to keep it going. He has never taken pay for his work; truly a labor of love. The HistoryBuff.com website provides a wealth of historical information beneficial to both novice and well-seasoned historians. It describes itself as: "...a nonprofit organization devoted to providing FREE primary source material for students, teachers, and historybuffs. This site focuses primarily on HOW news of major, and not so major, events in American history were reported in newspapers of the time. In addition, there is information about the technology used to produce newspapers over the past 400 years." A sampling of resources provided at HistoryBuff.com includes: