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.

I’m New Here: Week Seventeen…

June 7, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Despite the obvious gender bias inherent in the title, I like “The Gentleman’s Magazine“, as I suspect many non-gentlemen of the time did as well. This week I pulled an issue from April of 1775 – mainly because I enjoy the tone of superiority that saturates those months before what we now know of as the Revolutionary War (or whichever various title you prefer). “Colonial upstarts” were causing commotion and consternation to the rest of the world, but mainly to the ruling class in London. The heading of the very front page of the one perched on my desk amidst the new catalog excitement is entitled, “Continuation in the House of Lords on the Address to his Majesty respecting the Situation of Affairs in America”. What follows is a labyrinthine balance between appeasing the vanity of the monarch, and an attempt to elucidate the different aspects of potential vulnerability to defeat. In particular, the French and Spanish ships continuing to trade with the colonists brought great consternation. “Does the noble Earl pretend to interpret this explanation [England would be “…at liberty to seize any of their ships trading with American subjects”] generally, so as to authorize our taking their vessels at sea? If he does not, what can such a vague deluding promise avail? If he does, then I will venture to assure his Lordship, that he is miserably deceived; and that the first attempt to prevent French or Spanish ships from navigating the American seas will furnish them with an opportunity of asserting their maritime freedom, of making reprisals, and of justifying their conduct to the other great states of Europe, who are known to be long jealous of what they are pleased to call our despotic claim to the sovereignty of the ocean.”
When I read this, I start to understand a little bit this American spirit, this classification under which our country has been perceived by the world, from the very earliest days. This mindset changed the world. And that is an immense, and not embarrassing, thought.
But, lest you think the GM’s are all politics, I would like to recommend any meteorology enthusiasts plug in the data compiled monthly and displayed on the inside cover page. The average prices of corn, wheat, rye, barley, oats and beans are delineated by county. Genealogists will enjoy the Births, Marriages, and Deaths alongside the list of Promotions and Bankrupts. There are book reviews and parish reports and a comprehensive section entitled “Historical Chronicle“, which gives an overview of multiple aspects of the state of the world.
Anyway, to delve into these accounts of the earliest days of this country is to see the tenacity that fueled an eventual nation – and perhaps nurture an admiration for what was once made, an inspiration for all that could be made again.

You can read more about Gentleman’s Magazines via previous posts at: Gentleman’s Magazines

The Traveler… “…I could see no promise in him…”

December 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Today I traveled to New York City by the means of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine dated December, 1866. I found the first appearance of Mark Twain in a national magazine with the publishing of “Forty-Three Days in an Open Boat. Compiled From Personal Diaries.”

Blog-12-5-2016-Mark-TwainI also found through the Harper’s Monthly website the following information. “Mark Twain’s first article in Harper’s was miss-attributed to Mark Swain. The story, “Forty-three Days in an Open Boat” (December 1866), is an account of the Hornet, a clipper ship that caught fire in the ocean, leaving its crew adrift. Twain referred to it as the “first magazine article I ever published,” though he had published numerous pieces in other periodicals and newspapers under such names as Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass; W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab; Rambler; Grumbler; and Peter Pencilcase’s Son, John Snooks.
Mark Twain was born thirty-one years earlier, and two months premature, as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Florida, Missouri. “When I first saw him I could see no promise in him,” his mother said. The Clemenses moved several miles upstate, to the Missouri River-side Hannibal, when he was four; the town would later inspire the fictional St. Petersburg of his two most famous works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)…”.

Twain didn’t turn out too bad after-all!

~The Traveler

The Traveler… giving thanks… not on the Sabbath…

October 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-10-17-2016-ThanksgvingI traveled to Boston today by the way of the Independent Chronicle dated October 14, 1816. I found “By His Excellency John Brooks, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A Proclamation, for a day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.” had been proclaimed. This was to be held on the Thursday, November 28.

Also found was an article entitled “Sabbath Laws” in which Judge Putnam “…repealed all former provisions upon the subject whether by statue or common law; that no act of labour, therefore, upon that day are lawful, except in cases of necessity or charity; and that prosecutions upon the statute are not within the exception…”. Too bad we cannot go back to those days…

~The Traveler

The Traveler… the first “learned society” of Washington, D.C.

August 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I traveled today to Washington, D.C. by the way of the National Intelligencer dated August 15, 1816. I found there the announcement of the creation of the first “learned society” in Washington D.C.: “A number of the citizens of the District of Columbia, impressed with the importance of forming an association for the purpose of promoting useful knowledge, met on the 28th day of June, 1816,… agreeably to public notice the committee appointed as aforesaid reported the following draft of a constitution which was unanimously agreed to, after having changed the name of the association to that of the COLUMBIAN INSTITUTION for the promotion of Arts and Sciences…” (see image below).

They were responsible for the acquiring the many different species of plants and trees, an idea to apply to Congress for “the appropriation of about 200 acres of ground called “the Mall” which was designed in the original plan of the city for a public garden, the beginning of the botanic garden, many items which are now in the Smithsonian Institute, and more. Many prominent people of the day became were members, including some Presidents.

~The TravelerBlog-8-15-2016-Columbian-Institute

A curious find that lead to more than expected…

July 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Although not a poetry aficionado, I am aware that “Leaves Of Grass” by Walt Whitman is considered a seminal work in 19th century literature. So when I stumbled across a small article on page 7 of a New York Tribune issue dated Oct. 10, 1855 I took a moment to read it. Most of the report is taken up with a letter signed in type: R. W. Emerson, so my interest was piqued.

After a number of Google searches I discovered this report to be much more significant that I might have thought.

Although considered highly controversial during his era, “Leaves of Grass” has infiltrated popular culture & been recognized as one of the central works of American poetry. As such, the article is interesting, mentioning in part: “…call the attention of our readers to this original & striking collection of poems, by Mr. Whitman…could not avoid noticing certain faults which seemed to us to be prominent in the work. The following opinion, from a distinguished source, views the matter from a more positive and less critical stand-point:…” and what follows is the famous letter by Ralph Waldo Emerson–who inspired this work by Whitman–in which he comments: “…I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed…I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy…” and even more, signed in type: R. W. Emerson. This original letter is in the Library of Congress.
This letter’s appearance in the Tribune would seem to be the only newspaper printing of the time, as records indicate that the: “…letter to Whitman from Ralph Waldo Emerson, 21 July, 1855 is among the most famous letters ever written to an aspiring writer…Without asking Emerson’s permission, Whitman gave this private letter to Charles Dana [managing editor of the New York Tribune] for publication in the New York Tribune on October, 1855.” (see this hyperlink).Blog-7-25-2016-Leaves-of-Grass

If we only new just how close… But what we don’t no won’t hurt us…

July 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-7-21-2016-Letter-KHave you ever tried to be ind to someone or to treat them like an ing? Does your house have an itchen and do people need to nock before they enter?  Have you ever seen a football player run back an ickoff for a touchdown or a boxer ock-out his opponent with a single punch? Thanks to the impassioned early 19th century arguments in defense of keeping the letter “K” in our alphabet, the answer to all the above is an emphatic “no”. Of course we are left with the tension created by  “know” vs. “no” and “knew” vs. “new”, but such stressors are a small price to pay for being able to get down on one knee to propose or to greet a loved one with a kiss. I for one are sure glad we ept it! The complete article may be read at:  The Port Folio, May 23, 1801.

True? Muhammad’s pledge of protection for Christians…

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-5-12-2016-Muhammad-CovenantWe recently discovered a report from Syria in the New York Observer, September 29, 1881 which had an interesting article discussing the existence of a document, signed by Muhammad, which provided for the protection of Christians. The article in its entirety is shown through the link. One website states:

“During our research  with the Greek Orthodox Church, we have located numerous documents hand signed by Muhammad granting permanent protection to Christians and to their churches. These documents have been in existence since the original order given by Muhammad in 628 ACE. We have located several recent documents which sustain the original charter of rights. We question why are these mandates not known to the Muslim world? Why does the media avoid reporting these critical religious instructions?”

Can anyone comment on the authenticity of this covenant as described in the NY Observer?

“Dear Daughters, Welcome to summer…”

June 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A well-known “letter” has been making its rounds for many decades which was supposedly written by a young female college student to her parents, updating them on the recent events that had befallen her. While the letter is fictitious, it certainly encourages us to keep perspective when hearing bad news concerning loved ones. A (modified) form of the letter is as follows:

Dear Mother and Dad:

It has been three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down, okay.

Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed by now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those headaches once a day.

Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump was witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Dept. and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital and since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.

Yes, mother and dad, I am pregnant. I know how very much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am now taking daily.

I know you will welcome him into the family with open arms. He is kind and although not well educated, he is ambitious. Although he is of a different race and religion than ours, I know that your oft-expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by the fact that his heritage and religion are different than ours. I am sure you will love him as I do. His family background is good too, for although I’ll need to learn my place when I visit, I am told his father is one of the most respected men in his village and is often called upon to help keep order when those from his community step out of line. 

Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you there was no dormitory fire; I did not have a concussion or a skull fracture; I was not in the hospital; I am not pregnant; I am not engaged. I do not have a communicable disease, and I am not dating someone from a culture which is oppressive to women. However, I am getting a D in sociology and an F in science; and I wanted you to see these marks in proper perspective.

Your loving daughter,

(unsigned)

It is with the heart of this letter in mind I present a copy of a recent rather-lengthy text my wife and I sent to our young daughters:

Dear Daughters,

As you know, the summer season is nearly upon us and your annual quest to find swimsuits your mama and I are willing (if even reluctantly) to allow you to wear in public is upon us. We know this is about as challenging and frustrating as finding a “mama acceptable” evergreen tree at the start of each Christmas season. Need I say more? However, this year, as your loving parents, we’ve decided to alleviate your stress by purchasing matching suits for all of you. While they have yet to arrive, we were able to download a picture of the ad for the style we selected from the online catalog at AuntieAmysAuspiciousApparel.com:

Blog-6-23-2016-Swimwear

Okay, we didn’t purchase swimsuits for each of you, but we’re considering doing so next year. Please keep the above in mind as you begin your quest. I’m sure we’ll be pleased with your choices.

Love,

Mom and Dad

 

PS  A special thank-you goes out to the Public Ledger, Philadelphia, June 15, 1893, for this most wonderful advertisement. It’s a bit unsettling to note the ad appears in an issue containing an article on Lizzie Borden.

 

Full Disclosure: My wife and I are blessed to have 5 daughters with whom we never need to fight this battle. Thank you!

Perhaps not a perfect system, but… Happy Memorial Day!

May 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Is the United States perfect? Certainly not. Our forefathers did not sacrifice time, security, and in many cases, life or limb for the sake of a perfect system of government. Their hope was to establish a government for the people – which would provide the opportunity for all to pursue happiness in an environment free of governmental oppression and steeped with a host of inalienable rights. For some, “all” meant everyone. To others, “all” was defined quite narrowly. Still, even those who had a broader view understood the benefit of compromise – for the purpose of establishing a system which would have enough flexibility to adjust to their broader view of “all” over time. We know now the great advancement in this regards only came through a Civil War; however, it came. A perfect system? No. The best system ever constructed by man? Absolutely.

As we contemplate the great sacrifice paid by many to create and preserve this “best system” under God, the New York Tribune dated July 7, 1854 help us to capture the tension and need for growth that was evident to many in the 1850’s. Allow a negro to become a member of Congress? Could this be possible? Those who knew Frederick Douglass certainly thought so. Please enjoy:Blog-5-30-2016-Frederick-Douglass

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