I’m New Here: One Year In

January 17, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

This week I made two different forays into a subject I only visited once before — The Wild West.  Thankfully, when you are dealing with a forty-four year old company that specializes in items printed hundreds of years ago, twelve months is not a long time.  And that is good for me, because even when I tally up the number of days I have been here at Rare & Early Newspapers I still feel like a novice.  Today I had back-to-back victories using the organizational system efficiently.  Harper’s Weekly from 1912 is not in the front warehouse (designated “W” on location maps) with issues published through the end of the 19th Century, but in the annex (“A”) along the right wall, almost to the very end.  Better still, as I confidently strode through the front building with an inward chuckle over my early bumbling efforts to determine what happened after December 30, 1899, I recalled the clipboard hanging in that area.  Rather than maneuver the lift across four rows and down a 15′ column in order to ascend to the appropriate decade, I checked the sheet.  There, recorded after exhausting all potential volume locations, was the notation, “August 17, 1912 — no cc”.  So, a disappointing answer for the collector inquiring, but a resounding victory for me as the entire search took a total of three minutes.

Every time I can locate an issue someone is seeking, I feel victorious. But the worst thing is spending a lot of time (which is always needed elsewhere) without having anything to show for it.  Today’s glance at the inventory tally reminded me that even a negative result can be useful, if not to me then surely to someone else.  Anyway, I am finally reaching the stage where I am wasting less time when I head into the back in search of whatever someone has called, emailed, written or web queried about.  In theory, the more time I save, the more I have to search out another Titanic issue (665700) for the collector in Germany or a Jay Gould cover portrait for the fellow in Minnesota.

And, for those of you who continue to read these posts, I will always make time to follow up on your requests.  I might even write about them…

I’m New Here: Week Forty-Three…

January 3, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, a collector asked me to verify the presence of a continuing report within the Gazette of the United States – the Davila Discourse, which discusses political implications of a republican form of government, as perceived by John Adams in the early days of the young country.  Mr. K offered the information that the section title printed within the sub-heading was not accurate, but a misidentification on the part of the publisher.  Instead, he referenced an outside scholarly source to identify the sequence of text.

My son was old enough during the 2000 presidential election to be fascinated with the process.  At his request, his grandmother kept every newspaper from the week before, through the many days following that strange Tuesday in this nation’s history.  Most notable in his collection, however, is the issue that proclaimed Al Gore as the winner.  This week I began thinking about the erroneous publication of “news” at historically crucial times.

Various reports of death have been “grossly exaggerated” – in fact, Wikipedia has alphabetically indexed 14 pages of such premature obituaries.  In the Rare and Early Newspaper world one of the most well-known gaffes is the Chicago Tribune Dewey Defeats Truman.  As I am new and just learning of these,  I am appalled to find yet another winding road away from the details I am supposed to be taking care of during my working day.

Ultimately, a thing is not true just because it appeared in print.  However, an editorial error can be quickly identified by reviewing the publishing context.  Those of this community who have a more seasoned perspective might enjoy sharing some favorite errors with me via this blog, in case an opportunity arises to do a little wandering in my second year…

I’m New Here: Week Forty-Two, Wishing You A Blessed Christmas!

December 21, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

As this is the first gift ordering season I have experienced in the Rare Newspaper world, there is much I have learned recently. However, I am on a personal quest to keep the bustle of the season from obscuring the spiritual value of these days. It is the third week of Advent on the Christian calendar and my morning reflections are on Joy. I appreciate the preceding meditations have been on Hope and Peace, because without them Joy might feel a bit contrived, at least to me.
My good intentions, however, usually don’t survive the details of life. Into all the elevated mindset about to be swept away by the Monday morning deluge of business activity, came an anchoring phone call. The gentleman was seeking information about an issue out of Honolulu, dated December 7th. It is one of the most available reprints as there were three versions in addition to the original. This fellow was mostly interested in telling the story of his newlywed mother who followed her spouse out to Hawaii in 1941, where he was stationed on a naval destroyer in Pearl Harbor. He told how his mom took a job in the shipyard so she could stay, and her birthday was unexpectedly marked by sirens and smoke. This woman, who wouldn’t open gifts until her husband returned days later, was blessed to spend more than seventy more years with him.
It’s a beautiful story, and it encompasses much of the mindset of WWII. The newspaper headlines surrounding those days are larger-than-life to me, standing decades later. But the people who responded with extraordinary courage and forbearance and loyalty and perseverance were ordinary men and women who put their concerns aside for something greater than immediate comfort or convenience or even personal safety. And the reports, columns, psa’s and advertisements of the time only serve to bring that point home.

Anyway, Hope comes before Peace which comes before Joy.
And then comes Love.

The following poem by Christina Rossetti, eventually titled “Christmastide” was published in 1885:

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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.”

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