Before they became famous…

January 29, 2009 by  
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Part of the fun in collecting newspapers is finding reports in newspapers or magazines of the day about a person or event before it or they became famous. Typically such reports are very inconspicuous and brief, which adds to the excitement in making such a discovery.

Such finds are not uncommon in this hobby. We have sold many issues of the installation in the Philadelphia State House steeple that which would become the physical manifestation of freedom –the Liberty Bell–as reported in a Gentleman’s Magazine of 1753. There are several mentions of political neophyte Abraham Lincoln from the 1830’s & 1840’s, well before he would be thrust into American history with the advent of the Civil War. Mentions of Davy Crockett from before his heroic death at the Alamo can still be found.

A recent find is equally as intriguing and perhaps more so as it is no small report. The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine of February 22, 1902 has most of a page taken up with a report of Wilbur Wright “…of Dayton, Ohio…” and his experiments with flight and includes not just one but five photos of his early machines. This was some 22 months before he and his brother would make their historic flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which would change the world forever.

This issue has languished on our warehouse shelves for many years only to be discovered by accident. Such are the joys of collecting! I hope all of you have experienced some exciting finds unnoticed by others.

What reports of historical people or events have you found which predate their greater moment of significance? Feel free to share.

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2 Responses to “Before they became famous…”

  1. Todd And on January 30th, 2009 7:25 am

    Great post topic, Tim! One of my favorite papers is an 1842 Illinois Register with multiple “LOGAN & LINCOLN” ads on the front page and an inside report on Lincoln for the legislature. According to the paper, “Mr. Lincoln, perhaps, will not except of the nomination, though urged by Mr. Baker, who thinks Mr. L’s influence in the Legislature would secure his election to the United States Senate!!!”

  2. Morris Brill on January 31st, 2009 12:40 pm

    The Daily National Intelligencer of Tuesday, December 29, 1840 contains a report on the Election of President William H. Harrison and it was for this report that I purchased the newspaper.

    But, as Tim so accurately points out, there are often other reports in a newspaper that have the potential of being ‘historic’ or ‘notable’ in years to come.

    As I glanced through this newspaper I found on page two a report entitled ‘The Smithsonian Institute’ written by a subscriber to the newspaper. This report was printed six years before the Smithsonian would ever come into existence in 1846.

    In part the report said:

    “What shall be done to carry into effect the will of the testator? (Smithson) The reply is ready. Found an institution which shall afford adequate means in men of all ages and sizes to become well informed in the leading branches of human knowledge, theology excepted. Not only scientific, but classical and philological studies are justly included in the term “knowledge,” and the legacy is rich enough for every purpose.”

    This article is 14 column inches and very specific as to the author’s proposal on how to establish the Smithsonian Institute.

    As we all know the Smithsonian now stands as one of the greatest depository’s of knowledge in the world.

    *Political Trivia:

    The affairs of the Smithsonian are conducted by its 17-member board of regents. Eight of the regents are United States officials: the Vice President (one of his few legal duties) and the Chief Justice of the United States, three United Stages Senators appointed by the Vice President and three Members of the U.S. House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House.


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