Be sure you are buying what you think you are buying…

June 10, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

History can throw collectors a curve ball now and then. If something read in an early newspaper doesn’t seem quite right, take a few moments to research. With the plethora of information on the internet today, it need not be difficult nor time-consuming.
When writing up a 1792 newspaper reporting the installation of the cornerstone of the President’s house, at first blush it seems to agree with history. The cornerstone of what is now known as the White House was, indeed, laid in 1792. But it reports it happened in Philadelphia. Okay, the nation’s capital moved from New York to its temporary location in Phila. for ten years while the District of Columbia was being built out, so again the report seemed logical. However, more research uncovered what was being reported.
The newspaper is the Columbian Centinel from Boston, dated May 26, 1792. Page 3 has a somewhat inconspicuous report reading: “The following inscription is cut on the cornerstone lately laid as the foundation of the house designed for the future residence of the President of the United States, viz ‘This Corner Stone of the House to Accommodate the President of the United States, was laid May 10, 1792; when Pennsylvania was out of debt; Thomas Mifflin then Governour of the State’.”
Here is the background of the report:
As mentioned, the U.S. capital did move to Philadelphia. The President’s House was a mansion built from 1792 to 1797 by the state of Pennsylvania, located on Ninth St. between Market and Chestnut Streets, in Philadelphia. This was done to persuade the federal government to permanently stay in the city, yet this house intended for the president of the United States never housed any president.
On July 16, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act which designated Philadelphia the temporary capital for a 10-year period while the permanent capital at Washington, D.C., was constructed. The recently built Congress Hall was used from December 6, 1790, to May 14, 1800. The president of the United States, first George Washington and then John Adams, resided at the house leased from financier Robert Morris, also known as the President’s House, on Market Street, between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
In September 1791, the Pennsylvania state government enacted the “Federal Building Bill” to pay for the renovations needed for the federal government office space and for the construction of a new executive mansion. Twelve lots were purchased on the west side of Ninth Street, between Market Street, then named High Street, and Chestnut Street.
This is the building with the cornerstone mentioned in the newspaper report, laid on May 10, 1792 (the cornerstone of the White House in Wash. D.C. was laid five months later). On March 3, 1797, Penna. Governor Mifflin offered the nearly completed mansion to John Adams on the eve of his inauguration. But Adams rejected the offer on constitutional grounds stating “as I entertain great doubts whether, by a candid construction of the Constitution of the United States, I am at liberty to accept it without the intention and authority of Congress”.
Thus neither Washington, no longer president when the mansion was ready, nor Adams, would reside in the President’s House in Philadelphia.
In 1800, the University of Pennsylvania purchased the property at public auction for use as a new, expanded campus. The university demolished the building in 1829 and replaced it with two new buildings.
So goes the interesting history of the “White House” that never was. Yet the report is an interesting piece of history nonetheless.

You can’t always believe what you read – even when penned with good intentions…

May 6, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

(sarcasm alert)

Did you know you can obtain (collect) British newspapers older than the oldest known British newspapers?

While sounding a tad ridiculous, a newspaper article from a reliable 19th century publication confirms this claim.

Proof:

We recently discovered an article in an issue of the highly respected Niles’ National Register from 1839 which contained the following article:

It appears that as of 1839, the oldest known “English” newspapers were from 1695. The problem? We have several to offer dated earlier. One might argue ours were discovered after this article was penned in 1839, but many of what we have are from The Times (London) whose claim to fame is being the oldest continuously published newspaper in England – perhaps the world(?), and was one of the more prominent newspapers from the 1600’s-1700’s. While the journalist may have been well-intentioned, the facts emphatically betray his/her research.

However, if you are one to believe everything you read, feel free to take a gander at…

British Newspapers Older than the Oldest British Newspapers

All kidding aside, April Fools’ Day has an origin story…

April 1, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

You may love it or hate it, but by the end of every 1st of April you likely have been “pranked”. During my years of teaching 7th-9th graders, rather than dread the endless attempts to fool me, I made it my quest to laugh when I fell victim to their practical jokes… and to one-up-them before the bell signaling it was time for them to move on to their next “suspecting” victim tolled. I can’t say I always won the day, but when it came to working with 13-15 year-olds, laughter really was good medicine.

This point was often driven home by midday as those who had not embraced a more jovial attitude toward, or appreciation for, their student’s amazing creativity, whined and fussed and wondered aloud: “Who in the world ever thought this was a good idea?”

Note: Their actual comments were a little more graphic, but we endeavor to keep this space family friendly.

Sadly, time would show a direct correlation between those who stood their stoic ground and those who filed for early retirement. Good people – poor career choice.

Those days are long past, but as I was contemplating this “unofficial” holiday, I reflected back upon their angst and wondered if there was in fact a source responsible for their great displeasure. Thanks to the wonderful search engine hosted by The New York Times, I was able to find a few clues in an article they published on April 2, 1871 – which is shown in its entirety below. Please enjoy.

They Put It In Print – The 12th President of The United States…

February 16, 2024 by · Leave a Comment 

Who was the 12th president of The United States of America? Okay, perhaps your high school civics teacher didn’t require you to memorize their names in chronological order, but in case they did I’ll give you a little more time so you can run through them starting with Washington (hint, you’ll need more than both hands to count them out).

At this point I’m sure many have opted to simply do a quick internet search to “remember”. Cheating??? No judgement here. Do you have your answer?

Here goes…

So, did you come up with rolyat yrahcaz (the name is spelled backwards so your eyes wouldn’t easily notice it while reading the 1st two paragraphs)? However, NO! Sorry.

The one who was elected to be the 12th president refused to be inaugurated on the given day (March 4, 1849) since it was scheduled to be held on a Sunday. Being a “religious man”, he felt it improper to take the oath of office on the Christian Sabbath. Left with the unacceptable dilemma of having the top seat in the land left vacant, albeit for a short time, David Rice Atchison was sworn in to serve as “president for a day”. How do we know? The National Intelligencer for March 10, 1849 put it in print:

While the state of Missouri (Atchison’s home state) affirms this, the official website of the Senate of the United States says otherwise – and provides their reasoning.

Yet, who is right? I’m not a political scholar, but if accuracy of information provides a clue this same “official” article also says this rumor 1st appeared in the March 12th issue of the Alexandria Gazette… and we know for a fact this to be false. Again, how do we know? Our newly discovered issue is dated two days prior.

I love this collectible!

Some comic relief should be found in every collection… Early parachute attempt in 1785…

November 13, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

There seems to be a preponderance of tragic, dismal events that dominate our collections. After all, they tend to be very historic and life-altering. Think of all the “great” wars, various assassinations, the Titanic, Lusitania, & Hindenburg, and so much more.
So the occasional report with comic overtones can be refreshing. I recently wrote up an issue of the London Chronicle, July 14, 1785, with American content, but it also contains on the back page a very early parachute demonstration that went awry.
The report concerning a man who scheduled a parachute demonstration at the Blanchard Aerostatic Academy in England, planning to: “…let himself down from a prodigious altitude, and to manifest his composure by playing on a violin during his descent. To fulfill these promises, the ingenious operator had provided machinery, by which he might have been raised about 45 feet!
When the time arrived, he, with his Cremona [high-quality violin], entered the vehicle, and was raised with infinite precaution…”.
Okay, read the article to see how it plays out.

If they would only have built it sooner… (Shoeless) Joe Jackson…

October 27, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Even if you are not a fan of baseball, in case you haven’t done so already, the movie “Field of Dreams” is winner. The themes of perseverance, worthwhile priorities, and personal sacrifice are masterfully woven together to create one of the more inspiring movies of the 1980-1990’s. Steering clear of spoilers for those who have yet to see it, I’ll just restate that which is already included in the movie’s trailer: “If you build it, they will come!” Without being overly sappy… honestly, you really need to see it.

So, how does this relate to Rare & Early Newspapers? A few days ago one of our staff found an article from 1913 featuring one of the three main characters – “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (of Black Sox scandal fame), who was given a “2nd chance” at playing baseball – the assumption being he would have jumped at the chance to reengage at the professional level had he been given the opportunity to do so. Without saying more, I’ll let the heading and the 1st few paragraphs of the article do the talking (see below). Oh, and for the record, post-baseball, Joe and his wife (who were a team of their own until his death) eventually moved on from baseball, opened a BBQ restaurant, then “Joe Jackson’s Liquor Store”, and along the way co-raised two of his nephews. For better or worse, even if someone would have built it, I’m not sure he really would have come.

I hope you enjoy a portion of the article:

From the Vault – Finding those unexpected historical nuggets.

September 25, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Few thrills are greater in the rare newspaper collecting hobby than finding the unexpected historic gem. Those moments of serendipity are the treasures we all hope for at some point in our quest for new additions to our collection.

I have come across many in my years of collecting with two among the more interesting.

Long before the days of the internet I subscribed to the catalogs of the prestigious Sotheby’s auction house in New York City as they occasionally ran Americana sales which included newspapers. One sale offered an issue of the SOUTH CAROLINA GAZETTE from August of 1776. Trying to assemble one newspaper of all thirteen colonies from the Revolutionary War, this would be a new addition to that set. The lengthy catalog description noted some war skirmishes but nothing significant. But that was not a concern to me as I was only seeking a title from that colony from during the war, and the date of 1776 made it that much better. I placed my bid and was excited to learn I won the issue.

Several weeks later the issue arrived. In preparing it for my collection I casually looked over the content, and you can imagine my shock upon finding on page 2 a complete printing of the Declaration of Independence! I couldn’t imagine the incompetence of the cataloger–employed by Sotheby’s no less–who missed this report.

Not many years ago we purchased the newspaper holding of a public library in Massachusetts which includes a lengthy run of a Springfield newspaper, in fact two truckloads of volumes ranging from the mid-1800’s thru the latter part of the 20th century. Knowing the wealth of historical material which could be culled from this collection we put our attention to those events for several months upon its return to our office & warehouse in Williamsport. Some time later we realized that the sport of basketball was founded in Springfield. Could we be so fortunate to to find a report off the very first game every played? Did the local newspaper even report what is now an extremely significant event in the history of basketball?

Indeed they did. The Springfield Republican, March 12, 1892 issue reported somewhat inconspicuously on page 6 an event headed “Basket Football Game” played the day before (which we now recognize as the first public basketball game), with mention of James Naismith who is recognized as the founder of the sport. It was a thrill to find the report which languished for over 100 years, unbeknown to anyone, in the back shelves of a library. Curiously the curator of the Basketball Hall of Fame didn’t appreciate its significance, however the Smithsonian Institution did as it now is part of their collection.

What historical gems have you discovered serendipitously in issues purchased for another reason, or as part of a collection where nothing special was expected?  Feel free to share your stories with other collectors!

(This post was originally published on October 13, 2008.)

They Put It In Print – Going to extreme lengths to prove another’s innocence…

September 18, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Would you step in front of a moving vehicle to push a small child out of the way of its path? Would you jump into a river to save a drowning family member? Would you kill yourself to prove a stranger’s innocence? If you are anything like me, the answers in order are: “yes”, “Yes”, and “NOT A CHANCE”. However, someone not only said “yes” to the 3rd question, he actually put his “yes” into action. How do we know? The New York Herald dated June 17, 1871 put it in print:

Einstein… Smarter than a 5th grader?

June 9, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

To even ask such a question seems a bit absurd, but let’s double it. What about a 10th grader?

As reported on the front page of the May 16, 1952 issue of The New York Times, the 70-something “genius” Albert Einstein was put to the test. How did he do? He received an A+ for kindness, and, using today’s measuring stick where everyone is a winner, he posted another high score for effort. As for his answer… go to the NYT link above to find out if he was able to go toe-to-toe with a question given to a group of 15-year-olds.

Spoiler alert! In all fairness Dr. Einstein, rumor has it the question was listed under the “Challenging Questions” portion of their assignment.

Oddities Found in Rare & Early Newspapers – 1944 edition…

March 13, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Talk about tall!!! While the humorous and the absurd can often be discovered withing the pages of old newspapers, let’s just hope this oddity found in The News-Commercial, Collins, Mississippi (July 28, 1944) was intended to be a joke.

Mr. Grady, a local business entrepreneur had recently taken over the management of a local company, and whereas the entire article was featured on the front page, due to his extended height, not all of the corresponding photo did. Enjoy.

Feel free to send your own rare & early newspaper “oddities” to me (guy@rarenewspapers.com). Please include the newspaper’s title, date, and a corresponding photo or two.

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