Thursday, December 1, 2011

A glimpse into Manatee County history



Hamilton Disston
In 1881, wealthy Philadelphian Hamilton Disston made a remarkable Florida land deal that kick-started the state's sluggish economy. To help bail out the state's foundering Internal Improvement Fund, he bought four million acres for 25 cents an acre. By the end of the year, he sold half of it to a wealthy British politician who had railroad interests in Florida.

Disston brought in friends from Philadelphia and elsewhere as partners and set up various companies to develop the remaining land. All this activity spurred development throughout the state, and Manatee County was no exception. A remarkable Township Abstract Book from Manatee County is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

The large leatherbound book contains the handwritten records of real estate transactions from about 1882 to 1887 in Manatee County, which was originally much larger than it is today. Here is a treasure trove of entries with the names of many of the region's early pioneers, as well as other players in the development of Florida at the time.

Disston himself is listed, as are his wife and the land buying British politician, Sir Edward James Reed, an accomplished maritime architect for the Royal Navy well before he began investing in Florida's railroads. Reed, along with some Dutch and English investors, bought several small railroads and merged them into a larger transportation company. Within five years, though, Reed had gotten out of the railroad business.

Here, too, are entries for land purchases by some local pioneer luminaries, such as Ziba King, Robert C. Hendry and John W. Whidden.

Ziba King
King was a self-made cattle baron. He came to Tampa from Georgia after fighting as a private in the Georgia Infantry. He opened a dry goods store at Fort Ogden and prospered. He bought land and cattle, and became a banker, and a leading citizen. King was elected Justice of the Peace and served on the school board. Stetson Kennedy used to tell the story that King came to the rescue when Manatee County didn't have enough cash to pay its schoolteachers. King distributed enough gold to pay their salaries for six months.

Robert C. Hendry was another early pioneer in Manatee County. He and his wife Zilla Ann moved to Florida from Thomasville, Georgia. Their son, John Wright Hendry would become a Baptist preacher and cattleman. A relative, Francis A. Hendry, who had been a major in the Confederate States Army, also became a cattleman and helped establish beef markets in Cuba for Florida cattle. The county was named after Francis.

John C. Whidden fought as a mounted volunteer in the Third Seminole War. After the war, he became sheriff of Manatee county, and later tax collector. He also served as a lieutenant in the Confederate army. After the Civil War, Whidden returned to Manatee county and started growing his herd. He was active in the Baptist church and in state politics, serving in the State House and the Senate. Senator Whidden sponsored the bill to create DeSoto County from the larger Manatee County in 1887.

This volume offers peeks into other aspects of the region's history, including transactions in Arcadia, which became the county seat after the government was moved from Pine Level. H.E. Carlton, then-tax collector for the relatively new DeSoto County, is recorded several times selling property for unpaid taxes. Here, too, are references to the Kissimmee Land Company, one of Disston's many companies, and the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad, a rail and steamboat network that eventually became part of the Plant System.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy birthday, composer Virgil Thompson


It is the birthday of composer and music critic Virgil Thompson (1896), whose score for the documentary Louisiana Story won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1949. He lived in Paris in the 1920s, where he knew Aaron Copland, Jean Cocteau, e.e. cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, Orson Welles, and Gertrude Stein, who became his mentor. He was music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune for 14 years.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy birthday, Johann Leopold Mozart


It is the birthday of Johann Leopold Mozart (1719), father of Wolfgang Amadeus, but also a gifted composer in his own right.

Friday, October 14, 2011

MacDonald's Travis McGee and more


John D. MacDonald
Stephen King called John D. MacDonald "the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller." He is also one of Florida's favorite writers, creating the gangly, knight-errant hero, Travis McGee. He wrote 21 Travis McGee novels and scores of other novels, short story collections, nonfiction books and magazine articles.

Much of his Travis McGee work is still in print, but most coveted are the older novels written before the Travis McGee series. The collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA includes plenty of samples of MacDonald's work. Here, you'll find the early paperbacks, like Soft Touch, Cancel All Our Vows, Where is Janice Gantry?, The Deceivers and Murder in the Wind.

Here, too, are such science fiction works as The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything and Ballroom of the Skies.

Also in the collection, of course, are Travis McGee novels in both paperback and hard cover. There was always a color in the title, mostly capturing the hues that make up life in subtropical Florida. McGee, the "knight in rusting armor," as MacDonald put it, was an enviable fellow, taking his retirement in increments while he was still young enough to enjoy it.

Devoted Travis McGee fans know he lived aboard a houseboat called The Busted Flush (won in a poker game), docked at slip F-18 in Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale. They also know that there really was a slip F-18 at Bahia Mar and there was a brass plaque commemorating the home of McGee's Busted Flush, but it is there no longer. A redesign of the marina several years ago eliminated the legendary location. Instead, there is a big monument at the marina honoring McGee and John D.

McGee has a healthy disdain of modern society that stirs a longing for freedom in readers who lead ordinary lives, caught up in the fabric our complex culture. "And I am wary of a lot of other things," says McGee, "such as plastic credit cards, payroll deductions, insurance programs, retirement benefits, savings accounts, Green Stamps, time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants, check lists, time payments, political parties, lending libraries, television, actresses, junior chambers of commerce, pageants, progress, and manifest destiny."

MacDonald's work is translated into multiple languages and published around the world. One of the more interesting items in the Lighthouse collection is a signed German paperback with a title that translates, The Light Flickers Four Times.

Near the end of his life a Helsinki publisher, Eurographica, produced a limited edition of 350 copies of a collection of four of MacDonald's best short stories. The book was called The Annex and Other Stories. It was printed on handmade paper and was signed by MacDonald. The edition was never distributed, however. A signed copy from that edition is also in the Lighthouse collection.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trade cards: 19th century entertainment


Hold the card up to the light, readers were told.
In the days before television and radio, American families sometimes entertained themselves with trade cards—colorful advertising cards the local grocer or dry goods purveyor might have included with a purchase.

The cards had wonderful scenes on the front and an advertising message on the back. People collected them, traded them and put them in scrapbooks. An evening might be spent sorting them, talking about them and carefully attaching them to pages to be enjoyed again.

The cards came about because of a development in printing called chromolithography that eventually allowed inexpensive mass reproduction of these pleasant images. Early on, chromolithography was anything but cheap. Multiple colors in a scene required that the printed sheet be passed beneath many stones, each etched with a color contained in the image. That proved to be both very time consuming and very expensive. Fine art prints were created this way.

But eventually printing became much more streamlined and huge quantities of these little cards could be produced. An assortment of 19th century advertising cards is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. The cards were most popular from about 1800 to 1900, though their popularity had begun to wane by the 1890s as merchants and manufacturers turned to newspapers as their primary advertising medium.

The cards offer a glimpse into lifestyles of the period. Here are cards advertising coffee, for instance, long a staple of the American household. One particularly humorous card shows a couple clearly at loggerheads over some unknown issue. Below them reads, "BEFORE using The Great A&P Tea Co's Coffee with A&P Condensed Milk." When a reader inverts the card, a happy couple is revealed, cleverly drawn into the bottom of the illustration of the bickering couple. The corresponding caption reads, of course, AFTER using the products of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (which became better known as the A&P grocery store.)

Here, too, are cards for toiletries, patent medicines, baking powder, and other kitchen supplies, packaged food items and more, all printed in beautiful color.

The array also includes a mini-program for a play starring Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Florence, who were popular performers for many years during and after the Civil War. The play was
The Mighty Dollar, which the couple toured with for at least a decade. Presumably the Florences offered a respite from evenings of sorting trade cards.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The library of orchid expert Eric Christenson

By all accounts, Eric Christenson was a world-renowned authority on orchids. He was a research taxonomist, a scientist who studied orchid species and classified them, recommending scientific names for new species. [Below is a video he made in 2006 explaining his work.]

In 2002, Christenson was hard at work on a description of a new species that had been discovered in Peru. Christenson, who lived in Bradenton surrounded by a 3,000-volume library of orchid references, had spent considerable time studying Peruvian orchids and had become a leading authority on them. He worked from photographs from colleagues in Peru.

On June 12 of that year, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota published a description of a new unclassified species—the same one that Christenson had been working on. A specimen of the plant had been brought to Selby by orchid enthusiast Michael Kovach from Peru. He said he got it from a rural crossroads flower stand. It was a ladyslipper orchid and it had never been classified.

The scientists at Selby Gardens named the flower Phragmipedium kovachii, after Kovach. They said it was the most spectacular orchid discovery in a hundred years and they sent out a news release about it. The orchid world was all atwitter.

On June 17, a livid Christenson published his description of the flower in Orchids magazine, a publication of the American Orchid Society. Christenson said the name should be Phragmipedium peruvianum, although some scientists didn't think that was a good name because there was another flower that had a similar name.

Phragmipedium kovachii
Three days later the Peruvian government complained to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that Kovach had violated the endangered species act. Kovach ended up in court, was tried and sentenced to two years probation and a $1,000 fine. The whole scandalous episode was an embarrassing nightmare to Selby Gardens, which ended up with a $5,000 fine itself.

As for Christenson, he was vindicated but the name of the flower was never changed. The episode did bring Christenson world recognition though. "He was well known before that time but the kovachii incident made him famous around the world," California orchid grower Marni Turkel told the Bradenton Herald for his obituary. Christenson died in April of this year.

Christenson is well remembered in orchid circles. He did field work in Guyana and French Guiana as well as Peru, and wrote numerous books and articles about his findings. He worked with David Bennett of Lima in researching orchids in Peru, identifying more than 100 new species.

Christenson's vast library can be seen by appointment at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It contains numerous rare and unusual volumes, including a numbered, limited edition reprint of the 1837 edition of James Bateman's The Orchidaceae of  Mexico and Guatemala,  a 1677 volume by Swiss botanist Caspar Bouhin, an 1887 edition of The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, published by his son Francis, and an 1846 first edition of a book by British botonist George Gardner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jean-Henri Fabre: the man who loved bugs


Jean-Henri Fabre
Jean-Henri Fabre loved to study bugs as a boy. He grew up poor in the south of France, gained a teaching certificate at age 19, and went on to become a physicist, chemist and botonist. But, he always came back to the insects. Small wonder that he became a noted entomologist. Indeed, he is considered the father of modern entomology.

Fabre was a stickler for detail and he made careful notes about his observations. But he had a gift that many other scientists lack. Fabre knew how to tell a good story. Because of that, he was a popular teacher. His writings about instects are engaging because he imbues his subjects with nearly human qualities without sacrificing scientific accuracy.

Over several years, Fabre produced a series of books called Souvenirs entomologiques, first published in 1879. There were ten series in all, the last published in 1909. In the early 20th century, famed translator, Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, undertook translation of the text into English. In 1921, Dodd, Mead and Company, published Fabre's Book of Insects, retold, from de Mattos' translation, by writer Maud Margaret Key Stawell. A copy of Fabre's Book of Insects is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

The illustrator of this remarkable volume deserves a special mention. He is Edward J. Detmold, an English artist who, along with this twin brother, Charles, became interested in natural history at a young age. Their artistic talent became evident early and they exhibited watercolors at the Royal Academy in London. They illustrated Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Edward's brother committed suicide at age 24, and Edward was devastated. He continued to work, and in 1909, illustrated The Fables of Aesop. There is no evidence that Edward ever met Jean-Henri Fabre but they would have had a lot in common. Edward's love of natural history is evident in his illustrations for this book. Without being at all cartoonish, they give the bugs in this volume the personalities observed so carefully by Jean-Henri Fabre.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Black Hawk, Keokuk and the legends


Moses Keokuk
In 1878, when Chief Thunderwater was 13 years old and not yet a chief, his uncle gave him an extraordinary book, titled The Life and Adventures of Black Hawk:  With Sketches of Keokuk, the Sac and Fox Indians, and the Late Black Hawk War.
Chief Thunderwater
(Oghema Niagara)

Chief Thunderwater’s uncle was a very important man, a chief of the Sac (Sauk) and Fox tribe, named Moses Keokuk. Moses’ father (Chief Thunderwater’s grandfather) was an important man, too, and he had a large section in the book.

Moses inscribed the book to Chief Thunderwater, who was also known as Oghema Niagara. “For Oghema,” he wrote, “form (sic) Moses Keokuk to keep much time,” and dated it 1878. The book is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. When he received the book, Oghema was traveling and performing, along with his family, in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

It was far different than the life his grandfather – or even his parents – had led. Indeed, Oghema’s father, Jee-Wan-Ga, was a hunter and healer. He earned a living selling furs and herbal remedies to the white men. Oghema’s mother, Aw-Pau-Che-Kaw-Paw -Qua, was one of Keokuk’s many daughters. Keokuk had eight wives.

Keokuk and his son (Moses) Keokuk
The tribe had lived mostly in an area west of Lake Michigan that became Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri. The tribe fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812, and many held little regard for the Americans. Black Hawk wasn’t a chief but he had achieved a position of leadership through his deeds of courage.

Black Hawk had a rival who also came up the hard way: Keokuk, who was an ambitious man. He became the tribal guest-keeper and he saw the opportunity to use his position in the tribe to gain more power and prestige.

In 1830, while Black Hawk and his warriors were away on a hunting trip, Keokuk and others entered into a treaty with American officials that ceded Indian lands to the United States in exchange for cash and other considerations. Keokuk became a principal negotiator in that agreement. Included in the land deal was the ancestral home and birthplace of Black Hawk near what is now Rock Island, Illinois.

When Black Hawk returned, he was livid. He contended that Keokuk had no authority to make such a treaty. Inevitably, there ensued an armed conflict that became known as the Black Hawk War. It lasted for five months in 1832. Several future luminaries participated in the war, including Abraham Lincoln (in his only military service), Jefferson Davis, Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor.

Black Hawk
The final battle, called the Battle of Bad Axe, turned into a massacre, with women and children slaughtered by American soldiers as they tried to flee across the Mississippi River. Black Hawk initially escaped, but was later captured under a flag of truce and imprisoned for a year.

Eventually, Keokuk became the designated chief of the tribe. The war over, the United States government set about in earnest to move Native Americans west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory.

About six years later, Benjamin Drake, a newspaper editor and historian from Cincinnati, published this book about Black Hawk, Keokuk, the Sac and Fox tribe and the Black Hawk War. The book apparently did very well, selling many copies and going into several printings. The copy in the Lighthouse collection is the seventh edition, published in 1842.

Moses Keokuk, son of Keokuk, became leader of the Sac and Fox tribe upon his father’s death in 1848. Like his father, Moses was a pragmatic sort who negotiated the best possible situation for his people under the circumstances. He was actually quite inclined toward an Euroamerican lifestyle. He lived in a house in the Indian Territory and he became a Baptist minister in 1877. He encouraged his people to become Christians. His exhortations apparently didn’t influence his nephew, however.

Oghema Niagara grew up to become Chief Thunderwater, who lived in Cleveland for many years and became active in Indian political affairs both in the United States and Canada, where he rankled federal officials by pushing for better health care and education for Native Americans. He encouraged Native Americans to adhere to the old beliefs, eschewing Christianity.

He supported himself for a time creating and selling herbal remedies learned from his father under labels like Thunderwater’s Mohawk Oil and Jee-Wan-Ga Tea.

Joc-O-Sot (Courtesy of georgecatlin.org)
Chief Thunderwater became known as an outspoken advocate of Indian rights. He successfully stopped an attempt by developers to move the Erie Street Cemetery in Cleveland, burial ground of Joc-O-Sot, another chief who had fought with Black Hawk. Thunderwater told city officials the land was sacred ground and that if it was disturbed great calamity would befall the city. With the help of the Early Settlers Association, the city was persuaded to halt the project to remove the cemetery, which is right across from Jacobs Field, home of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.

Inside Thunderwater’s book is a small cemetery card with the location of Joc-O-Sot’s grave, and thereby hangs another tale. In his years after being a warrior, Joc-O-Sot toured with a traveling theatrical troupe, as Oghema Niagara and his family had done. In June 1844, Queen Victoria received him in an audience and commissioned a portrait of him.

While he was in England, Joc-O-Sot became ill, and as quickly as he could, he returned to Cleveland. He planned to return to his Sauk roots in Minnesota to die but didn’t make it, and was instead buried in the Erie Street Cemetery.

Legend has it that Joc-O-Sot’s spirit, outraged that he wasn’t buried in his birthplace, still haunts the Erie Street Cemetery. Adherents to that idea point to Joc-O-Sot’s shattered tombstone as evidence that the spirit was unhappy. Others claim lightning smashed the tombstone.

Chief Thunderwater is buried right next to Joc-O-Sot. For years, Thunderwater family members have conducted an ritual corn ceremony by the graves to honor them, giving rise to yet another legend. Every year three stalks of maize grow next to the graves. Some say the gods send the corn to nourish Joc-O-Sot until he makes the final journey to his tribal lands. Others say a Sauk woman, perhaps Thunderwater's relative, visits to placate his restless spirit.

It is said that sometimes Joc-O-Sot’s spirit haunts Jacobs Field across the road, never good news for already superstitious baseball players. When there’s a Joc-O-Sot sighting, fans do what they can to placate him, leaving shot glasses, feathers or other trinkets at the gravesite. At this writing, Cleveland was in 13.5 games back in the AL Central Divison, but still in second place behind Detroit, so maybe Joc-O-Sot is quiet for the moment.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

C. Perry Snell, Snell Isle's visionary


C. Perry Snell
In the 1920s, dreamers and schemers descended on the Sunshine State bent on making a fortune in the burgeoning real estate market. In the earliest days of the Florida Land Boom, it seemed that one had but to imagine great wealth for it to be so. Parcels were bought and sold, sometimes within hours, at huge profits.

The real estate bubble didn’t last long—a scant five years or so—and when the end came some would-be real estate tycoons were stuck with land bought at inflated prices and no money. But there were developers who, though they had prospered during the boom, were cautious and had not been caught up in the buying frenzy.

C. Perry Snell, for instance, had been in St. Petersburg for a couple of decades before the hubbub began. He had successfully developed residential projects that eventually became known as Old Northeast. He owned land bought many years before that he had not yet developed.

About the time everything was going bust, C. Perry Snell was launching his most ambitious project—Snell Isle. It was to be a prestigious residential area on a parcel close to downtown St. Petersburg and overlooking Tampa Bay.

Oh, Perry Snell was a dreamer, to be sure, but not so much of a schemer. Snell’s projects had been solid, forward looking investments. He is credited with being among those who helped guide the city in creating the huge bayfront park lands that residents still enjoy today.

A brochure from the start of the project (and other related ephemera) is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. The piece, printed with a full-color cover and some full-color pages inside, vividly depicts Snell’s grand vision, but a close examination also shows the risk Snell was taking with a raw piece of land, parts of which were often under water.  

Snell imagined an actual island created by cutting a canal from Coffeepot Bayou to Smacks Bayou. That canal, of course, was never completed and Snell Isle never really became an island. Still, Snell’s brochure must have stirred thoughts of European splendor:

“In imagination we step into a gondola anchored at the entrace of a lagoon, the entrance flanked by a castle-like building with parapets and a colorful and artistic Venetian landing. The slender, bright bark glides under low arched bridges and pursues its way through narrow canals and lagoons, gliding between rows of charming little Venetian shops flanking the sides of the canal or along a winding lagoon overlooking a parked golf course.”

Another part of the project that never came to fruition: the grand hotel with all the latest amenities that he envisioned for Bay Point. Today the tiny island off Snell Isle is festooned with 31 homes instead.

Nevertheless, much of Snell’s vision of making his namesake project, a premier residential neighborhood, was finally realized through this man's great determination to make his dream a reality.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pitcher Spalding built sporting goods career



A.G. Spalding
Albert G. Spalding was already a star baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Stockings when baseball pioneer William Hulbert quietly approached him to switch to the Chicago White Stockings and to help form the organization that would become the National League.

Spalding signed to play with Chicago in 1876, and led his team to the NL’s first championship. He also started a sporting goods store with his brother and the following year started wearing a glove on his catching hand. It was just like the ones he and his brother happened to have for sale in their store.

That was the beginning of a sporting goods empire that continues today, for A.G. Spalding turned out to be a star entrepreneur as well as baseball champ. He promoted baseball and sporting goods on a trip with Major League players around the world. Under contract with the NL, he published the first official rules and regulations for baseball, which included a statement that only Spalding balls could be used for official games. Then he started publishing Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide, which wasn’t official at all but quickly became the most widely read baseball periodical.

Spalding’s success in sporting goods continued throughout his life. In 1911, long after his baseball career had ended, Spalding published America’s National Game, a history of the game that contributed to that success. Naturally, he offered the book for sale in his annual sport goods catalog. A copy of the 1914 catalog is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

The catalog is a testament to the sprawling Spalding sport goods enterprise, featuring pages devoted to football, basketball, ice skating, sledding, weightlifting, Indian clubs, boxing, and, of course, baseball.

Here you’ll find footballs that seem oddly round by today’s standards, those black leather helmets you might remember seeing on Ronald Reagan and Pat O’Brien in Knute Rockne, All American, the megaphones that were required equipment for cheerleaders of the era, and much more.

Spalding didn’t miss the opportunity for ancillary products for sports fans. There is an array of sporting caps and pennants to choose from as well.

Spalding knew Americans weren’t going to confine themselves to the major sports of the day. He offered toboggans, dumb bells and exercise equipment for a country just beginning to become concerned with fitness.

Spalding was once so well known throughout the country that the Boston Herald was moved to write in 1900:

“Next to Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, the name of A.G. Spalding is the most famous in American literature. It has been blazing forth on the cover of guides to all sorts of sports, upon bats and gloves. . . for many years. Young America gets its knowledge of the past in the world of athletics from something that has "Al Spalding" on it in big black letters, and for that reason, as much as any other, he is one of the national figures of our times.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waging the American anti-slavery campaign



In 1835, the main organization in the American abolitionist movement was facing a conundrum. Too few people throughout the country knew about the American Anti-Slavery Society or its objectives. The solution: a postal campaign to create awareness and, of course, solicit donations to help pay for the campaign.

 Arthur Tappan, left, and William L. Garrison
The organization had been founded two years earlier by a Boston abolitionist newspaper editor, William Lloyd Garrison; a New York silk importer; and journal publisher, Arthur Tappan, among others. It’s hardly surprising, with Garrison and Tappan on the team, that they selected the production of anti-slavery literature as their medium of choice, though Garrison had become an increasingly radical public speaker on the subject.

An 1835 pamphlet produced by the society to further its aims of ending slavery in America is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It contains eleven articles, all variations on the anti-slavery theme. The pamphlet, titled The Anti-Slavery Record, is marked Volume 1, Number 9, and was part of a continuing series.

One article, The Desperation of a Mother, tells in graphic detail the harrowing tale of a slave woman in Missouri whose children were to be taken away by a slave trader the next day and resold far away. The woman, who had been chained to keep her from interfering, managed to free herself during the night. She killed her children, and then herself, in order to prevent what she obviously considered a fate worse than death.

Another article, The Doctrine of the Bible in Regard to Slavery, sets straight the record for pro-slavery citizens who consistently and incorrectly tried to make the case that the Holy Bible supports the practice.

Ultimately, the organization achieved its goals, though not until after the Civil War and adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870.

The society was beset by its own internal problems. The two main founders, Garrison and Tappan, had a philosophical difference of opinion. Tappan fought passionately for the emancipation of slaves but, curiously, took a dim view of giving women any say in the affairs of the nation. He opposed women's suffrage and felt women should be kept from positions of responsibility within society, including within the American Anti-Slavery Society.

That didn’t square with Garrison’s philosophy that women ought to be allowed full participation not only in the Society, but within American society in general. Some of Garrison’s friends included Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone, who, no doubt, influenced his thinking on the subject.

Tappan eventually resigned as president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and formed a separate anti-slavery organization in which no women were allowed participation. Garrison became president of the AAS and continued to publish his own abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, until 1865, when he declared his work finished, shut down his paper, resigned his presidency and went into retirement.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The first flight across the Atlantic


Walter Hinton
An obscure U.S. Mail pilot named Charles Lindbergh gets the credit for flying nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean by himself in 1927, and deservedly so, but he wasn’t the first to fly across the Atlantic.

That distinction goes to the crew of the Curtiss NC-4 floatplane, a name considerably less imaginative than the Spirit of St. Louis, and the feat took place in 1919, some eight years before Lucky Lindy’s historic excursion. A book about the accomplishment published the same year is in the collection of rare and unusual book at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. The Flight Across the Atlantic was issued by the federal Department of Education in 1919 under the auspicies of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation.

The trip took 19 days, including time for repairs and rest for the crew. Lindy’s hop took 33.5 hours. But, hey, these guys weren’t in any hurry and they weren’t carrying a load of mail.

It was a U.S. Navy project from the beginning and it was to demonstrate the plane’s transoceanic capabilities. The Curtiss floatplane was based on a design developed before World War I in Britain by a Royal Navy officer who was looking for a partner for a series of similar civilian planes. Curtiss then built them for the U.S. Navy and the Navy kept working to refine the design.

There were actually three planes that began the trip – NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4. There might have been a fourth, but the NC-2 had been cannibalized for spare parts for reparis to the NC-1.

The planes started at Naval Air Station Rockaway on Long Island and took a northerly route, making stops at Chatham Naval Air Station in Massachusetts and Halifax, Nova Scotia and Trepassey, Newfoundland, before continuing on the longest leg of the trip, a 1,200-nautical-mile flight to the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, opposite Portugal.

Naval planners, apparently a cautious lot, stationed ships every 50 miles or so along the route, with orders to be lighted up like a Hollywood extravaganza complete with searchlights, and to shoot starburst shells into the air so that the flyers could find their way across the dark ocean.

Despite their precautions, the NC-3 drifted off course into a fog bank and had to put down in the ocean short of its goal in the Azores. Fortunately, the crew rode the swells and the ship made it in under its own power. The NC-1, however, wasn’t so fortunate. It was rescued by a Greek freighter but sank three days later.

Only the NC-4 continued on to complete the mission and garner the fame.

Laid into this volume are several pieces of related ephemera that seem particularly to highlight Walter Hinton, the copilot of the NC-4; among other things, there is an envelope signed by him. Hinton, who lived until 1981, spent his retirement in Pompano Beach living in a beachfront condo and regaling local youngsters with tales of his exploits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

France honors foreigners who defended her


The French have long honored such sacrifice as presented by the foreign volunteers for service in the French armed forces discussed in our previous article, with the presentaion of La Croix de Guerre, or The Cross of War. Belgium has a similar tradition.

The decoration was created in 1915 and is presented to individuals or units that display acts of heroism during war. A grand volume appropriately titled La Croix de Guerre is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Col. Jimmy Stewart receives La Croix de Guerre
A previous owner told the sort of tale about the book that always delights bibliophiles. He found it, he said, in a used bookstore on the Left Bank in Paris in 1970. It was being used as a doorstop. The beautiful medal that had graced the cover was missing. In those days, though, such medals were easy to find, and inexpensive, so he replaced it with a World War I era Croix de Guerre.

The book is in French and shares the complete history of the medal during World War I and the first two years of World War II (It was published in 1941). General René Victor Boëlle, a commander during World War I, first proposed the medal as a way to recognize brave soldiers. His photograph appears very prominently in the book, along with a reproduction of a handwritten letter from him explaining the rationale for the medal.

During World War I, numerous Americans received the medal, including William Wellman, who flew with the Lafayette Flying Corps, which included the Lafayette Escadrille squadron. Wellman later became a Hollywood film director and made several movies about World War I and World War II. His last film was Lafayette Escadrille in 1958.

During World War II, even more Americans received the award, including singer/actress Josephine Baker, General Curtis LeMay, General George Patton, most-decorated soldier Audie Murphy, and actor Jimmy Stewart, who was an Army colonel at the time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Saga of the flying aces of World War I


Eddie Rickenbacker
Two years before the United States got into World War I, American volunteers formed the American Escadrille, a squadron of fighter pilots who flew sorties into German-held territory, shooting down reconnaissance planes, bombing Zeppelin hangars and engaging German pilots in aerial battles.

Shortly after the squadron moved near the front lines, the German government protested to the then-neutral United States about the volunteers. As a result, the group changed its name to Lafayette Escadrille, in honor of the Frenchman who helped American colonists during the American Revolutionary War.

The squadron was founded through the efforts of Dr. Edmund Gros, director of the American Ambulance Service that served France during the war and Norman Prince, an American who was already flying for France.

A French officer, Captain Georges Thenault, commanded the squadron and after the war he wrote a book about the unit and its exploits, L’Escadrille Lafayette. Copies of a French paperback edition published in 1938 and an English hardback edition (The Story of the LaFayette Escadrille) published in 1921 are in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. The French edition was signed by Thenault. Laid into each are various related clippings, photos and other ephemera.

A related book in the collection is a 1963 reprint of I Flew with the Lafayette Escadrille, a 1937 book by Edwin C. Parsons, one of the American pilots. By  the time he got to France, Parsons was already experienced in air combat, having flown for Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution. When the unit was transferred to the Americans in 1918, Parsons stayed in the French service.

After the war, Parsons returned to the United States, became an FBI agent, ran a private detective agency and became a technical adviser on such films as Wings (1927) and Hell’s Angels (1930). He wrote screenplays, radio scripts, magazine articles and books. During World War II, Parsons was an instructor at Pensacola Naval Air Station and participated in the Solomon Island campaign. He retired as a rear admiral. Parsons settled in Osprey, south of Sarasota.

His book is inscribed to Arch Whitehouse, a British flyer who served in France during World War I. Whitehouse wrote many exciting accounts about aerial battles during the war, but some historians doubt the accuracy of some of his stories.

When the United States entered the war, a new cadre of pilots arrived in France, among them Eddie Rickenbacker, who would go on to become an ace fighter pilot, shooting down an astonishing 26 German aircraft. It was a record that would not be broken until World War II. Rickenbacker also flew more combat hours than any other American pilot in the war.

Rickenbacker became the most celebrated aviator in America and would remain so until 1927, when mail pilot Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to Paris.

Rickenbacker told of his exploits during World War I in a book, Fighting the Flying Circus, a signed first edition of which is also in the collection at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tony Silva and the endangered parrots



When Tony Silva was a boy his parents emigrated from Cuba and settled in the Miami area. He developed an interest in exotic birds and, encouraged by his parents, collected them, raised them, studied them and wrote numerous articles about them. He became a featured speaker for groups of ornithologists. He was outspoken conservationist, and brought attention to the need for endangered parrot species to be protected.

Silva's book, A Monograph of Endangered Parrots, was published in Canada in 1989 in three limited editions. Only a total of 2,226 copies were produced. The most rare of the three editions was the Remarqué Edition, which had only 26 copies, each marked with a letter A-Z and signed by both Silva and the illustrator. Each includes an original drawing by the illustrator.

A volume of the Remarqué Edition, marked with the letter A, is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. Other copies of this edition are said to be in the collections of wealthy and powerful people around the world, including Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Wildlife artist Gracia Bennish illustrated the volume. Bennish is also a photojournalist and is now based in Tarpon Springs. She says illustrating the rare parrots was a challenge because not many references existed for some of the species. In some cases, she even used tiny postage stamps featuring certain birds. Gracia Bennish is a world class painter of animals, especially parrots. Her work has been selected by the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, for its prestigious Birds in Art international tour. Her photography assignments have taken her to Iraq, Haiti, Brunei, Myanmar, Thailand, South Africa and Cuba.

The book was produced in Canada by Silvio Mattacchione & Co., a premier publisher of art animal and bird books. The books are hand sewn, glued with special conservation glues and adhesives, and stamped with 24-karat gold. They are handbound in Nigerian goatskin with raised bands, Irish linen, handmade endsheets, conservation paper and felt-lined slip covers.

By the time he was 30, Silva became the curator of Loro Parque, a huge animal park on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. He was well known as a leading opponent of the smuggling trade.  At Loro Parque, he participated in a conservation project to breed endangered Spix’s Macaw in captivity.

In 1996, Silva pleaded guilty to smuggling more than 185 hyacinth macaws and other rare birds from South America. He was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison and fined $100,000. Silva always maintained his innocence and continues to do so in extensive articles online.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Getting healthy on summer vacation

If you were a wealthy New Yorker in the Gilded Age, you spent the summer in the resorts of upstate New York to escape the stifling heat of the city. Upstate New York meant mountains, snow-fed streams, clean air, and luxury hotels.

There developed a cadre of physicians and clergy who came to believe that those pristine regions were the perfect place for people suffering from diseases and chronic “delicacy of chest” ailments. Among them was Dr. Joseph W. Stickler, a physician and pathologist at Orange Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. Dr. Stickler was something of an authority on respiratory diseases and he wrote a book, The Adirondacks as a Health Resort, published in 1886. A copy of that book is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Dr. Sticker spent considerable time in the Adirondacks and developed his theories partly based on amazing recoveries he had observed among people who had gone to the resorts for health reasons. Some people, he said, had so fully recovered that he would not have known they had been ill had they not told him. He made a convincing case that sick people ought to be spending more time in the mountains and resorts of northern New York.

The wealthy citizenry had long since figured out that those fair climes were the best place to spend a hot summer and were already frequenting places like Saratoga Springs for the socializing, horse racing -- and the therapeutic waters, in which wealthy invalids found solace.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rufus K. Sewell and the Minorcans

The offending page. Click photo to enlarge.

In 1848, travel writer Rufus King Sewell turned his sights on the city of St. Augustine, writing a book of the sort that was proving popular as Florida was becoming known as a health retreat, a place where the chronically ill could find some respite. It is titled Sketches of St. Augustine with a view of its History and Advantages as a Resort for Invalids.


The book, a copy of which is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA, contains the usual chapters on history, geography, climate and so forth.

Sewell also shares the story of Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish physician who tried to establish the agricultural colony of New Smyrna in 1768, using 1,500 Minorcan settlers he had recruited from the Mediterranean. Turnbull mistreated the settlers and they rebelled, eventually ending up in St. Augustine, then the seat of British government in the region.

With an apparent degree of skepticism, Sewell's account of the beleaguered Minorcans, and their arrival in St. Augustine, is followed by his opinions about the industriousness -- or, lack -- of the Minorcan descendants still resident in the city.

As might be expected, Sewell’s criticism of Minorcans brought consternation to his publisher, but apparently not before the book was in print. In most copies, the offending passages (on pages 39 and 40) have been neatly excised. Rare copies, including the one at Lighthouse, contain those pages.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Eunice Beecher stood by her man

Life at the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Mandarin often included knitting and card games on the porch.


Henry Ward Beecher
In the 1860s, Henry Ward Beecher was the era’s equivalent of a rock star. He was a fiery preacher and a vehement abolitionist, who wrote newspaper columns and made impassioned speeches around the country.

In the 1870s, a close associate and protégé accused him of having an affair with the associate’s wife. The subsequent investigations and trial became a drawn-out soap opera, every salacious tidbit covered in detail in The New York Times. Throught it all, Beecher’s wife, Eunice, in the grand Tammy Wynette-style tradition, stood by her man, visiting her dour expression upon the proceeding as she attended court sessions every day.

Beecher was eventually found to be not guilty of adultery, although public sentiment at the time was similar to the public sentiment in recent well publicized murder trials.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just before the California Gold Rush

In 1848, the United States was vitally interested in the western territories of the continent that eventually became California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

The United States had just forced a defeated Mexico into the Tready of Guadalupe Hildago to end the Mexican-American War. An 1848 map of the region published for the United States Senate is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It shows the territory contained in the Mexican Cession.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We'll see you in Tennessee

We’re off this weekend to the Tennessee Antiquarian Book Fair in tiny Cowan, Tennessee. This is the land of poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren, poet Allen Tate, and poet and magazine editor John Crowe Ransom, not to mention folk hero and frontiersman Davy Crockett.

Warren, of course, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his novel All the King’s Men, thought to be inspired by the life of the populist governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long. Warren taught at Vanderbilt University and was one of a dozen writers who became known as the Southern Agrarians, along with Tate and Ransom.

The Agrarians saw industrialization as anathema, fearing the loss of Southern identity and culture. They wrote of the importance of traditional agrarian roots in a collection of essays published as I’ll Take My Stand; The South and the Agrarian Tradition.


Monday, July 11, 2011

The demise of an old book shop


We were sad to learn that our friends at Bartleby's Books in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown, are closing the bricks-and-mortar store. The good news is that John Thomson and Karen Griffin aren't getting out of the antiquarian book business. The new permanent home for Bartleby's will be BartlebysBooks.com. The video above is from the Georgetown Patch Web site, which did an article on them. Read the story, too. Bartleby's is a regular fixture at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kerouac: The road, the books, the people

Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. He died in St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg 47 years later. In the intervening years, he went to Columbia University, did a stint in the Merchant Marines, joined the Navy twice, hitchhiked across America, wrote 19 novels as well as books of poetry and other works, and drank -- a lot.

He hung out with the likes of Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Gregory Corso, writers Williams S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke, and editors Robert Giroux and Lucien Carr.

An eclectic selection of Kerouac's writings is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. Among them: Visions of Gerard, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Vanity of Duluoz, Pomes All Sizes and Pic. Another slim volume, The Kerouac We Knew, contains essays by people who had met Kerouac at various stages in his life.

When Jack was four years old, his big brother, Gerard, died of rheumatic fever. Gerard was nine. Jack always believed that his brother followed him as a guardian angel, though some suggest that given Kerouac’s lifestyle, he might have needed a whole platoon of such guardians. Kerouac wrote about his brother in Visions of Gerard in 1956, just before his most famous novel, On the Road, was published. Gerard wasn’t published, however, until 1963.

For a time in the 1950s, Kerouac lived in the College Park section of Orlando with his mother. That’s where he wrote The Dharma Bums. It’s also where he lived when On the Road was published and came quickly to fame. The Dharma Bums is an account of a mountaineering adventure Kerouac undertook with poet Gary Snyder (who introduced him to Buddhism) and friend John Montgomery. The trip proved a sharp contrast with the city life Kerouac knew well.

Kerouac’s native language was French (His parents were French-Canadian). He didn’t speak English confidently until he was a teenager. Early on, Kerouac attempted to write books in French, but eventually wrote mostly in English. Interestingly, this is the first French edition of The Dharma Bums.

After the success of On the Road, Kerouac sought refuge in the mountains as a guest at Ferlinghetti’s cabin to escape the demands of an adoring public. His book, Big Sur, is a fictionalized version of that episode in his life. It depicts a popular writer, Jack Duluoz, who is mentally and physically exhausted. The book was published in 1962.

Six years later, Kerouac published another book about his alter ego, Vanity of Duluoz. This one dealt with the writer’s teenage years and coming of age. It includes his time at Columbia and in the Navy during World War II. It ends at the beginning of the Beat movement. Kerouac lived in St. Petersburg when this book was published. It was the last published before his death.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Legacy of Chief Justice John Marshall


He didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence like his president, John Adams, did but John Marshall was about as busy as any one patriot could be.

He was a friend of George Washington and wrote his biography, he was a member of the U.S. House and a White House cabinet member, and he served as fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, longer than any other Supreme Court Justice in history.

A letter he wrote in 1800, a few months before he became Chief Justice, is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It is framed along with an engraved portrait taken from a painting by Henry Imman, a noted New York artist. Asher Brown Durand, one of the best engravers in New York at the time, is responsible for the engraving. (Later Durand became one of the leaders of the Hudson River School painting style.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Hillmans, Ramblers and auto history


Ah, summertime and the open road -- A time to pile the kids into the car and head out for big adventures. Americans still travel by automobile today but not like we did in the 1950s, when gasoline was 30 cents a gallon or less.

America’s love affair with the automobile stretches farther back than the ‘50s, though. We’ve been wheeling it around town and across the country for generations. And so, in this season of the Great Summer Vacation, we present a tribute to that ubiquitous mode of transportation with an eclectic assembly of automobile ephemera in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

This is clearly a transportation enthusiast’s dream. Here are sales pieces, brochures and other ephemera from the 1950s and earlier. There is a decided Anglophile bent to the collection. Along with the Chryslers and Plymouths and Fords and Nash Ramblers is the Hillman, a British car that was manufactured from 1907. Chrysler took over the company in 1967 and continued the Hillman brand for nine years. You can still find Hillmans among car collections, even in the United States.

In this collection, too, are early Rolls-Royces, Maxwells, and Duesenbergs. The Duesenberg was a luxury car manufactured in the Teens, Twenties and Thirties. It was the fastest car available in America and it was also the most expensive, qualities which led to the development of the slang phrase,"It's a Duesy!"

There’s more automobile history here, too. The collection is a veritable automobile museum in paper. Take the 1936 LaFayette, for example. Once a luxury marquee, LaFayette by ’36 was a low-priced sedan made by the Nash Motors, which had acquired the company in 1924 and converted its plant to produce Ajax cars (Ajax – now there’s another name you don’t hear often associated with cars).

Perhaps the most unusual item in the collection is material about the Crosley FarmOroad, a vehicle that was designed for multiple purposes. It could be used on the farm like a tractor for plowing, mowing, and cultivation. It could be used like a truck for towing and hauling. And when the day's work was done, it could be used on the road to take the family to town. “Twice the work of a work horse,” says the sales brochure, “Twice the speed of a race horse.” Hmmm. For some reason the idea never caught on.

And finally, there’s even a July 1934 edition of the Automobile Trade Journal with a humorous illustration by Charles Hargens, who painted covers for Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, Farm Journal, Country Gentleman, Boy’s Life and a magazine called The Open Road for Boys.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Love those hot Southern biscuits!


While we were in Atlanta for the book fair recently mentioned on this site, the subject turned, as it often does, to food. It came to light, in the course of our conversation, that a friend, Cynthia Graubart, has a new book out called Southern Biscuits.

Ours is an antiquarian shop, devoted mostly to older volumes of an historical or scholarly nature, and our articles generally reflect this emphasis.  In Southern Biscuits, though, we have a delicious choice of topic related to another specialty of ours, Southern Literature and Americana. After all, what is Southern literature but a discussion of Southern culture? And what is Southern culture without Southern biscuits?

Southern Biscuits is no ordinary cookbook, something that becomes obvious from even a quick glance at the cover's photograph of a delectable-looking stack of biscuits, unadorned and waiting. Thumb through the pages, and you soon realize that this is a glamor biscuit photo album; Rick McKee’s photographs are exquisite.  The volume includes a vast, scrumptious assortment of recipes, and includes a great number of helpful baking secrets.

Years ago, Cynthia was producer for the public television series New Southern Cooking with host Nathalie Dupree. Nathalie and Cynthia put this wonderful book together. Nathalie has written eleven cookbooks with emphasis on the American South, entertaining and basic cooking. She has also hosted television shows on The Food Network, The Learning Channel and PBS. Cynthia wrote The One-Armed Cook, which is described as the culinary version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Cynthia and Nathalie have been friends for years. Nathalie introduced Cynthia to her husband, Cliff, and stood up for her at their wedding in Rome. Cliff owns The Old New York Book Shop in Atlanta and is a fellow member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America.

Clearly, this isn’t an unbiased review. On the other hand, feast your eyes on the photos above and see if you don’t agree that this is a delicious volume, indeed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Carl Sandburg, working class reporter


Autobiography and novel of Carl Sandburg.
At an age when many men settle down to daily golf games or fishing trips in the golden haze of retirement, Carl Sandburg kept right on working. He started his novel, Remembrance Rock, a sweeping saga of the American experience from the landing at Plymouth Rock to the beginning of World War II, when he was sixty-five years old.

Sandburg was already remarkably accomplished; he had received Pulitzer Prizes both for his book of poetry, Cornhuskers, and for his biography, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Remembrance Rock was published when he was seventy. (A third Pulitzer, for another poetry book, Compete Poems, would come three years later.) He had worked all his life and he wasn't about to stop.

A signed and numbered first edition of Sandburg’s Remembrance Rock is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA, along with a signed first edition of Sandburg’s autobiography, Always the Young Strangers. The autobiography was published when Sandburg was seventy-five.

Carl Sandburg
Sandburg worked hard all his life. He was the son of Swedish immigrants, who instilled in him an Old World work ethic. His father worked as a blacksmith’s assistant on the railroad. After graduating from the eighth grade, Sandburg quit school to help support the family. He held an array of jobs in his early years, driving a milk wagon, harvesting ice, threshing wheat and shining shoes in the Union Hotel in his hometown, Galesburg, Illinois. With his working class sensibilities, it is small wonder he became involved in Socialist politics in college.

Eventually he came to be a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, where he covered labor union news and wrote editorials and features. Playwright Robert Sherwood, a colleague and drinking buddy, said later, “Carl Sandburg is one of our great natural resources and I am proud to have walked with him, no matter how many years it may have taken off my life.”

Publisher Alfred Harcourt, founder of Harcourt, Brace and Company, knew Sandburg as a friend for forty years. He encouraged Sandburg to write the Lincoln biography. The project, however, was to have been a 400-page “Boy’s life of Lincoln” for teens, not the four volumes it eventually became. After it was published, Sandburg noted that, “It is probably the only book ever written by a man whose father couldn't write his name, about a man whose mother couldn't write hers.”

Signed and numbered first edition of Remembrance Rock.
Richard Finnegan, who was editor and publisher of the Chicago Times and later a top executive of the Chicago Sun-Times, described Sandburg as a reporter first and foremost, and a man who understood the working class because he was part of it.

In a tribute years Finnegan wrote regarding Sandburg, he shares a story of Sandburg in the early to mid-1930s, during the Great Depression.  Sandburg had joined lunching group of doctors, lawyers, merchants and bankers, artists and writers, and even a priest and a rabbi. The conversation came around to the millions of people out of work. Somebody suggested that most of them didn’t want to work—they were the new leisure class, someone said.

“Suddenly Carl Sandburg let out a series of those great braying hee-haws of his,” Finnegan wrote,  “ Ten million bums!’ he roared. ‘Yes, they're just ten million good for nothing lazy bums.’ Then, Sandburg began giving case histories: of a fellow he met in Duluth; of the guy coming out of Roswell, New Mexico, on a day coach; the Connecticut Yankee family, husband and wife and two teen-age daughters — all of the women posing as men” to obtain jobs.

“Carl had been bumping into the people—on the breadlines, on the roads, on the town. And now, as a reporter, he was reporting. Yes, Carl's a poet and a historian. Yes, he's a philosopher. Yes, he plays at the guitar and tries his best at singing—those old ballads and cowboy songs. But first he's a reporter. A reporter, yes. His Lincoln is reporting. He was right at Lincoln's heels, up and down and across the prairies. His War Years is reporting. And so is Remembrance Rock.”

And so, too, is his autobiography, Always the Young Strangers, which covers those first tough 20 years with the mastery and vivid imagery, of those other works. A reporter, yes. And a man of the working class.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to tell if a book is valuable

A book's value depends on several factors, including its condition, its edition, the paper it's printed on and much more.


Part of what we were doing at the recent Georgia Antiquarian Book Fair was evaluating old books that people brought in for appraisal.

It’s always interesting to see what kinds of books have stirred people’s curiosity. Whether they’re bringing in heirlooms that have been passed down from generation to generation or they’re just cleaning out Aunt Martha’s attic, there’s bound to be a pleasant surprise or two.

At the Georgia fair, someone brought in a 1608 Bible. That’s quite a find. Another had a signed, limited edition volume printed on vellum with illustrations by the early 20th century French illustrator Edmund Dulac. There was also a fellow who had a half dozen late 19th century books on the Civil War.

Unfortunately, not everything that someone dusts off and brings in is terribly valuable. Some may have more sentimental value than monetary value. If you’re not had any training in evaluating books, it can be tricky to tell which is which.

If you are curious about a book you have, you’re in luck. We’re giving a free lecture soon on how to tell if a book might be valuable. We’ll talk about the factors that go into establishing a book’s value, including quality of paper, condition of the book, the importance of dust jackets on fiction volumes, the importance of first editions versus later ones and more. We’ll also discuss copper and steel engravings in older books, what makes one more valuable than the other, and we’ll have examples of each to help you identify them.

You’re welcome to bring your own books for evaluation, but please limit the number of items you bring to no more than five.

The lecture will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, at the Baywood Club House, 596 Baywood Drive North, in Dunedin. That’s on the East side of Alternate U.S. 19, South of Curlew Road. For those with local knowledge, it’s behind the Walgreens and the Wells Fargo Bank (which was formerly the Wachovia Bank). Got it? If not, there is a map accompanying this article.

We think it’ll be an interesting time and we hope you can make it.

If you want more information or want to call to reserve your seat, please call (727) 738-8090.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Did he choose the lady or the tiger?



Not long ago we featured a late-19th century travel pamphlet for the Bahamas that told of the quaint life in Nassau and of the colorful inhabitants of those islands.

In those days, you took a steamship from New York or Savannah, and you might make a stop off in Jacksonville to pick up or discharge passengers, before arriving in that lush island paradise for an extended stay at the luxurious Royal Victoria Hotel.

Frank R. Stockton
The pamphlet was printed by the steamship company in an effort to encourage more travel to the islands -— and thus, bring in more business for the steamship company. The piece contained an article by Frank R. Stockton that had first appeared in Scribner’s Monthly in November 1877, and that had been republished clearly because it lent an air of authority in what otherwise was a biased effort to induce travelers to visit the islands.

We noted that Stockton was a prolific writer who was known for, among other things, his Lewis Carroll-style children’s stories that gained considerable attention during his lifetime. Stockton also wrote many short stories. We made a passing reference to one of them, “The Lady, or the Tiger,” which was published in 1882. That story is the title tale in a volume of Stockton’s short stories that is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Stockton showed early promise as a writer, winning a writing contest in high school. Stockton’s father, however, a prominent Methodist minster who was himself known for writing on religious subjects, did not want his son to be a writer. Frank acceded to his father’s wishes. Instead, he became a highly skilled wood engraver and worked with his younger brother John, who became a steel engraver. They opened a print shop in New York City.

After his father’s death, an eye infection ended his career as an engraver. To support his family, he turned to freelance writing; his wife, Mary Ann, took dictation. It was not long before Stockton became widely published.

The major character of His first novel, Rudder Grange, was based on a 14-year-old girl from an orphanage the family hired as a maid. She was an odd girl with the peculiar habit of reading horror stories aloud to herself in the kitchen. Stockton imagined her as the maid for a couple who lived on a canal boat. The stories were first published as magazine articles and attracted so much attention that they were republished as a book.

His next novel was The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine, the tale of two proper New England ladies who are shipwrecked on a remote island with a man. The ladies were based on two women Stockton knew.

“The Lady or the Tiger” was originally written to be read before a literary society to which Stockton belonged. It concerns a hapless young man who had the misfortune to fall in love with the king’s daughter. He continued the affair even after the king forbid the romance. In this land, the king had an interesting way of dealing with scofflaws. There was no trial. Instead, the accused would be taken to a public arena. There were two doors leading to the arena. Behind one door was a woman who had been chosen by the king to be married to the accused. (It didn’t seem to matter if the accused was already married.) Behind the other door was a hungry tiger. If the accused chose the first door, he was innoncent. If he chose the second door, he was guilty. Simple as that.

In Stockton’s story, the princess signals to the young man which door to choose but Stockton never reveals which door it is. The cliffhanger ending caused quite a stir in the literary society. Later it was published in a magazine, where it continued to be vigorously discussed. And even today, the debate goes on. Did the princess send her lover to the arms of another or to certain death?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Philip Wylie: curmudgeon, fisherman


When author Philip Wylie wasn’t enraging the American political Right or the political Left with books and articles critical of most of the sacred cows in society, he was fishing — and writing about fishing.

Philip Wylie
Wylie, whose scathing indictment of motherhood in America, A Generation of Vipers (1942) earned him the enmity of millions, also delighted millions more with the stories of fictional deep sea fishermen Captain Crunch Adams and his comical first mate, Desperate Smith. The adventures of Crunch and Des, published in Saturday Evening Post were must-reads for generations of real-life sportsmen and armchair adventurers alike.

The stories were collected into books, seven in all, and published in the 1940s and 1950s. Two of those books The Best of Crunch and Des (1954) and Treasure Cruise and other Stories (1956) are in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. A third Wylie saltwater fishing book, Denizens of the Deep (1953) also is part of the collection.

Wylie was a remarkably prolific writer who published mostly from the late 1920s through the 1950s. He was everywhere: you could read him in books and magazine articles, see his work in movies and on television. He also wrote radio programs and syndicated newspaper columns.

A1930 novel, Gladiator, concerns a scientist whose research develops a serum that gives superhuman abilities to his son, who dies disillusioned and frustrated from living in a world that encourages mediocrity. The story is said by some to be the inspiration for Superman, though the creators of Superman have never acknowledged the connection. He wrote a screenplay adaptation for H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. A Redbook article he wrote was the basis of the musical Springtime in the Rockies (1942).

His novel, The Disappearance (1951), examined what would happen if suddenly the male and female populations of the world disappeared from each other’s presence. The men’s world was a social disaster but functioned mechanically. The women’s world fails materially because they can’t operate the machinery to keep it running, a notion that even in the 1950s drew criticism.

It was A Generation of Vipers, though, that drew the greatest cries of protest from American readers. In it he called the American mother the “great emasculator.” He continued: “She smokes thirty cigarettes a day, chews gum, and consumes tons of bonbons and petits fours … She plays bridge with the stupid voracity of a hammerhead shark, which cannot see what it is trying to gobble but never stops snapping its jaws and roiling the waves with its tail.”

The book became something of a sacred gospel among the youth of the 1960s, whose distain for the conventions of American life seemed to match Wylie’s outlook. Ever the equal opportunity curmudgeon, Wylie published a scathing attack on liberalism and the counterculture with the 1971 book, Sons and Daughters of Mom. He died the same year.

Like Ozymandias, much of what Wylie wrote has sunk beneath the sands of time, entirely forgotten, or merely a footnote to history. More enduring are his Crunch and Des stories. In the 1950s, they spawned a 1955 NBC television show starring Forrest Tucker. Filmed in Bermuda, it was set in the Bahamas. In Wylie’s stories, though, Captain Crunch is based in Key West. Crunch Adams is an ex-prize fighter. The stories are deft character studies of the people who charter The Poseidon.  The two, along with Adams’ wife, Sari, contend with all manner of personalities and are drawn into all sorts of delightful adventures.

Wiley, along with novelist Ernest Hemingway and dress shop entrepreneur Michael Lerner, was one of the early officers of the International Game Fishing Association, the keeper of world records in sport fishing. As late as 1990, his daughter, behavioral biologist Karen Wylie Pryor, published a collection of his fishing stories.

Our specialties

Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

We also have a wide variety of general stock, including a large Landscape/Gardening section, a great selection of Christian/Church History/Bible Study titles, Beat Literature, and much more. Please browse our extensive category list.

Appraisal service

Michael F. Slicker, is one of about 450 qualified members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc., and its affiliate the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Condition of the book, demand for it and history of comparable sales are among the factors considered in evaluating the value of a book. Other factors may apply as well.

Please contact us for more information regarding our certified appraisal services. We encourage you to visit our website, Lighthouse Books, ABAA

Florida Antiquarian Book Fair

Michael Slicker was the founding president of the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and has served as chairman of its annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair since its inception.

The 36th annual book fair is set for April 21-23, 2017 at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

The fair is the oldest and largest antiquarian book fair in the Southeast. Learn more about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association.

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