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.

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