Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Karl Grismer's St. Petersburg history



For years, copies of Karl Grismer’s 1924 History of St. Petersburg were in each of the guest rooms at the Detroit Hotel (much like the ubiquitous Gideon Bible) but eventually they disappeared, apparently taken by tourists who grew enamored with the story of the Sunshine City.

St. Petersburg columnist Archie Dunlap, who had high praise for Grismer’s work, told that tale in a column back in 1952. A copy of Grismer’s History of St. Petersburg is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It is required reading for any serious student of St. Petersburg history.

Karl H. Grismer was a newspaperman, magazine editor and historian who also wrote histories of Sarasota, Fort Myers, Tampa in Florida, and Akron and Kent in Ohio.

Karl Grismer, reporter, editor, historian.
He came to Florida with his wife in 1921, when he was 26 years old. He became managing editor of the Tourist News, a weekly magazine that was distributed to travelers nationwide. About a month after Grismer arrived, a hurricane struck Tarpon Springs, the first such storm to make recorded landfall in the Tampa Bay area. It became known as the Tampa Bay Hurricane.

The hurricane resulted in widespread damage but it wasn’t nearly as bad as newspaper accounts throughout the country suggested. Recovery began quickly and before long, the land boom was back in full swing. Grismer’s reports in the Tourist News helped convince tourists to return.

Apparently Grimmer grew fond of the area and began working on a history. He spent more than a year researching the files of the St. Petersburg Times and the Evening Independent. His wife, Delore, also a journalist, worked on the project. The book was published in 1924 by the Tourist News Publishing Company.

It contains numerous photos of the early days of the city and is packed with details. By all accounts, Grismer was a careful researcher who produced a highly respected account of the city's history. Grismer interviewed pioneers who were still living and even traveled to Philadelphia to learn about developer Hamilton Disston, who created Gulfport, and entrepreneur F.A. Davis, who brought electricity to St. Petersburg.

Times publisher W.L. Straub, postmaster Roy Hanna, and resident A.H. Phinney contributed photos, information or research to the project. A biography section in the back contains profiles of city leaders and others. Historian Walter Fuller called it a “mug book of citizens who had been great, were currently great, or had money and a yen to see their pictures” published.

Grismer left the Tourist News in 1928 and went back to Ohio, returning to work at the Akron Beacon Journal and writing histories. In 1945, he moved to Sarasota and produced a history of that city. By 1947, he was back in St. Petersburg, working on a second history of the city. The next year he did a history of Fort Myers. In 1950, he wrote a history of Tampa.

In the archives at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, there’s a photograph of Grismer looking gaunt and gray in a pinstriped suit and holding a cigarette between his fingers. He’d spent more than 30 years writing city histories. Work on an extensive history of Akron and Summit County was interrupted by lung surgery in Miami.

After the surgery, Grismer returned to Sarasota. He died at home on March 13, 1952 at the age of 56. His wife finished work on his book and died of a stroke about a month after it went to press.

Information from Remembering St. Petersburg, by the late Scott Taylor Hartzell, was used in this report.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ever been to Isle de Californie?


So far as we know, California has never been an island off the coast of Nevada. That didn’t stop Dutch engraver Gerard Valck from drawing it that way in 1702. It’s a good bet Valck never set foot in North America but his map clearly depicts “Isle de Californie.”

A copy of his otherwise magnificent hand-colored map of North and South America is part of the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It was printed from a copper plate engraving.

Actually, Valck probably can’t be blamed for making the original cartographic error regarding the continent’s west coast. Scholars place that goof on the shoulders of a French cartographer named Nicolas Sanson, who first showed California as an island some 45 years before Valck.

It’s likely that Valck simply did what a lot of cartographers did in those days–he copied, thus proving the wisdom of the stern edict from your kindergarten teacher: Keep your eyes on your own paper. Do your own work. No copying.

Nevertheless, Valck produced a handsome work with finely drawn cartouches in the lower corners. On the left, Dutch merchants trade with natives beneath palm trees and near a stone marker showing eight different measurement scales. On the right, natives trade with a Dutch seaman. Ships in the background carry the Cross of Burgundy flag, under which most of the provinces of the Netherlands sailed in joint expeditions.

In those days, there was still a lot of divvying up to do in the New World. Valck’s map shows a vast area in the west labeled “Nouveau Mexique", another in the south called “Floride” and an area in the north called “Canada ou Nouvelle France.”

Gerard Valck, his son, Leonardus, and his brother-in-law, Pieter Schenk, were prolific printers and engravers in Amsterdam. Valck’s name appears on numerous mezzotints from the period, many of them copies of paintings by Dutch painters. His family also produced many atlases, separate maps and printed globes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Tampa, sources of civic pride


Tampa’s civic leaders were apparently quite proud of their brand new concrete Lafayette Street Bridge when it opened in 1913. They were proud, too, of the Tampa Bay Hotel, a magnificent jewel of a resort that opened in 1891.

A remarkable panoramic photograph showing the bridge and Tampa Bay Hotel it is in the collection of rare and unusual items at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. It is hand-tinted in muted blues and greens. It is unclear exactly when the photo was taken–perhaps in the Teens or the Twenties–but it shows a city very different from today’s teeming metropolis.

A pair of street cars wisk across the strand, and a few automobiles can be seen. But it was clearly a time of transition. Horse-drawn buggies are also seen clip-clopping their way across the Hillsborough River.

At the time it was dedicated, the new Lafayette Street Bridge represented a leap for the city into the modern era. Two previous bridges at the location had been built of iron. This one was concrete–and sturdy. Bursting with civic pride, city leaders organized a huge celebration in February 1914 to coincide with the Gasparilla festival. It was complete with a parade and gala ceremonies largely for the city’s elite. 

The dedication took place on February 23, 1914, with Mayor D.B. McKay reminding citizens that it was his administration that finally brought this third bridge project to completion. The second one had been opened in 1896, and had been beset with problems almost from the beginning. It took many years of political indecision and voter reluctance, though, before city leaders finally got a bond issue passed to build a new bridge, so citizens struggled with the old one.

The gala celebration belied the turmoil that preceded the building of the bridge, including a lawsuit that ended up in the Florida Supreme Court, fierce debates over the cost of the project and numerous technical problems. A legend on the photo proudly proclaims that the bridge was erected “at a cost of $250,000.”

The Tampa Bay Hotel, built a couple of decades earlier, had been the crown jewel of railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant’s railroad, steamship and hotel empire. When Plant died in 1899, he left his holdings to his grandson but the will was nullified in a New York court and the empire was eventually broken up.

By the time of this photograph, the City of Tampa was operating the minaret-bedecked Tampa Bay Hotel, which it did until 1930. A legend on the photo proudly proclaims “The Tampa Bay Hotel, the finest Municipally owned Hotel in the World, valued at $5,000,000.”

To the left can be seen boxcars of the Atlantic Coast Line railroad resting on rail spurs beside the river.  After Plant’s death in 1899, the company acquired his railroad holdings.

Beyond the bridge, the Tampa Electric plant spews smoke into the air from its solitary stack. TECO not only provided electric power to homes, it also operated one of the electric trolly companies in town and installed street lighting in downtown to create a “White Way,” an area bustling with evening activity and a source of great civic pride.

Many of the facts in this report came from the research of Tampa historian Lucy D. Jones for her excellent Master’s thesis, Tampa’s Lafayette Street Bridge: Building a New South City (2006).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

LIKE us on Facebook.

Like us over on the Lighthouse Books, ABAA Facebook page and receive not only our undying gratitude but also some nifty perks as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Old friends, new friends and books galore

We had a great time this weekend at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg. Here is a photo from the fair of friends who stopped by our booth. There are more photos on our Facebook page. Stop by and LIKE us on Facebook. We've got some surprises coming, so hurry. It was great to see old friends and meet new people at the Book Fair.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Florida Book Fair started 30 years ago


As the opening of the 30th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair approaches, Mike Slicker recalls those difficult early days of getting the Book Fair started.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Get a dollar off Book Fair admission

We'll be at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend. It starts Friday at 5:30 p.m. Hope to see you there. Print this coupon and present it at the window for one dollar off the admission price.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In Dublin's fair city ...



'Tis the month of the Irish, an' we'll be offerin' fer yer consideration, we will, a grand history of the beautiful capital city of the Other Holy Land. If you're Irish, wish you were Irish or thinkin' about becoming Irish on St. Paddy's Day, sure 'tis just the thing to warm the cockles of your heart, comin' as it does wrapped in Kelly green.

Our brogue might not be perfect, but you get the idea. Here's an 1818 edition of History of The City of Dublin From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. The two-volume set was published in London by T. Cadell and W Davies, in the Strand.

The hefty volumes contain annals, antiquities, ecclesiastical history, charters, public building, schools and social welfare institutions, plus all sorts of charts and lists of the most arcane detail any student of Dublin history could ever want. A copy of this history is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA.

Most of this set was compiled by two evidently energetic gentlemen, who passed away before the project was finished, leaving a third, Rev. Robert Walsh, to finish the monumental task alone. Rev. Walsh addresses the dilemma presented by the untimely passing of one John Warburton, who was a government employee evidently charged with supervision of record keeping, and the Rev. James Whitelaw, vicar of a prominent Irish Anglican church and a man generous with his time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Written by Saint Jerome the sarcastic



Saint Jerome in Meditation, painted in 1605
by Caravaggio. Skull symbolizes detachment
from the world. Red garments symbolize his 
position as bishop. | Click to enlarge.

Saint Jerome was one of the most prolific writers in the early Christian church. He translated the New Testament from Greek to Latin and most of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin. His translations are still in use today.

Saint Jerome was an inveterate letter writer, whose works not only provide insight into spiritual matters but also into the times in which he lived. He is known for his great body of opinions, reviews and commentaries. He was a vigorous champion of his beliefs and could be eloquent and often quite sarcastic in expressing his views.

Some 1,077 years after he died, a collection of his commentaries on major and minor prophets contained in the Bible were gathered together and edited by Bernardinus Gladiolus and published by two Italian brothers, Joannes and Gregarious de Gregarious in Venice in 1497.

A copy of that book, with the formidable title Expositiones Diui Hieronimi in Hebraicas questiones super Genesim necnon super duodecim Prophetas minores et quatuor maiores nouiter impresse cum priuilegio, is in the collection of rare and unusual books at Lighthouse Books, ABAA. The slide show above depicts some of the pages in this amazing volume, with illustrated initial letters throughout.

The book is an excellent example of foliation, the practice of numbering only the front sides of folios, which continued in popular used until about 1550.

Saint Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius, grew up in a small town near the ancient Roman city of Aquileia, at the head of the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy. His father was a wealthy Christian and Jerome was well educated.

He was sent to Rome as a young man and excelled in his studies. As is typical of college students, he reveled in wine and pleasure and worldliness. He was a voracious reader of secular literature. But when he was 22, Jerome was baptized by Pope Liberius. Stricken by conscience, he began to passionately pursue a life of spiritual exploration.

This eventually took him on many travels throughout present day France, Greece, Turkey and Syria. He arrived in Antioch, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea just northeast of Cyprus, then went into the desert to pursue an austere lifestyle and study Hebrew. Three friends accompanied him. Two eventually died and the third returned to Rome. Jerome stayed and learned from monks living in the region.

It was here that Jerome had a vivid dream of himself amid the lustful pleasures of Rome, making him realize that he had not dedicated himself enough to God. He increased his efforts, renouncing his secular reading altogether.

After four years in the desert, Jerome moved around a bit more. He lived in Jerusalem and visited the places that figured into the life of Christ. He continued to write, voicing his opinions on all manner of ecclesiastical matters. He moved to Antioch and, against his will, was ordained by Bishop Paulinus. He secured permission to continue his austere lifestyle there, but eventually he returned to Rome and served as personal secretary to Pope Damasus I. It was there that he undertook the revision of Latin Bible. Saint Jerome had quick temper and a flair for writing scathing rebuttals to anyone who attacked the Church.

After the death of Damasus, Saint Jerome finally settled in Bethlehem and lived out his days there in a cave. Saint Jerome lived to be 78 years old. His remains were initially buried in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem but were moved in the 13th century to Vatican City in Rome.

He is the patron saint of librarians, translators and schoolchildren.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We love old-fashioned books


Of course we love them. What else would you expect?

Here is a tribute to the long and glorious history of the printed word. Long may it live. Kindles and iPads may be all the rage but there's nothing like reading a good book with good old-fashioned paper pages. This video was made for the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. We thought our book loving friends would enjoy it.

When publishers stop making traditional books (and they will eventually), the ones we love will be all the more valuable, won't they?

Friends tell us that though Kindles are certainly easy to read, the experience of reading a traditional book is far more satisfying.

Another thing they say: downloading a book to your electronic reader is a far less intriguing than poking around in a cluttered old bookstore and discovering a hidden treasure. That is a sentiment for which we are truly thankful.

If you love a good book, come to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. March 11-13, 2011 at The Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Theme music in the video is by Kevin MacLeod.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy birthday, Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison
It is the birthday of author Ralph Waldo Ellison, best known for his 1952 novel, Invisible Man, which explores the life of an unnamed black man in 1930s New York City. It deals with identity, racism in the North and South, and incest, among other subjects. It won the National Book Award.

He was born in Oklahoma City in 1914. He was named after poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, his father hoping he would grow up to be a poet. His father, who was a construction foreman and small business owner, died when Ralph was three years old, and Ralph didn’t learn of his father’s wish for many years.

Ellison studied music on a scholarship at Tuskegee Institute but was continuously drawn to reading modernist poetry like T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. After his third year, Ellison moved to New York City to study visual arts. It was there he met the controversial author Richard Wright, who encouraged him to pursue writing fiction. Ellison’s first published work was Hymie’s Bull, a short story inspired by hobo train trips with his uncle to get to Tuskegee.

After the success of Invisible Man, Ellison went to Europe to travel and lecture. He settled in Rome and met author Robert Penn Warren. They became close friends.

Ellison started writing a second novel, Juneteenth, when he returned from Europe in 1958. He worked on it for 40 years, wrote more than 2,000 pages, but never finished it. The book was published posthumously in 1999 after editing by his friend, biographer John F. Callahan. It was drawn from the central narrative of Ellison’s planned epic.

In 2010, Three Days Before the Shooting published. It a more complete representation of Ellison’s grand vision. “Set in the frame of a deathbed vigil,” says Random House, “the story is a gripping multigenerational saga centered on the assassination of the controversial, race-baiting U.S. Senator Adam Sunraider, who’s being tended to by “Daddy” Hickman, the elderly black jazz musician turned preacher who raised the orphan Sunraider as a light-skinned black in rural Georgia.”

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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