Saturday, May 31, 2014

Portugal's Manuel I was, indeed, fortunate

It is the birthday of Portuguese monarch Manuel I The Fortunate (1469), who presided over a period of economic expansion and prosperity that included Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a European sea route around Africa to India (1498) and opening of trade with that country as well as the discovery of Brazil (1500) by Pedro Alvares Cabral. These developments gave Portugal a vast overseas empire that brought great wealth despite the small land area of the country. Manuel was called The Fortunate because his father, King John II, designated him heir to the throne instead of stabbing him to death as happened with Manuel’s older brother Diogo, Duke of Viseu. How fortunate for Manuel.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Benny Goodman, the King of Swing

It is the birthday of jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman (1909), who grew in prominence in the 1930s, and by 1936 was known as the King of Swing throughout the country. Music historians mark his January 16, 1938 performance at Carnegie Hall as the point when jazz became accepted by mainstream audiences. It was the first time jazz had been presented in the famous classical music venue. At first the audience reaction was lukewarm but by the end it was decidedly enthusiastic. The 2,760-seat hall was filled to capacity. Patrons had paid $2.75 for the best tickets. In 1938, that was expensive for a concert ticket. Here is a video that includes footage, archive photos and, a recording of "Sing, Sing, Sing" from that performance.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rest in Peace, poet Maya Angelou

Colette Bancroft, book editor of the Tampa Bay Times has written an excellent remembrance of the esteemed poet: "America is not a nation much given to honoring its poets, but Maya Angelou is an exception. Ms. Angelou, who was 86, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., after a period of failing health." The article continues here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jim Thorpe: 20th century's greatest athlete

It is the birthday of Jim Thorpe (1888), who is considered the greatest athlete of the 20th century. He won two Olympic gold medals (pentathlon and decathlon) in 1912, and played college football as well as professional football, basketball, and baseball. Though he lost his gold medals when it was revealed he had played semi-pro baseball before competing in the Olympics, they were restored in 1983. Thorpe’s father was Irish and Sac and Fox Indian. His mother was French and Potawatomi. He was born in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. At 16, he was coached by the legendary Pop Warner, who was reluctant at first to let his best track and field man play rough and tumble football. Thorpe outran the defense team in practice and made the team. His career ended as the Great Depression began. His sad last years were spent in a variety of odd jobs, including ditch digger, bouncer, construction worker, and security guard. He died at age 64, a victim of heart disease and alcoholism.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dashiell Hammett gave us Sam Spade

It is the birthday of writer Dashiell Hammett (1894), who contributed Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles and the Continental Op to the pantheon of American detective fiction. He was called the dean of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction by The New York Times and is considered one of the best crime fiction writers of all time. Here is a short documentary about Hammett, which includes narration by his granddaughter.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Strange saga of Roman leader Germanicus

It is the birthday of Roman general Germanicus Julius Caesar (15 BC), who distinguished himself in military campaigns along the Rhine River and in Gaul. He was nephew and adoptive son of Emperor Tiberius, who ruled the Roman Empire at the time Jesus Christ was crucified. For many years while Augustus was emperor, he considered Germanicus, his great-nephew, to be his heir but Augustus’ wife prevailed upon him to choose Tiberius, her son from another marriage. (Got that?) In any case, Germanicus died young, probably from poisoning, and scholars think Tiberius had something to do with it. Germanicus’ offspring didn’t turn out so great, either. One of his sons became the infamous Emperor Caligula, whose reign was marked with cruelty, sexual perversity, sadism, and extravagance. And one of Germanicus’ grandsons became the Emperor Nero, who was known for burning Christians alive to provide light for his garden.

Friday, May 23, 2014

U.S. Grant served two terms as President

It is the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant 1822), who is remembered for leading the Union Army to victory, serving as President of the United States for two terms, fighting the Ku Klux Klan, and defending voting rights of blacks in the South. However, his second term with plagued with widespread corruption in his administration, and Southern Democrats gained control of the U.S. House and most Southern state governments. His Reconstruction policies had been dismantled by the time he left office. Grant’s portrait has appeared on the fifty-dollar bill since 1913. The Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library is located at Mississippi State University.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mary Cassatt makes a great impression

It is the birthday of painter and printmaker Mary Cassatt (1844), a leading artist of the Impressionist period in Paris and a friend and benefactor of Edgar Degas. She exhibited with the Impressionists and also at the Paris Salon. As a teenager, she overcame her father’s strenuous objection and studied in France, her mother along as a chaperone. As a young woman, she was commissioned to copy two paintings by Correggio in Italy for the Catholic Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. Later, in Paris, she helped wealthy friends collect Impressionists’ works, collections now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cassatt’s work can be seen in museums around the world, and is still in demand by private collectors. Her painting, In the Box, once brought a price of $4.072 million at auction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Albrecht Dürer: Renaissance selfie king

Self portraits of Albrecht Dürer at various points in his life.
It is the birthday of German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471), who is considered to be one of the greatest artists of the European Renaissance. His detailed woodcuts, created when he was in his 20s, remain his most popular work but he also excelled with copper engraving and oil paintings, including portraits, altarpieces and religious works. Dürer also wrote books on geometry and human proportion in art. He also was fond of self portraits, returning to the subject numerous times throughout his life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The man who designed the Capitol Building

Thornton's design for the Capitol Building. Inset, William Thornton.
It is the birthday of British-American architect William Thornton (1759), who designed the United States Capitol Building. His plan was the winner in a design competition. He won $500 and a lot in the city. Thornton also served as the first Architect of the Capitol and the first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office. He also was a physician, inventor, and painter, and was considered a Renaissance man of vast knowledge. He was born in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, where his family had sugar plantations and slaves. In fact, as a young man he had inherited 70 slaves, an event that troubled him greatly. He subsequently became an abolitionist, and tried unsuccessfuly to lead a group of American Free Black Americans to Sierra Leone to join a British colony there.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's revolutionary leader

iIt is the birthday of Ho Chi Minh (1890), Vietnam’s communist revolutionary leader who sought to free his country from French colonial rule. He served as prime minister for 10 years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He served a president for 24 years, beginning in 1945. As a young man, Ho lived abroad in France, Great Britain, the United States, and Russia, absorbing various cultures and learning how to mount a revolution. He was living in Paris when President Woodrow Wilson was there to present his ideas about forming the League of Nations. Ho tried unsuccessfully to meet with Wilson to discuss Ho’s ideas for liberating Vietnam from French colonial oppression. However, he found a sympathetic ear in Moscow and soon embraced communism. Here is a fascinating program from the History Channel about Ho Chi Minh.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cool Papa Bell: Fast man in baseball

It is the birthday of baseball legend James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell (1903), one of the fastest players in the game. He played in the Negro Leagues, where he began in 1922 as a pitcher for the St. Louis Stars but eventually moved to center field, where he could play close in and still was fast enough to catch hits behind him. As a baserunner he was legendary. Satchel Paige told a story about him that may have been a tall tale: “One time, he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his rear end as he slid into second.” He was a power hitter with a .400 record for several seasons. The Sporting News ranked him one of the 100 greatest players in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Seward struck the deal on buying Alaska

It is the birthday of politician William H. Seward (1801), who is remembered for successfully negotiating the acquisition of Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Seward was widely criticized for advocating the deal. Detractors called the purchase Seward’s Folly. Russia was eager to get rid of the territory it had used principally for fur trade and considered virtually useless. The government was short on cash and nearby British Columbia was growing. Russia didn’t want to risk another war with Great Britain after losing in the Crimea in 1856, and thought it good to have an American influence in the region. For his part, Seward considered the Alaska purchase the greatest accomplishment of his career. Alaska annually celebrates Seward Day the last Monday in March.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happy birthday, 1960s icon Wavy Gravy

It is the birthday of entertainer and peace activist Wavy Gravy (1936), whose clown antics figured prominently in the 1960s counterculture movement. He is remembered for leading the Hog Farm collective, a group that helped keep order at the first Woodstock Festival in 1970. Gravy has worked with spiritual leader Ram Dass to build sustainable health projects around the world, built a camp for underprivileged children, Camp Winnarainbow, and created art collages. He was born Hugh Romney but legally changed his name after blues guitarist B.B. King called him wavy gravy at a pop festival in Texas in 1969. He is the author of two books, The Hog Farm and Friends (1974) and Something Good for a Change: Random Notes on Peace Thru Living (1992). He currently has two radio programs on Sirius Satellite Radio, Gravy in Your Ear and The Wavy Files. He is featured in the documentary film Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie (2010).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Gainsborough inspired Rauschenberg

Thomas Gainsborough, left, and his portrait "The Blue Boy." Inset: Robert Rauschenberg
It is the birthday of English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727), whose most famous work, “The Blue Boy” (1770), was painted to prove a point, and went on to inspire a famous modern-day artist. Here’s how it happened:

A rival artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723), contended that the major colors in portraits should be yellows and reds, and that blues, grays, and greens should be kept to a minimum. Gainsborough didn’t agree. Historians think his life-size portrait is the son of a wealthy merchant, but nobody knows for sure.

In any case, the portrait was sold in 1796, when the merchant filed for bankruptcy, went through a succession of owners and ended up with a famous British art dealer, Joseph Duveen, in 1921. By then it was pretty famous, having been published in various periodicals and shown at the Royal Academy and the British National Gallery.

Along came Henry Huntington, who had made a fortune in building Los Angeles’ world-class trolley system, and was an avid collector of art are rare books. Huntington bought “The Blue Boy” and a portrait by Reynolds from Duveen for what would have been more than $8.5 million in 2014 dollars.

The transaction caused a patriotic uproar in Britain, and the director of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Holmes, scribbled in pencil on one of the stretchers for “The Blue Boy” a parting message, “Au devoir, C.H.” The paintings were put on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where they remain today.

In 1943, future modern artist Robert Rauschenberg was a Navy draftee stationed at San Diego Naval Hospital. On furlough, he hitchhiked up the coast and visited the Huntington Library, where he saw “The Blue Boy,” and, for the first time, realized that people could earn a living as an artist. Rauschenberg went on to become one of the most famous pop artists of all time. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Jim Jones' followers drank the Kool-Aid

It is the birthday of cult leader Jim Jones (1931), who was best known for leading a mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978. The suicide, accomplished with cyanide-laced grape-flavored drink, followed the Jones-ordered murder of California Congressman Leo Ryan and others who had come to investigate Jones’ cult. Jones had been the founder and leader of the socialist Peoples Temple in San Francisco, and was politically well connected and prominent in the region, figuring in the mayoral election of George Moscone in 1975. However, in 1977, Jones abruptly left San Francisco for Guyana ahead of a pending exposé in New West magazine that contained allegations from former Temple members of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The incident gave rise to the popular phrase “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” referring derisively to adherents to a philosophy without critical examination. Purists note that Jonestown victims drank Flavor Aid,  a less expensive powdered drink, not Kool-Aid.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lodge opposed League of Nations

It is the birthday of historian and politician Henry Cabot Lodge (1850), who advocated intervention in Cuba that led to the Spanish-American War, annexation of the Philippines after the war, and limits on immigration, especially of the low skilled and poorly educated. He staunchly believed Americans should drop hyphenated designations such as Irish-American or Italian-American and just be American. He hated Woodrow Wilson and criticized his reluctance to get into World War I. He thought that Germany should be crushed and crippled so it could never again threaten the stability of Europe. He successfully fought United States membership in the League of Nations, and vehemently opposed the Treaty of Versailles because it didn’t require Germany’s unconditional surrender. Lodge wrote biographies, including Alexander Hamilton (1882), Daniel Webster (1883), George Washington (1889), and Theodore Roosevelt (1919), as well as other historical works.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thomas Lipton created the tea empire

It is the birthday of British merchant Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton (1848), who created the Lipton tea empire and also became well known worldwide as a yachtsman. He had humble beginnings in Glasgow, Scotland, where he parents ran a small grocery. At 15, he came to the United States and worked odd jobs for five years, then returned to Glasgow and opened a small grocery and eventually expanded across Britain. He introduced tea bags and sold tea to the working poor. To get a better supply lines and prices, he bought tea plantations in Ceylon, fruit farms, jam factories, bakeries, and established bacon-curing operations in Chicago. He was knighted in 1898 for his business success. He was an avid yachtsman, competing for the America’s Cup for five years, starting in 1899. He never won but was so endeared to the American public he received a special cup for the “best of all losers,” and, in the process, his tea became famous in the United States. Lipton donated heavily to support the wounded during the Spanish-American War and World War I.

Friday, May 9, 2014

John Brown led violent abolitionists

It is the birthday of fiery abolitionist John Brown (1800), who led antislavery forces in battles against slavery supporters in Kansas in the tumultuous years leading up to the Civil War. Brown resorted to violence in an era when most abolitionists advocated peaceful resistance to slavery. Brown’s final act was raiding the U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1859 and attempting to incite a revolt among the slaves. He was tried for treason in the Commonwealth of Virginia and excited by hanging. He became a martyr for the Union cause and the song John Brown’s Body became an anthem during the Civil War.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Oscar Hammerstein I built Times Square

It is the birthday of Oscar Hammerstein I (1846), the father of New York’s Times Square, who built 10 theaters in New York and another one in London. He came to America from Prussia and swept up a cigar factory for three dollars a week. He learned the trade and built a fortune inventing machines that mechanized cigar making. He spent the fortune and a lifetime pursuing his passion, grand opera, bringing major European stars to America and featuring American performers as well.

He spent lavishly on productions, but in the end they were never as successful as the variety shows, comedies, dramas, and vaudeville that played at the theaters he built. New York’s Metropolitan Opera once paid him $1.2 million to stop producing opera in America for 10 years. He took the money and built a theater in London to compete with Covent Garden’s Royal Opera Company. In two years, he’d spent it all. A reporter once asked him if there was any money in opera. He replied, “Yeah, mine.”

Hammerstein’s grandson, Oscar II, who grew up in the theaters his grandfather built and his father managed, became the great musical theater lyricist who wrote Carousel, Showboat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Desert Song, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happy birthday to two great composers!

We honor the birthdays of Hungarian composer Johannes Brahms (1833) and Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840) with two of their most popular pieces, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 and Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien Op 45. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cartoonist John McCutcheon won Pulitzer

Cartoonist John McCutcheon (inset) won a Pulitzer for this cartoon in 1932.
It is the birthday of political cartoonist John Tinney McCutcheon (1870), who received the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his work at the Chicago Tribune, where he produced political satire and social commentary for the editorial page and worked sometimes as a foreign correspondent for 43 years. He was a friend and colleague of Chicago newspaper columnist and humorist George Ade, and traveled with him to Europe, Cuba and the Philippines. So extensive was McCutcheon’s travel that he was elected a member of the Explorers’ Club of New York and became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. Among his collection of cartoons are Cartoons: A Selection of One Hundred Drawings (1903), The Mysterious Stranger and Other Cartoons (1905), and T.R. in Cartoons (1910).

Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy birthday, Søren Kierkegaard

It is the birthday of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813), whose writings on existence and man’s relationship to life substantially influenced psychology, theology, and Western culture in the mid-20th century after they were translated from the original Danish into major European languages. Kierkegaard argued that although objective facts in existence are important how one relates to those facts are more important. He focused on Christian ethics and how man could become more like God if he would forget distractions like money and focus on belief. He frequently wrote under pseudonymns and took opposing sides of the same question. Among his best known works are Either/Or (1843) and several Upbuilding Discourses (beginning in 1843).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happy birthday, crooner Bing Crosby

It is the birthday of Bing Crosby (1903), whose laid-back singing style made him one of the most beloved performers of all time. He sold half a billion records, starred in radio, television, and movies. During World War II, he was named the person who did the most for American armed forces morale. in the movies, Crosby warmed the hearts of millions as a Catholic priest Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way,  in which he sang Swinging on a Star.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Happy birthday to The Red Baron

It is the birthday of The Red Baron (1892), the World War I German fighter pilot Manfred Albrecht Frelherr von Richthofen, who was credited with shooting down at least 80 enemy planes in aerial combat.

His closest competitors were a French ace, who was credited with 75 kills. and a Canadian pilot, credited with 72. Recent research suggests the Red Baron’s record may have been as many as 100, but that’s including some that were unconfirmed. Historians point out that many of his victories occurred against vastly superior allied air forces.

The Red Baron was killed in combat over France in 1917. Royal Air Force Captain Arthur Roy Brown was originally credited with the victory though more recent scholarship shows that Richthofen was actually killed by anti-aircraft fire.

Richthofen wrote his autobiography, The Red Fighter Pilot (1917), while he was recovering from battle injuries. He was required to do so by the propaganda section of the German air force. He read an English translation, The Red Battle Flyer (1918), before it was published and thought it made him sound more arrogant than he believed himself to be.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy birthday, Mother Jones

It is the birthday of labor organizer Mother Jones (1837), an Irish-American dressmaker who helped found the Industrial Workers of the World, the revolutionary international labor union that became known as the Wobblies.

After losing her husband and her four children to a yellow fever epidemic and her dress workshop to the Great Chicago Fire, Mary Harris Jones turned to organizing mine workers and their families.

She became a forceful speaker and catalyst for organizing labor in coal mines and silk mills, even once leading children on a march from Philadelphia to President Theodore Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay, New York, to call attention to child labor conditions. She became increasingly well known in labor circles and sometime in the 1890s she acquired the nickname Mother Jones. In 1902, she was hauled into court in West Virginia for her organizing activities among mine workers, where a district attorney labeled her “the most dangerous woman in America.”

She differed with fellow women activists of the time on a couple of points, though. She opposed abortion and women’s suffrage. “You don’t need the vote to raise hell,” she said. She told the story of her life in The Autobiography of Mother Jones (1925)

Mother Jones Magazine, founded in 1970, is named for her. Poet Carl Sandburg suggested in The American Songbag (1927) that the song “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” refers to Mother Jones.

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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.

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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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