Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2016 Issue

Where’s Waldo or perhaps Who is Waldo?

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In December I received a quote from an RBH/AE member, George Krzyminski whose business, Certain Books, lives online at www.certainbooks.com.  I write about this both because the material offered and its story is interesting.  I quickly bought it.  Here is the description.

 

[23659] (Americana - 19th Century - Photography - Legal History - Political History - New York State). 1867 Photographic Album of the Judiciary Committee Constitutional Convention New York, All Signed (with) CDV Album Convention Members Signed: Attendee Waldo Hutchins Copies (with) TLS NYC Mayor Hewitt Signed Appointing Hutchins Commissioner Public Parks. Albany, N.Y.: Churchill & Denison, 1867. 

 

Photographic Album of the Judiciary Committee Constitutional Convention of New York 1867; the fifteen-member Judiciary Committee consisted of Charles Andrews, George Barker, George F. Comstock, Charles P. Daly, Theodore W. Dwight, William M. Evarts, Charles J. Folger, Milo Goodrich, Matthew Hale, Waldo Hutchins, Francis Kernan, Joseph G. Masten, Amasa J. Parker, Edwards Pierrepont and Joshua M. Van Cott; collated complete according to the index at front; each 5 3/4" x 7 1/2" size albumen-process photographic image is tipped-on to heavy cardstock having a decorative surround in purple ink; each is signed on the page in black ink with the constituent area of New York represented; album pages separated by blanks, photos are mounted on one side only; title page of album printed in red and blue; approx. 9 1/4" x 11" size; bound in black leather, gilt cover ownership title of Waldo Hutchins, floral gilt decorative border surround, triple gilt rules, spine titles gilt & with similar decoration; spine re-backed probably in later 19th century, preserving the original spine covering laid down; wear to edges, scuffing and rubbing to binding; boards firmly attached, contents in very good condition, the photographs professionally taken and sharp; very good overall; 

 

(with) Photographic Album of the Constitutional Convention of New York 1867; with a total of 173 images; the Hon. William A. Wheeler, President of the Convention, with a large albumen portrait similar to those in the judicial album; each page thereafter with four mounted albumen images 2 ¼” x 3 ½” size; photos are mounted one side only as above; first noting the 28 Delegates at Large, each signed below their image, occasionally with their area of NY state noted; following with 128 photo-portraits of the delegates from each district, ordered consecutively. 1st to 32nd, these also signed; followed at back with a page of 4 photos of the Clerk and Assistants, signed, a page with the 4 Stenographers and Assistants, signed; with a page for the 4 Officers, including the Sergeant-at Arms and Librarian, 3 of 4 of these images are signed (the unsigned pictured individual is not named in the index, that space is left blank in the printing); last an (untitled) page with 4 photo portraits of newsmen, including Hiram Calkins of the NY World, John F. Mines, NY Tribune, M.H. Northrup NY Express and Nathan Comstock of the NY Times; a final heavy sheet with spaces for additional photos is blank at back; the album is collated complete according to the index of names at front; album pages separated by blanks; title page of this album similarly printed in red and blue; approx. 9 1/2" x 11" size; bound in dark brown leather, also with ownership title on cover of Waldo Hutchins, similar floral gilt decorations and also with spine re-backed preserving spine; these boards stiffly attached with black cloth tape at inner hinges; binding with about the same wear as the Judiciary volume; and contents in very good condition; one exception to this is that a single cdv portrait, of John G. Schumacher, was at some point unevenly cut out and reinserted, it is still present and in the same very good condition as the rest, laid-in where it was cut-out at the correct position; occasional smudge to a signature; only one individual appears to have signed in pencil; overall, very good condition; attendees of the Convention included many of the luminaries of New York State and national note, besides Wheeler, including Waldo Hutchins, George Opdyke, George William Curtis, Horace Greeley, Ira Harris, Martin I. Townsend, Charles Andrews, Charles J. Folger, Augustus Frank, Augustus Schell, Henry C. Murphy, Homer A. Nelson, George F. Comstock, Sanford E. Church, Marshall B. Champlain, Elbridge T. Gerry, Gideon J. Tucker, Samuel J. Tilden, James Brooks, William Hitchman, Abraham B. Tappen, Erastus Corning, Amasa J. Parker, Edwin A. Merritt, Leslie W. Russell, Thomas G. Alvord, Horatio Ballard, Hobart Krum, Ezra Graves, Elbridge G. Lapham, Frank Hiscock, Israel T. Hatch and many others; 

 

(with) a typed letter signed, on Mayor’s Office letterhead, New York May 10th, 1887: “… I Abram S. Hewitt, Mayor of the City of New York do hereby appoint Waldo Hutchins A commissioner of Public Parks, in the City of new York…” signed in full, black ink, by the mayor; typed in purple ink on coated paper, the letterhead printed in black; the letter had been laid-in long ago into the Convention album at the endpaper and has become browned; it is not fragile; old fold lines, top corner dog-eared; light wear, clearly signed, very good;

 

Waldo Hutchins (1822 - 1891) was one of the original commissioners of Central Park, here being appointed to a return to those civic duties; graduate of Amherst College, Congressional representative from New York, member of the NY State assembly in 1852; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1867; parks commissioner 1857-1869; Forty-sixth Congress to Forty-eighth Congresses serving 1879 to 1885; finished his public service with this parks appointment. (ref. the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress) $1,500.00

 

 

I’m particularly interested in early photography relating to the Hudson Valley in New York State and these two volumes captured the images of almost everyone involved in the 1867-8 reconsideration and updating of the New York State Constitution.  Perhaps 20 of the albumin images are of Hudson River representatives.  While I knew nothing of that particular constitutional convention these images are early, clear, large, and signed.  I found the material appealing.

 

When I later searched the RBH/AE database I found that a copy of the Photographic Album of the Constitutional Convention, one of the two volumes offered, [but not the same copy], was sold for $388.80 at RR Auctions in 2013 against an estimate of $1,000-$2,000.

 

The lot offered to me was two volumes, one essentially the same as above including 173 quarter-page images of the delegates and [four] newspaper reporters mentioned in the description, the other volume composed of 15 full-page images [5.75” x 7.5”] of members of the Judiciary Committee of the Constitutional Convention. 

 

The images are pristine and all, save one, signed.  As the description mentions, these are Mr. Hutchins’ personal copies and as such his name is embossed on the front covers. 

 

In the OCLC I found 6 copies of the Album of the Constitutional Convention, of the separate Judiciary Committee volume a single location.  No copies of either volume mentioned are described as “named copies.” Mr. Hutchins’ signed image appears in both volumes.

 

He was, in his time, a fairly important man.

 

In random searches I found that there is today a lovely monument in Central Park, the Waldo Hutchins Bench, on the east side of Fifth Avenue at 72nd Street. 

 

“The bench “bears a Latin inscription: Alteri vivas oportet si vis tibi vivere (One must live for another if he wishes to live for himself). A small sundial at the back of the bench bears another Latin inscription: Ne diruatur fuga temporum (Let it not be destroyed by the passage of time).”  It hasn’t been.

 

The design of the bench is his.  He, in later life, was reappointed to the Parks Commission in the late 1880's and as a member proposed his bench as a solution to vandalism.  His answer was a slab of granite that could neither be carted away nor easily defaced.  His idea was turned down but after his death a beautiful example was installed and time has since proven him to be right.  The bench is still there.

 

Tucked into the second volume of images is a letter of appointment returning Mr. Hutchins to his earlier role as a Commissioner of New York Public Parks after a six-year stint as a Tammany congressman. 

 

Mr. Hutchins’ son, also a Waldo, went on to successful career dividing his time between New York City and Geneva New York where he married into the very well-to-do Swan family in 1893.  Half a century later, another Waldo repurchased the Swan-Hutchins home in upstate New York and gifted it along with generous operating funds, to the Geneva Historical Society. Today 6 full time staff work on building a future based upon the past.

 

 

Finally I have looked into auction records for Waldo Hutchins and found a sale in 1909 for “200 lots and two beautiful dwellings” in Manhattan.  No doubt he was a collector.  His descendants were and at the end of their lives, sent paintings and other objects to Doyle [now Doyle-New York].  These items seem more appropriate to the grandfather and it's probable, but not confirmed, that he owned fine things.  He was certainly wealthy.  Some of his material probably then remained within the family the next one hundred years – beginning to reach the rooms in 1990 and continuing, after a long hiatus, to be sold over the past five years.  In that way the set I bought reemerged and it makes you wonder what else he had.

 

For a collector such material is great fun.  You buy a few photographs and you get the makings of an interesting story.

 

As to these books’ value I asked a dealer who knew them and he said they are currently out of favor.   For me they are already very good.  And when Google begins to map faces their sun may rise again.

 

Links:

 

Waldo Hutchins details as listed on the US Congressional site

bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H001009

 

The history of Waldo Hutchin's son and his wife Agnes Swan on the Geneva Historical Society website

genevahistoricalsociety.com/general/without-asking-permission-the-life-of-agnes-swan-hutchins

 

George Krzyminski [the source of the two volumes I purchased]

www.certainbooks.com

 

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