Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2010 Issue

Massachusetts! From Peter L. Masi Books

Masi206

Peter Masi's latest catalogue is a tribute to Massachusetts.


By Michael Stillman

We have received Catalog 206 from Peter L. Masi Books, with the title My Massachusetts! It can be yours too. It is a collection of almost 700 obscure and mostly local interest items from the Bay State. There aren't any documents signed by John Hancock, but nothing here will break your bank account either. The vast majority are priced $10-$20, and most are related to some particular Massachusetts town. There are town guides, school and graduation programs, town budgets, church and club related publications, transportation schedules, historical society publications, celebratory guides for town anniversaries, and so on. While these publications are inexpensive, they are also scarce, and most you will probably not see again. If you collect Massachusetts, or any part thereof, or are just interested in items pertaining to life in small towns and cities many years ago, you will like this catalogue.

Here is a Boston organization I had never heard of before, and am somewhat surprised to find even existed. Item 57 is a circa 1920 leaflet for The Southern Club of Boston. It appears to have been founded by a woman who was born in Georgia and maintained some sort of connection to the university of that state. They held some dances, and honored southern heritage, some of which might not be as warmly celebrated in the North (their calendar marks Robert E. Lee's birthday). I can't tell you how long the club was in existence, but those mentions of it I can find indicate it was active in the teens and 1920s. Priced at $8.

Item 615 is a program to honor a man who, though mostly forgotten today, contributed greatly to the quality of life of millions of Americans over the past century and more. Lorenzo Dow Baker was a young sea captain when he visited Jamaica in 1870. He came back with something new to Americans - bananas. Yes, it was Lorenzo Dow Baker of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, who introduced bananas to America. Unfortunately, they had gone rotten, so it is unlikely they made much of an impression (history has not recorded whether he made banana bread from them). The following year, Baker went back to Jamaica, and this time he brought back green bananas, which neatly ripened to a golden yellow on his return. Baker quickly moved into the banana business, and was one of the founders of the giant fruit importing company United Fruit. Baker died in 1908, but in 1945, the Wellfleet Methodist Church, with help from the town and United Fruit, honored the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Baker's first banana boat. Day-O! Item 615 is A Memorial to Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, including a poem from Harriet Richmond Bell. $10.

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