Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2015 Issue

Radicalism and Social Movements from Lorne Bair Rare Books

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Radicalism & Social Movements.

Lorne Bair Rare Books has published Catalog 20. Radicalism & Social Movements. Bair specializes in movements from the left side of the spectrum over the past century and more. We find abolitionism, labor movements, civil rights, socialism, communism, utopian societies, and various other radical issues displayed. Bair always gives us a little balance – not a lot, mind you, but you will find the occasional rantings of a racist or someone else on the far opposite side of the spectrum. Just don't look for the words of some mealy-mouthed, get-along “moderate” in here. Only strongly, if not excessively held views are welcome. These are a few examples.

 

The abolition movement was gaining steam in the 1850's, just as the nation was falling apart at the seams. We begin with Autographs for Freedom, a collection of writings by various authors published in 1853 in support of abolition. Compiled by the Rochester [New York] Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, it includes writings from such noted movement figures as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Mrs. Stowe's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, had only been published the previous year, quickly making her a major worldwide voice for abolition. Douglass, the former slave who became a great orator and writer, contributed his only attempt at fiction to this book. It was the first book appearance of his The Heroic Slave, a fictionalized account of Madison Washington, a slave and cook who led a rebellion on board a slave ship, taking control and sailing it to British controlled Nassau, where they were given their freedom. Item 6. Priced at $2,750.

 

Next we have a rather strange speech in the House of Representatives in 1867, ostensibly in support of woman suffrage. The speaker was a young Congressman from Missouri, Thomas Noell. Noell was a Union supporter from that divided state, who served the Union during the Civil War. He returned to Missouri to run successfully for Congress in 1864 after his father, also a Congressman, died in office. However, this rambling speech, which often praises women in a sarcastically, less than complimentary fashion, obviously had some other purpose. Item 134 is the Speech of Hon. Thomas E. Noell, of Missouri, on Woman Suffrage and Reconstruction of Massachusetts; Delivered in the House of Representatives, February 11 and 18, 1867. The “Reconstruction in Massachusetts” part reveals Noell's motives. Though being pro-Union, Noell was hardly a northern radical. Congress was taking up a bill concerning woman suffrage, which Noell used to take a swipe at northern radicals, notably those epitomized by Massachusetts. Those radicals were pushing for black enfranchisement in the South. Noell's aim was to show their inconsistency by pointing out that half of the population of Massachusetts – women – were similarly disenfranchised in that state. Some of the implications at times that women are not always too bright may have been intended to make comparisons to disenfranchised blacks in the South. Noell never had a chance to make much of an impact in Congress as he died later that year at the age of 27. $250.

 

Item 145 is a collection of hand-made, hand-tinted, magic lantern glass slides, housed in a contemporary wooden box, from the Bonus Army gathering in Washington in the early 1930's. In 1924, Congress passed a bill providing a bonus for World War I veterans, who many believed had been shortchanged for their service. However, there was a catch. President Coolidge was not willing to spend the money, so, with certain exceptions, the bonuses could not be redeemed until 1945. This proved tolerable at the time, but once the Great Depression put many veterans on the unemployment line, they agitated to make their bonuses immediately redeemable. They needed the money. They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, but came to be commonly known as the Bonus Army. Some became radicalized in their beliefs, though most were just old soldiers in need of help. They camped out in a make-shift town they called “Hooverville.” A few were killed in an action by police, after which Hoover ordered their eviction. It was violent, a few dozen veterans being injured and a 12-year-old family member killed. A smaller contingent came back to Washington after Roosevelt was elected to the presidency, but he too refused to advance the bonuses, though he did provide CCC jobs to veterans who otherwise would not have qualified. Roosevelt did not believe payments should be made if not tied to need. In 1936, Congress overrode the President's veto, making payments available that year. This collection of slides includes images from the encampment and march, including a grieving mother looking over the 12-year-old child's casket. $4,800.

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