Radical Causes from Lorne Bair Rare Books

- by Michael Stillman

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Radical Causes from Lorne Bair Rare Books

Lorne Bair Rare Books has issued their Catalog 28. Bair specializes in radical literature, mostly from the left. Minority and workers' rights, economic justice, and similar causes dominate the material. This catalogue has been divided into four sections: African American History, Literature & Culture; Radical, Social & Proletarian Literature; Social Movements & Radical Thought; and Graphics, Art & Photography. These are a few of the items offered.

 

The 1930s was a high period for radical causes. Socialists, Communists, and unions found more receptive audiences, the result of the terrible poverty caused by the Great Depression. This book is not from one of the more radical movements, but did more than almost any other such writing to reach the mainstream with its portrayal of economic injustice and poverty experienced by so many ordinary Americans. It is a tale of a family of "Okies," Oklahomans forced from their farms by the Dust Bowl, seeking meager survival in the California farm fields. This book is, of course, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. The travails of the Joad family are well-known. Those who didn't read the book almost surely saw the movie, Henry Fonda playing the lead. The book was published in 1939, and this copy is a first edition, first printing, a fine copy with comparable dust jacket, not even price clipped. It is a good as they come. Item 97. Priced at $7,500.

 

Item 182 consists of a carte-de-viste captioned Mrs. Tennie C. Claflin, Broker, along with an autographed card of Miss Claflin (despite the "Mrs" in the carte-de-viste, she was unmarried). Tennie C. was a radical feminist, of sorts, though certainly not in the image of Susan B. Anthony. She wrote a book promoting women's rights, along with such things as free love, which probably didn't endear her to the movement. She and her sister, Virginia Woodhull, opened the first Wall Street brokerage run by women, and Ms. Woodhull was the first woman to run for President (she lost decisively, to say the least, to Ulysses Grant in 1872). On the other hand, the Claflin sisters were also known as scam artists. Among Tennie's other professions was giving spiritual readings, and who better to have intrigued by your readings, and perhaps other things (Tennie C. was quite attractive), than the aged Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the world's richest man? Well into his 70s, the Commodore provided the financial backing for the sisters' brokerage firm. When he died, Vanderbilt's son gave the sisters a healthy sum of money to move to England. Tennie C. hooked up with another wealthy elderly gentleman (though not on the Vanderbilt level) and became a Viscountess. $600.

 

Less removed in time is the Vietnam War era. The nation became sharply divided over a war that the government waged, and many, particularly older people, supported. On the opposite side, others, including a large portion of younger people, those who would be asked, and then forced, to go to war, sharply dissented. They at best saw the Vietnam War as serving no purpose, if not being an evil attempt by America to impose its will on others through violent force. Item 228 is an example of the latter point of view, a circa 1967 poster. It throws back an iconic moment in American history at America. It depicts a Vietnamese person riding a horse past a home in the dead of night, only the moon lighting the way, another person watching and listening from the door. Playing on Paul Revere's midnight ride, the caption states, The Americans Are Coming. $300.

 

Next we have a very bizarre comic book from Ovid P. Adams. Published in 1970, the title is The Adventures of Black Eldridge the Panther. It is a fictionalized tale of the life of Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver. On the cover, Cleaver is depicted with the severed head of a white man in his hand (in a sense appropriate for a man named "cleaver"). In the story, Cleaver is exiled in Algeria, which was accurate. After being involved in a shoot-out with police, Cleaver fled first to Cuba and then Algeria. While there, he broke with other Panthers who he felt had become too accommodating with whites. However, in this story, Cleaver covertly returns to the U.S. after hearing of a Black artist killed by a White racist in Utah. In revenge, he decapitates the leader of the conservative Mormon Church. There is great irony in this story that Adams could not have imagined in 1970. When he left Algeria, Cleaver went to France, where he became a born-again Christian and began manufacturing pants meant to make men look more manly. When he returned to America, he made his peace with the law and moved farther and farther to the right. He joined up with Sun Myung Moon's conservative Unification Church, and then, in the ultimate irony with this tale, became a Mormon. Continuing to move right, he became a conservative Republican, unsuccessfully seeking the party's nomination for senate in California. Cleaver died in 1998. Item 1. $850.

 

Item 98 is a compilation of early writings by H. G. Wells with a brief, but most intriguing, inscription. Wells grew up in a struggling family. His father, Joseph Wells, was not a successful man. A modest inheritance enabled him to open a shop, but it was no more successful than his other endeavors. Joseph set his son up with some apprenticeships. They did not work out. The result was Wells was a disappointment to his father, who was not much impressed by his son's interest in books and learning. In the early 1890s, Wells began writing short stories and essays for magazines, many of them humorous. He was a prolific writer, with some of these later culled to create this volume entitled Certain Personal Matters, dated 1898 (actually 1897). They were popular, and in 1895, he published his first novel, The Time Machine. While he had not yet reached his peak of recognition at this point, Wells was already reasonably successful and supporting his parents. This copy of Personal Matters has been inscribed by Wells to his father, with the brief words, "from his unworthy son." While it might be just a case of extreme self-effacement, it may also be a bit of a dig, as his father had made him feel unworthy, but by this time, Wells was far more successful than his father ever had been. $4,500.

 

Lorne Bair Rare Books may be reached at 540-665-0855 or info@lornebair.com. Their website is www.lornebair.com.