Historic Documents from Bruce N. Johnson
By Michael Stillman
An increasingly popular field for book collectors today is ephemeral material related to the subjects of their collections. This can include one-of-a-kind personal letters, political campaign material, postcards, timetables, photographs and such. These capture another view of the history described in books. Bruce N. Johnson of Liverpool, New York, has issued his second catalogue of Historic Documents, his Catalogue 20 overall. Johnson has acquired an assortment of 178 items, some single documents, others collections. They range from the 1700s to the 1960s. Each provides a window to a time, place, or event, and will interest any collector of Americana. We will describe a few of the items offered, but it is impossible to fully appreciate all of the material available without seeing the catalogue itself.
Item 31 is the Register of the Officers and Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy, June 1827. The U.S. Army would perhaps later regret doing such a good job of teaching. Among the cadets listed in 1827 were Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Joseph E. Johnston, the highest-ranking Union commander to defect to the Confederates. Priced at $375.
Item 41 recalls a tricky situation prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. General David Twiggs commanded U.S. forces in Texas early in 1861, their main purpose to defend the border with Mexico. These were the days before Texas' secession, but secession-minded Texans stormed the federal garrison in San Antonio. Twiggs was in a difficult position. He was 70-years-old, having served in the Union army all the way back to the War of 1812, but he was also a Georgian with southern sympathies. Twiggs chose to surrender. Item 41 is General Orders No. 5 Dismissal of a Brigadier General, issued by the War Department on March 1, 1861. Twiggs was dismissed for "treachery to the flag of his country" for surrendering military posts to Texas authorities. Twiggs would later join with the Confederates, though age prevented his playing any role in the upcoming war. $32.50.
Here is a personal favorite. Item 14 is a collection of 18 early American automobile catalogues. Many of these manufacturers are long gone, but their creations live on in a few museums, car collections, and the pages of these catalogues. Among those offered in this collection are the 1919 Essex, 1920 Pierce Arrow, 1922 Hudson, 1922, 1931 and 1935 Studebaker, 1926 Packard, 1927 Franklin, 1927 Stutz, and models from more familiar names such as Chrysler, Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac. All catalogues predate the Second World War. $1,375.