Rare Americana from<br>David M. Lesser Books
By Michael Stillman
David M Lesser’s catalogues are much like a series of mini-lessons in American history. Each item comes with a description that places it within the context of its time. Lesser’s “No. 75, Rare Americana” brings many events, some famous, others forgotten, back to life. It’s both an excellent read and a great source of moderately priced documents of American history.
A couple of documents show us two sides of John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States. Both pertain to Quincy Adams’ career after he left the presidency and returned to the House of Representatives. Item 2 is a speech he gave in 1838 “…on the Freedom of Speech and of Debate in the House of Representatives…and Petitions of More than One Hundred Thousand Petitioners, Relating to the Annexation of Texas to this Union.” Congress had swept the issue of slavery under the rug by adopting the “gag rule,” which forbade any discussion of the subject. Adams was one of the few to oppose this rule, and in this speech, he again voices his opposition to both the gag rule and the annexation of Texas as a slave state. Priced at $250. Item 82 shows a less tolerant side of Adams. It is a letter to him from Benjamin Hazard, a long-serving member of the Rhode Island legislature, in response to Adams’ charge that legislature was soft on freemasonry. Hazard decries the “licentious conduct” of those who “prey upon and befoul the characters of an entire and numerous class of citizens.” And, with a real zinger, Hazard claims “your own letters upon that subject were almost as numerous as your readers.” $275.
One of those quotes everyone knows comes from Item 102. It is A Funeral Oration on the Death of George Washington… given by General Henry Lee. In it, General Lee describes Washington as “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” A eulogy by Judge Minot is also included. $275.
Do you want to get rich? Asher Smith and J.W. Hawxhurst have the answer. It’s in their How to Get Rich, or a Key to Honest Wealth, being a Practical Guide to Business Success, Applicable to all Trades & Professions. An Invaluable Aid to Merchants, Clerks, Ministers, Students, Artists, Mechanics, Apprentices, Female Operatives, Farmers, Tradesmen, Men of Leisure, and all who desire to unlock the Storehouse of Wealth… If this had been written in 2004 instead of 1867, it would be a late-night infomercial. However, the authors don’t recommend buying real estate or starting up an internet company. Their primary suggestion is not to spend too much money, wonderful advice that no one pays attention to any more. And by the way, just what are “female operatives?” Item 167. $275.