Strange and Fascinating American Pamphlets from Garrett Scott, Bookseller
By Michael Stillman
Garrett Scott, Bookseller, has issued Catalogue 20: American Pamphlets. Scott specializes in American pamphlets, and it can readily be argued that these are some of the most interesting pieces of Americana you can find. They are mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Publishing a book was a fairly expensive undertaking at the time, but publishing pamphlets was within the means of people with more limited financial assets. The result is you can find just about any opinion, from the rational to the strange, in the form of a pamphlet. Naturally, it is the bizarre that can be the most entertaining, but others are insightful and informative. Take your pick.
Political and theological topics were the favorites of the pamphleteer. However, there are many other subjects covered, including science and "science," medicine and "medicine," and so on through literature, temperance, economics, entertainment, crime and much more. Here are a few samples.
Item 288 is the story of a strange case by a man who had psychological issues of some form or other. The book is Wonderful Works of God. A Narrative of the Wonderful Facts in the Case of Ansel Bourne...who in the Midst of Opposition to the Christian Religion, was Suddenly Struck Blind, Dumb and Deaf; and After Eighteen Days Was Suddenly and Completely Restored... Bourne, an atheist, had had some previous episodes of amnesia, but nothing like what happened to him on October 28, 1848. Bourne was evidently asked by some friends to go to a chapel, but declined, saying to himself, "I would rather be struck deaf and dumb forever than go there." He quickly received his wish, being struck deaf and dumb, plus blind for good measure. Eighteen days later, a properly chastised Bourne went to the same chapel and was cured. Bourne became something of a wonder, while trading in his atheistic ways to become a preacher. Offered is a second edition from 1877. Bourne would make his way back into the news in 1887 when he disappeared for two months from his Rhode Island home. He took up residence in Pennsylvania under the name Albert Brown. He opened a confectionary store which he operated for two months before awakening one morning supposedly totally unaware of his two months as Albert Brown, and confused as to what in the world he was doing in Pennsylvania. Bourne/Brown was hypnotized by William James who concluded he had some type of multiple personality disorder. Priced at $50.
If you think this year's presidential election mantra is something new, take a look at this 1840 political polemic: "Wherefore Change?" More than One Hundred Reasons why William Henry Harrison Should and Will have the Support of the Democracy for President... Harrison found the "change" mantra quite effective against incumbent Martin Van Buren, who suffered grievously from the economic downturn following the Panic of 1837. This unkind pamphlet refers to Van Buren as "the Nero in the White House...feasting and dancing while the American Rome is burning." The electorate was convinced of the need for change and selected Harrison, who promptly died in office without accomplishing a thing. Item 22. $75.