Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2010 Issue

The Age of Jackson from the William Reese Co.

Reese275

Andrew Jackson's profile graces William Reese's latest catalogue.


By Michael Stillman

The William Reese Company has issued its 275th catalogue - The Age of Jackson. This does not refer to the age that ended last year, and there are no moonwalks or Neverlands in this catalogue. The Jackson here in question is President Andrew Jackson, an unusual man, but not that unusual. The Age of Jackson is herein defined as 1824-1840, which would cover the years of Jackson's political career, rather than his military one. Most books in this catalogue were published during those dates, and if not, pertain to events which occurred within that time period. Jackson himself was a towering figure, the first, and probably last true presidential "man of the people," though many others have attempted to wear that mantel. Jackson is somewhat of a controversial figure today, a man with his good points, and not-so good ones (ask the Cherokees). Nevertheless, he was a dominating figure on the American stage during his time, enormously popular though controversial. However, he was certainly not the only figure on the stage during his era, and as you will see, many of these works have nothing to do with "Old Hickory."

John Quincy Adams faced a tough reelection campaign against Jackson in 1828. He had defeated Jackson in 1824, despite Jackson garnering more of the popular vote, when the election was decided by the House of Representatives. This choice, believed by many to be the result of a "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay, did little to enhance Adams' popularity. So, Adams' supporters responded by promoting his candidacy with an endorsement from the most popular name in America - Washington. Of course, George was long gone, but Adams did have the support of the First President's favorite nephew (George Washington had no children). In this 1828 broadside To The Voters of Allegany County, Adams' supporters quote a letter from Bushrod Washington, inheritor of Mount Vernon, endorsing Adams. George may have been the "Father of his Country," but evidently being "Nephew of His Country" didn't carry much weight. Jackson won handily. Item 2. $1,500.

Supporters of Jackson had their say that same year in this pamphlet, The Political Character of John Quincy Adams Delineated. Actually, it was the character assassination of John Quincy Adams that was delineated in this publication. The writer charges Adams is not a republican, has made no sacrifices for his country, that the country has gained nothing from his experiences, and, "Your character is neither honorable nor independent. Your integrity is not unsuspected." While it was certainly debatable who was the better candidate for the country in 1828, the charges against Adams, whose many accomplishments included negotiating the treaty which obtained Florida from Spain and writing the Monroe Doctrine, were terribly unfair. Item 3. $600.

Jackson is just a shadow of himself on the cover of this catalogue (click thumbnail above). That's deliberate. Item 14 is William Henry Brown's Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Citizens, With Biographical Sketches. Its date of 1845 portends who is likely to be included. It does not portray the founding fathers, but leaders from the 1820s to what was then the present. So both Jackson and J.Q. Adams are included, along with Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Van Buren, Marshall, Harrison, Tyler, and others not quite so well remembered. Each is shown in a silhouetted profile. $4,500.

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