For many years, as a book collector, I’ve read dealer catalogues, combed listing sites and walked the aisles of book fairs to find additions to my focuses. In that way I acquired hundreds, I suppose, even thousands of things. It’s often been a rewarding and deeply pleasurable pursuit over the past six decades. Over those years new material would come and go but the central focus remained, invariably rare books. Manuscripts have long been appreciated but the numbers have been limited. Pamphlets, broadsides and objects too might be around but seemed almost eccentric because their collecting histories were comparatively thin. The implication was that the serious over the decades didn’t take these things seriously leaving the question unanswered: are they collectible and/or worthwhile?
The answer today is clear. Yes.
It turns out the field long lacked sufficient information to make the case.
This said, the field today is at the point that ephemera and objects are increasingly understandable and interesting, both as to how they fit in and why they materially matter. Internet databases are making this possible although not necessarily easy.
For books the number of appearances and the history of their pricing immediately give a sense of rarity and market interest. For ephemeral material the collecting institution or collector needs to understand how periods, places and events fit together. It’s intellectually more complex. It takes work but is rewarding. In some sense it’s like what book collecting in the 1870’s must have been like. The resources were few and thin but the possibilities were immense. That’s what it’s like for ephemera in 2020: a world of wonderful possibilities.
All this to say that I’m buying ephemera and enjoying the challenges.
As to finding the material it’s a matter of skilled sources. Two experienced ABAA dealers; John Thompson and Rob Rulon Miller offered material recently and I share with you what I bought; 12 items not a book among them.
I buy from John Thompson of Bartleby’s Books [ABAA] who sends me offers randomly and find his suggestions rewarding. I mention this because “dealer perspective” is as important as it is uncommon to collectors.
1. [Steamboat Broadside] [New York]. ALBANY AND THE INTERMEDIATE PLACES PASSAGE $1.50 No Charge for Berths. The Splendid Steamboat North America. Capt. M.H. Truesdell, Will leave the Steamboat Pier between Courtlandt and Liberty Sts. This Afternoon....at Five o'clk. Saturday, April 23, 1842. [Caption title & entire text]. [Albany, N.Y, 1842]. Broadside. 26 X 26 cm. Trimmed close all around, especially the top. About one-third of the broadside is taken up with a woodcut illustration of a steamboat. A visually appealing broadside, with large letters. (#63744) $450.00
2. Thomas, David. A LETTER FROM DAVID THOMAS PRINCIPAL ENGINEER OF THE ERIE CANAL, west of the Genesee River, to a Gentleman in Albany. [Caption title]. NP: np, . Single sheet folded into 4 pp. 32 1/2 x 20 cm., with text on p.  & p. . Double column. Thomas was chief engineer of the Erie Canal west of Rochester. [See Appleton's]. Here he debates Peter B. Porter over issues relating to the construction of the Erie Canal, most importantly, a proposed harbor near Bird Island and the proposed location of the western terminus of the canal. Thomas exhibits considerable contempt of those who make casual proposals without adequate knowledge of engineering. Only one copy found on OCLC, at the Buffalo History Museum, which adds this note: "This letter, not dated, but evidently written soon after the appearance of the Black Rock Harbor Company's pamphlet in 1822, was printed with the heading as here given, in broadside form, and no doubt had a wide distribution." Not in AMERICAN IMPRINTS or RINK. (#64311) $450.00
3. [Horses]. IRISHMAN, Will stand at the stable of Conrad Chism...[Caption title & partial text]. [Schenectady, NY?], 1843. Broadside. 40.5 x 28 cm. Dated May 1, 1843, with a fine large engraving of spirited horse, signed in the plate by Anderson, occupying the upper third of the broadside, followed by 22 lines of text giving the horse's pedigree and description. Irishman, a chestnut standing 16 hands and covering 23 feet with every bound, was to stand in Guilderland, and then Schenectady. Browned, some staining, upper right corner clipped, some cracking and restoration along a fold, affecting some text, and along the lower margin (not affecting text), laid down on archival paper. We find no record of another copy. (#64388) $650.00
4. [West Point]. CATALOGUE OF THE CADETS OF THE U. S. MILITARY ACADEMY. WEST-POINT, JANUARY 1, 1819. [Caption title]. [Newburgh, N.Y.? : np, 1819]. Broadside. 50 x 35 cm. 230 students listed with 124 in the fourth class, about 35 in each of the other three, with typographical border around the text. Used as a self-mailer, with free frank from West Point in ms, directed to the Post Master in Woodstock, Vt. Piece lacking in bottom margin where opened beneath the wax seal. Encapsulated. Not in AMERICAN IMPRINTS. OCLC lists AAS copy only. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer became Superintendent in 1817, establishing a curriculum which would be come the nation's first college of engineering. Parts of the curriculum and the disciplinary standards he established still exist. (#64472) $750.00
5. Pickell, Lieut. John. REPORT OF EXAMINATIONS AND SURVEYS OF A ROUTE FOR A RAIL-ROAD, from Canajoharie, Situated on the Erie Canal, to the Village of Catskill, on the Hudson River: Made Under the Direction of the Engineer Department of the United States... To which is Annexed, An Act of the Legislature of...New-York, passed April 19, 1830, incorporating the Canajoharie and Catskill Rail-Road Company. Catskill, [NY]: Printed by Faxon & Elliott, 1831. First edition. 8vo. 23 pp. Disbound pamphlet. Not in AMERICAN IMPRINTS, but a dozen or so copies are listed on OCLC. THOMPSON 557. SABIN 62617. The C. & C. opened a line in 1836, but never succeeded in connecting Canajoharie and Catskill and soon became defunct. Pickell (1802?-1865) later saw service in the Seminole War, recording the experience in diaries published in the Florida Historical Quarterly (XXXVIII:2; 1959). (#64956) $225.00
6. A Friend to his Country. [Pell, Ferris]. A SERIOUS APPEAL TO THE WISDOM AND PATRIOTISM OF THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; on the subject of a canal communication between the Great Western Lakes and the tide waters of the Hudson. NP: Printed for the author, 1816. First edition. 21cm. 37pp. Final leaf is clipped beneath the errata with no loss of text. Disbound pamphlet. AMERICAN IMPRINTS 38912. HOWES N-105 KRESS B 6803. RINK 4674. Author writes of the great national economic gains the canal will represent. (#64957) $350.00
7. OFFICE OF THE FORT HUNTER AND ALBANY PLANK ROAD COMPANY, Maria Ville, March 26th, 1850. To the Stockholders of the... Company... [beginning of text]. NP, . Printed document, with two manuscript corrections, 25 x 19.5 cm. with integral address leaf (inner pages blank). Folded for mailing, addressed in ink on last page to Erastus Corning Esq. of Albany. Signed in type at conclusion by Samuel C. Jackson, President, and S.H. Marsh, Secretary & Treasurer of the Company. The Directors report to the stockholders that: all the necessary lumber for construction of the road has been secured; that delivery of the lumber will commence with the (seasonal) opening of the [Erie] Canal; that right of way has been secured; and a date has been set for letting contracts to build the road. It concludes with a schedule calling for "the payments of installments on the subscriptions of Stock": 20% on the first of each month for May through August, 1850 with 10% in September and October. Two small changes have been made in manuscript: payments "must" (not may) be made on the above dates, either to Treasurer, or to an authorized agent, R.J. Hilton, interpolating in manuscript, "at his office No. 78 State St. in the City of Albany." Corning was a wealthy manufacturer, railroad investor and land speculator. His name is synonymous with machine politics in Albany. As a Jacksonian Democrat and member of Martin Van Buren's Regency, Corning was elected mayor of Albany four times in the mid 1830s. [see his brief biography in DAB]
Plank roads saw a boom in the 1840s as the Erie Canal drove the old turnpikes out of business. Called the "farmer's railroad" plank roads allowed local communities to construct, with available materials, transportation routes for their goods. Horses could pull heavier loads on the smoother surfaces and toll gate fees would help finance any necessary repairs. The first plank road in the United States was constructed in Syracuse in 1837, and the idea began to attract investors. OCLC lists a survey map for the Fort Hunter and Albany Plank Road done by James Frost in 1849. No listings are found on OCLC for this circular. In "History of Transportation in the United States before 1860," by B.H. Meyers, Caroline McGill, et al [Peter Smith: 1948], p. 301, the authors quote an 1851 source: "In the list of improvements which characterize the present age of progress, and which have aided materially in widely diffusing the comforts of human life, the plank road is destined to occupy a most prominent place. Good common roads tend to change the condition of the planter and farmer wherever they are extended. The plank roads give him a thoroughfare infinitely superior to any other, not excepting railroads." Unfortunately, the promoters underestimated the wear and tear on the roads and their replacement and maintenance needs. An early investor in the Fort Hunter and Albany Plank Road Company, John Taylor of Albany, left behind an account of his losses. On his $900 stock purchases, he collected only $80 in profits: "This road worn out and burst out without paying dividends, leaving heavy debts." [see: Daniel Klein and John Majewski's article "Plank Road Fever in Antebellum America: New York State Origins," in the journal New York History, Vol. 75, No. 1, Jan. 1994, p.63]. (#65191) $250.00
8. Republican Corresponding Committee, for Oneida County. SAMUEL BEARDSLEY. A handbill is circulated under the above named signe[d] Joel Northrop and Ami Dows, and is stated to be 'By order of the Corresponding Committee.' What Corresponding Committee? Who have deputed these gentlemen to advise the electors of this county upon their political duties? Do they represent the Anti-Masons or the Clay men? Or, are they the mouth pieces of the Siamese Twins? [caption title and beginning of text]. [Oneida County, NY, 1843]. Broadside. 29 x 23 cm. Signed in type by Nicholas Smith and five other members of the committee at conclusion. Wrinkled, top margin folded and creased with loss at one corner (blank). Very good. Not found in AMERICAN IMPRINTS or OCLC. Beardsley served in Congress from 1831 to 1836 and again 1843-1844. The text here references the reprimand given to Rep. George S. Houston of Alabama, dating the piece to 1843. The signers accuse Beardsley's political opponents of a systematic distortion of his record, which appears to be that of a Jackson Democrat. The charges are rebutted point by point (the case of Houston, the Bank, Land Bill, National Debt, &c.) but may have had some effect because Beardsley resigned his seat in March of 1844 to accept a judicial appointment. (#65222) $250.00
9. Cunningham, Thomas. NOTICE!! TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, RESIDING ON OR CLAIMING TO OWN ANY PORTION OF LAND, SITUATED IN EVANS PATENT, DELAWARE CO., STATE OF NEW YORK, comprehending within the following Towns, (viz).... [followed by 36 lines of text]. Delhi, Delaware Co., NY: np, January 1856. Broadside, 32 x 28 cm. "Notice!!" printed in large, bold type, above a rule. Text in two paragraphs, and signed in type by Thomas Cunningham, Delhi, Delaware Co., NY, January [some hash marks through the month, and day rubbed out], 1856. Some toning and light foxing, two manuscript corrections to the text [changing "he" to "she"], else a boldly printed, clear copy. A brief record is given of a portion of the property in her estate called "Evans Patent" in Delaware Co., NY, "comprehended within the following Towns, (viz): Masonville, Tompkins, Sidney and Walton," originally in 1786 the property of Agatha Evans, Elizabeth Livius, Samuel Bradstreet and Martha Bradstreet, all heirs of Major Gen. John Bradstreet. The object of this notice was to inform "the parties to whom it is addressed" that the sole trustee of the estate "is now at the Hotel at Delhi, where [s]he contemplates remaining for one week from this date, and where they or their Counsel will cheerfully be informed of such facts as it may best serve their future interests to learn...." Names mentioned on the deed of conveyance of trust included Robert Emmet, Thomas Addis Emmet, Margaret Emmet, Jane E. McEvers, William C. Emmet, Wm. H. Leroy, Elizabeth Leroy, E. Boonen Graves, Mary Ann Graves, Thomas Cunningham, of Mohawk, Herkimer Co., and Martha Bradstreet.
Major Gen. John Bradstreet (1711-1774) was a British army officer born in Nova Scotia. He served in the French & Indian Wars in the American colonies. He amassed a considerable estate through various land schemes and speculations and died in New York City on Sept. 25, 1774. [see his brief biography in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography]. His step-granddaughter Martha Bradstreet's papers are collected at Yale. They describe her efforts, through litigation, to gain title to Bradstreet's lands in the Mohawk River Valley. (#65250) $250.00
National American--Extra. NEW YORK AND ERIE RAILROAD. Another Statement of the Engineers. [Caption title]. NP : np, . Folio broadside, 41 x 33 cm., title in various sizes and styles of type, text printed in three columns. Some soiling on edges, folded in half horizontally, with some separation along the fold (no loss of text). No listings on OCLC or ULS for the 'National American' newspaper. In a letter dated Jersey City [NJ], Oct. 8, 1856, the striking engineers of the railroad line accuse the company of hiring incompetent engineers who endanger the lives of passengers and cause accidents: "The great motto of safety first and speed afterward has not been applied to the running of the road," incompetent switchmen have caused accidents and engineers "have been discharged without a hearing, thereby violating the pledge of Mr. McCallum to us." After several attempts to organize an official union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was formed in 1863. (#64387) $450.00
Your Fellow Citizens. TO THE HONOURABLE MARTIN VAN BUREN, SECRETARY OF STATE. The memorial of the subscribers, citizens of the United States, interested in the mechanic arts.... [followed by 77 lines of text]. NP: np, nd [1829-31]. Broadside, 40 x 25 cm. Signed in type by "Your Fellow Citizens." Old fold lines, short separate along one fold, at margin, slightly affecting a few letters, else a very good copy. The memorialist petition for the reinstatement of Dr. Thomas P. Jones, a former professor of Mechanics in the Franklin Institute, who had brought a level of professionalism and expertise to the job of Superintendent of the Patent Office. They argue against making this position a political rather than a professional appointment. They state that the early years of chaos, poor methods of storage and display of models and other objects, and the failures of previous superintendents, had made the Patent Office almost useless to the public, "and sometimes worse than useless to inventors themselves."
The memorialists, recognizing the "clause of the constitution which authorizes congress to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, as conferring one of those high powers. which it is peculiarly becoming a liberal, civilized, self-governed people to enjoin upon the guardians of its dearest rights..." to maintain the independence of those working "in the interests of the arts, sciences, and literature of our country... that they will be kept aloof from personal and political considerations; be allowed to dwell in sanctuaries of their own, and to pursue, unmolested, the career of usefulness and honour."
No listings found on OCLC or in American Imprints. (#65253) $350.00
(WEST POINT). REGISTER OF OFFICERS AND GRADUATES OF THE UNITED STATES MILITARY ACADEMY, FROM 1802 TO 1834. NP [West Point, NY]: np [Adjutant's Office, U.S. Military Academy], July 1834. First edition. 26 cm. 21, (4 blank) pp. Self-wraps, sewn, as issued. In addition to the graduates, it includes a listing of superintendents, professors, and teachers at the Academy since 1801. Wrinkled from one fold, lightly creased vertically. A very good copy. OCLC lists three copies: NY Public Lib., Hagley Mus., & US Army War College. Not in American Imprints. (#64773) $375.00
Adjutant's Office, Military Academy. RECORDING THE CHARGES AND SPECIFICATIONS AGAINST TWO U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY CADETS AT WEST POINT, NEW YORK, DEC. 15, 1838, IN A TWO PAGE MANUSCRIPT DOCUMENT, SIGNED BY 1st LIEUTENANT GEORGE WAGGAMAN. Single sheet of lined paper, 25 x 20 cm., 2 pp., approx. 300 words, in a clerical hand. Old fold lines, some slight breaks at folds. "Orders, No. 184... At a Garrison Court Martial which convened at this Post on the 11th instant and of which 1st Lieut. W.W.S. Bliss, 4 Inf. is President were tried the following named persons...." The first cadet, R. Van W. Thorne was charged with disobeying an order to get his hair trimmed, and was found guilty. He was sentenced to "perform four extra hours of guard duty on Sunday." The second cadet, Daniel G. Rogers, a member of the cadet-guard, was charged with neglect of duty and disobedience of orders for failing to go on post. He was found not guilty of both charges and acquitted. The cadets were released from arrest by order of Major Delafield. Document signed by 1st Lieut. G.G. Waggaman, A. Adj.
The President of the Garrison Court Martial was William W.S. Bliss (1815-1853). Bliss graduated from West Point in 1833, saw service against the Cherokee Indians in 1833-34, and then became a teacher of mathematics at West Point from 1834-40. He served in Florida in 1840-41, was Adjutant General of the 16th Military Dept. until 1845, and Chief of Staff to Gen. Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War. He was also a renowned linguist, counting several Native American languages with which he was familiar. He married Taylor's daughter in 1848. He died in New Orleans of yellow fever in 1853, while serving as Adjutant General of the Western Division of the Army. Fort Bliss in Texas is named for him. [see his brief biography on the Fort Bliss website]
George Waggaman (ca. 1815-1884), who signed this document, was a graduate of West Point in 1835. He served in Florida, and returned to West Point as an Assistant Instructor of Infantry Tactics from 1837-41. He served in the Mexican War, and was present at the Battle of Palo Alto in May 1846. A native Virginian, he resigned his commission in 1861, rather than fight against his home state.
The two cadets were members of the Classes of 1839 and 1840. Richard Van Wyck Thorne (1821-1875), from New York state, appears to have resigned from the Academy (class of 1839) after accumulating too many demerits, according to one source. He went on to serve in the Brooklyn City Guard, and later as a Captain with the 13th Regiment of the New York State Militia in the Civil War. Daniel Rogers (class of 1840) served in the Second Seminole War and in Mexican War. He died at Vera Cruz in 1848 while on duty. (#65207) $450.00
A single item offered by Rob Rulon-Miller
[New York Medical Society.] A book containing the accounts of the Medical Society of Cayuga County. [Aurora & Auburn, N.Y.]: 1807-34. $2,000
Narrow folio, approx 166 pages; contemporary calf-backed marbled boards, rear hinge split and back board held by cords only; considerable toning and dampstaining, a few lines lost but on the whole quite legible.
The Cayuga County Medical Society is the oldest professional organization in Cayuga County, and one of the earliest medical societies in America. This ledger dates to nearly its inception. Founded in 1806, the society is still extant.
This ledger contains individual accounts of members of the association, with sums due from them and their payments. The bulk of the entries concern payment of annual fees, or fines for non-attendance. Of greater interest are entries concerning fines for library books and charges for diplomas, and for failing to perform at disputations.
According to The History of Cayuga County 1789-1879, the charter members were: Nathaniel Aspinwall, and Ebenezer Hewitt, of Genoa; David Annable, of Moravia; William C. Bennett, of Aurelius; Josiah Bevier, and Jacob Bogart, of Owasco; Nathan Branch, Joseph Cole, of Auburn; Asabel Cooley, of Fleming; Frederick Delano, of Aurora; Isaac Dunning, Luther Hanchett, Silas Holbrook, Barnabas Smith and Ezra Strong, all five of Scipio; Consider King, of Venice; Parley Kinney, of Sherwood; and James McClung, John Post and Matthew Tallman, of Scipioville. Frederick Delano was elected President, James McClung, Vice-President, Jacob Bogart, Secretary, and Consider King, Treasurer.
Most of these names are recorded in the ledger: Silas Holbrook, Barnabas Smith, Frederick Delano, Jacob Bogart, Ezra Strong, Josiah Bevier, Consider King, and Josiah Bevier, are the first seven accounts listed.
Of the President Delano the Medical Society website notes that he "was a prominent surgeon. He came to Aurora from Orange County in 1792, one year before John Hardenbergh, the founder of Auburn, arrived in the county. Delano tried unsuccessfully to establish a medical school in Aurora. According to tradition, he bartered with a condemned man - the first convicted murderer in this county - a jug of rum for his body after his death. He performed the autopsy on the man and used the skeleton that hung in his office for instruction. The skeleton was passed along to four other physicians and given a “decent” burial 70 years after the death of the condemned man."
Another of the accounts listed is that of Dr. Erasmus (in the ledger his name is given as Erastus) Tuttle. "The Auburn Medical College sponsored by the Society was opened in 1825 through the efforts of Dr. Erasmus P. Tuttle. Tuttle, the prison physician, had successfully petitioned the state to use at the school unclaimed bodies of deceased prisoners. The school was located on the upper floors of a building he erected on Genesee Street four doors east of the corner of Genesee and Williams. It was the hope of the society that if the school existed it would receive the coveted charter from the state, but that charter went to Geneva. The school floundered after Tuttle's death in 1829 moving briefly to 1 North St. before closing."
At a meeting held in Levi Stevens' tavern, in Scipio, the first Thursday in November 1806, by-laws were adopted, five censors were elected, Doctor Barnabas Smith elected delegate to the State Medical Society, the present seal of the society ordered, and a tax of $4 a year levied on each member, to procure a library and provide medical apparatus. The anniversary meetings were fixed to be held on the first Thursday of November, and the quarterly meetings on the first Thursday of February, May, and August, and dissertations and discussions upon medical and surgical topics were provided for. The licentiates of the society were required to sign the following declaration, and the society archives contain a long file of the declarations signed by men honored in their day and generation for a faithful compliance therewith.
"I ________ do solemnly declare that I will honestly, virtuously, and chastely conduct myself in the practice of physic and surgery, with the privileges of exercising which profession I am now to be invested; and that I will with fidelity and honor, do everything in my power for the benefit of the sick committed to my charge."
In a broader sense, this is a document of the professionalization and regulation of medicine in early nineteenth-century America. The frequent discharge of members indicated by this record suggests that the society in those days honored its mandate, today expressed, "To protect the public from quackery and pseudo-scientific health frauds." 
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