Three New Catalogues of Americana

- by Michael Stillman

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Nestler’s catalogue does not have a lot of major documents or high prices, but it is filled with obscurities that residents of various communities in New York can’t help but appreciate. For example, item 239 from 1859 is a Memorial from Secretary of the New York Inebriate Asylum. New York didn’t have an inebriate asylum, but the authors were seeking state funds to build one. They felt Binghamton would be an ideal location. How about that, Binghamton? Do you agree? $12. Or there’s the Report of the Committee…on Lunatic Asylums, naming the five that existed in 1854 and explaining why another was needed. Those crazy New Yorkers! Item 256. $10.

Item 155 is J. Bigelow’s The Life of Samuel J. Tilden, in two volumes. Tilden, a major New York political figure of the second half of the 19th century, was the man who really won the 1876 presidential election, but had it stolen in the House of Representatives in a deal that brought Reconstruction to an end. Just think. If the election had been fair, instead of being a virtual unknown, Tilden could have been another Rutherford B. Hayes. $25.

Item 159 is the first fourteen annual reports of the Boston and Albany Railroad, 1869-1882. $65. The railroads were young and vigorous then. Fast forward to 1968 for P. Lyon’s To Hell in Day Coach. Lyon laments the deterioration of the railroads, including the New York Central. “In 1905 they were feared. Now they are like a kitten fallen in a well.” I rode the New York Central in the 1960s and I can attest that every miserable thing Lyon said about them, and more, was true. The New York Central is long gone, but this book is still around. Item 258. $25.

If you live in the Kings Club District of Brooklyn (Gravesend Ave. to Ocean Parkway; Avenue U to Kings Highway), you will want this 1922 map of lots for sale. Includes a list of restrictions you may have forgotten. Item 161. $18. The catalogue also contains numerous early 1900s topographical maps from various New York State communities.

A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago should really be retitled “A Girl’s Life 200 Years Ago.” This 1888 book contains 80 pages of letters written by Eliza Southgate Bowne, who lived from 1783-1809, and traveled extensively during her life. Item 182. $25.

Item 146 is an autograph album of one Elizabeth A. Boughton. It contains 35 pages of sentimental poetry written by her friends between 1837 and 1845. It’s in poor shape, but readable. You could probably lift some of the poems and send them to your beloved as originals without anyone ever being the wiser. $15.