Three New Catalogues of Americana

- by Michael Stillman

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Item 58 is New York State: Battle Ground of the Revolutionary War by Hamilton Fish. Fish is probably as interesting as his book. His great-great grandfather was a colonel in the Revolutionary War, and his grandfather, also named Hamilton Fish, was secretary of state under President Grant. Fish himself served as a congressman from 1921-1945, and was a conservative Republican and isolationist. He is part of the trilogy Roosevelt famously derided as “Martin, Barton and Fish.” Ironically, Fish represented Roosevelt’s home district, which must have galled the president no end. After finally being turned out of office in the year of Roosevelt’s final election, Fish went on to write many historical books, including this one. He had the time. Fish lived another 46 years, dying in 1991 at the age of 102. $30.

Catskill, NY Doctor and Hardware Merchant is a privately printed piece about the life of B.W. Dwight. In 1811, Dwight published his Dissertation on the Chronic Debility of the Stomach. Those of you possessing this work will undoubtedly want his biography as well. Item 192. $25.

Item 242 is M. Jagendorf’s The Marvelous Adventures of John Darling. Darling is described as the Paul Bunyan of the Catskill Mountains. In one tale he killed and skinned a woodchuck with one bullet. A woodchuck? Davy Crockett got himself a b’ar when he was only three, but a woodchuck? A fat, plant eating rodent that waddles away at the first sign of danger, and we’re making comparisons to Paul Bunyan? I guess this happens when your heroes are named “Darling.” $25.

Item 330 is the Poughkeepsie Primer, from 1920. This was a promotional pamphlet put out by the Chamber of Commerce. In it they say “our chances of being a city of 100,000 are certain.” Nestler knows Poughkeepsie, having once lived there. So did I, so I got the joke. 100,000 mosquitoes, maybe, but not people. Not until global warming makes it the new Miami (current population is around 30,000). $18

For those who want to collect New York State, but aren’t very particular about the specifics, there’s The Control of Grasshoppers in New York State. From 1917, item 226 is priced at $12. Or for those with an epicurean bend, there’s item 260, Dandelion as Food. Published by the Agricultural College at Cornell, it includes five luscious dandelion recipes. For $12, you can buy this book or a steak dinner. You choose.

Finally, for $20 is item 57, a Liberty Bell showerhead. Cast in Philadelphia, you can use it for your shower, but Nestler recommends it as a paperweight. I have racked my brain trying to figure out the connection to New York, or how this got in a bookseller’s catalogue. I give up.

Harold Nestler is an old time bookseller, so you won’t find him on the web. You may reach him by phone at 201-444-7413, but please don’t call Sundays or at night.