Americana from Kaaterskill Books
- by Michael Stillman
Americana from Kaaterskill Books
Kaaterskill Books recently published their Catalogue 15 Americana. It contains a varied collection of material relating to America, primarily late 18th to early 20th century. Political debates take center stage, but science, medicine, even an 1850s report by the Chicago Board of Sewerage Commissioners finds its way into these pages. Apparently they examined sewer systems in several European cities, and while this would not be my first choice of how to explore Europe, it will do so long as its on the taxpayers' dime. Here, now, are a few more items from this latest Kaaterskill catalogue.
Giacomo Beltrami made a most amazing trip to America in 1822-23. He was an Italian, past his 40th year, when he began an extensive trip down America's inland waterways. He traveled down the Ohio River, planning to continue south to New Orleans when that river joined the Mississippi. However, he instead hooked up with Stephen Long's expedition north. Beltrami had become fascinated with America's Indians and wished to learn more about them. Eventually, he ran into differences with Long's expedition (Long would later describe at least part of Beltrami's work as fiction), but the Italian explorer (like Columbus), did not turn back. He figured whoever found the as yet undiscovered source of the Mississippi River would gain great fame. So he continued upstream, first with some Indian guides, and when they quit, by himself. He then only had minimal assistance from Indians he found along the way, who were confused by this strange man with a red umbrella. Eventually he found a lake which he believed to be the source of both the Mississippi and the Red River of the North. He was wrong on both accounts, and Beltrami was frequently ridiculed by historians. He has had to live with Field's comment, “Beltrami must have moved in a gigantic world, if he saw external objects through the same media with which he viewed his own person and accomplishments.” That said, his long, often one-man journey was a remarkable feat of courage and strength for which much credit is due. His account in English, from 1828, is entitled, A Pilgrimage in Europe and America leading to the Discovery of the Sources of the Mississippi and Bloody River. Item 12. Priced at $1,000.
Item 137 is an advertising broadside from the Hipwell Manufacturing Company near Pittsburgh, circa 1900: Buy from a Manufacturer and Save a Middleman's Profit. Hipwell was a supplier of sheet metal, lamps, and electric supplies, but at this time had expanded into telephone equipment. They sold telephones, switchboards, and related equipment. Hipwell was founded in 1887, and remained a family owned business until 2001, and survived a few more years under new ownership manufacturing flashlights before finally succumbing to Chinese imports. $375.
Item 16 is a one leaf explanation to Congress in the closing days of President James Buchanan's administration: Assembling of Troops in Washington City. Buchanan had essentially sided with the South throughout his administration, both from personal sympathies and out of hope of preserving the Union. However, he did not approve of secession and ultimately would support the Union cause after he left office. In the days after Lincoln's election and as secession by southern states began, he was lost, not knowing what to do. As he told Lincoln on leaving office, he was thoroughly pleased to be turning over the office. In this March 2, 1861 explanation for calling several hundred troops to Washington, Buchanan explains that it is a small number, and their purpose is simply to maintain order and security in the city as it prepared for the inauguration of the new president. Buchanan did not want to rock the boat. $150.