Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2013 Issue

Rare Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books


There would be far more than just two orphans after this final performance.

Item 19 is a broadside for the Brooklyn Theater, This Week, positively the Last Times in Brooklyn of the Two Orphans with all its Original Scenes and Cast. We cannot vouch for whether this was truly the last performances of Two Orphans in Brooklyn, but we can say it was certainly the last show performed at the Brooklyn Theater. The broadside announces this is the last week of its performance, and the final performance at the theater was on December 5, 1876, so that dates this piece within a few days. December 5 was the night of the terrible fire. It started as a small fire offstage between the fourth and fifth acts. Water was not readily available, so a few stagehands tried to beat it out. As sparks reached the stage, the actors played on, fearful of starting a panic. Even as the situation became obvious, they cautioned people to relax and return to their seats, the fire would be out shortly. Soon enough, the patrons panicked anyway and made a mad dash for the exits. Those in the lower auditorium mostly made it out all right. It was those at the highest level, several hundred people served by only one stairway that soon became jammed and filled with smoke, who suffered the highest casualties. Acrid smoke, which rose to the highest level of the theater, quickly overcame the people trapped behind the jammed stairs. There were 278 confirmed fatalities, with the actual number possibly exceeding 300. Many simply were buried in a mass grave. It was the third worst fire in terms of fatalities in a theater or other public place in U.S. history, exceeded only by Chicago's Iroquois Theater Fire and Boston's Cocoanut Grove fire. It's unlikely many remembered much about the play, but for the record, it was an American adaptation of a French play about two orphan sisters who are abducted and separated, one who ends up with a rich family, the other in poverty. This is an extremely rare broadside, Lesser unable to locate other copies anywhere. $500.

Item 51 is A Word to Those that are Afflicted Very Much. Specifically, they were afflicted with “throat distemper,” likely diphtheria, when Rev. Joseph Emerson (an ancestor of Ralph Waldo) attempted to reassure them. The disease had killed many children, particularly in some of the rural towns around Boston, such as Malden where Emerson preached. Emerson has been described as a scholar who “prayed every night that none of his descendants might ever be rich.” I will have to check my family tree, but I suspect this SOB must have been one of my ancestors. $450.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or dmlesser@lesserbooks.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Manhattan Gay Scene Guide 1969, Summer Edition,</i> Mattachine Book Service. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Harvey Milk, 2 autograph letters signed, to Pat Mormon, during US Navy service, 1954. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>“The secret of life is in Art,”</i> autograph quotation dated and signed, 1882. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Daniel Abraham, original art for <i>Stonewall Romances,</i> pen, ink & gouache, 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Antonio Lopez, 9 men’s fashion studies, graphite, 1974. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Susie Gaynes & Amy E. Bartell, <i>March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights,</i> 1987. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> <i>Paris is Burning,</i> photo offset poster by Anne Dutlinger, signed by film director Jennie Livingston, 1991. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> Toyen, pen & ink illustration from <i>Marquis de Sade: Justina cili prokletí ctnosti,</i> 1932. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 13:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Untitled (Genet with Dog),</i> mixed media collage. $8,000 to $12,000.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions