Catalogue One from McBride Rare Books

- by Michael Stillman


Catalogue One from McBride Rare Books

We have received the first catalogue from McBride Rare Books, appropriately named Catalogue One. McBride can be found in New York City, and while this is their first printed catalogue, they have been there for the past three years. There is a high concentration of personal documents and remembrances offered, including manuscripts, personal photographs, and a massive set of diaries. As to what areas they cover, here is how McBride describes their focus, “McBride Rare Books specializes in American historical materials with an emphasis on the American West and Latin America, including rare books, manuscripts and archives, vernacular photography, ephemera, and obscure prints.” These are a few examples of the type of material to be found within.


We begin with that extensive collection of diaries, 26 in all. They begin in 1855, when the writer was 15 years old, and continue until 1914, when she was 74. Emma Lukens Hall Thompson lived much of her life in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, was married twice, had three children (and several stepchildren), and is described as a socialite. Most of her long life (she lived to be 86) is accounted for in these pages, 6,817 of them. The daughter of a Philadelphia Quaker doctor, she married Isaac Hall in 1861, a widower from Brooklyn with four children. Hall also had money, being a prosperous businessman. The couple had three children of their own though only one survived to adulthood. She writes of Lincoln's election in 1860, and at the outbreak of the Civil War, with an interesting comment, “Excitement is increasing here in regard to the war in the South and numbers of young friends are joining military companies – not withstanding the Discipline is so in opposition to it.” The Discipline was Quaker pacifism which evidently many young Quakers were ignoring. She is sympathetic, continuing, “I am very anxious to offer my services as a nurse for the wounded, and if possible will do so, as the little in my power is at the service of my country. (I am so patriotic I would willingly fight if it was not unmaidenly).” Later that year, she meets Isaac Hall in church and they marry the following summer.


From this point on Emma is living a higher lifestyle, and she writes of all sorts of travels, hired help running the household, a $500 set of diamond earrings, a gift from Isaac, and long trips around the country. In Salt Lake City, she claims, “The Mormon houses are one storied, with a door for each wife.” Sadly, Isaac died in 1883, but the widow is now financially well-off, traveling to Europe. In 1891, she remarries Samuel S. Thompson, another wealthy businessman, and they too travel extensively and hobnob with important people. In 1908, she writes, “I was made Life member of the Woman Suffrage Society of Phila.” She lives long enough to obtain the right to vote. There is way too much more here to even begin to describe, but someone will come to know her almost as family through this account of her life though never meeting her. Item 53. Priced at $14,500.

Here is something you don't see everyday – papers from a lawsuit between a former slave and his one-time master. It comes from Mexico in 1764, the state of Coahuila, near the Texas border. Antonio Montolla was a “mulato libre” (free black man) and obviously educated as he wrote his papers. His former owner was Juan Manuel Palau. Montolla is in possession of some cattle which he claims Palau's late mother left him. Palau responds that she did not and wants to be paid for them. Unfortunately, Montolla does not have supporting documentation and relies on witnesses. We don't know how this turned out. Item 1. $12,500.


Next we have the Memorial on the Upward Forces of Fluids, and Their Applicability to Several Arts, Sciences, and Public Improvements: for Which a Patent Has Been Granted by the Government of the United States, published in Albany, New York, in 1825. The author was Charles Edmond Genet, an eccentric inventor and something of a pioneer in aviation. He never flew, but came up with some creative ideas on how one could fly in heavier-than-air machines, rather than just balloons. There are illustrations of his inventions, including a horse-powered airship. I don't know how that worked – a horse on a treadmill inside? Still, the fact that he took on this challenge gained Genet attention. He was the first. This was not the first time Genet caught the attention of America. He is the same “Citizen Genet,” the French ambassador to the United States in the 1790s who generated the wrath of Americans, notably President Washington, when he toured America drumming up support for his plan to attack British shipping from this country. There was an intense debate at the time as to which side - Britain or France – America should support in their battles, with Washington determined to be neutral and stay out, though his preferences were for the British. Washington insisted Genet be removed as ambassador, but as the French Revolution turned bloody, Genet realized he would likely face the guillotine if he returned home. He was granted asylum despite the hard feelings and settled in Albany, staying out of politics. Item 22. $4,250.


This has to be a very rare collection of photographs. If you would like some of Gayoso, Missouri, you better grab this one while you can. They aren't making any more, and haven't in over a century. Gayoso was originally founded around 1799 and named for the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Don Miguel Gayoso de Lamos. Missouri was then part of the Louisisana Territory, which was still owned by Spain at that time. In 1852, it began being developed by Americans. A post office opened in 1854. There was a courthouse, school, church, shingle factory, and numerous sawmills nearby. There was a newspaper, the Gayoso Democrat, and for a short time there were two. It became an incorporated village and was named the county seat of Pemiscot County. Then, things started going wrong, and therein lies the explanation why there have been no new photos in over a century. The Mississippi River is not stationary. It moves as well as flows. In this case, it began inundating the village of Gayoso. It was slipping into the river, and despite the best efforts of the townspeople, they could not overcome the forces of nature. The county seat was removed to Caruthersville in 1899 and within a few years all of the residents had moved on too. You will need diving gear to visit Gayoso today, but don't expect to find much down there. Item 36 is a photo album containing 76 pictures of Gayoso and surrounding areas. $750.


This is another photo album, with the cover title The 1928 Alaska Tour by Governor George A. Parks, Major Malcolm Elliott, Mr. R. J. Sommers, Territorial Engineer. The three set out to inspect the Alaska highway system, much of it focused on northern parts of the state, and make recommendations for improvements and building of new roads. Considering the condition of roads in the lower 48 in 1928, I can't imagine what they must have been like in Alaska in that year. They had their work cut out for them. The album not only pictures roads but towns, sights, and people encountered along the way. They traveled 2,000 miles taking a little over a month. It would have been rough going as there were only a total of 500 miles of paved roads in the territory at the time. This may have been Sommers' copy as his leather pouch is included along with photos from his later businesses and one of Gov. Parks. Item 2. $2,750.


McBride Rare Books may be reached at 203-479-2507 or Their website is found at