Digging Into the Past with Zephyr Used & Rare Books

- by Michael Stillman

Digging Into the Past with Zephyr Used & Rare Books

Zephyr Used and Rare Books has published a catalogue of Fall & Winter Excavations. It is filled with ephemeral items, numerous trade catalogues, photo albums, archives, some forgotten twentieth century books, and lots of miscellaneous items. There are even some catalogues of heavy equipment for those who take the “excavations” part of the title literally. They were building the infrastructure we now want to build back better because we let it fall into disrepair. Oh well. The early twentieth century was a time of great progress for America. Here are a few items from this catalogue.


We begin with a guide from the first automobile club in America. From 1908, this is The Automobile Club of America Bureau of Tours Year Book. It is a guide for traveling along the east coast from Maine to Maryland and as far west as Chicago. Farther west than that, there wouldn't have been much in the way of roads in 1908 as the Lincoln Highway was still many years away. It lists hotels, garages and repair shops, along with other sorts of services, such as attorneys and physicians. It also showed speed limits, mileage markers, railroad crossings and such. The club sponsored auto races and advocated for the Good Roads Movement which in turn advocated for the building of a highway system in the country. It was formed in 1899 in New York, and its members would have been well-off as how many people could afford a car in 1899? It grew to 6,000 members at its peak, but the Depression hurt its membership, their number declining until the club was disbanded in 1932. The AAA had greater success at reaching ordinary travelers and so while formed a few years later it went on to achieve lasting success. Item 58484. Priced at $475.


I'll bet some of those early ACA members had one of these cars – a Stanley Steamer. In the 1890s and first decade of the new century it was one of the biggest selling cars around. The creation of the twin Stanley brothers, many people considered steam technology to be better than the internal combustion engine. This is a dealer's catalogue for the 1921 model. It promoted “power, correctly generated, correctly controlled, correctly applied to the rear axle.” Therein lies the impending doom of the Stanley Steamer. It was powerful and economical in the early days, but by this time, major advancements had been made in gasoline powered automobiles. While still simple and reliable, Zephyr notes that “it did take up to 45 minutes to start.” That is a bit of a drawback. Meanwhile, the invention of an electric starter replaced the dangerous cranks on the earlier gasoline models. They were taking over the business. So, all the “controlleds” in this promotion was designed to make people fear the dangers of the internal combustion engine, which some still feared would explode (ironic considering steam boiler explosions). In 1918, one of the Stanley brothers died in an accident, and the surviving brother sold the company. It lasted until the mid 1920s when Stanley closed for good. Item 58417. $250.


This is an album of Civil War era photographs. Several are CDVs of notable figures from the time. There are four of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Napoleon III, and many family images. There is a composite image of Mary Todd Lincoln kneeling by Lincoln's deathbed with cabinet officers nearby. There is even the bizarre image of Washington hugging Lincoln as he welcomes him to heaven. Obviously, this is not a photograph, nor are the CDVs of Martha Washington. Item 58507. $1,250.


The young people of America were being warned back in the 1930s, but they did not take heed. The warning came from The Narcotic Educational Foundation of America, founded by Henry B. Hall, in the form of a broadside. It is headed, Marihuana The Assassin Of Youth. Among the physiological reactions, they point out “the person under the influence may be hilarious, possibly hysterical, weeping or laughing, talks very rapidly, and in a loud tone.” More ominous than laughing too much, they say that a large dose “may cause criminal maniacal acts.” Most dangerous, they continue, are those driving under the influence as “their illusions as to time and space destroy their judgment as to speed and distance. When eighty miles an hour seem only twenty, they often leave a trail of fatal accidents in their wake.” They conclude, “A user of marihuana is a degenerate.” Item 58424. $175.


This man was an artist, illustrator, adventurer, writer, and left wing political radical. He is most noted for his for his work as an illustrator for which he was in much demand. That would normally be for books, but in this case it was clearly just for the money since he was illustrating an advertising piece, and writing it too. From 1936, it is headed The Home Decorator. It is hawking paints from Sherwin-Williams. It features a freshly painted home on the cover and inside it offers various color schemes and designs. Item 58559. $150.


Zephyr Used & Rare Books may be reached at 360-695-7767 or zephyrbook@gmail.com.