Rare American Pamphlets from David M. Lesser Antiquarian Books
By Michael Stillman
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has issued their 110th catalogue of Rare Americana. Lesser specializes in pamphlets mainly from late Colonial times to the Reconstruction, though there are always a few items outside of these boundaries. The publications are focused on political, religious, and other topics of the day and offer great insight into what was happening in America back then. At times, the controversies seem so similar to those we experience today one wonders whether we ever do learn from history. Here are a few of the items David Lesser offers for your consideration this time around.
Item 53 is one of several American Seaman's Protection orders, this one issued from New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1844. It is made out to Walter P. Johnson, described as, "...6 feet 0 3/4 inches, complexion, black, hair, woolly, eyes, black, born at Baltimore..." These orders were originally intended for the protection of American seamen against impressment in the British Navy. However, such impressments stopped after the War of 1812. At this point, they were needed by black sailors entering southern ports as otherwise they might be subject to arrest or possibly be sold into slavery if they could not establish their citizenship. Priced at $450.
The above hints at the horrible inconsistency of those who argued most ardently for equal rights for the poorer members of American society. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was the Jeffersonians who fought for the little guy against the Federalists, who represented more the interests of wealthy northerners. However, the Jeffersonians had their Achilles heal - slavery. They were primarily from the South and were often slave owners themselves. This inconsistency was not let pass by William Plumer in An Address to the Electors of New-Hampshire during the election of 1804. In arguing against Jefferson's reelection, Plumer points out, "Virginians boast of their love of liberty, and of their passionate attachment to the equal rights of men, yet receive their daily support from the labour of PEOPLE condemned by their laws to PERPETUAL SLAVERY." Item 124. $275.
The end of the world was just around the corner in 1861 when M. Baxter published End of the World About 1864-1869. It is a compilation of prophecies of "dreadful wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes." He predicts the "subjugation of England about 1864-5 by Napoleon the Antichrist," who would form a seven years' covenant with the Jews. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that this, like all other past end of the world prophecies, proved false. I believe the currently most popular untested one running around is based on the Inca or some other ancient South American calendar for around 2012. Be prepared. Item 13. $175.
We've seen some odd promotional materials in the past, but this one for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad seems downright macabre. It is headed Charts Showing in Detail the Pulse, Temperature & Respiration of the President Morning, Noon and Evening, from July 3d to Sept. 8th. With Space Left Blank to Continue the Lines from Day to Day. Compiled and Prepared from Official Bulletins. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Though undated, this could only be from 1881. President Garfield was struck by an assassin's bullet on July 2, 1881, but he lingered for months. The Baltimore and Ohio evidently prepared this chart so one could track his progress, sort of like we track hurricanes on hurricane maps. Alas, the concerned tracking of the B&O's riders could not save the mortally wounded President who succumbed on September 19. Item 57. $250.
We all know about the house that Jack built, but how about The Plug that Jack Chews? Evidently it must have been one the brands put out by the Drummond Tobacco Company of St. Louis, which published this nursery rhyme in 1890. You need to get the children started early. Item 38. $375.
Would you like a really bad investment? Item 29 is a $1,000 bond issued by the city of New Orleans on March 20, 1862. The bond promises to pay interest in genuine Confederate dollars, which would be worthless soon enough. However, it's unlikely the bearer even got this dubious currency as New Orleans fell to Union forces the following month. The only hope for the bearer was to hold on for another century and a half and then sell it as a collectible. $500.
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com.
You will find many of David M. Lesser's books listed in "Books For Sale" on this site. Click here.