Diverse Americana From Michael Brown Rare Books
Catalogue 36 of Americana from Michael Brown Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia has just released their 36th catalogue of Americana. This is a diverse collection of unusual and unexpected material. Many of the items are letters and other one-of-a-kind manuscripts. There is likely something of interest to any Americana collector to be found within its pages. Here are a few examples.
"Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction...." starts the title of item 59, and we will continue if you're strong enough to face the truth. New Orleans As It Is: Its Manners and Customs - Morals - Fashionable Life.... So far so good, but now the rest: Profanation of the Sabbath - Prostitution - Licentiousness - Slave Markets and Slavery &c. &c. &c. By a Resident. You can see this is going to be a fun book. Almost as much fun as New Orleans itself, which, except for the slavery, retains most of these habits today. Some parts of the book tell of the less controversial aspects of this city, such as its history, the Louisiana Purchase, and its location. Here are some of the less savory sections: Kept Mistresses, Extent of Licentiousness, Regular Prostitutes, Prostitution of Wives, A Man Selling His Own Children, Slave Girls Hired As Bed Companions, Whipping of Slaves, A Woman Whipped to Death, Women Whipping on the Plantations, Chain Gangs of Women, and Depravity of Slave Holders. Why haven't they made a movie out of this book yet? Evidently the "resident" who wrote it must have done so with some trepidation as he not only chose to remain anonymous, but had the book published in Utica, New York. What do New Orleans and Utica have in common? I've been to both and I can assure you, absolutely nothing. From 1849. Priced at $2,000.
Here is a most unusual broadside, and since I can find nothing more about the supposed incident, its wording will have to suffice: PUBLIC NOTICE. Having heard that C.D. Elliott, Principal of the Nashville Female Academy, has been going about this City for several months past traducing the character of my husband, Charles Baldwyn, and thereby endeavoring to prevent his getting a living here....C.D. Elliott called him "An Ordinary Humbug," I now call upon him to come forward and prove him to be such if he can, or I will COWHIDE him as a slanderer, every time I meet him in the streets of Nashville. Charlotte Baldwyn. February 18. 1852. There are a few things we can infer from this. "Ordinary humbug" was fighting words in 1852. Charlotte Baldwyn was a loyal wife. She was also one tough lady. Perhaps a bit tougher than husband Charles? He must have been mortified when he first saw this thing posted on the street. Unfortunately, this has all been lost to history. However, we do know that Collins D. Elliott was regarded as a respected educator in his community and continued to lead the Nashville Female Academy for another nine years, departing in 1861 to serve as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army. Nowadays, of course, we would sue each other over matters like this, but I think the posting of humiliating broadsides is a far more elegant method of resolving disputes. Item 21. $650.
Diverse Americana From Michael Brown Rare Books
Item 27 is an odd pamphlet. It's headed Facts Relating to ________ the Only Tattooed Lady....All Clearly Proving Her to Be One of the Most Remarkable and Rarest Curiosities Now on Exhibition. Why the name was left blank is unclear, but the wrappers indicate she was known as "M'lle Aimee," who appears to be Irene Woodward, aka "La Belle Irene." Supposedly she claimed to have been tattooed in West Texas to hide her identity from the Indians, although an old newspaper indicated she was actually tattooed in New York. Maybe it was someone other than the Indians she was trying to fool. Perhaps in a few more years we will see on display at some carnival the last woman on earth without a tattoo. $350.
The New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association in 1868 published To The Women of New Jersey. Why You Should Vote. The pamphlet was offered for sale by Lucy Stone. It calls on women to "Demand the ballot." "Bring your influence to bear on the government, and sweep corruption out of politics." Well guess what. Women have been voting for nearly a century now. Has it "swept corruption" out of New Jersey politics? As a male, it's comforting to know that women vote for the same corrupt politicians that we do. Item 125. $450.
Arthur, Burnham & Co. offered Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, All the Year, At Summer Prices; and How to Obtain Them. How were they able to do this back in 1855? This pamphlet explains that the answer is "Arthur's Patent Self-Cleaning Can." Is this not canned fruits and vegetables, not fresh, or am I missing something here? It's no more likely that these fruits and vegetables were "fresh" than it was that this can actually cleaned itself. However, they were accurate on one point. You could buy this produce "at summer prices," since obviously you bought them in the summer to can them for winter. Duh. Item 17. $125.
An insight into medical practice in the first half of the 19th century is offered by Dr. Walter Channing in Professional Reminiscences of Foreign Travel, published in 1852. He had traveled to England, Russia, and many countries of continental Europe over the years, and made a point of visiting physicians and hospitals. Dr. Channing was one of Boston's most notable physicians, having taught at Harvard Medical College from 1815 until 1847. His papers, including the manuscripts for this book, are housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society. You can find out more at www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0018 Item 76. $125.
Michael Brown Rare Books may be found on the internet at www.mbamericana.com and reached by phone at 215-387-9808.