Historic Documents from Bruce N. Johnson
Historic Documents from Bruce N. Johnson.
By Michael Stillman
An increasingly popular field for book collectors today is ephemeral material related to the subjects of their collections. This can include one-of-a-kind personal letters, political campaign material, postcards, timetables, photographs and such. These capture another view of the history described in books. Bruce N. Johnson of Liverpool, New York, has issued his second catalogue of Historic Documents, his Catalogue 20 overall. Johnson has acquired an assortment of 178 items, some single documents, others collections. They range from the 1700s to the 1960s. Each provides a window to a time, place, or event, and will interest any collector of Americana. We will describe a few of the items offered, but it is impossible to fully appreciate all of the material available without seeing the catalogue itself.
Item 31 is the Register of the Officers and Cadets of the U.S. Military Academy, June 1827. The U.S. Army would perhaps later regret doing such a good job of teaching. Among the cadets listed in 1827 were Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Joseph E. Johnston, the highest-ranking Union commander to defect to the Confederates. Priced at $375.
Item 41 recalls a tricky situation prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. General David Twiggs commanded U.S. forces in Texas early in 1861, their main purpose to defend the border with Mexico. These were the days before Texas' secession, but secession-minded Texans stormed the federal garrison in San Antonio. Twiggs was in a difficult position. He was 70-years-old, having served in the Union army all the way back to the War of 1812, but he was also a Georgian with southern sympathies. Twiggs chose to surrender. Item 41 is General Orders No. 5 Dismissal of a Brigadier General, issued by the War Department on March 1, 1861. Twiggs was dismissed for "treachery to the flag of his country" for surrendering military posts to Texas authorities. Twiggs would later join with the Confederates, though age prevented his playing any role in the upcoming war. $32.50.
Here is a personal favorite. Item 14 is a collection of 18 early American automobile catalogues. Many of these manufacturers are long gone, but their creations live on in a few museums, car collections, and the pages of these catalogues. Among those offered in this collection are the 1919 Essex, 1920 Pierce Arrow, 1922 Hudson, 1922, 1931 and 1935 Studebaker, 1926 Packard, 1927 Franklin, 1927 Stutz, and models from more familiar names such as Chrysler, Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac. All catalogues predate the Second World War. $1,375.
Historic Documents from Bruce N. Johnson
The voters always remembered this man – JFK in his first run for public office.
Next is one for football fans, a photo postcard of the Canton Professionals -- 1912. In those days there really weren't professional football teams, but there were amateur ones outside of college affiliations, with Ohio and the Midwest being the center of the sport. The Professionals would change their name to the Bulldogs in 1915, and as the Canton Bulldogs, they would be one of the inaugural teams when the National Football League was formed in 1920. Its first president was Canton's coach, the legendary Jim Thorpe. The Bulldogs would go undefeated through the 1922-23 seasons, the longest such NFL streak to this day. Indeed, it was in their hometown of Canton that the NFL was formed, which is why the NFL Hall of Fame is today located in that smaller city, though it long ago lost its football team. Item 147 is this early Canton photo postcard. $850.
Item 114 is a more ominous postcard. It was put out by the Patriots for McCarthy Organization in 1954. It states that they are collecting petitions "to prevent the un-American censure of Senator McCarthy by the traitorous elements in the United States Senate." Joseph McCarthy was the master of challenging the patriotism of anyone who stood in his way, and amassed great power and influence through his effective use of intimidation. He was known for his claimed list of "Communists" working in the State Department, a list he never could produce. In the 1950s, the fear of Communism ran so high that even unsubstantiated claims held enormous sway over the public. However, by 1954, his disregard for the truth was catching up to him. These petitions notwithstanding, McCarthy was censured by the senate and his power over the nation came to an end. $125.
Item 44 is a most unusual letter from a prisoner of war. It would be an understatement to say Civil War prisoners generally did not enjoy pleasant conditions. Still, Confederate prisoner Cabell Bullock was apparently doing surprisingly well at Camp Morton in Indianapolis in 1862. Writes Bullock, "I must thank you for your nice box. The books were just to my taste and I have enjoyed reading some of them hugely. The fruit and wine were enjoyed by my friends and myself only in a manor that college boys and prisoners can enjoy such niceties. But I must reserve the greater part of my thanks to your sister for the bountiful supply of delicious cakes and to your brother for the oranges..." Sounds nicer than Andersonville, Elmira, or being shot at on the front lines. $250.
Item 113 is a significant campaign brochure. It was one produced for John F. Kennedy's first run for public office. James Michael Curley had resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to run for Mayor of Boston in 1946. Recently back from the army, Kennedy used this special election to begin his very successful political career. The brochure, with a large photographic portrait of Kennedy, tells voters to "remember this man." That they did, many times and for many years. $425.
Bruce N. Johnson may be contacted at 315-652-3118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.