“Stitched in Original Wrappers” from David Lesser Antiquarian Books
Stitched in Original Wrappers.
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has released a new catalogue, and rather than just one of Americana, this one comes with the more specific title of Stitched in Original Wrappers. Lesser describes this as “the small but lively world of pamphlets stitched in their original wrappers, a condition highly esteemed by booksellers and collectors for their pleasing aesthetic qualities and unsophisticated state.” Other than the stitching, this catalogue offers the type of material we expect from David Lesser – pamphlets in the field of Americana, from the 18th and 19th centuries, with a majority printed during the period from the Revolution to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Here are a few of them.
No issue confounded the young American republic in the era between the two wars like that of slavery. A nation could not survive half slave, half free, forever. One of the most eloquent of voices for all free was that of Frederick Douglass, himself once a slave. He argued across the North for abolition, and after the war, for civil rights. Item 88 is Lectures on American Slavery, Delivered at Corinthian Hall, Rochester, N.Y., published in 1851. The passage of the Compromise of 1850, and its infliction of the Fugitive Slave Law on the North, had racheted up the calls for abolition. Says Douglass to his northern audience, slavery is “an evil of gigantic proportions,” one for which “every American citizen is responsible for its existence.” This would have been a call to action to northerners who perhaps felt that their personal lack of complicity in enforcing slavery would let them off the hook. “There can be no peace to the wicked while slavery continues in the land.” Douglass was correct. Priced at $2,500.
The end of slavery did not bring about equal rights, as item 11 attests. It is a pamphlet from The Baggage Masters' and Passenger Train Brakemen's Life Insurance Company of the United States. It covers the proceedings of this company, which was created two years earlier to “provide for the widows and children, heirs or representatives of those of our number who may lose their lives or die amid the dangers and perils of a hazardous vocation.” Not sure what the distinction is between dying and losing your life, or why baggage handling was such a dangerous vocation. In a showing that equal rights were not yet the law of the land, it specifies that membership in the organization is limited to “white Baggage Masters and Passenger Train Brakemen of the United States.” $500.
This next bit of prejudice really has to be attributed to the British, as the speaker was an English churchman, but this edition was printed in Boston, where anti-Irish sentiment was also common in 1845. This churchman's views are let loose in A Fragment on the Irish Roman Catholic Church. By the Late Rev. Sidney Smyth. Smyth did not have a high opinion of the Catholic Church, nor in the unappreciative Irish people who evidently did not recognize the beneficence of the English in attempting to liberate them from the tyranny of that Church. And now, this band of ingrates was rebelling against the Crown. Exclaims Smyth, “And this is the country which is to be Erin-go bragh'd by this shallow, vain, and irritable people into bloodshed and rebellion!” Sarcasm is not becoming, Reverend. Item 212. $150.
Item 34 recalls the arguments that led to the desegregation of schools in 1954, but this battle was waged in Massachusetts over a century earlier. Offered is the Report of the Primary School Committee, June 15, 1846, on the Petition of Sundry Colored Persons, for the Abolition of the Schools for Colored Children. This piece is accompanied by the Report of the Minority of the Committee of the Primary School Board... George Putnam and others argued that segregated schools denied black children “of those equal privileges and advantages in the public schools to which we are entitled as citizens.” He goes on that “all experience teaches that where a small and despised class are shut out from the common benefit of any public institutions of learning and confined to separate schools ...neglect ensues, abuses creep in, the standard of scholarship degenerates...” The school committee argued the basic separate but equal thesis, noting that blacks had been the ones who had requested the establishment of black schools (of course, that was when no schools, integrated or segregated, were available to black children). The black children's cause would be taken up by the noted abolitionist and future senator Charles Sumner, but to no avail. $2,500.
“Stitched in Original Wrappers” from David Lesser Antiquarian Books
Beautiful young Jennie Cramer died under mysterious circumstances.
Item 17 is a Syracuse, New York, pamphlet, Salt. Letters to the New York World, by J.W. Barker, published in 1872. Barker was the Secretary of the Salt Company of Onondaga, and while few remember it today, this company once had a virtual monopoly on salt sold in America. Of course we all need to consume a certain amount of salt to survive, but back then, it was also a critical preservative. Everyone needed it, but only the Salt Company had it. They obtained it from saline springs around Lake Onondaga, near Syracuse. The Salt Company managed to get a monopoly on the springs from the New York state legislature. This was the only significant source in America at the time. Only foreign nations could offer competition, but the Salt Company, through its influence with the New York congressional delegation, managed to get heavy tariffs placed on foreign salt. The Salt Company could charge whatever it wanted. Not surprisingly, this led to outrage among many citizens, and numerous verbal and written attacks on the Salt Company. This collection of letters attempts to justify the Company's actions, with the usual sob stories of how expensive it is to produce salt and how generously their work benefits the people. Onondaga salt continued to dominate the market through the 19th century, but by the dawn of the 20th, new resources were discovered out west. Production in New York quickly declined, and ended in the 1920s. $250.
Item 73 recounts a terrible tragedy from 1881: The Beautiful Victim of the Elm City. Being a Full, Fair, and Impartial Narrative of All that is known of the Terrible Fate of the Trusting and Unfortunate Jennie E. Cramer... Beautiful young Jennie was found floating in the water. Prosecuters in New Haven, Connecticut, concluded she had been poisoned and dumped in the water. They blamed James Malley, something of a suitor, for her killing, along with his brother Walter and Blanche Douglass as accomplices. The defense said it was an accidental drowning. The defense convinced no one except the twelve most important people – the jury. The accused were acquitted, but everyone else in New Haven remained convinced they were guilty. $450.
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books may be reached at 203-389-8111 or email@example.com. Their website is www.lesserbooks.com.