Historic America From Michael Brown Rare Books
Americana from Michael Brown Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
Michael Brown Rare Books has published its 40th catalogue of Printed and Manuscript Americana. There is a wide spectrum of material in this latest catalogue, spanning four centuries and the birth of a nation. Anything American is fair game. If you collect Americana, then it is likely you will find material that is of interest to you. Here are some samples of material being offered.
It was one of the bloodiest mutinies in American history. The whaler Globe set sail from Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, for the Pacific in 1822. Its young captain was enjoying his first command, and apparently his performance reflected this fact. Six sailors abandoned ship in Hawaii in late 1823. It was at this time that Samuel Comstock planned his mutiny. Once back at sea, and with help from several of the new, replacement sailors, Comstock snuck into the Captain's quarters and murdered the man with an axe. Three other officers were similarly despatched. Comstock then set out searching for some small island, where he planned to have himself made king. That island turned out to be Mili Atoll, where the crew disembarked, and Comstock began his attempt to win over the natives with gifts. This strategy proved a mistake. It angered his partner, Silas Payne, who did unto Comstock what Comstock had done to his captain. Meanwhile, six of the innocent crewmen returned to the boat and took off for the long trip back to Chile before the conspirators were aware. Once they arrived and told their story, the Secretary of the Navy ordered a search for the mutineers. That search ship was the Dolphin, and one of its crew was Hiram Paulding. Paulding was the author of item 175, Journal of a Cruise of...the Dolphin...in Pursuit of the Mutineers of the Whale Ship Globe. However, by the time they found the remnants of the Globe's crew, seven of the nine had been killed by the islanders. Only two, innocent non-participants in the mutiny, still survived. The Dolphin stopped at Hawaii on the return trip, and the book also describes that island. It recounts an attack on the Prime Minister's home by crewmen from the Dolphin and other ships to protest a law forbidding native women from "visiting" onboard ships. A "most unpleasant incident," says Paulding. Priced at $2,000.
The American government seems to throw vast sums of money around without much thought, but this was not always the case. In 1829, James Causten published this bitter attack on the American government for nonpayment of debts: View of the Claims of American Citizens, Which were (Reserved against the French Republic...). When America purchased Louisiana from the French in 1803, part of the price was America's agreement to pay off any legitimate claims American citizens held against the French. Now, over 25 years later, those claimants were still trying to get their money, some $4 million at the time. Item 113. $1,250.
Historic America From Michael Brown Rare Books
Aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race riot
It was one of the most shameful acts in American history, and set the tone for treatment of the Indians in the years ahead. Item 153 is Cherokee Land Lottery, Containing a Numerical List of Names of the Fortunate Drawers in Said Lottery... What is not stated in James Smith's compilation of winners in this lottery and the land they won is this land had been stolen from the Indians. The Cherokee were forced from their land, on the infamous "Trail of Tears," where many died on a cruel forced journey to Oklahoma. Item 153. $1,250.
Here is another dark day from American history: Events of the Tulsa Disaster, by Mary E. Jones. Tulsa was an oil boom city in 1921, and wealth accumulated so quickly that even African Americans were able to participate. Tulsa's Greenwood section was one of the nation's most prosperous black communities. Booker T. Washington called Greenwood the "Negro Wall Street." However, Tulsa was not the most progressive of communities in 1921, and the Klan held a substantial presence. A minor incident served as an excuse for racists to start a riot, and as Blacks attempted to defend themselves, they became victims of a much larger, angry white community. By the time order was restored, over a thousand homes and businesses in the black community had been burned down, and an unknown number, probably around 300 people, mostly black, had died. This ugly episode was essentially swept under the rug for decades, until a commission was set up a few years ago to review what had occurred. That report was released in 2001, but attempts to compel reparations were denied by the courts. Item 14 provides a contemporary (1922) look at the riot, and includes a folding panoramic view of the destruction. $1,500.
For those interested in a look at bookselling a century and a half ago, there is Notes of Travel and Life. By Two Young Ladies -- Misses Mendell and Hosmer. These two young ladies, about whom little else is known, were itinerant booksellers. They traveled through New York and New Jersey, and then into the South, selling their wares. At the end of their trip, they wrote this book, which was published in 1854. It is said to be both an interesting and humorous look at America during a time when good humor was fast disappearing. Item 137. $250.
This covers about 2% of what this catalogue has to offer. To see the other 98%, we suggest visiting Michael Brown Rare Books online at www.mbamericana.com or giving them a call at 215-387-9808.