David Lesser Offers Rare Americana

- by Michael Stillman

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David Lesser Offers Rare Americana

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books continues to move relentlessly forward in publishing new catalogues of Rare Americana, this latest being number 134. Lesser's catalogues are always a fascinating read for those who collect Americana. They contain mostly shorter form material, a concentration in pamphlets and broadsides, relating to America primarily from shortly before the Revolution, to a little after the Civil War. Much is found from that time between the two wars, where America grew, and then fell apart. Here are a few items from this latest selection.

 

When you hear the name “John Deere” you probably think of tractors, but the original John Deere was a person, not a piece of farm equipment. Actually, he made his name producing plows, and later other types of farm machinery, but he died before the development of tractors. Item 45 is titled Supreme Court of Illinois. April Term, A. D., 1861. John Deere, vs. James Chapman. Evidently, Mr. Chapman failed to pay his debt for equipment he bought from Deere, with the latter attempting to seize his home. This piece is one of the arguments made during this case. This proved to be a significant court case as the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the statutory exemption of a homestead from being seized to pay debts. Priced at $275.

 

There was a bitter labor battle being waged in Butte, Montana, in 1900. It pitted the Butte Clerks' Protective Union against the D. J. Hennessy Company, a large merchant, and even the Butte Miners' Union. The clerks' union had negotiated an early closing time with other merchants, but Hennessy refused to close early. The result was this broadside diatribe, where the clerks' union leaves few insults left unsaid in attacking the store and its “scab” employees. The broadside is headed The Hennessy Co. vs. Early Closing. The broadside urges readers “keep away from those stores, keep away from those filthy scab employees, and show the world you abhor perjured traitors. Enemies of your churches, enemies of your country, enemies of your unions, yes, enemies of your children yet unborn.” Who knew the horrors of staying open late, even on unborn future generations? Stores like Hennessy, it continues, “are death to individual enterprise... To independance [sic], self-reliance, ambition, ingenuity, manliness.” Despite the attempt to break the then new, elegant store, Hennessy's in Butte survived until 1980, and three other Hennessy's, all in Montana, continued under that name until 1998, when they were rebranded as Dillard's by their new owner. Item 95. $1,850.

 

Item 77 is Tract No. 6. The Duties and Dignities of American Freemen. It was published in 1843 by the New England Anti-Slavery Tract Association. It was written by the society's secretary and ardent abolitionist James C. Jackson. Jackson demonstrates how slavery has weakened the republican principles of America. Jackson had previously been a farmer, but became an anti-slavery publisher, and then, after a miraculous cure of chronic bad health he attributed to a spa, ran a major such facility and promoted healthy eating habits. He is credited with inventing the first breakfast cereal, which he called Granula. So, if you collect either material pertaining to abolition or breakfast cereal, this piece belongs in your collection, and if you collect both, you have hit the jackpot. $175.