AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2010 Issue

19th Century Americana from Seneca Books

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1864 Fremont broadside welcoming Abe home.


One thinks of the opera house as a home for refined, genteel entertainment. Such was not the case on the evening of May 10, 1849, in New York. Item 116 is the Account of the Terrific and Fatal Riot at the New-York Astor Place Opera House, on the Night of May 10th, 1849; with the Quarrels of Forrest and Macready, including All the Causes which led to that Awful Tragedy! This one too sounds incomprehensible to today's ears. Forrest and Macready were, respectively, famed American and British Shakespearean actors of the day. Each had a great following. Forrest appealed more to immigrant and working classes, Macready to upper class society. The theater in those days was more like English soccer. Forrest's adherents had already caused an outburst during Macready's performance a few days earlier, and this night, thousands gathered in front of the opera house and threw stones through the windows. Macready was able to sneak out in disguise, but as the riot continued, police were called in. This pamphlet lists 23 dead, but the death toll may have run as high as 31. Imagine, rioting to the death over Shakespeare! $120.

Item 10 is The Celebrated and Extraordinary Trial of Col. Monroe Edwards, for Forgery and Swindling, published in 1842. Edwards had come to Texas as a young man to work for a merchant, but soon found ways to make even more money. He became heavily involved in smuggling slaves, that trade long since outlawed. He also was involved in other illegal pursuits, eventually fleeing Texas for England, and fleeing England for New York. It was there he was caught, tried, and convicted of forgery in what was one of the most sensational trials of the era. Edwards died in 1847, beaten to death by prison guards in New York's Sing Sing Prison after an escape attempt. $2,500.

Seneca Books may be reached at 978-263-1108 or pbollier@senecararebooks.com. Their website is found at www.senecararebooks.com.

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