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July 2009

Happy Anniversary to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts!

GL2004_4500T July 30 marks the 276th anniversary of the formation of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.  On that day in 1733, Henry Price (1697-1780) officially brought Freemasonry to America by constituting the Grand Lodge in Boston.  As Provincial Grand Master of North America, Price was charged with ensuring that the Grand Lodge followed the printed Constitutions, or rules, of the fraternity; kept the annual December feast day of St. John the Evangelist, one of Freemasonry’s patron saints; and established a “General Charity” for the “Relief of Poor Brethren.”  Two hundred seventy-six years later, the same kinds of activities continue to define the Grand Lodge, which is the third oldest in the world.

Originally owned by Henry Price, the chair seen here is now part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which is housed at the National Heritage Museum.  Currently, it is on view in the Museum’s exhibition, “The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts: Celebrating 275 Years of Brotherhood.”  The exhibition will close on October 25, 2009, so do plan a visit soon.  (If you can't make it to the Museum by October 25, or want to relive your visit, take a look at our virtual version of the exhibition.)

London-born Henry Price apprenticed as a tailor.  He arrived in Boston in 1723 to pursue this trade and soon met with success, opening multiple shops.  He had become a Freemason in England prior to 1723.  In 1733, while in England on business, he approached the Grand Lodge of England with a petition signed by 18 Boston men seeking to form a Masonic lodge.  This petition was granted.  Price returned home to Massachusetts, where he constituted both the Grand Lodge and St. John’s Lodge, the oldest local lodge in the state.

In the early 1760s, Henry Price retired to Townsend, Massachusetts, where he served as representative to the Provincial Legislature in 1764 and 1765.  His several-hundred-acre estate, which included farms, mills and mechanical shops, reflected his prosperity.  On May 14, 1780, while splitting rails on his estate, Price’s axe slipped, wounding him in the abdomen.  He died six days later, at the age of 83.

This armchair shows a common style from the 1720s that was imported from England by the thousands.  Updated with painted graining at some point in its life, this example was cherished as a relic for almost two centuries.  Passed down in the Price family, the chair was donated to Henry Price Lodge in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1898, and then to the Grand Lodge Museum in 1930.

Armchair, 1700-1725, England, Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4500.  Photograph by David Bohl.


"Jim Henson’s Fantastic World" Coming to the Museum April 3 through June 27, 2010

Jim_Henson_and_his_characters The word is out, and visitors are inquiring about our upcoming show "Jim Henson's Fantastic World." Here is some advance information. Be sure to mark your calendar!

Jim Henson's Fantastic World
April 3 through June 27, 2010

“Jim didn’t think in terms of boundaries at all the way the rest of us do. There are always these fences we build around ourselves and our ideas. Jim seemed to have no fences.”
Jon Stone, Sesame Street producer and director

Without “fences” to limit where his imagination could roam, Jim Henson (1936-1990)—artist, puppeteer, film director and producer—created elaborate imaginary worlds filled with unique characters, objects, environments and even languages and cultures. His work is enjoyed in dozens of languages in more than 100 countries. “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” a new exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and The Jim Henson Legacy, offers a rare peek into the imagination and creative genius of this multitalented innovator and creator of Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and other beloved characters.

The exhibition features 100 original artworks, including drawings, cartoons and storyboards that illustrate Henson’s talent as a storyteller and visionary. Among the variety of exhibition objects are Jim_Henson_Bert&Earnie puppets, and television and movie props, photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work and original video productions, including excerpts from Henson’s early career and experimental films.

“It’s such a treat to get to know Jim Henson through his doodles and drawings, his puppets and his fantastic performances,” said Karen Falk, curator of the exhibition and archivist at The Jim Henson Company. “I’m delighted to be able to share this inspiring and entertaining experience with people all over the country. Seeing his original work firsthand opens a window into his visual thinking and provides both an appreciation of Jim as an artist and a reason to laugh out loud.”

Jim_Henson_and_Bert From the very beginning, Henson expressed his ideas with incredible bursts of invention, through a variety of visual forms, clever dialogue, songs, comic bits and animation. All of his work reveals a highly sophisticated and nuanced thought process, evident in the decades-long metamorphosis of a small group of captivating characters from simple doodles to cartoons to puppets to films. What began as a one-man enterprise eventually grew into an international phenomenon. As time passed, the simple hand puppets Henson created for his first television show, “Sam and Friends,” evolved into increasingly more sophisticated characters—from the Muppets of “The Muppet Show,” “Sesame Street” and “Fraggle Rock” fame to the larger-than-life fantasy creatures of “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.”

Visit the Museum's web site for visitor information.

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Jim_Henson_legacy_logo “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” is organized by The Jim Henson Legacy and SITES, in cooperation with the Henson Family; The Jim Henson Company; The Muppets Studio, LLC; and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition is made possible by The Biography Channel. Additional support has been provided by The Jane Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson.

Jim_Henson_Bio_logo The Biography Channel is a 24-hour digital cable network dedicated to presenting compelling stories about the world’s most interesting people. One of the most sought after and fastest growing channels available today, The Biography Channel presents vibrant profiles of intriguing individuals, plus exciting new original series, short features and documentaries. For more information, visit www.biography.com.

Established in 1993, The Jim Henson Legacy was created by family and friends in response to the extraordinary interest in the life and work of Jim Henson. The organization is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating Henson’s contributions to the worlds of puppetry, television, motion pictures, special effects and media technology. By making Henson’s creative body of work available to the public through presentations and exhibits, the Legacy will share the power of Henson’s art and imagination and his positive view of life with generations to come.

Jim_Henson_smithsonian_logo SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit www.sites.si.edu.

Photo Credits:
Photo by John E. Barrett, courtesy of The Jim Henson Company. Kermit the Frog © The Muppets Studio, LLC.

Photo by John E. Barrett. TM & © 2007 SesameWorkshop. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph by Ted Neuhoff. ©2007 The Jim Henson Company. All Rights Reserved.


New to the Collection: Ezekiel Bascom's Mark Medal

P1030275 In previous posts, we’ve shared the King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter mark book, one of the treasures of our archives collection, and our discovery of its artist.  The excitement around this book continues as the National Heritage Museum announces the recent acquisition of a silver Masonic mark medal originally owned by one of the members of King Hiram Chapter!

Mark medals were often made to order for men who received the Mark Master degree, part of the York Rite, a Masonic organization through which a Freemason may pursue additional degrees.  The degree is named after the marks that stonemasons chiseled into the stones of buildings to identify their work.  Like medieval stonemasons, Masonic Mark Masters create their own symbol, which they register in their chapter’s Mark Book.P1030277

Originally owned by Ezekiel Bascom (1777-1841), this medal was made in Massachusetts around 1816.  Ezekiel Lysander Bascom was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1777 and pursued a vocation as a Congregationalist minister.  In 1806, he married Ruth Henshaw (1772-1848), who is known today for her prolific work as a rural artist.  Ruth Henshaw Bascom drew profile portraits in pencil, pastel and watercolor (follow this link to see an example of her work).  Ezekiel joined Boston’s St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1806.  Ten years later, in 1816, when King Hiram Chapter was formed in Greenwich, Massachusetts (much closer to his home than Boston), Bascom became its initial High Priest, or leader.  The design on the mark medal closely resembles the depiction of Bascom’s mark in the Chapter’s mark book (as you can see in the photo below). 

Mark Book Ezekiel L. Bascom The medal was purchased with the assistance of the Kane Lodge Foundation and the Cogswell Beneficial Trust.  The National Heritage Museum deeply appreciates their support.

Masonic Mark Medal (front and back), 1816, probably Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, acquired through the generosity of the Kane Lodge Foundation, Cogswell Beneficial Trust and William W. Lewis, 2009.031.

Mark of Ezekiel Bascom, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1.


The History of New-Hampshire: Enter Lydia Phillips and Mathew Carey

Last week and the week before, we talked about our copies of the first two volumes of Jeremy Belknap's The History of New-Hampshire. Today, we continue looking at the book, especially at the paper label that is pasted on the inside of the front cover of each of the two volumes.

Our story was left hanging in July 1811, with the death of John Phillips, who had been the proprietor of Phillips Circulating Library for the previous eleven years. Lydia Phillips, John's widow, placed an advertisement on July 15, just ten days after his death. The ad below appeared in the August 16, 1811 edition of Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, with its heart-breaking appeal to the good will of others:

Lydia_Phillips_ad [Transcription: The Subscriber [i.e. Lydia Phillips], having been suddenly deprived of an affectionate husband, now finds the maintenance of a helpless family of six small children dependent entirely on her exertions, which she earnestly solicits the aid of her friends and a liberal public to encourage, by their patronage of the establishment of a Circulating Library, lately conducted by her husband, which she intends to continue at No. 119, South Third Street, opposite the Mansion House Hotel, and to use her best exertions to render it deserving of the support which she thus in behalf of herself and her children most respectfully and with all the solicitude of an anxious mother, solicits.]

Despite the desperate tone above, things appear to have worked out for Mrs. Phillips. A year later, an advertisement stated that “Mrs. Phillips returns her sincere thanks to her friends and the public, for their generous patronage and hopes to merit a continuance of their favor, by procuring all the NEW WORKS that can be obtained…” She then goes on to mention some new books that have arrived, including a novel called Sense and Sensibility, which had just been published in London and was arriving by ship to American bookstores and circulating libraries.

We now fast-forward to 1820, twenty years after John Phillips founded his circulating library. Mrs. Phillips Circulating Library was clearly still in business at the time, as I found an ad for “Mr. Willis’s Concert,” which mentions that tickets cost $1 and could be had at both Mathew Cary & Son’s Bookstore and Mrs. Phillips’s Circulating Library. Mathew Carey was, among other things, one of the leading publishers in Philadelphia in the early 19th century. (Like John Phillips, Carey was also a Freemason. He also happened to be Catholic, and published Spanish-language Masonic books in Philadelphia in the 1820s.)

PhillipsCareyLabelsecondcrop Which brings us back to our book and this label, which indicates that Lydia Phillips sold this book to Mathew Carey in Philadelphia on November 28, 1821.(Incidentally, this was published in three volumes, but we only own volumes I & II.) As to the specific circumstances surrounding the sale of this book, I have not yet found anything conclusive. But let’s take a quick, closer look at the label. It is interesting to note that, except for Lydia Phillips’ name, everything on the label is printed, and not handwritten. One might assume that that Carey printed these labels and put them in books he was purchasing at the time. But what’s so curious about this label, though, is that the date is also printed, not written, in. This leads me to believe that Carey purchased a number of books on November 28, 1821. I can’t think of why else would he would print the labels with a specific date. (Any thoughts, readers?)

One possibility is that Carey planned on purchasing a number of books at a book auction in Philadelphia on that day. It’s also possible that he may have purchased all or most of Lydia Phillips’ stock from her. If it didn’t have the date, or if the date was written in, I’d assume that Carey perhaps regularly kept these blanks on hand and brought them out when he purchased a book that had someone else’s markings in it. As for why Phillips name is written in, it’s possible that her signature was another way of authenticating his ownership, or simply that he bought from many people on that day and simply had them fill in their names. This, obviously, will require further research.

A couple of final notes, with regard to Carey purchasing this book from Lydia Phillips. I talked to James N. Green, librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and he informed me that an 1822 printed Catalogue of the Library of M. Carey, Philadelphia, Belknap’s 3-volume History of New-Hampshire is listed. We can’t say conclusively, although it seems quite possible, that it may be these volumes bought from Lydia Phillips.

As to the fate of the Phillips Circulating Library, the 1821 and 1822 Philadelphia city directories list Lydia Phillips’ name and “circulating library, &c.” with an address of 119 S. Third St. In the 1823 directory, however, we see that she has moved to 182 Mulberry St. and an occupation is no longer listed.

You can preview two interesting essays about Mathew Carey's publishing business as it relates to Masonry in the book Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy, edited by Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, which reprints articles previously published in Heredom:

Paul Rich, Guillermo De Los Reyes, and Antonio Lara. "Smuggling Masonic Books to Mexico: A Philadelphia Publisher and the Inquisition."

Paul Rich and Antonio Lara. "The Mystery of Mathew Carey: Continuing Adventures in Masonic Bibliography."

You can also take a look at that book, as well as all issues of Heredom, in our library:

de Hoyos, Arturo, and S. Brent Morris. Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003.
Call number: 10 .F74 2003

Info about our two volumes of The History of New-Hampshire:

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund


Family Treasure: A Homemade 13-Star Flag

2008_048T1 In 1813, from her home on the Fore River in Weymouth Landing, Massachusetts, eight-year-old Harriet “Hattie” White presented this flag to a company of Weymouth Exempts.  Recently, after being passed down through five generations of the family, Francis and Christie Wyman donated it to the National Heritage Museum.

Harriet White was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1805, the daughter of Major John White (1757-1816) and Nancy Babcock White (1775-1871).  In 1798, Harriet’s father, John, became commander of the Weymouth Light-Horse Troop.

According to family tradition, the flag was made by a group of women in Weymouth.  Harriet’s relatives may have been part of this group.  Perhaps young Harriet herself assisted by sewing the straight seam down the center or by making some of the neat hemming stitches along the edges.  Twelve blue silk stars are appliquéd to each side of the flag in a central oval shape.  A larger star is stitched in the middle.  On one end, a piece of glazed cotton with appliquéd red wool numbers, “1812,” is attached.  This piece seems to have been added later, well after the flag was initially made.  It helps to tell the flag's story, preserving its history of manufacture during the War of 1812 and reminding us of the value that subsequent family generations placed on it.

In 1829, when she was 24 years old, Harriet White married Benjamin Clark Harris (1799-1842) of Boston.  Harriet continued to talk about the flag at family gatherings until her death in 1887.  In 1916, a family member wrote down the details; these notes remained in a box with the flag when it was donated to the National Heritage Museum, allowing us to continue telling its story to future generations of Americans.

13-Star Flag, ca. 1813, Weymouth, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, gift of Francis and Christie Wyman, 2008.048.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Phillips Circulating Library: A Brief History

PhillipsInkStampLast Tuesday, we started looking at two volumes in our collection that were formerly owned by Phillips Circulating Library. Today, a brief history of that library:

A Brief History of Phillips Circulating Library
In the late 18th century, John Phillips was a "Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Hair Dresser" doing business at 55 Arch Street in Philadelphia. In an advertisement dated November 18, 1800, Phillips announced that he had moved his business to 22 South Fourth Street where, in addition to selling items as various as gentlemen’s neck cushions, pomatum by the pound and ounce, and Church’s pectoral pills, Phillips stated that “as a repository for second hand books and odd volumes has long been wished for by many persons in this city…the subscriber [i.e. Phillips] having on hand several hundred volumes, proposes the commencement of such a plan.” This appears to be the beginnings of Phillips Circulating Library.

A month later, Phillips advertised a “Repository of Literature,” stating, in part, that his business could be a means for “holding forth a cheap means of information to the less wealthy part of the community.” Three years later, in 1803, Phillips took out an ad for his “New and Increasing Circulating Library” in which he mentions that he just received a new shipment of books from England. Additionally, the advertisement states that “He has the honor of informing his patrons that for the convenience of those who wish to study the French language, he has opened a French Circulating Library, and has selected the best novels in that Language.”  In this same ad, Phillips mentions that a catalogue “will be ready for delivery in a few days.”

By 1809, Phillips Circulating Library seemed to be doing quite well. He advertised a number of novels that he had recently received via ship from England, and mentioned that a new catalogue would be ready shortly, which suggests that his catalogue from 1803 was no longer an adequate reflection of the library’s contents. In June of 1810, Phillips relocated his library to 119 South Third St., opposite the Mansion House.

Phillips_obit A year later, however, Phillips was dead. His obituary in the July 6, 1811 Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser reads “Died, last evening, Mr. John Phillips, Librarian. His friends and Masonic brethren are invited to attend his funeral this morning, at 8 o’clock, from his late dwelling opposite the Mansion House.” It was not until I read Phillips obituary that I discovered that he was a Mason. (Image of obituary from America's Historical Newspapers.)

The story of Phillips Circulating Library doesn’t end here however. You may ask, what became of Phillips’s family and his business after his death?

Next Tuesday: Mathew Carey, the well-known Philadelphia publisher, enters the picture.

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund


The Question We Cannot Answer - How Much Is This Worth?

GL2004_1869T National Heritage Museum staff answer hundreds of questions each year – and we love doing it.  Except for one question – the question we cannot answer.  It is one of the top questions we are asked – “How much is this [book / Masonic apron / certificate, etc.] worth?”

We’re a Museum, Library and Archives, right?  We have thousands of antique objects, books and documents.  We follow the market and even purchase examples from time to time, so we should know, right?  Just like the experts on the Antiques Roadshow, our curator, librarian and archivist should be able to assess antiques and suggest a value. 

Not quite.

Believe us, it’s hard not to be able to answer a question for an interested inquirer.  But if we answer that particular question, we are being unethical.  For one thing, while we are trained museum and library professionals, with many years of experience, we are not trained appraisers.  Appraising antiques takes curatorial knowledge, but also a sense of the market on a much wider scale than we have time to cultivate.  We simply do not have the knowledge to confidently suggest the value of an antique object in terms of what it might bring on the open market or in the event of an insurance settlement.  While we do follow the antiques market, we spend the bulk of our time researching the history of objects we already own and interpreting their use and function for our visitors, rather than how much they might be worth to a collector 200 years after they were made.

But the real danger in this situation is a conflict of interest.  Say you come into the Museum with a wonderful silver ladle that was used by a Boston Masonic lodge during the 1790s.  You are considering donating it to the Museum because you know it’s interesting and has some history, but you don’t think it’s worth much from a monetary viewpoint.  You ask us what we think.  As we’re looking at it together, the museum curator notices that it has the mark of Paul Revere’s shop on the bottom; obviously something that would add significantly to its financial value.  But the curator worries that if she mentions this, you will no longer want to donate it.  Instead, you’ll want to sell it to us, or put it up for auction.  So she doesn’t let on and tells you it’s only worth $500 and you make the gift.  Flash forward a year when the Museum puts it on exhibit with a label about Paul Revere’s silversmith shop.  How do you feel?  This kind of conflict of interest is why we can’t answer the value question.  The American Association of Museums is quite clear on this point.  Even more importantly, so is the IRS, which requires third-party appraisals when a donor wants to write off a gift like the one described here.

So when you ask this question, not just of National Heritage Museum staff, but staff at any Museum or Library, understand that we’ll politely explain that it’s a conflict of interest.  We may give you an alphabetical list of appraisers in the area, being careful to let you know that we do not recommend one over the others, nor do we imply any kind of recommendation of any of the names on the list – which can also be a conflict of interest.  There are several national professional associations for appraisers; all maintain lists of their members and, unlike museum staff, are not prohibited from helping you to find an appraiser in your area.  So, if you find an antique of your own and are wondering about its value, try contacting one of the following:
American Society of Appraisers, 800-272-8258
Appraisers Association of America, 212-889-5404
International Society of Appraisers, 312.224.2567
National Institute of Appraisers, 800-676-2148

Ladle, ca. 1765, Paul Revere (1734-1818), Boston, Massachusetts, Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1869, photograph by David Bohl.


The History of New-Hampshire: Tracing ownership marks

[Note: This is the first of a three-part post. The story will continue next Tuesday.]

HistoryNHtp A close look at our copy of the first two volumes of Jeremy Belknap's three-volume The History of New-Hampshire reveals former ownership marks that, with a bit of research, uncovers an interesting story about who owned these books before they eventually came in to our collection. The book is marked with both an ink property stamp as well as a paper label. Today, and next week we'll focus on the story behind the ink stamp. Two weeks from now we'll look at the paper label.

The ink stamp clearly shows that this book was owned by Phillips Circulating Library (volume II is shown here, and volume I contains the same mark). While the idea of for-profit libraries may sound odd today, circulating libraries - as such for-profit libraries were commonly called in the early 19th century - were partly able to thrive due to a lack of free, public libraries in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century.  The first half of the nineteenth century was the heyday of the circulating library in America - a period during which circulating libraries in America were established in both large cities and small villages. Circulating libraries were almost always run in conjunction with another business, usually a bookshop.  While circulating libraries were most often run by men out of their bookshops, many examples of women-run circulating libraries also exist, some in conjunction with bookshops and others out of businesses that were more likely to serve a predominantly female clientele, such as millinery shops, music stores, and fabric shops. Our story includes a female proprietor of a circulating library, which we'll address in more detail next week.

Because circulating libraries were for-profit businesses, they left many traces of their existence through advertisements. Using America's Historical Newspapers, a subcription-based searchable database of early American newspapers, I was able to trace some of the history of Phillips Circulating Library over approximately 20 years. 

Next Tuesday: A brief history of Phillips Circulating Library

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund


Tippecanoe and Log Cabins, Too!

Hard Cider and Log Cabine Almanac 1841 This Hard Cider and Log Cabin Almanac, from the Van Gorden-Williams Library’s collection, is an enlightening 24 pages of political memorabilia. Like other almanacs of the time, it contains valuable astronomical information for farmers and others. However, interleaved with charts of sunrises and sunsets, phases of the moon, and high tides, are illustrations and articles supporting William Henry Harrison’s 1840 presidential campaign.

Historians often view the 1840 election as the first modern campaign, in which the parties began promoting their candidates nationally, using events and advertising to create their nominee’s image and push their agenda. The Whig Party backed William Henry Harrison, the 68-year-old former governor of the Indiana Territory and hero from the War of 1812.

This almanac’s title comes from Harrison’s campaign symbol, the log cabin. It appeared on ribbons, medals, banners, brooches, buttons, prints, plates, needle cases, snuff boxes, and many other items. Some Harrison supporters even built log cabins to house their campaign rallies. Ironically, the Whigs adapted the image from an insult by Harrison’s Democratic opponents, who said he would prefer retirement in his log cabin, drinking hard cider, to being president. His campaign co-opted the log cabin idea to make Harrison—born to an elite Virginia family—seem more like a man of the people.

Touting Harrison’s accomplishments as a general and referring to him as “the Washington of the West,” the almanac features engraved illustrations of his treaty negotiations with Shawnee leader Tecumseh, as well as the battle against the Native American uprising at Tippecanoe. There Harrison earned his nickname “Old Tip,” which later led to his (other) campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Illustrations of his War of 1812 victories at Fort Meigs and the Thames are also presented.

The almanac came to the National Heritage Museum bound into a newspaper, the Auburn Daily News and Log Cabin Herald, from Auburn, New York, dated June 17, 1840. The newspaper, like the almanac, includes articles endorsing Harrison and ads for rallies in his honor. It also denounces his opponent, incumbent Martin Van Buren, for “having brought the government to the state of bankruptcy” and “pocketing the people’s money until there was no more to filch.”

In the election, Harrison narrowly won the popular vote, but the tally translated into a landslide in the Electoral College. His presidency, however, is infamous for its brevity. His inaugural address, the longest on record, clocked in at 8,445 words and nearly two hours. After standing in a cold wind without a coat, hat or gloves during the ceremony, Harrison caught pneumonia. He died on April 4, 1841, after only 32 days in office. 

Photo: Hard Cider and Log Cabin Almanac for 1841: Harrison and Tyler. Washington City: Sold wholesale and retail by John Kenedy, 1841. Call number: RARE AY 81 .P7 H3, Gift of Doris Hudson May