Posts by Kathy Bell

Lincolniana and other new and recommended books: March 2009

While some may think things have gotten too carried away for the Lincoln Bicentennial, there really are some new books, programs and exhibits worth knowing about.  We've added several titles on Abraham Lincoln to our collection and we've listed them along with all our other new Masonic and fraternal and general American history titles on our website's New Acquisitions page.  Please take a look.

If you're out and about in the Boston area (after having visited the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, of course!) and you're looking for Lincoln and Civil War related exhibits, you might check out the following:  The Medford Historical Society is home to one of the world's greatest collections of Civil War photographs and many are on display this month as part of their Of the People: Faces of the Civil War exhibit.  Some of their photographs, from the General Samuel Crocker Lawrence collection* also may be seen at the Brookline Public Library along with an exhibit, Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America.

Lots of other interesting exhibits and events are scheduled throughout the area and information on them is available at the Massachusetts Lincoln Bicentennial website.  National events and a state-by-state guide may be found at the Lincoln Bicentennial website.


*Landscapes of the Civil War, an exhibit of photographs from this same collection appeared at the National Heritage Museum in 1999 and an accompanying book (Landscapes of the Civil War: Newly Discovered Photographs from the Medford Historical Society. Edited by Constance Sullivan.  N.Y.: Knopf, 1995.  Call number E 468.7 .L25 1995)  is available in our collection along with other materials by and about the collector and Freemason, Samuel Crocker Lawrence.  More on Lawrence also is available in the library that bears his name at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Abraham Lincoln signature from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.




For map-lovers

Geog_us One of the recently announced American Library Association children's book award winners that particularly got my attention is Uri Shulevitz's How I Learned Geography.  The author-illustrator has included autobiographical details in previous books but never so poignantly.  His latest book tells of his Polish family, ravaged by war and forced to relocate.  Strangers in a new country, they are poor and hungry yet one night instead of food from the market his father brings home a large, colorful map and places it on their wall.  At first Uri and his mother are annoyed because there are so many other things they need.  In time he realizes the map nourishes him and his dreams as no food ever could.

It's a sentiment map-lovers of any age can appreciate.

And we are a museum of map-lovers.  Interesting, historic, beautiful and colorful maps both large and small may be found029-1779_T1 on many of our walls and often are exhibited or used in exhibits to illustrate the stories we tell.  Over thirty years ago when our Museum was new and the Library & Archives collection just being formed, maps were identified as a priority and a small but respectable collection acquired.  One of the early acquisitions, shown at right, Carte du Theatre de la Guerre dans L'Amerique...1775-1778 was drawn by Captaine de Chesnoy, an aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette and published in Paris. The three columns in the lower right list major campaigns of the Revolutionary War in chronological order so there's lots of visual and narrative interest all in one map.

Fortunately today it's easier than ever to find, study and even print or order reproductions of every imaginable kind of map.  New England has several wonderful map collections including the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Osher Map Collection at the University of Southern Maine (where the new map museum will open in September 2009).  Online resources about maps also are extensive.  It's hard to beat former British Library map librarian Tony Campbell's Map History site for an all around introduction to anything and everything having to do with maps.  The Library of Congress, University of Texas, New York Public Library and David Rumsay map sites also are comprehensive and, the Library of Congress along with the BPL site, provide the opportunity to buy reproductions from their collections.

And this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Google and their many map products.  Several official and unofficial blogs are available to try to keep up with and make sense of their latest map offerings.

Sources listed and mentioned above: 

Chesnoy, Michel.  Carte du theatre de la Guerre... Paris: Chez Perrier graveur:  Chez Fortin, [1779].  Call number:  map 029-1779?

Shulevitz, Uri.  How I Learned Geography.  N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Silvestro, Clement M.  A Decade of Collecting Maps.  Lexington, MA:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1985.  Call number:  GA 190 .S54 1985




Baron von Steuben's Regulations

Revolutionary Army officers created a very succinct creed at Verplanck's Point, N.Y. in 1782 where they paid homage to those they felt most deserving of credit for the Army's success.  Naturally, they included George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox -- and Friedrich Steuben:

"...We believe that Baron Steuben has made us soldiers, and that he is capable of forming the whole world into a solid column, and displaying it from the center. We believe in his Blue Book...."

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben (1730-1794) was born and raised in Prussia.  He received his early military experience in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) but by the 1770's was in search of another war.  Twice he approached Benjamin Franklin in Paris for assistance to go to America, and the second time he was successful in getting a letter of introduction to General Washington.  Steuben sailed to America and arrived in Portsmouth, N.H. on December 1, 1777; by February he was in Pennsylvania, and by March he had the Continental army in Valley Forge learning how to drill, something sorely missing in the early months of the army.  Washington was so impressed that he wrote to Congress in late April:  "I should do injustice if I were to be longer silent with regard to the merits of Baron von Steuben.  His knowledge of his profession, added to the zeal..."  Washington recommended and Congress approved Steuben be promoted to Inspector General but with the rank and pay of Major General, a situation that pleased Steuben. 

Stuben_1794 In The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army, author Paul Lockhart concentrates on how Steuben went about getting the army ready for battle, the relentless drilling, and the many campaigns that followed.  But as Steuben's charge was to bring overall discipline and order to the troops, during the winter of 1778-79 he spent more time writing than drilling.  Steuben improved earlier attempts at a military manual and produced Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (a copy of the title page of our Library's 1794 edition appears at left).  First published in Philadelphia in March 1779 with 150 pages and 8 plates, the initial printing produced over 1500 copies with blue covers (and thus it was known as the 'Blue Book').   It went on to have some seventy editions and to remain an indispensable manual for American soldiers until the War of 1812. The 'Blue Book' has even enjoyed several revivals, most recently during the Bicentennial of 1976, as it provided useful information for re-enactors. 

While early editions of the Regulations were quickly snapped up, an even larger market was created in 1792 when Congress passed the Militia Act.  As state militias began to appear, Steuben's manual filled the need for soldiers requiring instructions on everything from drilling to fighting in battle to setting up camp. The original manual usually was printed together with a more specific state manual.  

Our library is fortunate to have two copies of Steuben's Regulations, one published in Boston in 1793, and the other in 1794.  The latter was printed by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) and the plates engraved and signed by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832).  Donald C. O'Brien in Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic explains that, like many printers, Thomas quickly got into the business of printing the manuals after the Militia Act and likely hired Doolittle to do the engravings because his usual engraver, Joseph H. Seymour, was too busy with other jobs. 

As one of Doolittle's plates below shows, the drawings were simple.  The accompanying information was more detailed, however, clearly providing instructions for all aspects of military life from marching (e.g. the Common Step "is two feet and about seventy-five in a minute" while the Quick Step "is about one hundred and twenty in a minute") to the correct motion for taking aim and firing.

Stuben_1794_ad2 Plate VII (shown at left) details the correct Order of Encampment.  Accompanying instructions state:  The infantry will on all occasions encamp by battalions, as they are formed in order of battle.

The front of the camp will occupy the same extent of ground as the troops when formed; and the intervals between the battalions will be twenty paces, with an addition of eight paces for every piece of cannon a battalion may have.  The quarter-master of each regiment shall be answerable that he demands no more  ground than is necessary for the number of men he has actually with the regiment, allowing two feet for each file, exclusive of the officers, and adding sixteen feet for the intervals between the platoons.  He is also to be answerable that no more tents are to be pitched than are absolutely necessary, allowing one tent for the non-commissioned officers of each company, and one for every six men, including the drums and fifes.

And finally, both of our copies of the Regulations have signatures and notes in contemporary hand Stuben_1794_smith from previous owners, and the 1794 copy, in particular, may demonstrate that the Regulations were in use until the War of 1812.  There is good evidence that Capt. Wm. R. Smith (signature shown in the image at right) is William Rogers Smith (1774-1818) the only surviving son of a landowning Baltimore County family who would have had the needed financial resources to be a member of the Baltimore Blues, an outfit that fought during the War of 1812.

Additional information on Baron von Steuben may be found at websites of both the Society of the Cincinnati (an organization he helped found), and the Steuben Society of America.  Many memorials exist for Steuben, most notably statues in Washington, D.C., Valley Forge, Monmouth County, N.J., and Potsdam, Germany.

Sources consulted and mentioned above:

Lockhart, Paul.  The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army.  New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  Call number:  E 207 .S8 L63 2008

O'Brien, Donald C.  Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic.  New Castle, DE:  Oak Knoll Press, 2008.  Call number:  Call number: NE 955.2 .O27 2008

Riling, Joseph R.  Baron von Steuben and his Regulations.  Philadelphia:  Riling Arms Books Co., 1966.

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.  Boston:  Printed and sold by John W. Folson, Union Street.  Sold also by John Norman, Newbury Street, 1793. Call number:  RARE UB 501 1793  Gift of the J. Collier Family. 

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, to which are added the United States Militia Act passed in Congress, May 1792, and the Militia Act of Massachusetts, Passed June 22, 1793.  A new edition illustrated by eight copperplates, accurately engraved.  Boston:  [Printed by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews] For David West, No. 36, Marlborough Street and John West, No. 75, Cornhill, 1794.  Call number:  RARE UB 501 1794

Von Zemenszky, Edith.  The Papers of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, 1777-1794 : guide and index to the microfilm edition.  Millwood, N.Y. : Kraus International Publications, 1984.

Many thanks to Librarian Francis P. O'Neill at the Maryland Historical Society for information on William Rogers Smith.

Now you see it, now you don't: fore-edge painting

If you happened on Truths Illustrated by Great Authors: A Dictionary of Nearly Four Thousand Aids to our library you might notice the handsome binding and gilt fore-edge or outer edge of the book:


However, if you fanned through the book, glancing at some of the interesting quotations from Shakespeare and other authors, you would see the gilt edge above transform into a picture (thought to be from Stratford-upon-Avon) if you held it just right:


Fore-edge painting is the process of decorating the longer outer edge of a book then, usually, when dry, concealing it with gilt.  It's a hidden treasure in a book and while some describe it as a lost art, others consider it 'pretty but petty.'  The earliest examples date back to the 16th century but it wasn't until the mid-18th century that it gained more prominence.  London bookseller and binder James Edwards (1756-1816) indicated he had a "method of binding books in vellum with drawings which will not rub out" in a 1785 patent application and even though he hadn't invented the process he became one of its greatest practitioners. The technique quickly moved from England to the rest of Europe (though several earlier examples may be found on the continent) and then onto North America in the 19th century.  Fore-edge painting enjoyed a brisk revival in the 20th century.

Most of what is now known about the history and practice of fore-edge painting is thanks to a former Colby College Professor of English and Rare Book Librarian, Carl J. Weber (1894-1966).  He received a donation of books with fore-edged paintings and began his research after finding very little general or scholarly work on the subject.  Weber published A Thousand and One Fore-edge Paintings: with Notes on the Artists, Bookbinders, Publishers, and Other Men and Women Connected with the History of a Curious Art in 1949 and included a detailed list of fore-edge paintings in some 56 American libraries and private collections.  He revised the work as Fore-edge Painting: A Historical Survey of a Curious Art in Book Decoration in 1966.  Fore-edge painting became a family interest after that: a new book, The Fore-edge Paintings of John T. Beer is the latest by his grandson, Jeff Weber.

Which books did and didn't get decorated edges?  There's no particular rhyme or reason to it, though if you look at the 1001 listings in Carl Weber's 1949 book, you do see multiple entries for the bible, Book of Common Prayer, books of poetry, and various classics.  Where can you find examples of fore-edge painting?  Again, Weber notes that while most libraries have no examples of fore-edge painting, there are many important collections around the world.  The larger American collections may be found at the College of William and Mary, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City and the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.  Boston Public Library also has a significant number of rare books with fore-edge paintings and has made them easily accessible on their website and on Flickr, the photo management and sharing program.  In fact the wonderful thing about BPL's Art of the Book collection on Flickr is that you can see, at a glance, that the painting and the subject of the book are sometimes, but not always, in concert.  For example,  A view of Hampton Court Palace adorns this copy of the Iliad by Homer:




while other works by Homer have castles in Wales, scenes from Bath, England, and the Eton College Chapel.  On the other hand, the Memoirs of the life and travels of John Ledyard contains this very appropriate scene (as Ledyard was a member of Captain Cook's expedition):



I was interested to find only one Masonic title on Weber's 1949 list, William Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, published in 1792.  The copy listed, held in a private collection, had 2 fore-edge scenes painted, St. Paul's Churchyard and the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, noteworthy as the place the Grand Lodge of London began in 1717.  Alas, our own copy of the same edition doesn't have any fore-edge paintings.  I would be interested to hear from anyone who knows of other Masonic titles with this type of decoration.  Given the amount of material published in the 18th and 19th centuries, the propensity toward decoration, and the interest in secrecy, fore-edge painting and Freemasonry would seem ideally suited!

Meanwhile, next time you pick up a book, particularly if it is old and has a beautiful binding, try fanning the pages.  You may just get a nice surprise.

Sources consulted and mentioned above:

Carter, John.  ABC for Book Collectors.  8th ed.  New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2006.

Weber, Carl J.  A Thousand and One Fore-edge Paintings: with Notes on the Artists, Bookbinders, Publishers, and other Men and Women connected with the History of a Curious Art.  Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1949. Online copy here

Weber, Carl J.  Fore-edge Painting: a Historical Survey of a Curious Art in Book Decoration.  Irvington-on-Hudson: Harvey House, 1966.

Weber, Jeff.  The Fore-edge Paintings of John T. Beer. Los Angeles: Jeff Weber Rare Books. Limited to 210 copies printed by the Castle Press, Pasadena, 2006.

White, William M.  Truths Illustrated by Great Authors.  London:  W. White, 1852.  Call number:  RARE PN 6081 .W48 1852.  Fore-edge painting of Stratford-upon-Avon.

'Light on Masonry', the old and the new

Light_paper The advertisement at left first appeared in the Anti-Masonic Champion on May 7, 1829.  It was one of many attempts to publicize a newly published exposé on Freemasonry, and it appeared in one of the dozens of new newspapers that sprung up (mostly in the Northeast, N. Y., Pennsylvania and Ohio) during the Anti-Masonic reaction to the Morgan Affair.   'Elder D. Bernard' was David Bernard, a Baptist minister and Freemason from Utica, N.Y. and the publication was Light on Masonry: a Collection of all the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry, Embracing the Reports of the Western Committees in Relation to the Abduction of William Morgan, Proceedings of Conventions, Orations, Essays, etc. etc.  Bernard included the craft rituals William Morgan exposed along with several higher degrees.  It was not the first exposé issued at the time, but arguably the most successful.  Light on Masonry, at over 500 pages, went through five editions alone in 1829!

Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, Arturo De DehoyosHoyos, has just published a new look at Light on Masonry: the History and Rituals of America's Most Important Masonic Exposé (19 .D5 2008).  The recently published work provides a facsimile of the 5th edition of Bernard's 1829 work along with an extremely interesting and informative introduction.  Of particular interest is correspondence between J.J.J. Gourgas (then Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council and later third Sovereign Grand Commander) and Giles F. Yates (Sublime Grand Master of Delta Lodge of Perfection in Schenectady, N.Y. and later Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, NMJ) after Light on Masonry appeared.

The new Light on Masonry also provides details about each of the printings and editions, so armed with it and Kent Walgren's Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States, 1734-1850, I decided to take stock of our holdings of the early editions.  While our catalog listed eight first editions, one 2nd edition, and six 3rd editions, I discovered we actually own four of the initial stage of the 1st edition, two of the 2nd stage and seven of the 3rd stage, along with two 2nd editions and three of the 3rd edition.  Fortunately for us De Hoyos decided to use a 5th edition to replicate as we don't own any of that rare imprint.

When you gather 18 copies of any book published in 1829 and check each for provenance and Light_spink markings, you're bound to find something interesting.  Not surprisingly for our library, several of the first edition copies were from the libraries of William L. Cummings, Alphonse Cerza, and William G. Peacher since our collection is comprised of significant holdings from each.  Two owners had interesting notes in their copies:  in one of the stage one copies is handwritten 'The Property of Saml. D. Spink, To be kept in the family' (as shown at right); one of the stage three copies has 'A. Parker, Go ye into all parts of the world and tell what Freemasonry has done.'

Everett_bookplate The most well-known previous owner of one of our copies, however, is Edward Everett (1794-1865), well-established as an Anti-Mason, and whose bookplate appears at left.  Everett's resume is about as stellar as any you'd find in 19th-century America:  educated and later taught at Harvard, represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, President of Harvard, Secretary of State under Millard Fillmore, and always known as a great orator.  To many though, Everett is best remembered as the person who spoke for two hours at the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863 -- the one who spoke before Abraham Lincoln.  To Everett's credit, it's often reported, he told President Lincoln, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

Sources mentioned above include:

Anti-Masonic Champion, Vol. 1, No. 10, Thursday, May 7, 1829.  Printed and Published by Patterson & Dewey, Union Village, Washington Co., NY.

Bernard, David.  Light on Masonry: A Collection of all the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry, Embracing the Reports of the Western Committees in Relation to the Abduction of William Morgan, Proceedings of Conventions, Orations, Essays, &c. &c.  Utica:  William Williams, 1829.  Call number:  RARE 19 .B518 1829 [Online edition]

De Hoyos, Arturo.  Light on Masonry: The History and Rituals of America's Most Important Masonic Exposé.  Washington, D.C.: Scottish Rite Research Society, 2008.  Call number:  19 .D4 2008

Walgren, Kent Logan.  Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States, 1734-1850: A Bibliography.  Worcester:  American Antiquarian Society, 2003.  Call number:  Ref 04 .W165 2002 v. 1 & 2

Library copy of Light on Masonry with Edward Everett bookplate was a gift of Augustus P.Loring, 85-211SC

Dust jacket image of Light on Masonry used above with permission of the author.

New and recommended books: December 2008

Though our collection doesn't necessarily include the kind of popular titles one finds on holiday gift idea lists, a few recent acquisitions come to mind as potential gifts for just the right person....

Books as History: the Importance of Books Beyond Their Text by David Pearson.  New Castle, DE:  Oak Knoll Press, 2008.  Call number:  Z 4 .P43 2008.  This well-illustrated, unusual look at books -- their form, content, ownership and value -- from the earliest examples right up to recent advances in electronic publishing is fascinating and a real treasure.

Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views by D. Brenton Simons.  Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2008.  Call number:  N 8214.5 .U6 S47 2008.  This book, recently published in association with the New England Historic Genealogical Society, presents over 60 18th and 19th century views of Boston and environs along with informative descriptions about the work of art, artist and setting.  Included are a number of scenes from collections at the Boston Athenaeum, Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Historical Society, Bostonian Society which individually are stunning -- but taken together present Boston as never seen before.

The Houses of the Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America and the Way They Lived by Hugh Howard New York: Artisan, 2008.  Call number:  E 176 .H866 2007.  Leafing through this beautiful, over-sized volume filled with full-color photographs makes you feel you're actually traveling up and down the Atlantic coast visiting the homes of notable Americans of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Several well known homes are included (Jefferson's Monticello, Washington's Mount Vernon, and the Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House in Cambridge to name a few) but many other lesser known homes stand out as well.  Biographical information, maps and a timeline are included along with descriptive entries for each of the forty homes highlighted.

Masonic Lodges of Massachusetts: 275th Commemorative Anniversary Edition. [Boston]: Masonic Leadership Institute of Massachusetts, 2008.  Call number:  17.9763 .M375 2008. This recently published book presents beautiful color photographs (exterior and some interior) and information about Massachusetts lodges from some 251 cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.  At a glance you can see the great diversity of historic buildings as well as the more modern meeting places.  For more information on ordering a copy contact the Caleb Butler Lodge.

And, for a complete list of the new titles we've added in the past couple months, please check New Acquisitions on our website.

Gilbert Imlay

Gilbert Imlay (1754?-1828) has variously been described as soldier, surveyor, adventurer, writer, conman -- and cad.  He swindled land from Daniel Boone (among others) and is believed to be the cause of feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft's (1759-1797) attempted suicide. 

Born in New Jersey, Imlay was a lieutenant in a Continental regiment and went west to make his fortune when the Revolutionary War ended.  He began as a land surveyor but by 1785 was already heading back east, in debt and wanted for unscrupulous land deals.  After losing money in yet another investment scam, Imlay disappears in 1787 and next surfaces in London as an author, and friend and lover of Mary Wollstonecraft.  After the birth of a daughter, Fanny, their liaison ends around 1796 and Imlay remains in Europe until his death in 1828 which is believed to have occurred on the Isle of Jersey. 

If Gilbert Imlay is an unfamiliar name to you, it's not so surprising.  As Wil Verhoeven puts it in his new biography, Gilbert Imlay: Citizen of the World, “Although by no means a major historical figure in his own right, Imlay unwittingly acted as an interface between figures of much greater historical significance.  Their diverse and often mutually exclusive ideas and ambitions, dreams and schemes he frequently borrowed and then disseminated across continents and across the Atlantic, whilst invariably serving his own, usually less than honorable interests.”

I hadn't come across Gilbert Imlay before reading Robert Morgan’s biography of Daniel Boone and became more interested when I discovered a copy of the 3rd edition of his A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America [RARE F 352 .I33 1797] in our collection.  You may remember from our previous post on Daniel Boone that not only did he cheat Boone of land, in later editions of his 1792 publication (such as ours), he included the chapter about Boone which first appeared in John Filson's The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky without attribution (not an uncommon practice in the days before copyright).

Of the many ways Imlay reinvented himself through the years, the most improbable, it seems, is his short stint as an author. Imlay is on record as having published 2 books, the aforementioned travel guide and a novel, The Emigrants, or the History of an Expatriated Family in 1793.  Both works were published in London to generally good reviews.  His novel, published after Imlay met Mary Wollstonecraft, follows the adventures of an English family in America and espouses a progressive social agenda.  Some critics find its feminist tone more than could be reasonably expected of an 18th century man and attribute authorship to both Imlay and Wollstonecraft.  An entry in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature wonders why, given Imlay's own colorful career, he bothered to write a work of fiction at all; a memoir "might well have been superior to his novel."

Ohio_imlayBut it is Imlay's first effort for which he is best known.  In true Imlay fashion, he describes himself as 'Captain' Imlay, the 'Commissioner for laying out Land in the back Settlements' and an 'intelligent and lively author'.  Topographical Description.... is written as 'a series of letters to a friend in England' and tied together by commentary from an English 'editor' who initially asked for 'a complete description of the western country of America'.  Though Imlay claims in the introduction 'it is certain that no work of the kind has hitherto been published in this country' most critics cite Letters from an American Farmer by Crevecoeur as something of a template -- and that both authors draw heavily from John Filson's more original work.  However, most also note that Imlay takes the genre a bit further and describes Western expansion as the obvious extension of the American Revolution.  According to Verhoeven, Imlay foresees "the wilderness frontier as the centre of a future American empire."

While Topographical Description.... includes detailed reports of roads, waterways, soil, flora and fauna and, basically, any and all information anyone thinking of settling in America would need to know, he also includes four maps.  Pictured above is 'A plan of the rapids of the Ohio'.  In 'Letter III....about Ohio", Imlay writes:  "The Rapids of the Ohio lie about seven hundred miles below Pittsburg, and about four hundred above its confluence with the Mississippi.  They are occasioned by a ledge of rocks that stretch across the bed of the river from one side to the other, in some places projecting so much, that they are visible when the water is not high...The fall is not more than between four and five feet in the distance of a mile; so that boats of any burden may pass with safety when there is a flood; but boats coming up the river must unload."

The other maps include: 'A map of the western part of the territories belonging to the United States of America drawn from the best authorities', 'A map of the Tennassee (sic) government formerly part of North Carolina taken chiefly from surveys' by Gene D. Smith and other, and 'A map of the State of Kentucky from actual survey by Elihu Barker of Philadelphia'.

There's no evidence Gilbert Imlay ever returned to America, but surely his work encouraged many to emigrate, and still others to write about it.  Irish Poet Thomas Moore, in highlighting the romantic nature of his work, proclaimed it 'would seduce us into a belief that innocence, peace, and freedom has deserted the rest of the world for...the banks of the Ohio."  Add 'marketeer' to the list of ways to describe Gilbert Imlay!

Reference sources:

Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature.  New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Filson, John.  The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky.  Wilmington, Delaware : Printed by J. Adams, 1784.  An online version available here.

Imlay, Gilbert.  A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America.  London, Debrett, 1792. 

Richards, Cynthia D "Romancing the Sublime: Why Mary Wollstonecraft fell in love with that cad, Gilbert Imlay." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 25.1 (Spring 2006)

Saint John, J. Hector, pseud. van Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur.  Letters from an American Farmer.  London : Printed for Thomas Davies, and Lockyer Davis, 1782.

Verhoeven, Wil. Gilbert Imlay: Citizen of the World.  London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008.

Wollstonecraft, Mary.  The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 1979.

A (Vigilante) Masonic Funeral

Vig_2 Amidst the mayhem and murder recounted in Vigilante Days and Ways, Nathaniel Pitt Langford's (1832-1911) classic tale of settling the Northwest, comes a small story of Masonic grace and brotherhood.  One William H. Bell was the first citizen to die of illness in the Bannack, Montana settlement which, thanks to the discovery of gold, was quickly populated in the early 1860's.  Most deaths in the area at the time were the result of violence, as Langford's 2 volume work graphically illustrates.  But, when Bell knew he was dying, he requested a Masonic burial.  Langford, also a Mason, at first deemed the request impossible as he didn't think enough Masons could be found.  Nevertheless, Langford writes in Chapter XXIII....

A request for all the Masons in the gulch to meet on Yankee Flat at the cabin of Brother C.J. Miller, on the evening of the day of Mr. Bell's death, greatly to our surprise, was so numerously responded to, that we found it necessary to adjourn to more commodious quarters.  It was past midnight before the forms of recognition were fully administered, and preparations completed for the funeral.  So delighted were all to meet so many of the order, that before we separted it was virtually understood that early application should be made to open a lodge.  In the meantime, we agreed to hold frequent meetings.

The funeral ceremonies, the next day, were conducted by myself.  The strange peculiarities of the occasion added a mournful interest to the impressive truths of the ritual.  A large congregation had assembled,  Near by, and surrounding the grave, stood the little band of brethren, linked by an indissoluble bond to him for whom they were performing the last sad office.  With clasped hands and uncovered heads they reverently listened to the solemn language which in that far off land committed one of their number to his mother earth; while farther away, and encircling them, stood a curious multitude, whose eager gaze betrayed that they were there for the first beheld a Masonic burial ceremony.  Among this latter number might be seen many whose daily lives were filled with deeds of violence and crime...How strange it seemed to see this large assemblage, all armed with revolvers and bowie-knives, standing silently, respectfully....

The ceremonies were conducted to a peaceful conclusion, and the assembly quietly dispersed.  But from this time onward, the Masons met often for counsel.  Among them there was no lack of confidence, and very soon they began to consider measures necessary for their protection.....It is a remarkable fact that the roughs were restrained by their fear of the Masonic fraternity, from attacking its individual members.  Of the 102 persons murdered by Henry Plummer's gang, not one was a Mason.

Langford continues that he and others requested a dispensation to form a Lodge in Bannack but by theVig_4 time it arrived from Nebraska, most had moved on to Virginia City.  He was instrumental in starting the Lodge in Virginia City, Montana in 1864 and went on to be named Grand Historian in 1866 and Grand Master of Montana in 1869.  Though known for bringing the institution of Masonry to Montana, he is also known as one of the early founders of Yellowstone National Park.  He was part of the Washburn party in 1870 and later named first Superintendent of the park.

Callaway, Lew L.  Early Montana Masons.  Billings : Western Litho-Print Press, 1951.  Call no.  16.1 .C 156 1951

Langford, Nathaniel P.  Vigilante Days and Ways : the Pioneers of the Rockies ; the Makers and Making of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.  Boston : J.G. Cupples, 1890.  Call no.  F 721 .L275 1890.  Online edition here.

Additional information on Langford may be found in both Montana and Minnesota archives:

Nathaniel Pitt Langford and Family Papers, 1707-1942, Minnesota Historical Society.

Nathaniel P. Langford Papers, 1862-1909, at the Montana Historical Society.


Illustrations all from Vigilante Days and Ways : the Pioneers of the Rockies ; the Makers and Making of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.  Boston : J.G. Cupples, 1890. 

The Bruton Vault Story

On a recent trip to Virginia, I stopped in a used book store and inquired about Masonic or fraternal items.  The bookseller produced a couple things then said he was sure he had something about digging up the treasure in the Bruton Parish Churchyard, and that he thought Freemasons were involved. When I professed ignorance about the event he went on to tell a fantastic story about a secret vault in Williamsburg, VA that allegedly contains the original Shakespeare plays, additional writings by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and other valuables.  To fully appreciate the story it’s helpful to 1. believe Sir Francis Bacon actually wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare (1564-1616); 2. believe that Bacon was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), the Virgin Queen (and for whom Virginia was named), and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532-1588); 3. believe that Bacon traveled to America; and 4. that Bacon is the true founder of America, the founder of Freemasonry and essentially wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  Whew!

As soon as I had a chance, I ‘googled’ Bacon and Bruton and found some 114,000 ways to learn more about the story.  Several of the results seemed well researched and a 3 part series from The Piker Press was helpful as an introduction.  But I was anxious to return to our library and the extensive resources on Freemasonry in our collections. I wondered what if anything I'd find about the Bruton Vault in some basic Masonic reference sources....

Bauer_4Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia doesn't include an entry for Bruton but under Sir Francis Bacon does mention that some maintain his writings, particularly The New Atlantis,  "is relied on to assert his connection with Freemasonry."  Nothing more definitive in 10,000 Famous Freemasons where it's noted that Bacon was 'thought by some to be a Rosecrucian" and that The New Atlantis "was an early influence on the development of the craft."

Searching through several indexes did provide some mention of the Bruton Vault, Bacon and the Vault, and/or Bacon and Shakespeare in various journal articles; a few titles in our catalog did as well.  One new book I thought might include some information is Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies for Dummies, but no luck.  Another new book, Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall didn't disappoint.  Manly Hall (1901-1990) figures into the Bruton story in at least two significant ways:  several maintain that Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages (which includes a chapter on the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy along with Bacon's portrait neatly superimposed over Shakespeare) provides a basis for the hidden symbols and mystery that buttress the story and, perhaps more importantly, Hall's second wife was Maria Bauer, (1904-2005).

While the new biography about Manly Hall is a full look at the life of this interesting, complex man, it does provide some interesting background details about the Bruton story as well.  Maria Bauer first heard Hall speak while living in New York but convinced her first husband to move to California to be closer to Hall and his Philosophical Research Society.  Interested in the occult and convinced she was clairvoyant, one day while volunteering at Hall's library, Bauer struck up a conversation with someone waiting to see Hall.  The visitor said he was a Shakespeare scholar who had deciphered codes hidden in the plays that told of a treasure hidden by Bacon under a church in Virginia.  Bauer had once received a woven cloth with images from Williamsburg, including the Bruton Parish Church, so she felt an immediate affinity and decided instead of just talking about it, they should go there and start digging!  Somehow, in 1938, Bauer convinced Rockefeller Foundation and Bruton Parish Church officials to begin excavating the churchyard.  The image above shows the cover of Bauer's first book about the experience with a portrait of Francis Bacon (not unlike the image in Hall's work mentioned above).  She published several other works about it, went on to marry Manly Hall in 1950, and continued her quest to uncover the vault until she died.

The initial dig in 1938 was followed by several other (both sanctioned and non-sanctioned) attempts.  While in 1938 they did uncover the foundation for the original 1676 Bruton Church, to date no vault and no treasure has been located.

So, is there anything to the Bruton Vault story?  I have no idea.  I'd be curious to hear from anyone who does know of any other compelling details, particularly involving a Masonic connection.  For those who find the whole story outlandish, perhaps a little more context is in order.  The Shakespeare authorship question has existed for hundreds of years and during the late 19th-early 20th century, Francis Bacon was a popular choice as the 'real' author.  Similarly, many significant archaeological discoveries were made around that time (e.g. King Tut's tomb in 1922) so it's not too hard to imagine church officials might be persuaded to allow the dig.  However, a 1993 article by Frederick Kozub in Skeptical Inquirer, a journal devoted to revealing the science behind pseudoscientific claims, ("Follow-up on the Bruton Parish Church's vault excavation", v. 17, no. 3, Spring 1993) essentially ends the discussion by stating the 9-person archaeological team allowed to dig in 1991 found no evidence of a vault anywhere under the churchyard.

What I did find is that the historical renovations one can see above ground in Colonial Williamsburg, and the artifacts recently uncovered beneath nearby Jamestown and now beautifully displayed in the new museum there are well worth time, interest and attention!

Sources mentioned above:

Bacon, Francis.  The New Atlantis.  1627.  Online edition available here.

Bauer, Maria.  Foundations Unearthed.  Glendale, CA: The Verulam Foundation, 1940.  Call number:  10 .B344 1940

Coil, Henry Wilson.  Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia.  Rev. ed.  Richmond, VA: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1996, c1961. Call number:  00 .C679 1996

Denslow, William R.  10,000 Famous Freemasons.  Trenton, MO:  Missouri Lodge of Research, 1958.  Call number:  16 .D413 1957

Hall, Manly Palmer.  An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic, and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy: Being an interpretation of the Secret Teachings Concealed within the Rituals, Allegories, and Mysteries of all Ages.  Los Angeles:  Philosophical Research Society, 1975.    Call number:  11 .H173 1975  A reprint of the 1928 edition. 

Hodapp, Christopher.  Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies for Dummies.  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley, 2008.  Call number:  HV 6432 .H63 2008

Sahagun, Louis.  Master of the Mysteries: The Life of Manly Palmer Hall.  Port Townsend, WA:  Process Media, 2008.  Call number:  16.3 .H178 S3 2008

New and recommended books on elections and politics

We've been busy adding new and interesting titles to our collection.  For a more complete list of books acquired and cataloged this summer, on topics related to Freemasonry and American history, click here

But, for special consideration, as the 2008 presidential campaign gets into full(er) swing, we offer these titles to distract and inform...

Larson, Edward J.  A Magnificent Catastrophe: the Tumultuous Election of 1800, America's First Presidential Campaign.  New York:  Free Press, 2007.
Call number:  E 330 .L37 2007
There's nothing like finding out about another contentious election, even if it was over 200 years ago, to feel better about the present.  John Adams and the Federalist Party vs. Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans made for an epic struggle that had it all: intrigue, drama, broken friendships, differing ideologies, and even an electoral challengeYears later, Jefferson characterized the 1800 election as "a revolution in the principles of our government."

Seale, William.  The President’s House.  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
Call number:  F 204 .W5 S43 2008
A 2-volume work detailing the design, building, renovations and occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue through the years.  Numerous photographs of the house along with most of the Presidents and their families.  Lots of interesting personal stories and anecdotes about the presidential families, their staffs and lifestyles.

Warda, Mark.  200 Years of Political Campaign Collectibles.  Clearwater, FL: Galt Press, 2005.
Call number:  NK 3669 .W37 2005
Though organized as a guide to collectible artifacts from political campaigns and movements (with ranges of prices included), this book is really a history of American politics.  Arranged chronologically by campaign, the various buttons, pins, stickers, postcards and posters -- some iconic, others less well known -- are each displayed, mostly in color.  Though my personal favorite, 'Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts', the bumper sticker that appeared during the height of Watergate in 1973 is missing, what makes this even more useful are the resources in the back, including a checklist of every party candidate in every election since 1789.

Wright, Jordan M.  Campaigning for President: Memorabilia from the Nation's Finest Private Collection.  NY:  Smithsonian/Collins, 2008.  Call number:  E 176.1 .W948 2008  The author began collecting when he was ten and a Robert Kennedy for President headquarters was nearby.  Though he believed in the candidate, he also liked that each week new buttons, posters and bumper stickers appeared, all for free!  His current collection is over an million items and housed in the Museum of Democracy

These are just a few of our latest acquisitions.  Additional materials on elections, campaigns, debates, and more, may be found by searching our online catalog.