[This is a piece I just published at OrionsAttic.com about some very special rare books I just obtained. I start the piece here and would be honored if you clicked on the link at the bottom of the piece here to read the full story.]
I did some more time traveling this week, going back to Boston early in the Civil War and hanging out there through 1880. I even met a woman whose name I still do not know, a woman I can’t stop wondering about.
Boston in 1862 was filled with tension. Business leaders like everyone else were frightened by the onset of what Boston Almanac for 1862 editor George Coolidge called “the Great Rebellion.” The name of the war, of course, depended on whose side you were on. Traditionally a a straight-forward business directory, the 1862 version is filled with ads. I peruse yellow-tinted advertisements for Chilson’s Double Oven Cooking Range, Davis’s Hot-Air Radiator, Oak Hall Cloths and Clothing, Wheeler & Wilson Medal Family Sewing Machine, Hunnewell’s Eclectic Pills and so many more products and companies.
Coolidge’s introduction of the 1862 almanac, though, turns grim quickly — painting a scene of tension about the economic challenges of publishing it at the onset of the war. He extols the virtue of listing New England soldiers’ (volunteers) names and towns for posterity:
At the time of the outbreak of the rebellion, in April last, it became necessary to decide what plan to pursue in the compilation of the Almanac. The General Business Directory, which had always formed so important a part of the book, would not save it from the destruction which threatened to overwhelm all business pursuits. The advertising interest could not be relied on, as before, for support. No profits accrue from sales at the low price for which the book is sold. Should the publication be abandoned, or suspended, or issued at the risk of serious loss? It was decided to make the Almanac the interesting record of the Great Rebellion that it is now, keeping the price of it the same as before, and to trust it as a ship cast upon stormy seas. It could at least convey to other times the roles of those honorable man who sprang to the defense of our national liberty at the instant of its assault.
Read the rest of this story and meet a mysterious woman at OrionsAttic.com.