|[1a] An 1860 Southern Democratic electoral ballot.|
by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra
During my many years of obsessively handling and collecting printed items from humanity’s chequered past, occasionally a little “extra” prize has turned up. People use the most amazing items as bookmarks, often cramming between the pages the first thing that comes to hand when the phone or doorbell rings. Librarians report finding paper money, condoms, tampons, candy bars and a wide range of other bizarre stuff inside returned volumes. The Victorian mania for pressing flowers and “skeletonized” leaves inside heavy books, particularly bound volumes of the Illustrated London News and other periodicals, is evident as well.
In the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), the twisted, Nazi-collaborating archeologist Bellocq dangles a cheap bazaar pocket watch before Indiana Jones and points out that the worthless timepiece merely needs to be buried for three thousand years and it becomes priceless! Thanks to today’s burgeoning “collectibles” market, three millennia are no longer required – a few decades will suffice.
Here, “submitted for your inspection” (as dear old Rod Serling used to say) are four specimens that survived over a century forgotten between the pages:
|[1b] Code of Virginia.|
This relic of the crucial four-way presidential race pitting Republican Abraham Lincoln against Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas and Constitutional Union/Whig candidate John Bell, resided for over a century inside a copy of the 1860 Code of Virginia.
The 1860 Code was the last antebellum edition of the state’s laws as codified in 1849, and the one in effect during the Civil War, when Virginia seceded from the Union and became part of the Confederate States of America. It includes a number of statutes pertaining to slavery: “General provisions as to slaves,” “Of dealing with slaves, and suffering them to go at large,” “Of runaway slaves,” “Of suits for freedom” and “Of free negroes.” (The next revision in 1873 would reflect the abolition of slavery.)
|[2a] A group photo of the Seven Singing Sutherland Sisters and their amazing hair.|
|[2b] “Hair 7 Feet Long and 4 Inches Thick.”|
|[2c] P.T. Barnum’s recollections.|
For information on Charles Eisenmann’s Monsters of the Gilded Age, see HERE.
|[3a] A measuring guide for men’s suits from the John Wanamaker Company, 1877.|
|[3b] Harper’s Weekly, February 10, 1877.|
|[4a] Handbill advertising a ready-made clothing house in Newburyport, MA, 1847.|
|[4b] Daguerreotype, Newburyport 1847.|
Besides being an interesting item in its own right, this ephemeral handbill serves to date and place the lady’s image. It is a pity that no one thought to pencil her name on the handbill. All we can say is that she had a pleasant, grandmotherly face, was well-dressed and was probably born in the late eighteenth century.
For a well-illustrated study of American clothing in the early industrial age, see Claudia B. Kidwell and Margaret C. Christman, Suiting Everyone; The Democratization of Clothing in America (Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of History and Technology, 1974).