Juliette Kinzie’s Wau-Bun – The Early Day in the Northwest

I have just finished reading a book which has captivated me for many successive evenings.  Now that I have closed the final chapter, I feel like I’ve said goodbye to a most interesting friend!

The book is one I picked up in the Chicago area this summer (quite appropriately, as the book is very much about the early settlement of Chicago and the regions surrounding it.)  Wau-Bun, The Early Day in the Northwest, by Mrs. John H. Kinzie, is an historical autobiography that was first published by Derby and Jackson, New York, 1856.  It has been republished multiple times since, by  J. B. Lippincott  (1873),  Rand McNally (1901),The Caxton Club  (1901), George Banta (1930), Lakeside Press (1932),  National Society of Colonial Dames in Wisconsin (1948), and others.

Here’s a link to a photo and description of the first edition (Derby and Jackson, NY, 1856) on University of Wisconsin’s Digital Collections, (PBO – Publisher’s Bindings Online ).

The Rand McNally edition (1901) is an attractive decorated American trade binding, done in green cloth boards with a  brown and black illustrated background of high-rise Chicago buildings, with tee-pees and a canoe on a river in the foreground on the cover, and a small decoration on the spine.

 Here’s our 1930 Edition (George Banta Publishing Company, Menasha, WI), in its original dustjacket:

Wau-Bun - The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.

Wau-Bun – The Early Day In the Northwest, by Juliette M. Kinzie (Menasha, WI: 1930, George Banta Publishing Co.)

 The endearing thing about this copy is its provenance;

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

Inscription inside our copy of Wau-Bun

This copy actually belonged to the Indian Agency House in  Portage, Wisconsin, about which the author wrote in the book and where she lived.   The Indian Agency House was built by the U.S. government for John Kinzie in 1832.  Kinzie was the Indian Agent to the Ho-Chunk Nation (Winnebago), and he and his wife, Juliette Magill Kinzie, lived at the portage from 1832-1834.

          Image of the map printed on the front fixed endaper:

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

Map of the areas of Wisconsin and upper Illinois covered in Wau-Bun

This edition was published in 1930 to support the effort to preserve the Agency House:

From the front panel of the dust jacket of "Wau-Bun" (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

From the front of the dust jacket of “Wau-Bun” (George Banta Publishing Co., 1930)

Apparently it was a successful effort, as it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and still stands today with guided tours available during summer months for a nominal fee.

 This edition also has an Introduction and is edited with notes by Louise Phelps Kellogg, which contain some corrections and additional information.

 Juliette Magill was a well-educated young woman from Connecticut when she met the dashing young John Kinsey in Boston, Massachusetts, whom she fell in love with and married in 1830.   She moved with him to Detroit and then Fort Winnebago, a new trading post at the crucial portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers.  At the time, it was the western-most outpost of the American frontier forts, where her husband was an Indian sub-agent to the Ho-Chunk nation (Winnebago).

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

John H. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 Juliette M. Kinzie wrote with clarity, compassion, and intelligence.  Her narrative about the times in which they lived is beautifully written, with fascinating details on what it was like to travel, communicate and subsist on the early Western frontier.   Her experiences with the Black Hawk War and the Sauk War are recounted, and details of the Chicago Massacre (Battle at Fort Dearborn) are covered as they were related to her by members of her husband’s family who lived in Chicago at the time it occurred.  Wau-Bun was not her first published work.  In 1844 Juliette Kinzie published Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and of Some Preceding Events, anonymously.  Kinzie acknowledged authorship soon after publication.

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from "Wau-Bun"

Juliette M. Kinzie, a portrait from “Wau-Bun”

 She was a game young woman who enjoyed being on the frontier, sometimes covering over 60 miles a day on horseback as they journeyed between posts, sleeping outdoors or in makeshift shelters or as welcome guests at isolated homesteads.  They routinely dealt with blizzards, mud, storms, mosquitoes and summer heat, and the diverse cultures and idiosyncrasies of an assortment of Native American tribes.  She possessed a positive attitude and a subtle sense of humor, along with insight and compassion into the culture of the Native American people and their plight as white settlers encroached on their homeland.  Her writing style is honest and as readable as if it were written yesterday.

 For anyone interested in the history of the Great Lakes area, early American travel, fur trading, American Indian wars, and frontier forts (including Ft. Mackinac, Ft. Winnebago, and Ft. Dearborn),  this book is not to be missed.

An image of  Chicago in 1831 from "Wau-Bun"

An image of Chicago in 1831 from “Wau-Bun”

 In addition to her non-fiction work, Kinzie published one novel Walter Ogilby (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1869), and it must be exceedingly scarce, as I have not been able to locate a single copy for sale.

A few interesting footnotes: 

According to Wikipedia, Juliette M. Kinzie died at age 64 while vacationing in Amagansett, New York, Long Island, in 1870, after a druggist accidentally substituted morphine for quinine.  (How ironic, after a life of constant danger and close calls in Indian wars and hazardous frontier travel that she should be snuffed out by a pharmacist’s error in Eastern “civilization.”)

 Juliette Kinzie’s granddaughter was Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouting in America in 1912.


Books on Traveling…and how to be a Curious Traveler

We’re beginning to come down from our two week Midwestern U.S. book scouting trip.  After returning home, we hosted out-of- state book customer/friends who traveled to stay with us for four days, and we’ve been up to our ears in book cataloging, gardening and household projects!  I’ll try to return now to more regular postings.

Today I came across an interesting article in the New York Times from July 11th,  being a conversation between travel authors Philip Caputo and William Least Heat-Moon.  The topic was how to get the most out of seeing America on a road trip.  These two authors are world travelers, but both have special affection for road trips in the United States of America.   It caused me to reflect on our own book scouting travels around the United States, and what makes these trips so special to us.

Heat-Moon is widely known for his American road trip books Blue Highways and “PrairyErth (A Deep Map).”

PrairyErth, by William Least Heat-Moon, First Edition (signed), Houghton Mifflin, 1991

PrairyErth, by William Least Heat-Moon, First Edition (signed), Houghton Mifflin, 1991. Book is available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop for $45.00

In his conversation with Caputo, he states the importance of keeping a record of your travels, because it makes you more aware of your surroundings and the people you meet, and of the events in your day.  It deepens your experience, because it makes you reflect on what you saw and who you met.

 This is so true – a travel diary, field notes, a blog – any of these adds depth to your experiences and turns a trip into an adventure.  From my experience, I’ve found that maintaining this blog and reporting to you, my readers, on our book scouting journeys makes me begin each day with a magnified awareness while we travel.  I am always on the lookout for interesting people, unusual sights, bits of knowledge and humorous situations.  Writing them down at the end of each day causes reflection on the day’s experiences.

 Caputo says, “A tourist is out to see sights, usually which have been enumerated for him in a guidebook. I think there’s a deeper degree of curiosity in a traveler.”   A tourist heads for the Grand Canyon; a traveler veers off the beaten path.

 I believe a traveler allows serendipity to play a large role in his journey, and sets forth without an agenda set in stone.  A traveler gets off the interstate so that one can take time to stop along the way, see towns and villages, farm stands and lakes, see people in their native surroundings and talk with locals. A traveler avoids chain restaurants and big box businesses.  A traveler is open-minded, has a sense of humor, and is willing to engage in conversation.

 Here’s the great thing about book scouting — it takes one to such a variety of places you would never otherwise visit, simply because used & rare book shops appear everywhere.  From an old barn on a country dirt road to a  street in the backwaters of a large metropolis, book stores dot the map in odd places.  Striking up conversation is a natural, because you have something in common with the proprietors and the customers of each shop you visit (a love of books!), and yet each person and place is so unique.   Booksellers, book collectors and avid readers tend to be an interesting lot.   It’s almost like having distant odd relatives all over the country!

Serendipity takes over naturally, because if you are good at striking up conversation, and  listening, advice will come on where you should go next … to find books, to eat, to experience some local treasure.  You’ll learn about local lore and landmarks.

 Talking with Paul Skenandore of Shenandoah Books, in Appleton, Wisconsin…

Ron talking with Paul Skenandore of Shenandoah Books, Etc.

Ron talking with Paul Skenandore of Shenandoah Books, Etc.

led us to breakfast and…

Bill Glass, Proprietor of The Pasty Koop, Appleton, WI

Bill Glass, Proprietor of The Pasty Koop, Appleton, WI

Bill Glass at “The Pasty Koop,” where we learned the long and storied history of the “Cornish Pasty,” both in Cornwall, England and in the local iron mining regions of the United States.

 Heat-Moon says, “On an interstate I’ve never found (people who are ready to talk) — first of all the places where those conversations happen generally aren’t there. You need the laundromat, a quiet 5:30 tavern, a street corner where you might meet somebody.”

 Book scouting in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin eventually led us to a local tavern at just about that golden time of 5:30, after the book shops had closed for the day…

20130602_184255_resizedwhere we met some fun locals who were charitable-minded enough to wear pink rabbit suits while golfing in the hot sun to raise money for breast cancer awareness.

These are the moments you remember.

Here’s a link to an article I wrote back in 2005 for Bookthink called “Take The Old Car – Part II.”  Just another example of serendipity playing a huge role in a fun and successful journey.

 My humble piece of advice:  For meeting interesting people just about anywhere and adding serendipity to your travels, there is no better “plan” than to loosely map out your trail in search of used & rare bookstores! You’re bound to meet interesting people and find interesting books.

 Here are some of my favorite books on American road trips:

 Blue Highways: A Journey into America, William Least Heat-Moon, Little Brown, 1982

PrairyErth: (A Deep Map), William Least Heat-Moon, Houghton Mifflin, 1991

Travels with Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck, Viking Press, 1962

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, Bill Bryson, Harper & Row, 1989

It’s A Big Country –America Off the Highways, Ben Lucien Burman, Reynal & Co., 1956

American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville, Levy, Bernard-Henry, Random House, 2006

The Lincoln Highway: Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate, Wallis, Michael, W.W. Norton, 2007

 A few of these books are available at our website.

Hope these books and our blog inspire you to be curious travelers, and to write about your adventures!


Peter Fleming Saves Me from Cabin Fever


The bird bath

We are in the depths of winter here in Upstate New York.  Aside from an occasional expedition to the mailbox or the woodpile, we are pretty much snowed in.  With the snow eighteen inches deep and the nights twelve hours long, I have turned to armchair adventures beside the comforting warmth of a blazing wood stove.  What else can one do when the bank accounts are drained from the holidays and the airports are socked in?


bench on our patio

I have been reading my way through the hot, steamy and

unexplored depths of 1930’s South American jungle with Peter Fleming, on a rollicking sojourn through his finest book, Brazilian Adventure.   Oh, what an amusing and observant guide he is!

Brazilian Adventure, Peter Fleming (Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, 1934)

Brazilian Adventure, Peter Fleming (Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY, 1934)

(Robert) Peter Fleming (1907–71) was the older brother of another well-known writer — Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.  Peter Fleming was a journalist who was special correspondent for The Times and writer for The Spectator.  He served with the Grenadier Guards during World War II, did some undercover work in Southeast Asia, and was believed to be somewhat of a type for brother Ian’s character development of James Bond.


Peter Fleming

 He traveled widely and penned marvelous books on his adventures.  His writing style is unusual for an adventure writer; full of subtlety, honesty and humor.  With him there was no stretching of the truth to manufacture heroics, which ironically makes his writing far more riveting and realistic than the tales of chest-banging type adventure writers.

Having long been amused by the personal or “agony” columns in The London Times, Peter Fleming’s “Brazilian adventure” began when he spotted this ad placed there in the Spring of 1932:

‘Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June, to explore rivers Central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Fawcett; abundance game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given. – Write Box X, The Times, E.C.4.”

Fleming couldn’t resist the temptation to respond, thus his fate was sealed.  Paying 400 British Pounds each to join the adventure, he and a good-humored friend named Roger Pettiward were soon sailing for South America along with four other bemused and resolute men, plus a bull mastiff.

In case you are wondering who the “lost” Colonel Fawcett was whose fate the expedition was trying to ascertain, here is a photo of him from the pages of Brazilian Adventure:


Lt. Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett

And here’s a summary of Colonel Fawcett and his mysterious journey taken from Wikipedia:

“Lt. Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett (18 August 1867 – in or after 1925) was a British artillery officer, archaeologist and South American explorer. Along with his eldest son, Fawcett disappeared under unknown circumstances in 1925 during an expedition to find “Z” – his name for an ancient lost city, which he (in all likelihood, accurately) believed to be El Dorado, in the uncharted jungles of Brazil.

During the following decades, various groups mounted several rescue expeditions without results. They heard only various rumors that could not be verified. In addition to reports that Fawcett had been killed by Indians or wild animals, there was a tale that Fawcett had lost his memory and lived out his life as the chief of a tribe of cannibals.”

Peter Fleming and his party never satisfactorily determined the fate of Colonel Fawcett.  But, lucky for us, Fleming produced a highly satisfactory account of his South American trip.   Brazilian Adventure is a classic book to be savored, page by page, for its exploration of the interior of human nature as well as the interior of a continent.

The book is quite scarce and collectible in both the UK and US first edition (Jonathan Cape, London, 1933; U.S. First Edition published by Charles Scribner, NY, 1934).  The book remains in print.  For collectors, we currently have a first U.S. edition available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.

Below is a list of additional works by Peter Fleming:

1933 Brazilian Adventure

1934 One’s Company: A Journey to China in 1933

1936 News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir

1940 The Flying Visit

1942 A Story to Tell: And Other Tales

1952 The Sixth Column: A Singular Tale of Our Times

1952 A Forgotten Journey

1955 Tibetan Marches

1956 My Aunt’s Rhinoceros: And Other Reflections

1957 Operation Sea Lion

1957 Invasion 1940

1957 With the Guards to Mexico: And Other Excursions

1958 The Gower Street Poltergeist

1959 The Siege at Peking

1961 Bayonets to Lhasa: The First Full Account of the British Invasion of Tibet in         1904

1961 Goodbye to the Bombay Bowler

1963 The Fate of Admiral Kolchak

Peter Fleming was one of the greatest travel writers of the 20th century.  He died in 1979 and is buried in  Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, England. The Fleming Award is given in his honour by the Royal Geographic Society. The grant has been awarded annually since 2004, for a research project that seeks to advance geographical science.

The Boxer who Loved Collies

Albert Payson Terhune with his collies (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Albert Payson Terhune is best known for writing Lad: A Dog (1919) and over thirty other books about the dogs of beautiful Sunnybank Farm where he lived and kept his kennel of fine collies. On this idyllic 44-acre Wayne, New Jersey estate he bred a long line of champions, and his kennel became internationally famous.

Many people aren’t aware that Terhune wrote stories and books about two-legged characters for over twenty years before publishing his first story about dogs.  He also wrote travel narratives as a result of his early journeys abroad which are highly collectible, such as Syria From the Saddle (NY: Silver, Burdett and Co., 1896) and Columbia Stories (NY: Dillingham, 1897).

Terhune was also an outstanding amateur boxer, who boxed exhibition matches with James J. Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons and James J. Jeffries.  His book, How to Box to Win (written under the pseudonym  “John Terence McGovern”) was published in 1900 by  Rohde & Haskins, New York and later by Shrewesbury Publishing Co., Chicago, 1920 bound in decorative paper wrappers.

Albert Payson Terhune in 1922 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

His civil war novel, Dad (NY: W. J. Watt, 1914) was written with the help of Sinclair Lewis, who anonymously wrote chapters 21 through 23 for his friend Terhune who was having trouble meeting an urgent deadline.  It is quite a rare book, with first editions being valued in four figures for a copy in collectible condition, and is sought after by collectors of both Sinclair Lewis and Albert Payson Terhune.

Still, when I think of Albert Payson Terhune, I think of beautiful and loyal collies, don’t you?  And of the book, Lad: A Dog.  A well-worn copy was on our family bookshelf as I was growing up, as it has been on the bookshelves of millions of other households around the world.  The novel was a best seller in both the adult and children’s markets and has been reprinted over 80 times; it’s success set Terhune on his course to fame as a writer of stories about dogs that are beloved to this day.

A prolific writer of 67 books and numerous stories for magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal and Atlantic Monthly, many of Terhune’s books and stories have been adapted for cinema.  See his filmography HERE.

Albert Terhune died February 18, 1942 at age 69 at Sunnybank, among the collies that won him international fame as an author.  He is buried at the Pompton Reformed Church in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey (not far from Sunnybank).  Most of Sunnybank’s land was gobbled up by developers after his wife, Anice, passed away in 1964.  Sadly, the beautiful old house and barn had fallen into disrepair and were bulldozed in 1969.  Some of the grounds were saved by dedicated citizens and exist today day as Terhune Memorial Park – Sunnybank.    Occupying a few acres between Pompton Lake and U.S. Route 202 in north Jersey, it is a public park maintained by Wayne Township.  Visitors can view the graves of many of the dogs mentioned in Terhune’s works and see a collection of Terhune’s book and dog awards at the Van Riper-Hopper Historic House Museum.   Historical and family items from the Terhune home “The Place” can be found at the Pompton Lakes Historical Museum.

View our current offering of a rather scarce book by Albert Payson Terhune.  It is a dog story, a mystery, and a romance all rolled into one…and very difficult to find even in the Grosset & Dunlap reprint edition:

Unseen, by Albert Payson Terhune (NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1937)

Unseen, by Albert Payson Terhune (NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1937)

View a biography and bibliography of Terhune’s books HERE.

A Rare Book Find: The Bedouins of the Euphrates

Once in awhile there’s a book you’ve longed to add to your personal library, but for one reason or another, have not diligently pursued ways or means to obtain it.  Then one day, the book suddenly finds you.   That, my friends, is the beautiful serendipity of browsing in used and rare book shops!  And it is why I couldn’t pass up this book that came into my hands during our recent book-scouting adventure.  I was surprised and delighted to discover this First American Edition sitting on a shelf at Central Street Books in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Bedouins of the Euphrates, by Lady Anne Blunt (New York: 1879; Harper & Brothers)

From my youth I’ve associated with Arabian horses, and have been familiar with this superb book by Lady Anne Blunt, one of the most eloquently written travel narratives of the 19th Century.  Now I finally own a copy of this classic work.

Edited, with a Preface and “Some Account of the Arabs and Their Horses” by her husband and fellow traveler Wilfrid, it is the day by day story of her and Wilfrid’s 19th century expedition to Arabia and their growing interest in the fine Arabian horses among the Bedouin tribes.  Thirteen illustrations and a map are the work of Lady Anne, who was an accomplished artist.

“Ruins of of Palace of El Haddr” (sketch by Lady Anne Blunt)

Together the couple set out on the 20th of November, 1877, without escort or interpreters, to travel through the Syrian desert by horseback, foot and camel.  At the end of this extensive 5-month journey, they sailed home with six Arabian mares; these horses became the foundation stock of the famous Crabbet Park Arabian Stud Farm.

The book is a riveting tale of adventure, replete with all the dangers and mishaps of travel in a vast and rugged land.  As in any good journey, serendipity and chance play a large role in making the trip a success.  Most of the book is written in journal style, with each day’s happenings recounted in detail,  laced with charm and wit.  Here is an excerpt telling of their crossing the Khabur River, a tributary of the Euphrates:

“A camel forced to swim is a very ridiculous object.  He hates the water sincerely, and roars and moans piteously when he is obliged to face it.  Ours were, of course, unloaded, and then brought one by one to the river bank.  A man on the back, and half a dozen others to push behind, were needed to get them down the bank, a steep slide of mud, down which the camels went, with all their legs together, souse into the water.  The men, who were stripped, then jumped in after them, and, shouting and splashing water in their faces, forced them on, till at last they were out of their depth, and everything had disappeared except the camels’ noses.  Then they seemed to resign themselves, and swam steadily but slowly to the opposite shore, where, fortunately, there was a better landing place.” 

Near the front of the book, there is a fold-out map, “A Map of the Euphrates District giving the Limits of Cultivation and the position of the Various Bedouin Tribes in Their Summer Quarters.”  It also shows the route that Lady Anne and Wilfrid traveled.

Fold-out map in “The Bedouins of the Euphrates”

Replete with first hand insight into the life and culture of the Bedouin tribes, Lady Anne shares  personal encounters and friendships developed with the nomads as they made their way across the desert.  Revealed in the book is the culture of the tribes, including their religion, politics, morals, music and warfare.  The Bedouin system of breeding and training their Arabian horses and a description of the horses they found among the tribes are discussed in detail, and at the rear of the book is an extensive fold-out genealogical table of the descent of the Arabian horse.

          Fold-out pedigree showing the genealogical  origins of the Arabian Horse

Wilfrid and Lady Anne traveled extensively in Arabia and the Middle East, buying Arabian horses not only from Bedouins, but later from Ali Pasha Sherif in Egypt. In a second book, A Pilgrimage to Nejd (London, 1881; J. Murray), Lady Anne Blunt details another horse-seeking expedition, when the couple traveled to northern Arabia and the Nejd.  A rugged, nearly inaccessible region, sacred to the Syrian Bedouins, Lady Anne was the first European woman to set foot in that territory.

Lady Anne Blunt  (Anne Isabella Noel Blunt),  was born September 27, 1837 into the British aristocracy.  She was the granddaughter of the poet Lord Byron and married Sir Wilfred Blunt when she was 29 years old.  Fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic, she was also a skilled violinist, artist and horsewoman.  She shared with her husband a love of the Orient and horses, and although they encountered marital difficulties which eventually led to their separation (Wilfred was quite the philanderer), they enjoyed many desert journeys together and in 1878 co-founded Crabbet Park Stud in England, an enterprise which had a profound and lasting influence on horse breeding throughout the world.

The couple came to love the desert.  Eventually they purchased a 32 acre estate on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt called Sheykh Obeyd, where Lady Anne lived out much of her life, while Wilfrid later resided separately in England.  Lady Anne Blunt died in Cairo on December 15, 1917 and is buried in a small desert cemetery.

I mentioned that Lady Anne Blunt was an accomplished musician.  Her beloved violin, called the “Lady Blunt Stradivarius,” was sold at auction in Japan in 2011 for a world record high of 15.9 million U.S. Dollars.  Read more on the history of this beautiful instrument first owned by Lady Anne Blunt HERE.

Finally, a documentary film is being made (by Fortnight Productions) about Lady Anne Blunt, with its Premiere being timed to coincide with the London Olympics.  Read more about the film and see a trailer HERE.

When Byrd Was the Word (Richard E. Byrd)

Vintage Admiral Byrd Sports Apparel box

Until we stumbled upon this vintage apparel box in a nearby antique/book shop, we were unaware that there had been a clothing line named after the famous explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

Sure enough, when we did an internet search, we actually found some vintage apparel from this line which is up for grabs!

Vintage Admiral Byrd leather jacket on E-Bay

Label inside Admiral Byrd leather jacket

Link to jacket offered for sale is HERE.

(Our thanks to Tynan for letting us post photos and a link to the jacket in this blog).

Not surprising, I suppose, for an American hero who was feted in not just one, but three ticker-tape parades in Manhattan during his glory days.

Famed aviator and explorer Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957) developed a passion for aviation after learning to fly during World War I.  It was the possibilities inherent in flight which captured Byrd’s imagination, and his abilities as an aviator became the means which led to his career as an eminent explorer.

A daring aviator, he was among the first to succeed in transatlantic flights.  In 1926 Byrd led an historic (and still controversial) first  flight to the North Pole.  His aviation experiences are detailed in his first book, Skyward (1928).

Skyward, Richard E. Byrd (Putnam, 1928, Second Printing, SIGNED by Byrd)

His apex of fame was reached during his first Antarctic expedition (1928-1930).  He named his base Little America and situated it on the Ross Ice Shelf, south of the Bay of Whales.  Little America established the first successful radio broadcasting from Antarctica, making regular broadcasts that could be picked up by household radio sets in the United States, more than 11,000 miles away around the Earth’s curvature.

During the 1934-35 expedition, many souvenir letters were sent from Little America, using a commemorative postage stamp issued by the U.S. government. On his second expedition, in 1934, Byrd spent five winter months by himself operating a meteorlogical station, Advance Base, where he narrowly escaped with his life after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning from use of a stove with inadequate ventilation.  This expedition is described by Byrd in his autobiography Alone.

Alone, Richard E. Byrd (NY: Putnam's, 1938, First Edition)

A film record of Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 expedition to the South Pole was entitled    With Byrd at the South Pole: The Story of Little America (1930).  The film was shot silent but was narrated by journalist Floyd Gibbons.  Here is a New York Times review of the film.

By the time of Byrd’s death, he had received twenty-two citations and special commendations, nine for bravery and two for extraordinary heroism in saving the lives of others. He received the Medal of Honor, the Lifesaving Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Navy Cross.  The Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio was named in honor of Admiral Byrd in 1984.  Lunar crater Byrd is named after him, not to mention numerous ships, schools and libraries.

Richard E. Byrd is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

An extensive biography of Byrd is presented HERE.

Several books by or about Richard E. Byrd are available here at Old Scrolls Book Shop.

A Trip Around the World with Jerome Weidman

I love well-written travel narratives from the past, and this summer I picked up two books by Jerome Weidman which I relished reading and thought I would share them with you.   Jerome Weidman was an American playwright, novelist, and travel writer, born in New York City (1913-1998).   He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1960 through his collaboration with George Abbott on a book for the musical Fiorello! with music by Jerry Bock, and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.

"Letter of Credit" by Jerome Weidman - NY: Simon & Schuster, 1940

I found his travel book Letter of Credit  (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1940) to be engaging reading, particularly because his round- the-world journey took place just as World War II was about to break out.  A month before he sailed from New York, Adolf Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia.

He set out on this trip despite warnings from family and friends that it was not a good time to be traveling the globe.   The Germans were making their moves everywhere.  But Weisman was a young man, free of any ties that bind, and had socked money away and looked forward to the trip for years; he was not about to be dissuaded.  It was now or never.   So he boarded an ocean liner bound for Plymouth, England.  He spent weeks in London, then moved on to Edinburgh, Scotland and then to Paris and Marseilles; from there, aboard vessels large and small he traveled to Port Said, Egypt, and sailed through the Suez Canal; his travels encompassed Arabia, India, Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Java, Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Hawaii and home to the California coast.

Each chapter heading is the date and place where he used his “Letter of Credit” to withdraw more cash to continue his journey.  Example:  “July 30, 1939 – National Bank of India, Ltd., Aden, Arabia – $30.00 – Thirty Dollars.”   (It’s amazing how far thirty dollars would take you in those days).

In some ways Weidman is an early version of Bill Bryson as a travel writer; he’s not afraid to tell you of his misadventures, fears and foibles, and he sees wry humor in odd situations.  He is an astute observer of his fellow travelers, and also gives us a real idea of what it feels like to be a lone traveler on a long journey in those days before cell phones and the internet.

He spoke of the importance of letters from loved ones waiting  for you in a distant port, of homesickness, and the particular joy of meeting up with a friend after weeks or months of traveling alone.

“The next best thing to coming home is coming to a place where someone you know is waiting to meet you.  The tight, painful excitement that grips you when the train rolls you for the first time into the station of a foreign city, the tingle of uncontrollable anticipation, very often liberally tinged with fright, that assails you when your ship docks at a new and exotic port, is lacking when you know a friend or a relative is on hand to meet you.” 

In Ceylon he meets Daphne Charger, a vivacious young woman photographer who sweeps him into a perilous whirlwind of adventure.

“She owned a movie camera, a large and expensive wardrobe, a captivating face that caused you to wonder wistfully why it could not have belonged to a person with at least a modicum of common sense.  And she had the endurance of a dray horse.  She had been away from England for three months when I met her in Ceylon.  During that time she had apparently subsisted entirely on a diet of vitamin tablets.  There was not an ounce of fat on her figure, a rational thought in her head, or an inhibition in her system.  Cool, slender, beautiful, and thoroughly composed at all times, she nevertheless had the unsettling ability to throw a room into a turmoil of nervous excitement by entering it and ordering a drink.  She was a blonde.”

At one point she lures him into a jungle area infested by roguish monkeys where she takes much pleasure in snapping pictures while he is under attack.

It is a chronicle of a trip in perilous times that is informative, but also one that will make you empathize, chuckle, and even roll with laughter.  It is  humorous, poignant and entertaining…a joy to read.

The second Jerome Weidman book I  read was Traveler’s Cheque (Doubleday, 1954), which is actually a collection of great travel writing from the past, being excerpts from the work of Charles Dickens, Sir Richard F. Burton,  W. Somerset Maugham, Alexander Woolcott, and other great writers and travelers.

Traveler's Cheque - Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954

Each is selected and introduced in an entertaining and informative manner by Weidman.  This book definitely inspires further reading of some of these authors’ timeless works and sent me off in search of more books by these fabulous writers.

Weidman wrote fourteen novels including I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which was also produced as a Broadway play that marked the debut of 19-year-old Barbara Streisand, and resulted in her being nominated for a Tony Award.  He also wrote for film and television and many of his short stories were published in The New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine.   A bibliography of Weidman’s work is available here on Wikipedia.

If you are interested in owning a copy of Letter of Credit or Traveler’s Cheque, we currently have one copy of each available at Old Scrolls Book Shop!

Lincoln Highway – Collectible Books, Memorable Journeys

The Lincoln Highway - Coast to Coast from Times Square to the Golden Gate (W.W. Norton, 2007)

We came across this book recently, and it brought back memories of the summer of (2006) when Ron and I decided to follow the “Big L” on a book scouting trip half-way across the country.  The Lincoln Highway, America’s first transcontinental highway, stretches nearly 3,400 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  We covered about 1200 miles of it.  On our trip we hopped on at the eastern border of Ohio, following the “L” signs all the way into Iowa, which is not as easy as you might think.    The route crosses desolate, unpopulated areas, intersecting both sleepy little towns and busy urban areas like Fort Wayne and the edge of Chicago.

The signs are infrequent and small, sometimes just a fading presence on a utility pole, and there are many twists and turns to the route which can get pretty hairy when you are in an urban area like Chicago Heights trying desperately to find an “L” sign.   It’s like following a trail of bread crumbs.  Pretty soon you are seeing the red white and blue L in your dreams at night!

Sometimes we would get lost and stray off the route, only to find ourselves back on it miles later when we’d unexpectedly come across another “L”.   See some history and examples of Lincoln Highway road signs here at the Lincoln Highway National Museum & Archives website.

Our trip commenced during the week of the Annual Lincoln Highway BUY-WAY Yard Sale, when yard sales occur all along the highway.  We thought this would be a boon to a book scouter, but we really didn’t find many books at the yard sales, at least not on our leg of it.  We did find antique shops, junk shops, flea markets and the like…and even some used & rare book shops.  The route goes through Mansfield, Ohio (home of author Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm) and Ft. Wayne, Indiana (home of Hyde Brothers Books), which are always enjoyable stops for us.

Collectible books pertaining to the Lincoln Highway

Some interesting travel narratives were written about early journeys on this route, and some of them have become highly collectible books.  Before Emily Post published her famous book on etiquette in 1922, she wrote By Motor to the Golden Gate (1916), a narrative of her cross-country journey on the Lincoln Highway (her son Edwin drove the car).  In 1914, Effie Gladding’s story of a similar trip with her husband was published under the title Across the Continent by the Lincoln Highway.   It Might Have Been Worse, (now there’s an enticing title!) by Beatrice Massey was published in 1919, and in 1927, The Family Flivvers to Frisco by humorist Frederic Van de Water was published.   All four of these books have become scarce and collectible.

If you like Road Trips, especially following a trail that will take you through towns, villages and countryside you otherwise might never visit, and if you enjoy the nostalgia of old diners, motels and forgotten byways, the Lincoln Highway is for you.  Older than Route 66, it was the first transcontinental highway (basically formed by connecting what then existed as east-west roadways across the country and labeling them).  “Seedling miles” were paved here and there “to demonstrate the desirability of this permanent type of road construction” to rally public support for government-backed construction.  Camping equipment, tools, and spare tires were de rigueur on those early trips.

From an August 1985 article by Drake Hokanson appearing in Smithsonian magazine:

“If it had been restlessness and desire for a better way across the continent that brought the Lincoln Highway into existence, it was curiosity that kept it alive—the notion that the point of traveling was not just to cover the distance but to savor the texture of life along the way. Maybe we’ve lost that, but the opportunity to rediscover it is still out there waiting for us anytime we feel like turning off an exit ramp.”

Read more about the history of The Lincoln Highway here.

I Married Adventure – makes scents!

Today while I was visiting a few other blogs, I came across this in The Paris Hotel Boutique Journal.   No wonder our copies of I Married Adventure have been flying off the shelves!   Osa Johnson’s wonderful story of her life of adventure with her photographer husband Martin as they traveled the world has now inspired a perfume which is being touted in Oprah’s magazine.

If you are a regular visitor here, you may remember my posting on the books of Osa and Martin Johnson which appeared here on April 17, 2010.

Osa was a natural beauty, so I’m sure she wouldn’t mind having a perfume inspired by her life.  But she was also a courageous and intelligent woman, whose spirit of adventure lives on in her books and the gorgeous photography accomplished by her and her husband.

Osa Johnson in Hawaiian costume

Their books are perennial favorites,  especially Osa’s I Married Adventure. Beyond the eye-catching zebra pattern binding, the book is much more than a nice decorating piece.  It is an engrossing tale of their early life, their marriage, a perilous voyage across the Pacific in Jack London’s Snark, and numerous adventures as they filmed documentaries of then-unknown lands and people in the South Pacific islands and in later in Africa.

Osa and native Borneo girl with baby Gibbon Ape

Osa’s Four Years in Paradise (1941) is another ever-popular book, bound in a brown and beige giraffe pattern.  It covers their second stay in Kenya from 1924 to 1927 at a lake they dubbed “Paradise” near Mt. Marsabit.

Osa on a tame zebra on her first trip to Africa (1921)

Osa with a baby giraffe (just born)

Both of them learned to fly in their home airfield of Chanute, Kansas, and from 1933 to 1934 flew the length of Africa filming the Mbuti tribe and the gorillas of the Alumbongo Hills, and aerial scenes of large herds of elephants and giraffes.  They both had airplanes, and they were the first to film aerial views of Mount Kiliminjaro and Mount Kenya.

Mt. Kenya from Osa's plane

The "Spirit of Africa" and "Osa's Ark" on a flight over Mt. Kenya

Extensive information on the Johnson’s books, articles and films can be viewed here.

Transatlantic Voyage and Tour of the Continent – 1903

Three Weeks in Europe (Higinbotham, John U., Chicago: Reilly & Britton, Fourth Ed., 1907)

Here is a fun book I picked up on our Midwestern book scouting trip.   Three Weeks in EuropeThe Vacation of a Busy Man first captured my attention because of its charming illustrated binding, but as I was cataloging the book, I began to read a few pages, (always a danger) and then found I couldn’t stop.   It turned out to be an engaging story.  Written by John U. Higenbotham, the author embarks on a steamship bound for Europe; the year is 1903, and he narrates his experiences on the ship with detailed observation and dry wit.

Some one has brought a phonograph on board.  It seems too bad to jar one’s nautical enthusiasm with these landlubbers’ devices.  It is intended as a present to the Sultan of Morocco.  I have very little use for the Sultan, but to unload this machine on him is a pretty severe punishment even for his crimes.  Besides, after “Hiawatha” has been ground out until the cylinder grows wobbly and sticks on the high notes and repeats the low ones in idiotic a few times, the Sultan will remember where it came from and authorize his Grand Vizier to wipe out a Christian village or two to steady his nerves.  No one can measure the possibilities for mischief that are wound up in that little, wheezy box.”

These were the days when steamship travel meant long separation from any real communication with friends and family…it was interesting to note the great importance to him of the letters he received upon reaching his quarters on the ship, sent ahead from friends and family wishing him a “bon voyage.”  He tells of the overwhelming feeling of separation as the ship leaves port, with multitudes of passengers immediately taking up pen and paper to write letters to those they have left behind.  His observations of his fellow passengers are amusing.

“Of course, a bride and groom are aboard.  They are as alone as Robinson Crusoe amid all the life and play around them.  They were four days recovering from seasickness and hated to get well then.  It meant sitting up and looking around.  He has not been shaved since starting and unless the barber comes on deck and shaves him without separating them there seems to be no prospect of accomplishing it.  And even then, the razor might slip and cut her!”

And on the beauty of the ocean…

“The Gulf Stream is plainly evidenced by the quantities of brown seaweed on every side of the boat.  At night, after watching the phosphorescence on the surface of the water for a long time and wondering whether it was fish or seaweed, an appeal was made to the captain.  He said, “It is organic substance,” but whether animal or vegetable, his English and our German were insufficient to determine.  Whatever it is, its effect on a dark night is transcendently beautiful, particularly when viewed from the stern of the boat, where the long wake of the vessel becomes a foam crested path of light narrowing to a vanishing point miles behind us.  The stars are beautiful tonight and the comet is plainly discernable.”

(I’m still trying to figure out what comet he was looking at in 1903. (Can anyone help me here in the comments section? )

He disembarks at Southampton and from there makes visits to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, Capri and Sorrento, Pompeii and Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Millan and Bellagio, Lucerne, Paris and London.   Wonderful old black and white photographs taken by the author illustrate the story of his journeys.

And this brings me to a couple more books I can highly recommend for fans of ocean travel  — The Only Way to Cross by John Maxtone-Graham, published by Macmillan in 1972 is a must-have book.  It covers the heyday of steamship travel and transatlantic voyages on great ships such as the Mauretania, the Olympic, the Normandie and the beloved Queen Mary, plus many more.  IIlustrated with historical old photographs, it also shares the details of construction of the ships, ship-board life, workers (sailors, stokers and stewards) and society.  Illustrated with maps, and lots of photos of every segment of the great steamships, from steerage to the sumptious interiors of first class.  The reverse side of the dust jacket unfolds to form a poster-size chart of the principal Atlantic ocean liners.

The Only Way to Cross (Maxtone-Graham, John, NY: MacMillan, 1972)

One of my favorite books on ocean liners is Last Dinner on the TitanicMenus and Recipes from the Great Liner.

Last Dinner on the Titanic (Archbold, Rick & Dana McCauley; NY: Hyperion/Madison Press, 1997)

The book is beautifully illustrated with colorful Edwardian artwork and archival black and white photographs, and contains recipes for fifty dishes featured on the Titanic’s menus, carefully researched from period sources.   This book inspired me and some of my friends to hold a “Titanic Dinner” each year on April 14th (the date of the great ship’s demise) where we all prepare one or two menu items from the book, print out traditional menus and place cards, set out the best china and glassware, and dress in period costume for dinner.  It’s a bit of fantasy and time-travel, and more affordable than an ocean voyage–with none of the sea-sickness.  And here is our toast, taken from the front of the book:

“The pleasures of the table are common to all ages and ranks, to all countries and times: they not only harmonize with all the other pleasures, but remain to console us for their loss.”

– Anthelme de Brillat-Savarin

Bon Voyage!

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