Not My Job

This blog is “not my job.” Not any longer, anyway. As of today, I haven’t been paid by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a year. That is my explanation for letting this blog die.

I have recently read over all the posts I made to it, and I still think they’re interesting, informative, and nicely written. I regret that the list of Pennsylvania publishers from the collection’s Pa. Imprints Collection never got completely published. But other than that, I’m fine with it all.

There were difficulties at the State Library that led to my looking elsewhere for employment. And I’m very, very happy with my new job. We’re well supported (financially and otherwise). We have interesting things to do. We have an interesting collection to work with, on an interesting subject. There’s a building project that is funded, and will actually open on schedule. I have a nice place to live and a (usually) pleasant commute. What’s not to like?

One of the reasons this ‘Erudite and Eccentric’ blog stopped so abruptly was the paranoid attitude of the administration in Pennsylvania about information flowing in any channel other than the one that was strictly controlled by the administration. I am also free of that now. So I may be appearing soon at a blog near you (although I read today that young people are leaving blogs in droves, preferring the short attention span media of the tweet and its ilk).

Footnote of sorts: the most popular post on this blog … even today … is the one on Charles Dickens and fog. That’s just symptomatic of one of the things I always felt was wrong with the rare book collection at the State Library: that post and its subject wasn’t worth the pixels it was printed with to the head person there because it wasn’t about Pennsylvania and it wasn’t about Benjamin Franklin. There was no real vision, and the people perished.

UPDATE: Just today, Friday 27 April 2012, I had an email from the now-current “Rare Books Librarian” at the State Library of Pennsylvania. I had asked him “How are things going? Did the new space ever get up and running in a fully functional way?” His response: “We are still “in the process” of getting the space “fully functional”. Nevertheless, things are moving in the right direction—slowly.” Sigh! All I can add is ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Published in: on 12 March 2011 at 10:32 am  Comments (2)  

The Personal Touch from a Phone Company

The Pennsylvania Telephone Company served customers in the eastern half of the state.  It was consolidated with, or purchased by, the Bell Telephone Company of Philadelphia in 1908.


In the company’s Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 1905, the board of directors reports that

Automatic exchanges—that is, exchanges at which no operators are required—were installed in eleven towns too small to justify the installation of manual exchanges which require the use of operators.


The use of automatic exchange apparatus is to some extent experimental, but it is expected that it will prove successful for exchanges too small for a manual system, and that its operation will show a sufficient return on the investment to justify the gradual extension of its use, thereby enabling your company to give telephone service in many places not heretofore supplied, because of the insufficient revenue therefrom to meet the expense of installing and maintaining manual exchanges.

How fascinating, and how different from today, that this telephone company clearly believed that the manual system was the standard model, while those impersonal automatic systems that lacked an actual operator were to be used only where the exchange was too small and unprofitable.  I suppose a telephone historian could pinpoint the year that the business model flipped and live operators started to be viewed by impatient customers as unprofitable annoyances who slowed things down.


Anyway, the 1905 Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Telephone Company has just been cataloged at the State Library in its Pamphlet Volume 1505, and is available for your reading pleasure.

Published in: on 24 March 2009 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Your Usual Childrens’ Story Book

I just added cataloging for our copy of a 31 page USDA booklet titled:

The Story of the Cattle Fever Tick : What Every Southern Child Should Know About Cattle Ticks : A Picture Book Which Shows How the Fever Ticks Steal Milk, Meat and Money from Farmers and Kill Thousands of their Cattle. Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture [G.P.O.], 1917.

This childrens’ story book begins with a letter from the chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry to the “school children of the south” asking them to help eradicate the ticks by “reading this story book and then getting your parents to fight cattle fever ticks in your county.”

The eradication effort was eventually successful — whether because because of advocacy by the kids or because of the “arsenical dipping solution” used — and today the focus of vigilance against these particular ticks is in the Texas counties along the Rio Grande.  (Now, if only we could get deer and mice to go through dipping tanks, maybe we could control the ticks that vector Lyme disease….)

Can’t make it to Harrisburg, but still want to see the pictures? Want to print out a copy of this booklet for children you know? You’re in luck. There are various digital versions available in the Internet Archive.

Published in: on 18 March 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Build a Better Icebox

In our copy of “Pamphlet No. 1” published in Baltimore by the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality in April 1913, one can read many suggestions about the proper care and feeding of infants.

After telling us that we should always keep milk on ice, but warm it up to body temperature before feeding the little nipper, we get this:

If you have not an ordinary ice box, a simple one can be made as follows: Get a wooden box about 18 inches square and 12 inches deep from the grocery store. Go to the tinsmith and have him make you a bottomless cylinder of tin, 12 inches in diameter and 9 inches deep, or a bottomless box of tin, 11 inches square and 9 inches deep.  Then have the tinsmith make another box of tin ….

It goes on, but I won’t include all the directions here.  (We could supply copies if readers want.)  In the “current economic climate” I suppose some folks might have to make their own simple ice boxes, and would want the complete directions. 

But does your grocer even have wooden boxes?  And do you know where your nearest tinsmith is?  Have you ever seen a working tinsmith except at a living history museum?

Published in: on 17 March 2009 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Three Pamphlets Among Many

At the library we’re all working away as hard as we can, trying to wrap up certain projects between now and the end of the fiscal year.

Still, I have to mention a couple pamphlets that I came across this week while cataloging bound pamphlet volumes. This particular volume had a number of temperance items, so I wasn’t surprised to see also this item:

The utility of ardent spirits: an address for an anti-temperance society / by Amicus Justitiae. Boston: Light and Horton, 1835.

But as it turns out, this is not actually an anti-temperance pamphlet of 32 pages. It is a satire. Read this, where the writer delineates the way that consuming strong drink and ardent spirits will prevent a family from running up debt:

A retailer of ardent spirits received an application from the wife of a man whom he was in the habit of supplying daily with large draughts of New England rum on credit, for some flour, sugar, and other necessary articles for the family, which she wished to obtain on her husband’s account. The retailer replied that ‘he could not supply her with those articles on the credit of her husband, as he should never get his pay for them, but if she would bring the money, he would be happy to furnish her.’ Thus you may perceive, the poor woman was prevented from incurring a debt which she had no means of discharging, and the family restrained from a luxurious indulgence in flour and sugar; and all through the influence of New England rum. (page 22)

Well, there you have it: a case of daily rum consumption keeping a woman from running her family into debt.

Then there’s the

Proceedings of the Congressional total abstinence society, at a meeting held in the hall of the House of representatives, Friday, February 25, 1842. New York: American Temperance Union, 1842.

They met at 7 p.m. right there in the Capitol. There were speeches. There were resolutions. There were testimonials. And, yes, the Hon. Mr. Wise of Virginia publicly signed the pledge.

And finally, I can’t resist adding mention of:

The man in the moon and moonshine in general: lecture for the benefit of the Charitable Fuel Society / by C.A. Adler, Providence, Nov. 20th 1851. [Providence, R.I.: Charitable Fuel Society, 1851].

I honestly don’t quite know what to make of this piece, which consists of 24 pages similar in tone to this:

The man in the Moon! Were I to deny the existence of such an individual, I should run the danger of being mobbed and stoned, or at least of being pronounced a German infidel, a dangerous disciple of Strauss; in the papal states the holy inquisition might take me up and burn me as a heretic; yet, though I have strained my eyes to the utmost, I never could discover any trace of him, and I have often thought it might be with him, as it is with ghosts and true love; everybody speaks of them, but very few have seen them. (pages 8-9)

Well, whatever, it’s here in our Pamphlet Volumes collection should someone want to work through the rest of it.

Published in: on 10 March 2009 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  


The title of this post is one of my newest vocabulary words.  I don’t believe I’d heard it before earlier this week when I cataloged a pamphlet from our Pamphlet Volume collection:  The Sloyd of America by Gustaf Larsson.

“Sloyd” is a Swedish system of manual training that focuses particularly on learning through wood carving, or — in the words of the inscription on the pamphlet’s title page — “Sloyd is tool work so arranged and employed as to stimulate and promote vigorous, intelligent self-activity for a purpose which the worker recognizes as good.”

It seems that between 1888 and 1890 a Mrs. Quincy A. Shaw was conducting “private experimental work” in some Boston public schools into the value of Sloyd.  Larsson’s pamphlet, with its many plates illustrating the products and plans illustrating an ideal classroom layout, is the result of Shaw’s experiments.

Larsson carried out a teacher training course in the philosophy and methods of Sloyd there in Boston.  At the time of the pamphlet, nearly 200 teachers had completed the course, “most of whom are now giving sloyd training to large numbers of children, as well as to adults, in public and private schools in widely distant parts of the United States.”

Published in: on 15 January 2009 at 11:28 am  Comments (1)  

Dorothea Dix Museum Collection of Asylum Reports

I just recently finished cataloging 178 reports from lunatic asylums, hospitals for the insane, and state hospitals that came to us from as part of the Dorothea Dix Museum Collection from the State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pa.  It really is an amazing set of documentation of the way we treated the mentally ill in instiutional care settings throughout the late 19th century.  A sample of the holdings include the …


“Annual report of the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum, Anchorage, Kentucky” for 1878, 1886, 1887


“Annual report of the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane at Middletown [New York] for the year ending November 30…” 1877-1879, 1884, 1886, 1888


“Annual report of the District Lunatic Asylum at Clonmel, comprising the North and South Ridings of the County of Tipperary [Ireland], for the year ending …”  1894 and 1898


“Annual report of the Eastern State Hospital of Virginia, for the fiscal year ending …” 1896-1898


“Annual report of the Somerset County [England] Pauper Lunatic Asylum.” 1878


“Report … of the State Lunatic Asylum, Austin, Texas” 1876, 1878-1880, 1886, 1888, 1893, 1896-1897


“Annual report of the Alabama Insane Hospital at Tuskaloosa [sic]” 1878, 1880


“Annual report of the Essex County Asylum for the Insane, Newark, N.J. for the year ending …”  1886-1888


“Annual report of the medical superintendent of the State Asylum for Insane Criminals [Auburn, NY]” 1886-1888


 “Biennial report of the Board of Trustees and Superintendent of the East Mississippi Insane Asylum to the Legislature of Mississippi for the years …” 1894/95, 1896/97


“Biennial report of the trustees and resident officials of the Dakota Hospital for the Insane. [ Yankton, Dakota Territory]” 1888


This is just a taste of what is in the 6 cubic feet of material.  The contents of the reports are actually fairly standardized, including: descriptions of the buildings and grounds (and usually the need for better funding to maintain them); medical reports describing treatment methodologies; summaries of coroner’s reports; statistical summaries of patient populations; and of the costs for food and other supplies.


The collection is especially strong in reports from Pennsylvania, New York, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The collection also includes two reports (1884 and 1889) from the Bethlem Royal Hospital (London, England), the source of the word “bedlam.”


Search the State Library’s online catalog for call number 361.21 D642 to see a list of all the reports.

Published in: on 28 October 2008 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Song to a City Pigeon

Today happens to be the 20th anniversary of my graduation from library school (Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana).  In celebration, I am posting the words of a song I cataloged into our rare collections library this week.  The item this is from is a bound set of Original Songs, Duetts [sic], Glees &c., Sacred, Moral and Amusing. Composed by E. Ives, Junr., Principal of the Philadelphia Musical Seminary. [Philadelphia: s.n., ca. 1835].  There was no bibliographic record for the collection in OCLC’s WorldCat database, and there are only 2 holding libraries in OCLC for copies of this particular song (Brown University and University of Virginia).

Anyway, here are the song’s lyrics. (I’m not sure whether Ives — a distant relative of composer Charles Ives — considered it sacred, moral, or amusing. I’ll leave that up to you.) Happy pigeon watching!

Song to a City Pigeon

Poetry by N. P. Willis, Esqr.

Music by E. Ives, Junr., Principal of the Philadelphia Musical Seminary

Philadelphia: George Willig, [ca. 1835]


O come to my window thou beautiful dove,

Thy daily visits have touch’d my love;

I watch thy coming and list the note

That stirs so low in thy melloe throat

And my joy is high,

My joy is high__to catch thy gentle eye.

            Then come to my window thou beautiful dove

Thy daily visits have touch’d my love

I watch thy coming and list the note,

That stirs so low in thy mellow throat.


Oh! Why dost thou sit on the heated eaves,

And leave the wood with its freshen’d leaves?

Or why art thou haunting the sultry street

When forest paths are so cool and sweet?

            How canst thou bear

The noise of people___this sultry air?

            Then come &c.___


Thou, Pilgrim, alone of the feather’d race,

Dost look unscared on the human face;

And thou alone with a wing to flee

Dost love with man in his haunts to be

            And the “gentle dove”

Is made a title for trust and love.

            Then come &c.___


It is not by chance_ thou art kept apart

By Him who wisely hath tam’d thy heart,

To stir the love for the bright and fair

That else were seal’d in the crowded air;

            I sometimes dream

Angelic rays from thy pinions stream.

            Then come &c.___


O come to me ever, when daylight leaves

The page I read to my humble eaves,

And wash thy breast in the hollow spout,

And murmur thy low sweet music out,

            I hear and see

Rich lessons of heaven sweet bird in thee.

            Then come &c.___


Published in: on 8 August 2008 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Pennsylvania Publishers in our PA Imprints Collection – Philadelphia “L”

All the usual caveats, warnings, apologies, explanations, and so on regarding this – as usual – preliminary list.  (The first item on this list, by the way, is a little problematic. I haven’t been able to inspect it, but the catalog record suggests that it might actually be from Paris; and I’m not sure if the catalog accurately describes the item on our shelf.)

Philadelphia – Imprimerie de La fourcade – 1795
Philadelphia – T. Lang – 1791
Philadelphia – Lang & Ustick; by Lang & Ustick, for M. Carey; for Thomas Stephens, by Lang and Ustick; by Lang and Ustick, for T. Ustick – 1795-1796
Philadelphia – Latimer and co. – 1832
Philadelphia – J. Laval & S.F. Bradford, P.K. & C. pr. – 1829
Philadelphia – Daniel Lawrence; D. Laurence – 1792-1806
Philadelphia – Lea and Blanchard – 1838-1850
Philadelphia – W.A. Leary – 1839-1850
Philadelphia – Leary & Getz – 1850
Philadelphia – Richard Lee – 1797
Philadelphia – Leineweber und Rex – 1840
Philadelphia – Hubbard Lester – 1809
Philadelphia – H.C. Lewis – 1818
Philadelphia – Enoch Lewis, ed. – 1828
Philadelphia – Lindsay & Blakiston – 1844-1852
Philadelphia – J. Lippincott – 1840
Philadelphia – E. Littell; John S. Littell – 1822-1840
Philadelphia – Littell & Henry – 1818
Philadelphia – by E. Littell and by Thomas Holden – 1833
Philadelphia – by B. Graves for T. Lloyd and B. Graves – 1806
Philadelphia – James Locken – 1832
Philadelphia – Samuel Longcope – 1798
Philadelphia – H. Longstreth – 1850
Philadelphia – J. Lyon – 1799

Published in: on 18 June 2008 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pennsylvania Publishers in our PA Imprints Collection – Philadelphia “J” and “K”

This is the next installment of the preliminary list of imprints from Pennsylvania cities and towns. This post includes printers and publishers from Philadelphia whose names start with the letters “J” or “K.” (We have none that start with “I”.)  This list comes from the online catalog of the “Pennsylvania Imprints to 1865″ collection in the Rare Collections Library at the State Library of Pennsylvania.  Think of the dates as ‘flourished’ dates.  The dates represent only the span of examples from the particular presses that are on the shelves there; while printers/publishers came and went, many would have been in business longer that the date span shown here.

Note, too, in this list that there is (or can be) considerable confusion when it comes to names like Kimber, Kite, or Johnson (for the latter, e.g., “Benjamin,” “Jacob,” and then “Benjamin & Jacob” with overlapping date spans).  At the moment, I’m trusting the catalog, but these entries all must be verified by actually looking at the books to see how it is printed, something I cannot do while the collection is still in the midst of being moved.

As always: this is a preliminary list.  Printers and publishers are mixed together here.

Philadelphia – Joseph James – 1787-1789
Philadelphia – Dr. D. Jayne & Son – 1898
Philadelphia – Enoch Johnson – 1814
Philadelphia – Benjamin Johnson – 1792-1807
Philadelphia – Jacob Johnson – 1795
Philadelphia – Benjamin & Jacob Johnson – 1797-1800
Philadelphia – Johnson – 1803
Philadelphia – Robert Johnson – 1806
Philadelphia – L. Johnson – 1832
Philadelphia – G.W. Loammi Johnson – 1844
Philadelphia – T. & J.W. Johnson & Co – 1858
Philadelphia – Johnston, Megraw, Boileau, & Harrison – 1812
Philadelphia – M. Jones – 1809
Philadelphia – J.H. Jones, printer – 1849
Philadelphia – Jones, Hoff, & Derrick – 1793-1794
Philadelphia – James & Johnson – 1790-1791
Philadelphia – Johnson & Warner – 1808-1815
Philadelphia – J. C. Kayser – 1823-
Philadelphia – James Kay, Jun. and Brother – 1829-1846
Philadelphia – S. Keimer; Samuel Keimer – 1724-1728
Philadelphia – S. Keimer, a D. Harry – 1730
Philadelphia – Key and Biddle – 1833-1852
Philadelphia – Key, Mielke & Biddle – 1832
Philadelphia – Key & Simpson – 1796
Philadelphia – Kiderlen and Stollmeyer – 1837-1838
Philadelphia – Emmor Kimber – 1824
Philadelphia – Kimber, Conrad – 1804-1814
Philadelphia – Kimber & Richardson – 1812
Philadelphia – Kimber and Sharpless; Kimber & Sharpless; Kimber und Sharpless – 1816-1841
Philadelphia – King & Baird – 1840-1865
Philadelphia – B. & T. Kite; Benjamin and Thomas Kite – 1807-1827
Philadelphia – T. Kite; Thomas Kite; T. Kite & co. – 1828-1833
Philadelphia – Joseph and William Kite; Joseph Kite & Co. – 1834-1842
Philadelphia – Nathan Kite – 1835
Philadelphia – B. & T. Kite, and S. Pike – 1811
Philadelphia – Kite & Walton – 1848-1850
Philadelphia – J.G. Klemm – 1824

Published in: on 17 June 2008 at 9:40 am  Comments (2)