Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thoreau and the Olive Branch

Trudging in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau…..

Thoreau Family burial plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Mass.

      I’ll be quick to admit that I admire Henry David Thoreau.   He was one smart man, and he didn’t have a lot of patience for those of us who weren’t as smart, or as well-read as he.
            He set some awfully high standards for himself, and for the rest of America, and we might do well to aim for those standards. 
            I’ve enjoyed walking around Concord, Massachusetts over the past few years.  I’ve walked all around the Concord River, including the old North Bridge, where the Minutemen fired upon the British Redcoats, and the Revolutionary War began, on April 19, 1775.  You can feel that Thoreau has been all over this place.
            I’ve walked in the woods all around Walden Pond, and visited the spot where Thoreau built the little cabin that he lived in from July 4th, 1845 to September 6th, 1847.
I've been swimming in Walden Pond a few times.  One time I had my car keys in the pocket of my bathing suit, which caused me to ruin a $100 remote key device.
            Thoreau would not have had much patience with someone who (1) relied upon an automobile to get around, and (2) was so lazy as to use a remote operating device to lock the car.

I just came upon a copy of the Boston Olive Branch, the issue for April 15th, 1848, and that reminded me of a passage in Thoreau’s Walden.  He was complaining about the fact that Americans spend far more time and money feeding their bodies than they do their minds.
“It is time that we had uncommon schools,  that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women.  It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities…”
“Why should our life be in any respect provincial? If we will read newspapers, why not skip the gossip of Boston and take the best newspaper in the world at once? -–not be sucking the pap of “neutral family” (non-political) papers, or browsing ‘Olive Branches’ here in New England.”  [pp. 106-107, Walden, A Fully Annotated Edition, Edited by Jeffrey S. Cramer, Yale University Press, 2004.]
Thoreau looked down his nose at Olive Branch, but if you open up this 163-year-old newspaper, you may share my appreciation of its contents.  Papers of the middle of the 19th century did a lot to educate their readers, as well as inform and entertain them. 
This Olive Branch carries several commentaries about the Potato Disease (that was at that time causing many thousands in Ireland to starve to death).
There’s a story blasting William Lloyd Garrison, (who later became a famous abolitionist) and another telling of how Benjamin Franklin handled a salon full of French intellectuals who were all ridiculing the Holy Bible, by pulling a little book from his pocket and reading them a passage which they all admired.  “Tell us what this book is!” 
“Certainly, gentlemen,” said Doctor Franklin.  “It is no other than your good-for-nothing Bible; and I have read you the prayer of the prophet Habakkuk.”
This Olive Branch reports the numbers and nationalities of immigrants arriving in Boston and New York recently, and provides recipes for making your own toothpaste, shaving cream, and hair pomade.
I can imagine what Thoreau would say if he saw people following the noble movements of the Kardashians, pondering the coupling and de-coupling of celebrities in People Magazine, or the mindless back-and-forth of many on Facebook, Smartphones and the like.

Front page of Boston Olive Branch, Saturday, April 15, 1848

Olive Branch, Boston, Saturday, April 15, 1848; Christianity, Mutual Rights, Polite Literature, General Intelligence, Agriculture, the Arts.  1848 Publisher and Editor, Norris, Rev. Thomas F.           Boston, MA: Thomas F. Norris, Boston Olive Branch.  4 pp. 46 x 60 cm. Boston Olive Branch was an important weekly newspaper of the middle of the 19th century.  Henry David Thoreau mentioned it in Walden, and Louisa May Alcott was published in it in the 1850s. Original Poem written for the Olive Branch, "The Poet's Dream of Heaven" by E.M. Tappan. Original Tale, written for the Olive Branch "Life in the Woods, An Indian Tale" by J.H. Robinson. Discussion of "The Potato Disease" citing work by Dr. Klotsch of the Royal Herbarium in Berlin for prevention of the disease, which at this time was devastating the potato crop in Ireland. "Railroad Matters" reports that Hon. Daniel Webster has made two long and eloquent speeches against the Old Colony Railroad being extended. “The Old Colony Railroad has been managed in a most rascally way, but Hon. E.H. Derby has been at last wisely put at the head of its affairs.” Somerville--newspaper advocates for some of it to be annexed to Cambridge. "The Humbug of Mesmerism" discusses supposed murder of young Bruce of Winchendon, MA, last seen at Eastman's Stable in Deacon St. Report of "Anti-Sabbath Convention" led by William Lloyd Garrison, "a name associated with many of the wildest and most destructive schemes, which radicalism, or diabolism, has invented. Mr. G. is the chief actor in all the various movements of the 'come-out' factionists."  Recipes for Patey's Orris Tooth Paste, Pomade Divine, Rose Pomatum, Shaving Cream and Sovereign Remedy for a Cough. Newspaper, edges quite wrinkled, several small holes in pages, poor. (8223) $38.00. Newspapers/History/Agriculture.                

Patey's Orris Tooth Paste. Take 1 pound Paris white, half pound rose pink, 3 ounces orris root; alum, 1/2 ounce ; oil cloves and nutmegs, each 1 drachm. Use honey enough to form a paste.

The Personal Navigator also offers these newspapers from Thoreau’s era:

Boston Daily Atlas, The; Boston, Monday Morning, November 18, 1844 Polk Wins, Clay defeated. 1844 Boston, MA: Wm. Hayden & Thos. M. Brewer. New England Guards' Festival was held September 17th. The Old Guards, who formed in 1812, had not borne arms or stood in ranks for 32 years, but still presented a fine military appearance. Dinner and Speeches.  Hon. Abbott Lawrence rose and told of how Commodore Bainbridge in 1814 had called upon the Guards to go to Marblehead to protect the U.S. Frigate Constitution, which had been forced into the harbor by two British men-of-war. Editorial reports vote totals in New England, and several other states.  Although all totals are not in, it appears that Henry Clay, the Whig candidate, has been defeated by James Knox Polk, the Democratic candidate.  Editorial praises the Whigs of the State, and there is pride in the old Bay State that Locofocoism and Jacobinism have been expelled from our soil. [Locofocos had been the radical wing of the Democratic Party, but soon were absorbed into the whole party. They were against a national bank, paper currency, and  tariffs.] Paper announces that an exhibition of the new electro magnetic telegraph in Boston has been continued for another week. Interested persons are invited to see this exhibition of this astonishing invention, which may prove useful.  Surveying on parts of the New York to New Haven Rail Road are going on now. There are two long editorials about Henry Clay; newspaper is clearly disappointed that Polk has been elected. Advertisement for Sale of the Main Line of the Public Works of Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Canal and Railroad Company. 4 pp. 58 x 74 cm. Newspaper, very good. (7435) $35.00. History

 Boston Daily Atlas, The, Saturday morning, June 19, 1847, vol. XV No. 302 Boston, MA: The Atlas.  Fast Driving (Jehu-like) in Roxbury; they were fined one dollar and cents. Report from Mexico that Santa Anna has resigned. Piracy sponsored by Mexico-- American vessel Carmelita seized off Spain. The Lind mania still rages in London. “Every thing in town has a Lindish tinge.” "The President's visit: He will leave Washington on Tuesday next (June 22) for Baltimore, where he will remain the whole of Wednesday; thence he will take the cars for Philadelphia on Thursday and remain there on Friday; from Philadelphia he will take the train  for New York, and arrive on Saturday. He will proceed to Boston, and probably thence to Albany.  From Albany he will take a pleasant sail on one of our crack steamboats to West Point, take a view of things there, and return to the capital soon after.   Mr. J. Knox Walker, the President's private Secretary, with his lady, and Miss Rucker, niece of Mrs. Polk, left yesterday for West Point, and will return today and proceed immediately to Washington. The estimable lady of the President, in company with her niece, will leave Washington next Saturday for Tennessee, where they propose to spend the summer for the benefit of their health."  4 pp. 60 x 76 cm. Huge format paper--you have to have long arms to read this. Some dampstain, pinholes in folds, good. (5168) $28.00. History.

Poor Dr. Parkman

Boston Daily Evening Traveler, Saturday, December 1, 1849 Boston, MA: Henry Flanders & Co. Review of the week: Bad fire in Charlestown, another in Lawrence; more than usual burglaries.  Disappearance of Dr. George Parkman, a man of very great wealth, suggests he may have been murdered. List of ships  that have sailed for California; speculation that many adventurers in that golden land will fall short of their expectations. Bizarre story of finding parts of body, which may be Dr. Parkman's, in room beneath Prof. Webster.  Webster is being held.  4 pp. 46 x 62 cm. (6279)  $24.00. History

Boston Weekly Messenger, Wednesday Evening, September 1, 1841, Vol. XXXI No. 10. Boston, MA: Nathan Hale. New Bank Bill passed by U.S. House of Representatives; President Tyler has declared he will veto it; Riot in Washington in reaction to veto message. In campaign for President of Texas, Burnet leads Sam Houston; The Houston Telegraph says Houston's moral character is so outrageously bad it is compelled to go against him. Edward Everett of Massachusetts has been rejected by the Senate as ambassador to England on the grounds that he is an abolitionist. 4 pp. 52 x 68 cm. Newspaper, pages browned, pinholes in intersection of folds, good. (6117) $23.00. Printed Matter/Ephemera

Boston Weekly Messenger, Wednesday Evening, December 11, 1844, Vol. XXXIV No. 25.  Boston, MA: Nathan Hale. Long message to Congress from President John Tyler; editorial criticizes President for windy style. Much about Treaty with Republic of Texas; messages from J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of State; M.C. Perry, about Macedonian off the coast of Africa.  4 pp. 52 x 70 cm. Newspaper, slight tears in folds, quite browned at center top front fold, fair. (6124) $25.00. History

Christian Register. Devoted to Unitarian Christianity and Sound Morals, Literature and News, Saturday, May 4, 1844, Vol. XXIII No. 18 Boston, MA: Christian Register. Wealth and Luxury of the Masters as it Affects the Slaves; Popery--of lording it over the consciences of others; Treaty of Annexation of the State of Texas. 4 pp. 48 x 62 cm. Paper periodical, Very good. (3551) $23.00. History/Religious/Newspapers

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