Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Metamorphic View of General Nathaniel Lyon

[1] Civil War Patriotic Notepaper.
A Civil War 
by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

AN earlier publication here — titled “A Metamorphic View of Jefferson Davis” in Yesterday’s Papers, August 23, 2012 — featured a patriotic sheet of writing paper produced in 1861, depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis going to war a soldier and returning as a jackass. The clever image, when rotated 180 degrees, produced the transformation: 

[2a] Gen. Lyon, of Missouri — Topsy-Turvy Envelope.

SIMILAR. I recently came across a similar treatment of Union General Nathaniel Lyon (1818-61) on a patriotic envelope. Unlike the scathing Jefferson Davis caricature, this was a highly laudatory image of an early Federal war hero – the first Union General to die in the Civil War. Punning on the general’s surname, the unknown artist metamorphosed his mustachioed profile into the “king of the beasts” and in a rhymed couplet contrasted his image with the earlier well-known Jefferson Davis topsy-turvy:
A Lion, loyal, eager for the fray,
No traitorous ass discovered by the bray.
The image needs to be turned 90 degrees to see the snarling lion’s face and read the verse. 

[2b] Gen. Lyon, of Missouri — Topsy-Turvy Envelope.

YOUNG Nathaniel, a Connecticut farm boy, the seventh of nine children of Amasa and Kezia Lyon, secured an appointment to The United States Military Academy at West Point in 1837. After graduating high in his class in 1841, he served in the second Seminole War and in the war with Mexico in 1846-48. He was wounded and promoted to a captaincy before serving in California and later in the bitter 1850s Kansas struggles between pro- and anti-slavery factions.

[3] Nathaniel Lyon CDV.
TENSION. During the tense months between South Carolina’s secession in December 1860 and the commencement of open warfare in April 1861, the original “border” states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri formed a troubling “third world” of unaligned loyalties. (A “brother against brother” situation would prevail in the border areas throughout the war: East Tennessee unionists attempted to break away from secessionist Tennessee in 1861, while several Virginia counties would form the new state of West Virginia in 1863.) Elected legislators and their constituents included both Union and Secession supporters and a mass of undecided or neutral people. Missouri proved to be a dangerous flashpoint when pro-secession Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson began to cast his eyes on the Federal arsenal in St. Louis.

[4] Claiborne Fox Jackson.
HE RECKONED without the fiery-tempered Union regular, Nathaniel Lyon, who had been ordered to St. Louis to protect the munitions. Raising a force of mainly German volunteers, Lyon combined political strategy with a show of force to remove the stores to Illinois. In retaliation, Governor Jackson ordered out the new Missouri State Guard to begin training for eventual Confederate service. Lyon preemptively marched his equally untrained force against Camp Jackson, took prisoners and marched them through St. Louis. Riots ensued. Lyon’s men fired on civilian mobs, killing 28 in the “Camp Jackson Affair.”

[5-6] Missouri Confederates, 1861.
Lyon was relieved of his duties, but soon received a commission as Brigadier General of Volunteers, in charge of all loyal Missouri forces on May 17. Governor Jackson appointed ex-Governor Sterling Price to command the Confederate Missouri State Guard. After peace negotiations failed, Jackson and Price attempted to reach the state capital at Jefferson City. Lyon pursued Price’s green troops westward and, in a rare early Union victory, Lyon’s equally neophyte army prevented the capture of the state capital by defeating Price at Boonville on June 17, 1861.

[7] General Sterling Price, CSA.
Lyon’s triumph put the Missouri River firmly under Union control for the rest of the war. A patriotic envelope carried a cartoon showing Missouri, depicted as a cat in a cap and apron, boiling a pot of “Secession Soup” captioned “Missouri tasting Secession Soup and gets burnt! and thinks she won’t go in.” Another cartoon, titled Strayed, punned on the names of the three principal leaders, advertising for
“a mischievous JACK[SON] who was frightened and ran away from his Leader by the sudden appearance of a Lion. He is of no value whatever and only a low PRICE can be given for his capture. (signed) [Uncle] Sam.”
[8] Strayed – Battle of Boonville Cartoon.

LUCK RAN OUT for Lyon two months later, however. Many of his ninety-day volunteers had returned home. His “Army of the West,” made up of troops from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and some regular U.S. Army forces, was short of supplies and outnumbered 2 to 1. A combined force of Missouri State Guards and regular Confederate troops under ex-Texas Ranger General Ben McCulloch now opposed Lyon. The two armies met at Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, on August 10, 1861.

[9] General Lyon, Harper’s Weekly, August 31, 1861.

BATTLE.  This first major battle west of the Mississippi was characterized by confusion and blunders on both sides. Lyon divided his forces, hoping to flank the enemy, but he and Col. Franz Sigel soon lost contact with each other. Attacking Louisiana troops were mistaken for their own gray-clad Iowa infantry and routed the Unionists. Lyon received two wounds and had a horse shot from under him. While rallying his troops, mounted on a borrowed horse, Nathaniel Lyon was shot through the heart. The martyred general became a rallying point for Union sympathizers.

[10] Missouri tasting Secession Soup — Envelope.
Although Governor Jackson rammed an ordinance of secession through the legislature, Missouri remained in the Federal fold. A majority of the state population still opposed quitting the Union. Although Confederate forces could not drive increasing numbers of Federal troops out of the state, Missouri would become the scene of some of the most vicious guerrilla warfare in North America since the Carolina campaigns of the early 1780s.

[11] Gen. Nathaniel Lyon — Envelope.

“BUSHWHACKERS” under William Quantrill, “Bloody Bill” Anderson and other ruthless commanders kept Missouri in a state of constant violence. Alumni of these irregular guerilla bands included Jesse and Frank James and the Younger brothers, who would carry on a private war against bankers, railroads and other capitalists until Jesse’s assassination in 1882.

[12] English Envelope, 1840.

POSTAL ACT.  The phenomenon of patriotic and comic envelopes and writing paper had begun in England during the 1840s, immediately following the introduction of prepaid postage stamps. In America, the 1845 Postal Act established rates based on weight and distance. (Previously, a separate wrapper or envelope had counted as a second sheet, and doubled the rate, which is why envelopes were rare before 1845.) With the popularity of the newfangled envelopes, merchants and politicians saw a golden opportunity to include advertising on all their correspondence.

[13] Charles Magnus Envelope.

DESIGNS.  The four-way election of 1860 gave scope for stationers and printers to produce and market decorative envelopes touting the candidates, but the outbreak of civil war a few months later spurred the creation and distribution of perhaps 15,000 different designs. Many people were captivated by their color and variety and began to collect them for their own sake or as mementos of the national crisis. They ran the gamut from crude and amateurish anonymous prints to the finely lithographed and hand colored products of Charles Magnus. Lacking the manpower and essential paper, inks and presses, a handful of Confederate publishers nevertheless managed to issue a small number of Southern inspired patriotic envelopes.

[14] General Boar-a-Guard, On Duty — Envelope.

PUBLISHERS.  One of the more prolific publishers was the New-York Union Envelope Depot at 144 Broadway, New York City. The Lyon/Lion design was one of hundreds of patriotic, sentimental and comic envelopes issued by the firm. One design lampooned Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard as “General Boar-a-Guard,” as a porker in uniform, a Confederate “Stars and Bars” flag attached to his curly tail.

[15] A Southern Gorilla (Guerilla) — Envelope.
Another memorable cartoon showed a monstrous “Southern Gorilla (Guerilla)” accoutred with a musket, a sword, two pistols, a bowie knife, a whip and a canteen of “rot gut.” (The accompanying verse was plagiarised from the New York Daily Tribune for June 17, 1861, the day of Lyon’s victory at Boonville.) A more subdued design imagined “Jeff Davis’ Passport: Mr. Jeff. Davis and friends are permitted to leave the State of Virginia, (signed) Winfield Scott.

[16] Recruits wanted for the Brave Southern Army — Envelope.

BY 1863, after both sides began to tire of the unending battles and high casualties, the patriotic stationery fad waned, although printed envelopes with war themed designs continued to be produced though 1865. These tended to be more serious and sober than the unbridled hyper-patriotic messages of 1861. A popular theme was “the Soldier’s Farewell.” 

[17] Jeff Davis Passport — Envelope.
[18] Soldier’s Farewell — Envelope.
[19] General Frans Sigel, CDV.
[20] General Ben McCulloch, CSA.
For Further Reading: Steven R. Boyd, Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Nelvana of the Northern Lights

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun” Cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert W. Service, 19o7
“Many of my sketches were painted after ten P.M., some of them at midnight while the sun was skipping along the horizon till it finally bounced back up. It seemed strange after the sun had passed its full day of shining to see it sink in the northwest and then rise in a few minutes. I saw it but I didn't believe it. The skies I found very fascinating and often quite queer – that is, they would be if seen over a pastoral landscape – but naturally perfect in the settings where sketched.” Franz Johnston, quoted in Canada Moves North by Richard Finnie, 1942

by John Adcock

MY OWN infatuation with superheroes did not last long. I began reading Superman and Batman in 1956 and outgrew them when Steve Ditko left Marvel comics in 1966, just when the stories and art were becoming stale and formulaic and comics began turning to the Burroughsian fantasy and horror genres. My interest these days is mostly in the historical background of comic books and their creators. The 14 year old boy that still lurks somewhere deep in this craggy exterior enjoyed this present Nelvana collection very much but the adult is a little more critical.

[2] “The Devil Ship” – Nelvana of the Northern Lights 
NOT surprising. Since Canadian comic talent was drawn from newspaper staff, high school kids, art school students, sign painters, failed fine artists and a lumberjack or two, Canadian comic books consisted of 90% filler pages and 10% semiprofessional material. Despite the wretched and amateurish color printing (which is part of the charm of Golden Age comic books) these comics had a captive audience when American comics were restricted at the border. For the most part the generation that bought them fresh off the newsstands did not remember them fondly – most I have talked to were relieved to return to superior American product.

[3] Triumph-Adventure Comics, No. 1, August 1941
DUE to the use of heavy blacks and the over-reliance on a paint-brush inking style Adrian Dingle’s artwork somewhat resembled that of Milton Caniff. His inking was most impressive in the early issues which took place under mystical northern lights. The sky shimmers and shakes and everything is wet and glistening. The stories are typical of the Golden Age and its stereotypical heroes and villains. Story and art are above average for Golden Age comics.

“Many, many years ago – as legend has it – KOLIAK the Mighty King of the Northern Lights married a mortal. This so angered the gods that a curse was placed upon Koliak forbidding him to be seen again by earthly beings. His spirit may still be seen in the form of brilliant lights that streak majestically across the northern skies. His beautiful daughter NELVANA inherits her mother’s earthly characteristics and is often seen by human eyes. Her brother TANERO carries the curse of his father and so must never be seen by those of the white race.” – introductory blurb to Nelvana of the Northern Lights

CANADIAN WARTIME comics, which survived in such small quantity, have been highly sought after by collectors at home and abroad. The real value of this nostalgic collection is the rediscovery and reintroduction of Canadian heroes, by Canadian creators, to a new audience. Comic book fans (and Canadian cartoonists) have proudly and enthusiastically embraced Nelvana of the Northern Lights and further collections are planned.

[4] “The Devil Ship”
Canadian Patent Office Records for June 24, 1941, credit Nelvana of the Northern Lights to Franz Johnston, Paul Johnston and Adrian Dingle. Franz (originally Francis) Hans Johnston (1888-1949) and Adrian Dingle co-wrote the first story in the first issue of Triumph-Adventure; and the cartoonist Adrian Dingle took over all writing with the second issue.

Nelvana made her entrance as one of many features in the first monthly issue of Triumph-Adventure Comics, published by Hillborough Studios in Toronto, Ontario in August 1941. Hillborough’s founders were Adrian Dingle and brothers René and André Kulbach. The editor was Henry Helier Hamon. (A curious echo of that name can be found in Harry J. Halperin who edited the comic books Canadian Heroes and Famous Adventure Stories for Educational Projects Inc. of Montreal in 1942 and 1943.)

AFTER the seventh issue of Triumph Comics, as it was titled from issue No. 5, it was published by Commercial Signs of Canada/Bell Features from 1942 until 1946. Six adventures were printed in Bell’s single issue Nelvana of the Northern Lights in 1945. One story was published in Super Duper Comics, published by F.E. Howard in 1947.

[5] Trappers by Franz Johnston
Hope Nicholson, one of the two comic fans responsible for this Nelvana collection (the other is Rachel Richey), discovered that Nelvana was based not on legend, but on a real person, an Inuit woman Franz Johnston met in the Coppermine community in the Northwest Territories in 1939 (read her account, The Real Nelvana, HERE). Johnston may have sketched the real-life Nelvana; perhaps she was the “Eskimo madonna” in the Johnston quote below.

“The majority of my studies were landscape, this being necessary because figure subjects later developed into serious paintings must have convincing settings. I painted trees, rock, snow, ice, freezing, melting, dogs, carioles, sleds, komatiks, igloos, Indians, Eskimos, buildings, trappers, the doctor and his dogs, Indian madonnas and Eskimo madonnas, wild flowers, canoes, etc. – countless subjects, all of which will constitute an authentic record of the country.” Canada Moves North by Richard Finnie, 1942
Nicholson and Richey gained the rights to Nelvana in 2013 and formed CGA Comics to introduce the obscure character to a new audience. The result was this great hardcover volume of Nelvana of the Northern Lights featuring the complete collection of Nelvana stories in black & white and four-color. Due to scarcity, and after a painstaking search for surviving issues, one complete story had to be captured from microfilm.

[6] Adrian Dingle panel detail
Nelvana of the Northern Lights is available in digital or hardcover HERE. 
IDW Publishing copies will be available on Amazon in November HERE.

Hope Nicholson’s Brok Windsor project (HERE) has been fully funded and should be available by this time next year. Rachel Richey’s Johnny Canuck (HERE) is ongoing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dessins de G. Zilberty

[1904] “Monsieur Grandoreille” or Mister Bigear, 2-page comic strip by G. Gilberty, inks by É. Crété (who, working in pen and ink, emphasises the age of woodcut atmosphere by adding ‘Sc’ for ‘sculpted’ to his signature), in Supplément illustré du Petit Comtois, 5me Année, No 8, February 21.

2 [page 1 of 2, scene 1 to 12]
Santos — named ‘Santos Dounon’ because of his enormous ears that make his father think of a celebrated aviator — is a brilliant pupil who shelters his friends when it rains

3 [page 2 of 2, scene 13 to 24]
… back home, the grown-up Santos is now dopey, his ears cut off by savages.

4 [1901 Santos-Dumont publicity photo]
The fantasy name ‘Santos Dounon’ refers to large-eared Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont (b.1873) whose solo flight in a dirigible airship around the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, is a major event in 1901.
5 [1907 dream strip]
“Yes, you have a mild case of what is termed as Elephantis Earopolis. You’ll get over it!” is a doctor’s diagnosis in this April 18, 1907, Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strip by Silas (penname of Winsor McCay).

6 [1960s ears of Gus Bofa]
 Apart from the fictional Monsieur Grandoreille, the Frenchman with the largest ears might be author-artist Gustave Blanchot, aka Gus Bofa (b.1883) — as Emmanuel Pollaud-Dulian’s 2013 biography of Gus Bofa shows, read about it HERE.

 Ear-propelled flying elephant Dumbo, created by Walt Disney’s animation studios, rises to world fame in 1941.

Updated August 7, 2014, with thanks to the Platinum Age Comics List.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brok Windsor and Johnny Canuck

At the moment there are two ongoing Kickstarter campaigns pertaining to World War II era Canadian comic book reprint collections: Hope Nicholson’s Brok Windsor project (HERE) and Rachel Richey’s Johnny Canuck (HERE). The duo’s previous reprint project, Nelvana of the Northern Lights, available in hardcover and digital, can be purchased HERE.


Friday, August 1, 2014

George Berger and his Sons 1796-1868

[1] Tales of Chivalry; or, Perils by Flood and Field, page with a wood engraving by S. Williams, 1854.

by Robert J. Kirkpatrick

GEORGE BERGER was a very active bookseller and publisher in the first half of the 19th century, who worked out of Holywell Street, off the Strand, and who at one point, prior to the arrival of W.H. Smith, was the largest newsagent in London (Louis James, Fiction for the Working Man, 1963). Yet, as was the case with many of his contemporaries – George Purkess, William Strange, and George Cowie, for example – very little was known about him. Until now…

George Berger was born in the summer of 1796, and baptised on 8 August 1796 at St. James’s Church, Clerkenwell. His parents were George (1768-1835) and Mary Ann (née Webb) Berger, who had married on 6 August 1795 at St. Mary’s, Lambeth. George was the first of four children, the others being William Robert (baptised 16 September 1798), Mary Ann (b. 4 September 1802), and James Henry (b. 3 November 1807).

George junior married Rachel (sometimes spelt Rachael) Camplin (born in Louth, Lincolnshire around 1801), at St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, on 20 July 1819. They went on to have at least eleven children: Lucretia Rachael (baptised 29 October 1820), John George (8 September 1822), Frederick Thomas (12 September 1824), Jabez Camplin (17 December 1826), Joseph Alfred (9 November 1828), Theodore Thomas (1 May 1831), Rachel Sarah (13 January 1833), George Henry (9 November 1834), James David (9 February 1837), Sarah Louisa (12 March 1843), and Lydia (April 1839).

The baptism records for the first four of these children show that George was a compositor at Printing House Lane, Blackfriars, in 1820; a printer in Fetter Lane in 1822 and 1824; and a compositor in Fetter Lane in 1826. There are no detailed records online for the baptisms of the other children, but by 1841 George was describing himself as a bookseller, living in Finchley with his wife and six of his children. He remained in Finchley for the rest of his life – in 1851 his family had been joined by his mother-in-law, Mary Camplin, described in the census as a housekeeper; and in 1861 he was living in Friern Barnet Lane, with his wife, mother-in-law, three of his daughters and a servant.

PUBLISHED. As a publisher Berger, who operated out of Holywell Street (initially at no. 42, moving to 19-20 around 1838), Strand, was particularly well-known for his “unstamped” newspapers, periodicals which carried news and should therefore have been subject to the Newspaper Tax, but which were sold as general publications. His first periodical appears to have been the Satchel; A Repository of Wit, Whimsies, and What-not, launched in March 1831 in partnership with George Purkess and which ran for nine numbers. He followed this with the English Figaro, launched in January 1832 and which survived for just two numbers; the New Entertaining Press and London Advertiser (published in partnership with George Purkess – January 1832-33); the Cab (jointly published with George Purkess and William Strange, March - July 1832); the Literary Censor (March 1832 - one number only); the Penny Novelist (August 1832 - February 1834, which included original and reprinted fiction); the Maids, Wives and Widows’ Penny Magazine and Gazette of Fashion (October 1832 - July 1833, published by Berger in Holywell Street and Westley & Co. in Bristol, and from 16 March 1833 from The Office, 49 Holywell Street); the Penny Lancet (an attempt to usurp the better-known medical journal the Lancet, launched in 1832 and priced at sixpence, whereas Berger’s shabby and dubious version was priced at one penny – it lasted for just three months); the Ladies’ Penny Gazette (October 1832 - September 1834); and the Reformer, or Schoolmaster Abroad, a political and literary miscellany (1832).

[2] The Satchel; A Repository of Wit, Whimsies, and What-not. Containing 14 Engravings, and 72 pages, wood-engraved cover of No. 1, March 5, 1831.

MORE. Several more, often short-lived, periodicals, covering a wide range of subjects, followed in succeeding years, including the Prodigy (August 1833, one number?); the Phrenologist (1833, one number); the Cabinet of Wonders (October 1832-?); the Literary Cyclopaedia (Jan-Feb 1834); the Advocate and Labourer’s Friend (1835, 10 numbers); Fraser’s Literary Chronicle (1835 – 26 numbers until 1836, when it was taken over by another publisher); the Oracle of Health; A Penny Journal of Medical Instruction and Amusement (1834-35, 31 numbers); the Mechanic and Chemist (1836-42); the Town and Country Literary Chronicle (1838); the Literary and Political Repository (1838, 40 numbers); the Literary World, A Journal of Popular Information and Entertainment (1839-40, 79 numbers); the American Miscellany (1840); the Penny Times (1841, one number only?); Chambers’s London Journal (1841-43, published in conjunction with several others, including William Strange); the People’s Phrenological Journal (1843-44); Captain Pidding’s Chinese Olio and Tea Talk (1844-45, 53 numbers); the Star (1843-44); and the Magazine for All the Boys (1845, one number only). One of his most successful ventures was the Ladies’ Gazette of Fashion, launched in 1842 and which was taken over by his son John George in 1868.

SERIALS. He also issued a small number of sensational penny-part serials and similar works, such as The Annals of Crime, and New Newgate Calendar (1833-34, 53 numbers); Tales of the Wars, or Naval and Military Chronicles (by R.J. Stapleton, in three volumes, 1836 onwards); Tales of Chivalry, or Perils by Flood and Field (1838); The Bravo of Venice; A Romance (by M.G. Lewis, 1839); Stuart Sharpe; A Romance (by Paul Eaton, 1839); and The Peer and the Blacksmith and The Miser’s Son (both by R. Bedingfield, and issued in partnership with R. Thompson and William Strange, 1844).

In 1839 he was granted a printing licence for a press at 1 Bell Yard, St. Mary le Strand, and after 1845 he seems to have all but abandoned periodical publishing – the only journals traced which carry his imprint after this date are the Operative, launched in January 1851 and taken over by George Vickers in early 1852; the Voice of the Stars, an astrology magazine which had just one issue in 1862; and Change for a Penny, launched in 1864 and which consisted of novels and romances – length of run not known. He advertised the launch of Kidd’s London Journal in December 1851, although this seems never to have appeared (and should not be confused with an earlier – 1835 – periodical with the same title).

In or around 1864 he moved his business premises from 19 Holywell Street to 12 Newcastle Street, Strand. He died on 1 February 1868, at Friern House, Friern Barnet Lane, Finchley, leaving an estate worth just under £9,000 (around £700,000 in today’s terms).

LEGAL MATTERS. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Berger, despite sailing close to the wind and deliberately flouting the Newspaper Tax legislation, avoided bankruptcy and, with one notable exception, seems to have stayed out of the courts. The exception was a case brought by Charles Dickens in January 1844, when Berger, as a bookseller, was the subject of an injunction to stop him selling Parley’s Illuminated Library, published by Richard Egan Lee and John Haddock, and which was running a pastiche of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. (Lee and Haddock, who became liable for Dickens’s costs, immediately became bankrupt, leaving Dickens nursing a substantial loss.)

Of George Berger’s two brothers, one, William Robert, became a printer. He married Mary Connell in 1840 and settled in Westminster, where he died, childless, on 26 November 1858. George’s other brother, James Henry, became a carpenter, at the time of the 1841 census living in Clerkenwell. What happened to him after that is not known.

PUBLISHING SONS. Three of George Berger’s sons followed him into the printing, publishing and bookselling trades. 

JOHN GEORGE BERGER. The most successful was John George Berger. He married Maria Tubby (born 13 August 1831 in Tottenham, North London, the daughter of Robert Tubby, a carpenter) at St. Clement Dane’s, Westminster, on 24 December 1844, and later moved to Islington. At the time of the 1851 census he was living at 7 Bride Street, Islington, described as a bookseller, alongside his wife, two children (John, aged 5, and Maria, aged 3), and a servant. Ten years later he was at 2 Belitha Terrace, Islington, now describing himself as a publisher, having had a third child, Charlotte, then aged 8, and still employing a servant. By 1871, the family had moved to 37 Tufnell Park Road, Islington.

In 1868 John George took over his father’s business at 12 Newcastle Street, where he remained until 1878. Amongst his publications were The Bible Story Book (1868, printed by his father at Holywell Street); Berger’s Universal System of Shorthand (1868); How to Make Money Easily, or Modern Modes of Making a Fortune (1870?); the Ladies Companion (1871, one number only?); The New Principia, or True System of Astronomy (1872); Your Future Foretold, or The Whole Art of Astrology (1875); Russia; Its Present, Past and Future Policy (1877); and the Court Magazine (1877, one number only?). On 16 July 1878 he was declared bankrupt (London Gazette, 19 July 1878), and was not discharged until late 1880. After this, he found enough money to emigrate to America with his wife and daughter Charlotte, and in 1881 he was living at 73 Henry Street, Brooklyn, described as a commission merchant. Maria died in England (at 1 Hartford Road, Bexley, Kent, on 12 July 1882; John died in Brooklyn on 18 June 1892.

JOSEPH ALFRED BERGER. Another son, Joseph Alfred Berger, also became a publisher and bookseller. Born in 1828, he was still living with his father at the time of the 1851 census, described as a bookseller. Two years later, on 20 October 1853, he married Louisa Elizabeth Weslake in Chipping Barnet, Hertfordshire. In 1861 they were living at 2 Claremont Street, Islington, with Joseph described as a publisher. They had one son, named Joseph too, in 1857, and they were able to employ a servant.

Joseph had premises at 6 Queen’s Head Passage, Newgate Street, off Paternoster Row, where he operated as both a bookseller and publisher. In June 1858 he was declared bankrupt (London Gazette, 18 June 1858). After being discharged in October 1858, he entered into a partnership with Walter Levy Molyneux, as Advertising Agents and Newspaper Proprietors, at 188 Strand and 13 Catherine Street, although this was short-lived and dissolved by mutual consent on 9 November 1861 (London Gazette, 12 November 1861). Shortly afterwards, the Bankruptcy Court assigned all their estate and effects to a group of trustees.

[3] The New Mysteries of London, by Aglen A. Dowty, illustrated by PHIZ, wood engraving, 1860.

ACTIVITY. As a publisher, Joseph was not very active. His first publications, both issued in 1858, appear to have been The Discussion at Exeter Hall on the Sunday Question, and The Life, Trial and Death of Felice Orsini (the story of the Italian revolutionary who was executed after attempting to assassinate Napoleon III in January 1858). Rather more likely to appeal to a wider readership was the Household Physician, launched in 1858 (length of run not known), and a reissue in 22 numbers of The New Mysteries of London, illustrated by Hablot K. Browne, which appeared (three years after its original publication by E. Griffiths) in 1860, carrying his address of 13 Catherine Street; The Secret Societies of Paris, or The Conspirators (date not known); and The Lady Detective (1864). In 1863 he took over the London Herald, which had been established in 1861. In May 1865 he was accused of a breach of copyright by Dion Boucicault, a playwright, after he began a plagiarism of Boucicault’s play Arrah-na-Pogue, or The Wicklow Wedding, in the Herald. The play, published and performed for the first time in Dublin in 1864, where Boucicault also registered the copyright, was altered and added-to before its first performance in London, at the Princess’s Theatre in Oxford Street on 22 March 1865, with the copyright being registered at Stationers’ Hall on the same day. On 29 April 1865 the London Herald began a serialisation of a novel with the same title as the play and an identical plot. Boucicault wrote to Berger complaining of piracy and asked him to discontinue publication, but a second instalment appeared in the next number of the Herald.

Berger responded to a subsequent solicitor’s letter by pointing out “From the fact of our having to go to press several weeks in advance it would be next to impossible to withdraw the tale now.” He went on to suggest that Boucicault would benefit from the extra publicity. He added that it had long been the custom to produce novels based on successful dramas and vice versa, and any offence to Boucicault was unintentional and unforeseen. Boucicault’s solicitors wouldn’t budge, however, so Berger ordered that story’s immediate cessation. 

Unfortunately, this was too late to stop a further number of the Herald being published with a further instalment on 6 May 1865. Boucicault’s solicitor’s therefore sought an injunction, with the matter eventually being settled out of court (papers relating to the case held at the National Archives).

The costs of the settlement appear to have stretched Berger too far, as later that year he found himself in a debtors’ prison, and was declared bankrupt again on 23 June that year (London Gazette, 4 July 1865). His debts totalled £17,634 (over £1.4 million in today’s terms), although his creditors had seized property worth £11,560 (Times, 7 October 1865).

COPYRIGHT DISPUTE. Berger was again involved in a copyright dispute in May 1867, along with Edward Griffiths, both named as proprietor and publisher respectively of the London Herald. Its number dated 6 May 1867 contained the opening three chapters of John Hazel’s Vengeance, written by William Stephens Hayward. The publisher John Maxwell, of 4 Shoe Lane, immediately entered a writ for breach of copyright, claiming that Hayward had written the story in or just before 1864, and had sold the manuscript and copyright (for £30) to Maxwell on 21 June 1865, although Maxwell had to publish it. The original Bill of Complaint stated that Berger and Griffiths had “by some irregular means obtained possession of the manuscript, although this was later crossed out and replaced with “The manuscript of the said tale was by mistake handed to the defendants”. Berger responded to a subsequent solicitor’s letter by saying that had paid Hayward for writing the story (National Archives). Berger amended this story when the case was heard at the Vice Chancellor’s Court on 13 May 1867 – his solicitor stated that Maxwell “was the agent of a receiver in a suit, and had purchased the manuscript and handed it over the receiver, from whom [Berger] had purchased it.” (Times, 14 May 1867). The outcome of the case is not known.

Berger was still in business at 13 Catherine Street in 1868 – in September of that year he advertised the fact that he had bought the copyright and stereotype plates of The Percy Anecdotes (a lengthy series of stories and snippets of information, originally published in 1821-23 by T. Boys of Ludgate Hill) from the executors of his father’s estate, and announced plans to sell the work in 20 fortnightly volumes. Whether or not all 20 volumes were published is not known – at least one other edition, issued by Frederick Warne & Co., was on the market at the same time. It is, however, likely that the project was curtailed, as testified by yet another appearance in the Bankruptcy Court in January 1869 (London Gazette, 29 January 1869).

Joseph’s wife had died in 1864, being buried in Camden on 9 February, and there is no further trace of Joseph in the online genealogy records after this date. He is credited with two more publications dated around 1868/1870 – Secrets of the River and Strange Journeys, both written by Bracebridge Hemyng – and the London Herald was still listed at 13 Catherine Street in 1870. But in 1871 it had gone, and nothing further about Joseph Alfred Berger is known.

THEODORE THOMAS BERGER. A third son, Theodore Thomas Berger, born in 1831, also became a bookseller for a while, described as such in the 1851 census when he was living with his father in Finchley. However, after taking a degree at King’s College, London in 1854, he was ordained a Deacon in 1856 and took holy orders the following year in Manchester. Between 1856 and 1861 he was a curate in Salford. He then took a post as a curate in Bolton. In 1863 he married Eliza Jane Knowles, and he was appointed vicar of St. James’s Church, Bolton in 1871. Eliza died in 1885, and he married again, in Hastings in 1889, his second wife being Janet Hope. She died in 1893, and Theodore subsequently married Alma Rosslewin Ellis (a widow) in London in 1895 and immediately moving to Wiveton, Norfolk, where he had been appointed Rector. However, this marriage did not last – by 1901 they were living apart and Theodore was being looked after by his sister Lydia, acting as his housekeeper. For her part, Alma became a hotel proprietor (at the Wiverton Hotel, Queen’s Gate, Kensington) and then a tea shop proprietor at 161 New Bond Street, until she was declared bankrupt in March 1904 (London Gazette, 22 March 1904).

Theodore wrote several tracts, essays and books during his lifetime, mostly on religion. He died on 21 August 1907 in Norfolk, after being thrown from his trap when his horse was alarmed by a car. He left an estate worth £6,656 (around £615,000 in today’s terms).

Of George Berger’s other sons, three died in childhood: Jabez, born in 1826, died in 1828; George Henry, born in 1834, died in 1843; and James David, born in 1837, died in 1838. Of Frederick Thomas, born in 1824, absolutely nothing is known.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Long Sam Lucas, Artist of Negro Minstrelsy

[1] The man in the photograph is Sam Lucas; sheet music cover 1901.
by John Adcock

“Jazz music evolved in this manner: spiritual, coon songs, ragtime, syncopation and jazz.” — J. Rosamond Johnson

THE DEAN. The Dean of Negro comedians was Sam Lucas, who was born Samuel Mildmay, a free man, in Washington Court House, Ohio on August 7, 1848. His parents were former slaves from Virginia. He had a “rich Virginia accent” picked up from his parents, emancipated southern Negroes who had moved to Ohio before the Civil War. For five years he crossed the fields at night to learn how to read and write from a kindly neighbor lady.

Lucas worked as a farmhand until he was 19 years old. He learned to play the guitar and took up the barber trade in Cincinnati, Ohio. He fought on the Union side during the Civil War. His first job as an entertainer was with Hamilton’s Colored Quadrille Band as a guitarist and caller. In 1869 he taught school in New Orleans for a few months before moving to St. Louis where he joined Lew Johnson’s Plantation Melodists as middle man and balladist. In 1873 he was entertaining customers at a barbershop in St. Louis before joining up with the passing Callender’s Georgia Minstrels troupe that July. Lucas sang in a quartette, provided comedy, and began to write songs. In one skit he caught “an imaginary fly high up on a piece of stage scenery.”

First he crouched against the painted wall. Then he stealthily rose and rose, and kept on rising, opening up joint after joint as if he were made of telescopes. Higher and higher he stretched, till his audience thought he would never stop. And when he finally did reach his utmost extension, standing on tiptoe of his long feet, with his long arm and his long fingers almost up to the real stage flies, he looked as if he could tickle a giraffe under the chin. Sam Lucas fly catching is a tradition of stage funny business.
In 1874 Lucas joined the Hyer Sisters in the musical comedy ‘Out of Bondage,’ the first musical show ever put on by a colored organization. In 1875 he was performing his famous song ‘Carve Dat Possum’ at the Robinson Hall on Broadway alongside the comedian Billy Kersands. Now he began working as a singer and dancer in Vaudeville and starred in a blood-and-thunder play called ‘The Black Diamonds of Molly McGuires’ which he described as the first time a Negro starred in a melodrama “surrounded by a white cast.” It was said of Lucas that he was initiated into a white Masonic Lodge before they revised their Constitution.

Sam Lucas wrote ‘Carve Dat Possum,’ ‘Daffney Do You Love Me,’ ‘Dar’s a Lock on De Chicken Coop Door,’ ‘Dem Silver Slippers,’ ‘Every Day’ll Be Sunday By and By,’ ‘I’m Grant and I’ve Travelled Round the World,’  ‘Ol’ Nicker-Demus, De Ruler Ob De Jews,’ and ‘We Ought to Be Thankful for That.’ One 1885 song, ‘De Coon Dat Had De Razor,’ a great grand-daddy to ‘Bully of the Town,’ was written by Prof. W.F. Quown with music by Sam Lucas. 

[2] Sheet music cover, 1876.
Sam Lucas’s song ‘Carve Dat Possum’ had a long life. The white Peerless Quartette with Harry C. Browne recorded it in 1917 and Uncle Dave Macon recorded the song in New York in 1927. The song has survived as a traditional folk and string band song in country music.

De possum meat am good to eat,
Carve him to de heart;
You’ll always find him good and sweet,
Carve him to de heart;
My dog did bark, and I went to see,
Carve him to de heart;
And dar was a possum up dat tree,
Carve him to de heart.

Other songs Lucas wrote which survived were ‘Turnip Greens’ (recorded by Bo Carter in 1928), and ‘My Grandfather’s Clock.’ Unfortunately black performers of ragtime songs seem rarely to have made it to 78’s. Other than George W. Johnson, whose songs were more traditional plantation melodies the only black artists to record that I know of were Bert Williams and George Walker.

“I suppose the most famous song I ever sang was ‘My Grandfather’s Clock.’ And it’s the song I didn’t get credit for either. I don’t believe the true story of that song is known to most people. It was written when I was with the Hyers Sisters and this was how it happened. I was there in New York and went around one day to see a man named Henry C. Work, the man that wrote ‘Wake Nicodemus!’ Just as I was about to leave he pulled out a paper and said: “here, Sam; here’s the first verse for a song. I wrote this one but I can’t seem to make anything more out of it. Maybe you can.” It was the first verse of ‘My Grandfather’s Clock.’
My grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf,
So it stood ninety years on the floor,
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more,
It was bought on the morn of the day he was born,
And was always his treasure and pride,
But it stopped short never to go again,
When the old man died.
“I read it and took it away with me, but I didn’t do anything with it for some time. Then one morning when we were out on the road I got up from the breakfast table at the hotel where we were stopping and as I turned around there in the corner stood a regular grandfather’s clock just like the one in the verse Mr. Work had given me.”
And right here, if you happen to be at Sam Lucas’s home, he will step out into the dining room where a tall clock occupies one corner and show you just how he stood on that long ago morning, his hand resting on the table while he looked the old timepiece over and imagined its story. He wrote the two other verses – one telling how the clock was the old man’s servant: it never wasted time, there was never a frown on its face, its hands never hung by its side and all that it asked at the end of the week was to be wound up for another seven days’ work. The last verse was the one that described the old man’s death.
“You know,” says Sam, “that folks are superstitious when a clock strikes more than it ought to. They think it’s a bad sign, somebody goin’ to die. So I wrote about the alarm ringin’ when it had been dumb for ninety years. An’ the neighbors all said jest what they would have said if they’d been the neighbors I had known: they said death was comin’ to that house. An’ the clock struck twenty four – that meant the whole round of a life, you see – and then it stopped. And the old man died. Remember the chorus?
Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock! Tick, tock!
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock! Tick, tock!
But it stopped – short – never to go again,
When the old man died.
“I always loved that chorus” and Sam picks up a guitar and sings it softly, delicately, lovingly. “Yes, I wrote that and I wrote the music. I mean I made it up. Yes, just exactly as it goes. I took the song back to Mr. Work and he published it as his but with my picture on the front of it, a picture of me standin’ with my elbow on a big grandfather’s clock. No, I never got a cent for it, except that I had a big success singin’ it before anybody else did. The royalties Mr. Work received from that song amounted to thousands of dollars.” – Long Sam Lucas, Artist of Negro Minstrelsy, in NY Sun, October 22, 1911

UNCLE TOM. In 1876 Sam became the first black actor to portray ‘Uncle Tom’ on the stage, for C.H. Smith’s Double Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, first in Cincinnati then in Boston. Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe witnessed the performance in her home town and wrote Lucas praising his performance. The next few years made a “fine-feathered bird” out of Lucas. “You never saw such clothes as I had on!” The colored preachers, however, called him “the debbil” and warned their congregations against attending his shows.

[3]  Photograph of Sam Lucas c.1891.
He remained with the company until 1879 then toured heading a white cast with the Boston Stock Company. He remained in Boston until 1899, starring in stage dramas and working alone.

In 1891 ‘The Creole Show’ opened with Sam Lucas, Fred Piper, Bill Jackson, Irving Jones and a chorus of “attractive Negro girls.” Alain Locke wrote that this groundbreaking musical show was a “break with minstrelsy” which led to the coon songs of Ernest Hogan, Cole and Johnson, and Williams and Walker, as well as the blues of W.C. Handy, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith, and contemporary jazz.

Lucas married Miss Carrie Melville of Providence, Rhode Island and the two appeared as a musical act in vaudeville. They spent the next three years with Sam T. Jack’s Creole Company (song writer Irving Jones was also a cast member) then spent six years in London, England where Queen Victoria presented him with a large diamond ring. Returning to America they starred in Al G. Fields “Darkest American” company. Lucas played ‘Silas Green’ in Cole and Johnson’s ‘A Trip to Coontown.’

As Negro music and musicians began moving away from minstrelsy about 1895 Sam Lucas moved with the times by performing popular ragtime songs along with black songwriters Gussie L. Davis (‘I’ve Been Hoodoo’d’), Ernest Hogan (‘All Coons Look Alike to Me’), Bert Williams, George Walker (‘She’s Getting More Like the White Folks Everyday’), Ada Overton Walker (‘Miss Hannah From Savanna’), Irving Jones (‘St. Patrick’s Day is a Bad Day For Coons’), Bob Cole and Billy Johnson (‘I Wonder What is That Coon’s Game’) and the Canadian born Shelton Brooks (‘Darktown Strutter’s Ball’).

[4] Sam Lucas, 1911 publicity photo.
LAST JOB. Lucas’s last job as an actor was starring as ‘Uncle Tom’ in the 1914 World Film Corporation motion picture ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ Sam Lucas died January 10, 1916, and his funeral was overflowing with mourners, so much so that a police presence was required to control the crowd. James Reese Europe’s famous Hellfighters band played a final ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ for the appreciative crowd. His remains were interred in the soldier’s plot at New York’s Cypress Hills Cemetery. He was survived by a daughter, the well-known pianist for the Negro Player’s Orchestra, Marie Lucas.

Further reading:  
Staging Race, Black Performers in Turn of the Century America, by Karen Sotiropoulos, Harvard University Press, 2006