Friday, February 17, 2012

One of my favorite months: Black History Month!

February! It's a miserable cold month here in Chicago, but it's one of my favorite times to write this here blog, because it's ... Black History Month! We love talking about this here at O'Gara and Wilson. After all, our neighborhood of Hyde Park is in fact the cradle of Barack Obama's career, and Barack Obama did indeed make history with his election, although opinions are divided in the store about who supports his candidacy. On a more neutral political note, we are within walking distance of the DuSable Museum of African-American History. And besides, given that we sell antiquarian books, we are more qualified to discuss history than current affars.

History such as, for example, this week's Favorite:

We have a number of issues of the "Negro History Bulletin" from 1940-1941; they have all been bound into a simple black volume, which has preserved the magazines in excellent shape. This periodical later became the "Black History Bulletin", whose website describes it as:

... dedicated to enhancing teaching and learning in the areas of history. Its aim is to publish, generate, and disseminate peer-reviewed information about African Americans in U.S. history, the African Diaspora generally, and the peoples of Africa. Its purpose is to inform the knowledge base for the professional praxis of secondary educators through articles that are grounded in theory, yet supported by practice.

Indeed, the "Black History Bulletin" is currently distributed by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, which started Black History Month. So we have come full circle! But anyway, these old issues of the "Negro History Bulletin" are very interesting. We are charging $40.00 for nine of them bound together, and they give very interesting insights on goals of teaching Black History to children in the 1940s. Including, for example, these drawings intended for children to color in:


Worth analyzing, to be sure.

This week's Affordable and Interesting item is from rather before 1940:

Like many older books, the title as written on the spine is different from the title on the cover:

We're selling this 1917 book for $12.50, and although it is mainly about general history of World War I, within the book it tells us that it is in particular "a thrilling account of the important part taken by the Negro in the tragic defeat of Germany." Recall that in our last blog entry, we also featured a book celebrating the history of Black soldiers. I have mixed feelings about wars -- well, actually, I just plain don't like wars. But it's important for us to acknowledge everyone's contributions to history!

Which is also what this week's Collector's Item, an even older book, aims to do!

We are asking $400.00 for this book because it is an original copy from 1929, in beautiful condition, and it's also the author's personal copy. He put his ownership signature in front:

Lorenzo D. Turner was an honored African-American linguist and literary scholar. He died in 1972, but first he did a lot to establish the field of African-American studies (somewhat like St. Clair Drake, who I just wrote about a few weeks ago). He also helped train a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers who were heading to Africa, which endears him to me because he doubtless influenced my own trip to Africa a few years ago. This was his first published book, and apparently it is still referenced by people who study the endlessly interesting field of pre-slavery abolitionist efforts today! Did you know that 1830s abolitionists sometimes used "woman-to-woman" appeals from slave women to free white women? As a feminist, I find this quite awesome.

So go forth and study for Black History Month, gentle readers. Perhaps drop by the DuSable Museum, and then come visit us! We assure you, we'll always keep the store warm in the face of the elements outside.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bartenders, battles and buildings

Did you ever wonder how much alcoholic knowledge was driven underground during Prohibition? I hadn't, until today. Prohibition famously lasted 13 years and ended in 1933, and during that time, no alcohol was legally drunk in America. Of course, plenty of alcohol was illegally drunk. But the finer details of the bartender's profession was lost, and that's why this week's Affordable and Interesting item is so awesome:

This bartender's manual was first published in 1934, and it's amazing. For one thing, it's a 1949 edition with classic graphics and a nice shiny cover so you can freely spill your drink on it and clean up afterwards. For another, this is how the introduction begins:

It has seemed to us that since the return of legal liquor, there has been a very genuine and widely felt need for a standard book on drinks, a book that could be relied on in any bibulous contingency both by the ambitious amateur and by the seasoned professional bartender. It is not only that once again good liquor is available, but also various ingredients that have been merely myth and legend to the younger generation of celebrants, such as Chartreuse or Amer Picon, have returned to the enjoyment of that respect and appreciation which was formerly accorded to them by an unshackled public.

Do you know what Chartreuse and Amer Picon are? I certainly didn't, and while you may not know this about me, gentle readers, I was once professionally trained as a bartender. It turns out that Amer Picon is an aperitif so rare that the first Google hit is a group of people talking about how they can't find it and discussing how to find substitutes. As for Chartreuse, it's more awesome than I ever imagined:

Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur produced by Carthusian monks in the French Alps. With almost 400 years of history, Chartreuse is one of the oldest and most mysterious spirits still available. Only three monks from the order know the secret recipe, each hold one third of that recipe and all have taken a vow of silence, so the secret recipe is kept safely. The liqueur was originally created as an "Elixir of Long Life" in 1605 by Peres Chartreux. The formula was perfected over the years and by 1737 the liqueur was released to the world in a form that is close to what we drink today.

Secret recipe held in three parts by specially trained monks with vows of silence?! I love it when I discover that things like that exist in real life. And this is only what I learned after reading the first paragraph of this book. It's also full of recipes that I've never remotely heard of before -- including plenty of "virgin" or non-alcoholic recipes, with names like "Temperance Punch". I can't even deal with how amazing this book is, and it's $6.50. Get it before the local hipsters do, folks. Unless you are a local hipster, in which case, you're looking to outrace your brethren.

The local hipsters of Hyde Park, Chicago, are presumably really into the architect Frank Lloyd Wright as well. Or at least I hope they are. Everyone should be at least a little bit into the ingenious Wright -- especially right now, because we have just received a bunch of Wright books, including this week's Favorite:

This is a nice, collectible, large book of Frank Lloyd Wright photos for $75.00. We have more where that come from -- some more affordable and some more beautiful. Hyde Parkers know that Wright designed a number of local buildings, including the lovely Robie House:

The Robie House on the University of Chicago campus is considered one of the most important buildings in American architecture. It was created by Frank Lloyd Wright for his client Frederick C. Robie, a forward-thinking businessman. Designed in Wright's Oak Park studio in 1908 and completed in 1910, the building is both a masterpiece of the Prairie style and renowned as a forerunner of modernism in architecture. Tours of the site offer both a first-hand experience of its amazingly contemporary spaces and the current restoration work that is returning the house to its original appearance.

I've taken the tour. It's great. Go do it and then come look at our Wright books!

This week's Collector's Item is also of local interest, in a wholly different and rather older way:

Published in 1899, this is a History of the 8th Illinois U.S. Volunteer Regiment, which was of particular historical import because:

... as you can see, it was part of our African-American history. In case the image is too small to read, the above page says:

To His Excellency, John R. Tanner, the able and fearless executive of the great State of Illinois, who believes and who has the courage of his convictions, that it is the heart, the brain, the soul, not the skin, that go to determine manhood; who, acting upon this belief and upon the fundamental principle of this government that "taxation without representation is tyranny", had the manhood to appoint colored officers to command a Colored Regiment, this book is affectionately dedicated by the authors.

The book is a group of profiles of the various people in the 8th Illinois U.S. Volunteer Regiment, with photos and text like this:

It's very rare to have a book like this in such good condition and available to the general public, which is why we are asking $395.00 for it. Help us remember the history of more than one epic battle -- the physical one, and the one for civil rights.

February is Black History Month, gentle readers, so I'm sure that we will have more where that came from! You can look forward to it in our next blog entry.