"Literary gossip, criticisms of books, and local historical matters connected with Rhode Island"
by Sidney S. Rider
Sidney S. Rider (1833-1917) was a Providence bookseller and amateur historian. In 1883 he began publishing a bi-weekly compilation of "literary gossip, criticisms of books, and local historical matters connected with Rhode Island" that he called Book Notes. In his second issue, Rider readily admitted that the primary purpose of his publication was "to sell more books," but in addition to book reviews, each four-page issue contains numerous fascinating anecdotes of interest to Rhode Islanders both then and today. From his shop at 17 Westminster Street, Rider produced an issue at least every other week for thirty-three years (with the exception of a nine-month period in 1887), providing a unique and dryly witty perspective on life in the Ocean State in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
We present here some of the more interesting excerpts from the first volume of Sidney S. Rider's Book Notes. As much as possible, we have tried to keep the original spelling, punctuation, and format intact.
FOR THE WEEK
LITERARY GOSSIP, CRITICISMS OF BOOKS AND
LOCAL HISTORICAL MATTERS CONNECTED
WITH RHODE ISLAND
The object of publishing these little Book Notes is to enable the publisher to sell more books. He has for sale all the books he notices, and none of them are bad. Nobody will be any the worse by buying and reading them.
Who First made Straw Bonnets in Rhode Island?
The North American Review for May, in an article on Woman as an inventor, has reference to two Rhode Island ladies of some interest. The first refers to Miss Betsey Metcalf, who the writer alleges made the first straw bonnet ever manufactured in this country. There was published in Providence, in 1825, "An Essay on the manufacture of Straw Bonnets, containing an historical account of the introduction of the manufacture." This writer says: "About the year 1797 straw bonnets were first manufactured in New England. To Mrs. Naomi Whipple is due the credit of introducing the manufacture. * * * She was in the habit of receiving consignments of bonnets from a merchant in New York. * * At length she conceived the idea of manufacturing bonnets herself. * * She procured some straw and sent for a young lady in the neighborhood (Miss Hannah Metcalf), and they made the attempt, * * and soon found themselves successful." These statements appear in this little book printed in Providence in 1825, only twenty-eight years after the events took place. Thirty years later, or fifty-eight years after the event, in the Transactions of the Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry for 1858, p. 159, there appeared a letter from Mrs. Betsy Baker, which says, in effect, that the writer was Betsey Metcalf; that she was the person who discovered the art of making straw bonnets, that she taught her neighbors, and that the industry spread through the neighboring towns. That Hannah Metcalf had nothing whatever to do in the matter, nor indeed had Mrs. Whipple, of whom she makes no mention, but to the writer alone (Mrs. Baker) the whole credit is due. In the face of such conflicting statements how are we to know the truth? For this North American Review, or for any other magazine, Mr. Rider would be glad to take subscribers.
Did the Wife of General Greene suggest the Cotton Gin to Whitney?
Another most interesting item (to Rhode Island people) in the North American Review for May, is the statement that the idea of a Cotton Gin was first conceived by a lady, no less a person than the wife of Gen. Nathaniel Greene -- Mrs. Catherine Littlefield Greene. This lady was the daughter of Mr. John Littlefield, of Block Island. General Greene and his family had moved south, where the General soon died. The separation of the seed from the cotton was a staple subject of remarks. Mrs. Greene had heard much of it. She conceived the idea of making a machine to do this work which hands had always done, and set Eli Whitney, who then was boarding with her, to construct the machine. We know how successfully he did it. Mrs. Greene subsequently married Mr. Miller, and became pecuniarly [sic] interested in the success of the invention. These, if true, are interesting historical facts; and the only way Mr. Rider can get any return for promulgating them is by taking new subscribers for the North American Review.
These little Book Notes are prepared by a country bookseller simply as advertisements for the increase of his own business, and to awaken an interest in those living about him in the better class of books.
A French Gentleman's Ideas of Rhode Island in 1780:
In one of Charles Lamb's delightful Letters addressed to Hazlitt in 1805 there is found thrown in by way of an interjection, doubtless from Bridget Elia thus, "O! tell Hazlitt not to forget to send me the American Farmer. I dare say it is not so good as he fancies; but a book's a book." This book, of which it appears that Hazlitt was such an admirer, has recently fallen into our hands. It has peculiar interest to us here in Rhode Island. Its title is: Lettres d'un Cultivateur Americain écrites à W.S. Écuyer depuis l'année 1770 jusq'à 1781. Traduites de l'Anglois par * * * 2 vols. 12mo. Maestricht, 1785. The author was a French gentleman, born at Caen, in Normandy, in 1731, named Hector St. John Crevecoeur. After a residence of upwards of a quarter of a century in this country he returned to Europe, and on the solicitation of his friends wrote these letters first in English because of his long familiarity with that language, and then himself translated them into his native tongue. They were at once very popular, and are believed to have caused a large emigration to America. There were certainly two French, two English, and one American edition. The present is one of the first French editions. These letters are descriptive of various portions of the country, besides which they contain a great number of anecdotes of the people, which are in themselves charming reading, and withal they are full of information. We have translated for our Book Notes some of the portions relating to Rhode Island, which we here present: "Of all the eastern isles Newport is indeed the most beautiful. It has become the rendezvous of all nationalities, -- English, Dutch, and French. One could indeed call this charming island the Montpelier of America. Here the heat of summer is moderated by the breezes from the sea, while the severity of the winter is lessened by the nearness of the ocean. The head land of this island as seen from the sea presents a singular collection of picturesque rocks, and of little fertile fields, with an abundance of dark rich soils, while some are sterile from the accumulation of the sands. Here are quiet and commodious bays, and sharp promontories. It was this portion of the island which inspired Bishop Berkeley with the desire to build a college. Here one can, so to speak, cultivate the land with one hand, while he catches fish with the other. The sea shores abound with fish of every kind, but especially with tew-tags. The island of Kananicut combines the excellence of its pasturage, with the most arable of soils, the facility of fishing, with the beauty of its situation, and the salubrity of its atmosphere. One could wish for nothing more delightful than to pass the remainder of his days on one, or the other, of these islands." A very sensible Frenchman that. There are other interesting matters in this work which we may some time print. Speaking of tew-tags, it is curious how little corruption has crept into our present use of the name of this fish. Roger Williams, in his Key to the Indian Language, gives it Tautauog.
The Palace of the King of Spain in Bristol:
In a small book with the following title, "The North American and the West Indian Gazetteer, containing an authentic description," etc., published in London so recently as 1778, occurs this account of one of our Rhode Island towns, "Bristol, a county and town in New England. It is the most considerable town in the country, having a commodious harbour, at the entrance of which lies Rhode Island. This town is laid out with more regularity than any in the province, and has more trade. The capital is remarkable for the King of Spain's having a palace in it, and being killed there, and also for Crown, the poet, begging it of Charles the Second." The author, doubtless, got Philip of Castile, and our Indian Chief, King Philip, (no relation so far as we know, of him of Castile, but rather to him of Macedon), slightly mixed. So far as Crown, the poet, went, he did the begging, but Charles didn't do the giving, vive l'histoire.
Curious Rhode Island Marriages:
A correspondent of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Mr. John Q. Adams, of Natick. ->, R.I., sends to the magazine the following curious notice of a marriage, copied from the early records of the town of Warwick: "These are to signify unto all ministers of justice that Henry Strait Jun. of East Greenwich in ye colony of R.I. & Prov. Plantations took Mary Webb of ye town of Warwick in ye colony a fousd widow in only a shift, and no other Garment in ye presns of Avis Gordon May Collins and Presilah Crandall and was Lawfully Married in sd Warwick ye first of August 1725 by me. Recorded ye 5th of Nov 1725 pr John Wickes T.C."
In the Council and Probate Book, No. 1, page 37, South Kingston, there is another similar notice: "Thomas Cullenwell was joyned in Marriage to Abigaile his wife the 22nd day of February 1719-1720. He took her in Marriage after she had gone four times a cross the Highway in only her shift and hairlace and no other clothing. Joyned to gather in marriage per me. George Hassard. Just." Doubtless there are other instances of this extraordinary practice, which was not, however, peculiar to Rhode Island. Mr. Ashton, in his Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, 12 mo. ed., p. 31, presents a record of a similar transaction in London. It probably arose from an erroneous popular reasoning on the English statute concerning marriage, the words of which are thus: "The husband is liable to the wife's debts contracted before marriage, whether he had any portion with her or not, and this the law presumes reasonable, because by the marriage the husband acquires an absolute interest in her personal estate." Bacon's Abridgment, art. 485, Baron and Feme. Thus, notwithstanding the explicit terms of the statute, that the husband became liable whether he received anything, or received nothing, these ignorant people reasoned that a man became liable because he received personal property; therefore if he received absolutely no property he could not become liable. So, then, ladies were married as nearly naked as circumstances would permit. We are not absolutely certain, but we suppose that hairlace and shifts were articles of personal estate, so that these husbands must, on their own reasoning, have become liable. So far as we know the Rhode Island courts have never decided the question. What the crossing of the highway in one case had to do with the validity of the marriage, we do not know. It was like the leaving of a shilling to every heir to make a valid will, or the popular belief that evidence through a window glass was worthless -- a popular error.
The Origin of the Name Rhode Island:
The Magazine of American History for February has an extended article by Dr. J.G. Kohl on the origin of the name of our state. He claims that it must have arisen from the Verrazano letter, wherein the supposed navigator compares some island along the coast with the isle of Rhodes. This letter was first printed in English by Hakluyt in 1600, the body of the letter in black letter, thus , while the word Rhodes is in Roman capitals, thus RHODES. This fact, the learned Doctor thinks, must have fixed the name in the minds of the first settlers, who were, as he thinks, familiar with this old classic, and thus, when searching for a name, they thought of it. About thirty years ago these same views (saving only the prominence of the types) were advanced by this same writer. It is now generally conceded that this letter of Verrazano's is a historical fraud; that Verrazano never saw the islands which he described, nor the isle which he compares with the isle of Rhodes. Nevertheless when the legislators of 1644 made the law which made Aquethneck, henceforth the Isle of Rhodes or Rhode Island, the idea may have sprung from this fictitious letter of Verrazano's.
Shiftless Rhode Island Marriages:
In a recent number of these Book Notes were some references to curious Rhode Island marriages. Since that time other cases have been brought to light, and as there are some slight differences in the cases it has occurred to me to reproduce them all so that we may be able to discover the extent and variety of this singular vagary. The first record following is from the Westerly Records. It runs thus:
"To all people to whom it may concern. This may certify that Nathaniel Bundy of Westerly took ye widow Mary Palmeter of sd town in ye highway with no other clothing but shifting or smock on ye evening of the 20th day of April 1724 and was joined together in that honorable estate of matrimony in ye presence of
and was joined together as above sd ye day and year above mentioned per me John Saunders Justice Registered ye 27 day of April 1724
Pr John Babcock Town Clerk."
The second is from the Scituate Records. It occurred at a much later period than the preceding record, and the very long time of four years is observable between the date of the marriage and the date of its record. It is as follows:
"I hereby Certify that Isaac Howard of Scituate in the County of Providence and Took Hepsbezad Darbee a poor widow woman as she came to him in the Kings Highway in her shift in sd Scituate, aforesaid to be his wife and that they the sd Isaac and the sd Hepsbezad was lawfully joined Together in Marriage the 7th Day of April 1770, In the aforesaid highway in the presence of Capt Thos Fry Benajoh Place and Benjamin Wells and others before me the Subscriber Jeremiah Angel Justice of the Peace, Recorded March 18th 1774.
Per Gideon Harris Town Clerk."
Still another case has been brought to my notice in which the shift was a borrowed one, thus admitting that this garment was personal property. Of this case I find no authentic record. In the Newport Historical Magazine, vol. 2, p. 125, there is a communication referring to two other cases in Rhode Island, one in Hopkinton, and one in Richmond, but the Town Clerks of those towns inform me they know of no such cases.
Religious Toleration in Rhode Island:
Mr. T.W. Higginson has an article in the July Harper on the second generation of Englishmen in America. By the term second generation Mr. Higginson probably means the children of the first settlers, born, of course, in the colonies, but how they became the second generation of Englishmen in America he fails to inform us. He gives to Rhode Island the credit of being the first of the early colonies which was founded on the principle of religious liberty, and to Maryland the credit of being the second. He gives very high praise to Roger Williams, by whose wise policy all the jarring elements which fled from the intolerance of Massachusetts, were ultimately disarmed and rendered harmless. Of some of these jarring elements he speaks carelessly, particularly of Gorton, concerning whom he says, the Grand Jury of the city of Providence found an indictment for, among other things, calling the magistrates Just-Asses. This makes a first rate joke, but against it may be urged, 1st, that there was no such place as the city of Providence; 2d, that whatever place there was then called by that name, it found no indictment against Gorton; 3d, it is very improbable whether any indictment was ever found by any (Rhode Island) town against him, but if any it was Portsmouth. These are, however, but slight errors, and of little consequence in historical compositions. Mr. Rider takes subscriptions for all Harper's periodicals.
Anecdote of an old Narragansett Family:
In a recent number of these Book Notes appeared some account of Hector St. John's Letters, in which he refers to Rhode Island. An anecdote which he relates concerning an ancient family of Narragansett, here follows: "One day in that part of Rhode Island called Point Judith, where I was stopping with one of the most ancient families of this peninsula, the master of the house related the following anecdote: 'The father of my great-grandfather was a captain of cavalry in the service of Charles the First. A moment before the battle of * * * his horse cast a shoe. He alighted to recover it and had but just time to place it on his head and cover it with his hat when the action began. In the fight he received a blow from a sabre on the head which cleft his hat but was arrested by the horse-shoe on which was left two long, deep gashes. I have carefully preserved these two relics, would you like to see them?' Very much, indeed, I replied. I held in my hand and examined with great care these fortunate relics. The accidental placing of the iron had saved the life of the ancestor, who, as the master of the house informed me, after the restoration of Charles the Second, solicited in vain the restitution of that wealth which Cromwell had confiscated. Fatigued with the ingratitude of this careless king, he gathered together such little property as was left to him, came here, bought this peninsula, which he had subdivided among his descendents, and this is the house built by him in 1677."
What Mr. Lincoln thought of Gen. Burnside:
The following letter, so extraordinary in its character and of such interest to us here in Rhode Island, needs no apology for its reproduction. Certain military critics thought <||a|81|Burnside||> incompetent; here we can see what President Lincoln thought about it. Such frankness in a state paper is really refreshing. At its inception Hooker must have been at a loss whether to swear, or get drunk; probably he did both.
Washington, D.C., January 26, 1863.
GENERAL: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother-officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from him will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.
Yours, very truly,
This letter is from the 3d volume of the History of the War by the Comte de Paris, just published. Mr. Rider has it.
Omnipotence of the General Assembly:
Mr. Tom Man used to say of the General Assembly of Rhode Island, that it acted as if it considered itself omnipotent. Mr. Man drew his argument from observation. That he was correct there is no doubt, -- we draw the argument from history. This body passed an act for the Preventing fires doing damage in the town of Newport. This act was clearly an act of omnipotence, instances of which are rare, occurring only in the pages of Sacred History. Vide 3d Exodus, 2d, and 3d Daniel, 13th, et seq. This idea of their omnipotence is still further exemplified in the oath which the Assembly prescribed to be administered to newly elected Deputies. "You, A.B., being chosen to the place of Deputy to sit in the General Assembly, do as in the presence of God solemnly engage true allegiance to His Majesty." It would be easy to multiply instances, but these now shown make out the case. It is clear that the Assembly thought itself omnipotent.
The Case of the British Ship Nautilus at Newport:
As Rhode Island was first in making a serious armed resistance to Great Britain in the war of the Revolution, capturing and destroying the man-of-war Gaspee, so also was she first in opposing the subsequent oppression of the same power, in the impressment of American sailors, which led to the war of 1812. Boldly seizing and detaining the two chief officers of the British man of-war Nautilus, until the impressed seamen were restored to liberty. The prompt and decisive action by the government of Rhode Island in the case of this ship, which came into Newport in May, 1794, for supplies, is well worth narrating. On his arrival, Captain Baynton applied to Governor Fenner for permission to obtain supplies. The Assembly being in session, the Governor referred the request to that body. The supplies required were fresh provisions, bread, water, wood and shoes. While the matter was under consideration the gunner of the fort informed them that there were thirteen American sailors on the ship, three of whom had been impressed. On this information, the Assembly requested Captain Baynton to appear before a committee consisting of Henry Marchant, the District Judge, and the Judges of the Superior Court, whereof Daniel Owen was their chief, and William Taggart, Walter Cook, Joshua Bicknall, and Thomas Tillinghast were associates. Captain Baynton came before them, accompanied by his first lieutenant and Thomas W. Moore, the British Vice-Consul, resident at Newport. The committee stated that it had been reported to them that American sailors had been impressed and were detained unwillingly on board the Nautilus. This Captain Baynton denied, which denial the committee did not consider satisfactory, and thereupon asked the captain if he, with his lieutenant, would go on board the Nautilus with one or two gentlemen to be selected by the Assembly, and let them make the enquiry. He agreed to this proposition and also to the justice of discharging such sailors, if such there were. At this juncture the British consul suggested that this was allowing a British ship to be searched, which was beneath the dignity of the British navy. Upon this the Captain at once withdrew his consent to go on board with the committee, or to allow such committee to go. He demanded to know whether he was a prisoner or not, and finally with his lieutenant passed from the room into the lobby to go on board his ship; but the people had so crowded into the old State House that the two officers were perforce obliged to return to the committee room in a very angry state of mind, complaining that they had been kicked and otherwise abused. The committee being unable to obtain further satisfaction reported the facts to the Assembly, whereupon that body passed a resolution directing that Captain Baynton and his lieutenant, who were then on shore, remain there until an investigation can be had by the judicial authority of this State and district. The British Captain finding by this summary proceeding that he was unable to go on board his ship, consented to a further discussion, which resulted in his agreeing to permit a committee to visit the Nautilus, and make an investigation. This was immediately done, the two officers being detained on shore. It resulted in finding six men who claimed to be American citizens, to have been impressed, and detained against their consent. The ship's books showed against the names of these six men, that one came from Martha's Vineyard, one from Charleston, one from Boston, one from Georgetown, S.C., one from Portsmouth, Va., and one from New City, N.Y. [sic] The books also showed that the men did not themselves sign the books, but that some one of the ship's officers had written their names upon the books. Capt. Baynton expressed great surprise at this discovery, and consented at once to the discharge of these men, and to the payment of their wages. This was immediately done. The Assembly was satisfied, voted to inquire what stores the ship then had on board, with the intention to vote permission to purchase, if in their opinion such supplies were necessary. This information was given, and the captain received permission to purchase five thousand pounds weight of bread, five hundred and sixty pounds weight of beef and veal, and one hundred and fifty pairs of shoes. The judges were directed to prepare a statement of all the transactions, and send it to the Secretary of War, which was done, and President Washington incorporated it into a message to Congress.
No taint of private pecuniary interest attaches to this extraordinary affair, as is the case with the Gaspee. It was a manly and dignified determination by the state to protect American citizens from impressment into the British navy. Curiously enough no writer of history has hitherto referred to it. Arnold, stopping at 1790, of course did not reach it; but neither Hildreth, who covers the time, nor Ingersoll, who wrote a history of the war of 1812 and of the causes which led to it, have mentioned it.
A Study of Rhode Island Words:
In reading the papers and pamphlets of the past century here in Rhode Island, one comes across many words which are odd. Thus a man whose overcoat was stolen from his wagon seat, announces that his surtout was taken from his chair box. Mr. Knight Dexter wishes a pair of horses for his curricle. A man wishes to sell his iron finery, meaning his forge, for presently another man sets forth the capabilities of his new forge, or refinery of iron. Mr. Levi Hall informs the people that he can "dress agreeable to the most improved methods cabareater skins." To me this is an unknown animal. The hunters in those old times called that portion of a deer's skin, on the head, contiguous to the roots of the horns, the cabbage. Whether this word comes from that source or whether it is a corruption of caribou, I know not. Two gentlemen state that they have opened a meal market. The word market has now come to be applied only to meats or vegetables, so far as food is concerned. Dr. Jabez Bowen announces the arrival of a general assortment of drugs, both chymical and galenical. It is certainly proper to speak politely of the weather. Thus the old chronicler speaks of a vessel lost at sea by the rudeness of the wind. Changes in spelling are very frequent. Apperition, for aparition [sic]; credilous, for credulous; credible, for creditable. Welcome Arnold advertises ozenbrigs, now written osnaburgs, or coarse linen, so called from the town where they were first made in Germany. Mr. Benjamin Stille opened a school for the teaching of young ladies arithmetic and the art of writing, species of education which hath been much neglected of late. The hours were singular, from 6 to 7 1/2 A.M., and 4 1/2 to 6 P.M. This subject is exceedingly interesting, and I shall return to it from time to time as we drift away from the ancient ways. It indicates the evolution of our language.
A Curious Law concerning the price for Bread in Rhode Island:
In 1706, the General Assembly of Rhode Island made a curious law concerning the baking and sale of bread. It named the various loaves thus: the Penny White Loaf, the Penny Wheaten, and the Penny Household. It likewise prepared a table prescribing the weight of each loaf of each kind, covering a scale of prices of wheat ranging from three to nine shillings per bushel. Thus a penny white loaf, with wheat at three shillings must weigh eleven ounces, with wheat at nine shillings, it must weigh four ounces. About the middle of each month the Town Councils were to meet, inquire the price of wheat, fix an average price, and post it in the public places. And those who baked bread for sale must conform to it, or lose their bread. To-day in Providence a loaf of the best white bread weighs sixteen ounces, while wheat is selling at about one dollar a bushel. In the good old times whereof we write, with wheat at that price, the loaf must weigh six ounces.
A Protective Tariff applied to Labor in Rhode Island:
The idea of protecting labor by putting a tariff on everything which the laborer eats or drinks or wears, never entered the heads of the old fellows who busied themselves in making the colonial laws for Rhode Island. It was their habit in a preamble to assign a reason for the law which followed it. So in 1711 they levied a duty on negroes. The object was plainly stated to be the protection of home labor. There was no dissembling. They said directly the bringing of negroes into this colony discourages the importing of white servants herein, and will in time prove prejudicial to the inhabitants unless discouraged. They thereupon levied an import duty of three pounds a head on each negro imported, to protect the white labor already here. The wisdom of their policy is apparent at a glance.
Travelling from New York to Boston, via Providence in 1832:
There is no class of books more amusing than the accounts of their travels in America by the Englishmen of half a century since. The self same books at which our grandfathers became so angry. A Colonel Hamilton, who once wrote a novel called Cyril Thornton, which, for a day, was popular, but which is now never heard of, wrote one of these amusing books of Travel. He says of the <||a|1|Arcade||> "that it is the only building which makes any attempt at architectural display. It is faced at either extremity with an Ionic portico. Judging by the eye the shaft of the columns is in the proportion of the Grecian Doric, an order beautiful in itself, but which, of course, is utterly barbarized by an Ionic entablature." Colonel Hamilton came to Providence in a steam-boat, the "Chancellor Livingston," in December, 1832. Of the boat or its passage he gives no account, but of the passengers he gives a very picturesque description, which is really laughable –- doubtless it was a photograph. The passengers were all huddled together in the cabin. Two huge red hot stoves heated the cabin almost to suffocation, while the atmosphere was redolent of fish, grease, onions; people engaged in a fierce dispute about the tariff; one fellow snoring at a terrific rate, still another just with his breeches off and ready to get into bed, sees a friend to whom he has to stop and describe a lucky speculation in train oil, he has just got out of. Colonel Hamilton departed from Providence in a <--!<||f|73|stage-coach||>-->, a species of vehicle of which there were eight or ten waiting on the dock, the arrival of the boat. His description of this conveyance is really delightful. "It was of ponderous proportions, built with timbers, attached by enormous straps to certain massive irons, which nothing in the motion of the carriage would induce the traveler to mistake for springs. The sides were simply curtains of leather, through which the winds whistle. If exhibited as a specimen of a fossil carriage, buried since the Deluge, and lately discovered by Professor Buckland, it might pass without question as the family coach in which Noah conveyed his establishment to the Ark. Then the Jehu! a man in rusty black with the appearance of a retired grave-digger. Never was such a coachman seen within the limits of the four seas." That is doubtless the best description of those old coaches ever written. His description of raising a house by means of wedges to build a story beneath, describes a plan now obsolete. About this same time there was kept in Providence a Mercantile News Room, in which Sylvester Southworth made in a large blank book a daily record. Under the date of August 18, 1831, just fifty-two years ago, he chronicles the arrival of the steamboat "Benjamin Franklin," Captain E.S. Bunker, 17 hours from New York with $500,000 in specie, and 140 passengers, among whom were Amory Chapin, Charles Dyer, Esq., Charles Dyer, Jr., and lady, and several distinguished foreigners.
A Monumental History of Rhode Island:
The recent erection of a bowlder [sic] monument to the memory of Ninegret, and still more recently one to the memory of Canonicus, concerning which appeared sundry appeals and communications in the daily papers, is my apology for a remark or two upon this subject. There appeared in the Providence Journal, June 28, 1849, a communication signed S. (William R. Staples) in which he urges the setting up of monuments to mark historic spots throughout the State. This article he begins with two quotations which he says were taken from an address delivered in glowing language by one of our greatest men, now numbered with the dead, to overflowing audiences of Rhode Island citizens, in which these monuments were first suggested. The man referred to by Mr. Staples (afterwards Chief Justice Staples) was Chief Justice Durfee, the father of the present Chief. To him belongs the credit of being the first Rhode Island scholar to suggest the idea, now being in a certain way carried out. There was grandeur in the original thought. But how dwarfed it becomes when carried out in this diminutive way -- a paltry stone dug from the earth, encumbers the streets. It must be hauled somewhere, and so it becomes a monument. One of the boundaries named by Canonicus and Miantonomi in their deed to Roger Williams is the great "hill Neotaconkonitt." On the top of this great landmark there once floated, and was deposited, an immense granite bowlder, globular in form, and symmetrical, and there it still remains, outlined against the sky. Thereon the eyes of Canonicus, of Miantonomi, and of Williams must frequently have rested. Here, then, beneath this bowlder, is the proper place for a monument, to these the first and best of the white man's friends. Let there be cut, on the granite front of this great Indian bound, a colossal head of an Indian chief, and beneath it let there be cut in granite: To the Memory of Canonicus and Miantonomi, the Friends of the White Men. Thus can we execute the idea, in all its grandeur which these men first suggested.
The Oldest Insurance Company in Providence:
In the Providence Gazette for March 29, 1800, there appeared the following notice: "Insurance against fire. Situated as we are in the Town of Providence, the earnings of an industrious citizen for years, may be consumed in an hour, and though his neighbors may be well enough disposed towards re-instating the sufferer, yet the contributions must be partial and they will operate unequally. A permanent system is therefore desirable. This once adopted, it would be in the power of every man to secure his property and perhaps not injure his creditors, and if he was unwilling to contribute towards the loss of another, he could have no claim to contribution in case of his own loss. It is therefore proposed that a subscription be opened at Lawrence's Insurance Office, to form a company in the Town of Providence by the name of the Providence Mutual Insurance Fire Company, in manner following. First, That a book be opened at said office to receive subscriptions, and any person, owner of a house or houses, may enter his name with the sum he wishes to insure, and the term of time it is to continue. Second, As soon as one hundred houses are entered on the book for insurance, the proprietors thereof shall be called together and form themselves into a company to be organized and incorporated. Third, As soon as they have obtained an act of incorporation and chosen a President, Vice President, a Treasurer, a Secretary, Twelve Directors, and such other officers as they may deem expedient. [sic] Every member of the company shall pay into the treasury twenty-five cents for each hundred dollars he may have subscribed, which sums when paid in, shall remain as a fund to pay the expenses of the Company, and for such other purposes as they may direct.["] The following example of the working of the plan was presented, The Town of Providence has between one thousand and fifteen hundred houses, suppose four hundred of them are subscribed in the books, estimated at an average sum of $2,000 each, the whole stock would be $800,000. If $4,000 should be burned, an assessment of fifty cents on each hundred dollars would make good the loss. In October, the same year, 1800, a charter was granted which without much change has continued three quarters of a century. In January, 1873, the charter was reconstructed and the company under its excellent management stills [sic] maintains a vigorous existence, and now has nearly twenty millions of property insured.
Emblematic Signs in Providence:
The most celebrated of these figures in days gone by is of course the Turk's Head. Another famous figure was that of Washington or India Bridge, as like an old writer says: "as a windmill to a giant." The Town was never noted for a very large number of them. In a newspaper article written some seventy years since, there is mention made of such as then existed, besides those above mentioned there was on Constitution Hill a huge lion, a little farther down was a saddle, still farther a white lamb, and near by it a Rein Deer Couchant. These were for three leather workers. Near the First Baptist Meeting House was an Apothecary's Shop, with a purblind owl, and on the opposite side of the street was a bunch of grapes. Long before this, at least in 1800, this, or a similar bunch had been the sign of Benjamin Thurber, who had dry goods to sell. On Market Square Jeremiah Jenkins sold goods at the sign of the Golden Bee Hive. In those days the only emblematic sign on Westminster street, was a huge boot, on Weybosset, a grocer used a small gilded rhinoceros suspended by a band, still further down an enterprising dealer had a large giant, between whose thumb and finger, Tom Thumb wriggled. Carved ships were common. The Head of Hamilton on the Hamilton building lasted even to our time. In any account of these things the omission of John Carter's familiar imprint Shakespeare's Head must not be forgotten. It was on Meeting street.
Robert the Hermit:
This eccentric colored man came, in 1815, to live in a sort of hut constructed with earth and stones on the land of the late Hon. Tristam Burges, just over the river at India Bridge. His life and adventures were written by Sylvester Southworth, and published by Henry Trumbull for Robert the Hermit to sell in his wanderings. His price was twelve and a half cents. His portrait, with the curious costume, half military and half civil, form the frontispiece for the pamphlet, which was published in 1829. Robert died in his hut on the 1st of April, 1832. He was born in New Jersey a slave, and until he came to Providence he was held in that condition. His memoir has become quite scarce. Probably not more than half a dozen copies have ever fallen under the observation of the writer.
Nuts for Antiquaries:
During the month of August, 1828, there were bored in Providence two artesian wells. One in a stable occupied by the Citizen's Coach Company, on land which was made by filling in Muddy dock, now Dorrance Street, and the other at the end of the Dorrance Street Company's wharf. This also was on made land, and at a point several hundred yards from the former water's edge. All this tract of land had been filled in a short time previously, mainly by the firm of B. & C. Dyer. There was nothing connected with the first well of a peculiar character, but with the second there was something peculiar. After boring through the artificial soil the blue mud of the former river bottom was reached. This deposit was twenty feet in thickness, beneath this mud, an excellent peat bog was reached. This deposit was four feet in thickness. After passing this, a deposit of fine, white sand, mixed with grayish pebbles, and quartz gravel. At this point water gushed forth, but it was impregnated with some mineral deposits which rendered it unfit for use, and the boring was continued. At a point thirty-five feet below the former bottom of the river there were found grape vines, grapes, leaves, acorns, hazel nuts, pine burrs, and a great variety of seeds of unknown fruits. They were taken to the house of Mr. Benjamin Dyer for the inspection of the curious. Of course they must have washed down from the surrounding hills, but when were they so washed? And was there then a depth of water equal to forty or more feet? The well was long since closed. Where it was, is now an immense pile of coal. These wells were bored by Mr. Horton probably (Stephen).
The Degeneracy of the Times:
Whilom went we to Wickford, for therein lay the lands staked out by Miantinomi for a Trading House for Roger Williams. It was along the banks of the brook Cawcumsquisset, and so Williams calls the place by the name of the brook. Hereaway, too, was the famous hostelry, or block house, built by Richard Smith. Well, it was to find this famous site which led us to Wickford, and being strangers in the land, we accosted an ancient citizen, with, could he tell us whereaway it was that Roger Williams had his Trading House? Williams! Williams!! I don't remember any Williams's about here; what did you say his name was? Roger -- Roger Williams? Well, he ain't here, and I never heard before of any such man around here. Well, said we, it was near by Richard Smith's home and which long afterwards was known as the Updike house, -- whereaway is that? Albeit it was there in sight. Well, said the ancient citizen, I never heard of the Richard Smith home, nor of the Updike house before, and I don't think they are in this neighborhood. Well, said we, and how long have you lived about here? Seventy years and more, said he. Alas! said we, such indeed is fame, and we sighed and departed. Apropos, Jack Gardner, the hairs of whose head was [sic] scarcely whitened by the frosts of a dozen winters, was a little lame in the catechism, as his good aunt suspected. So, to brush up Jack's catechetical recollections was the worthy aunt's desire. So she began, -- Jack, who was the first man? Jack disremembered, so the good aunt reminded Jack that it was Adam. But just then Jack came to his recollection, that Roger Williams was the first man, and he stoutly maintained the point, despite the sophistry of his worthy aunt. Well, there's no doubt as to that boy's birthplace. Moral: Note the difference between him of Wickford and Jack Gardner. And yet they talk of the degeneracy of the times.
A well known firm of Providence booksellers advertised Webster's Quarto Dictionary in this luminous style: "This work is increasing in demand as the sale progresses, varying in this particular from all others." Another very respectable bookseller here, had a small sign whereon we read: "If you don't see anything you want, ask for it." A well known Providence lawyer emerged from the vault in the Court House, where the clerk's [sic] keep the tin boxes for papers, with alarm depicted on his face, and exclaiming "there is one box in there that is missing," that is as good as anything in Edgeworth. Not long since a bookseller here charged to the account of one of my friends Aaron Deane's Cane. Never having purchased a cane, he inquired as to the item. It was finally developed into Arundines Cami, the well known adaptations of Nursery Rhymes to the Latin and Greek by Oxford and Cambridge students. Nearly as good was Rabinites for the Arabian Nights. Not long since an order was brought to me of which here follows a verbatim copy, "Hager's Elementry Rithmatic. No. 1 Righting Book. Warren's New Pirmary Georphay. Anie Nichles (Analytical) 2 Reader."
The Story of a Man's Heart:
The author of these BOOK NOTES is not the man to pronounce a book wise, or great, or good, simply because he can't understand a word of the author's meaning. Ever since Mr. Richard Jeffrey's little Story of My Heart came, he has been trying to understand what it is all about. He gives it up. When a man speaks of the necessity of a strong inspiration of soul thought. When he tells me that his heart is dusty. When he informs me that a species of thick clothing grows about his mind. When he takes an inspiration of the pure air of thought. When he desires the soul equivalent of the sun's light and brilliancy, I frankly confess he deals in terms which I do not understand, and I do not like to read what I cannot comprehend. The little book is a reprint of the English edition by Roberts Brothers.
The Autobiography of Dr. Dewey:
The BOOK NOTES will attempt no synopsis of this excellent and most interesting book. Nothing short of reading the entire volume will satisfy any one at all interested in it. It consists, besides the autobiography, of a collection of letters written at sundry times through a long life to many well known people. Dr. Dewey was a Unitarian preacher of very great celebrity. Born in 1794, he died in 1882, almost a nonagenarian. While the BOOK NOTES wishes, not in the slightest degree to forestall the pleasure which every one will have in reading this charming book, it cannot resist the opportunity of making a couple of extracts, the one a thought, the other an anecdote. And first the thought. In a letter to Dr. Bellows he says: "By the by, is it not strange that the two great literatures of antiquity, the Hebrew and Grecian, should have appeared in territories not larger than Rhode Island." There's a world of comfort in this, for those of us who are sensitive at the sly jokes thrown at poor little Rhode Island for her diminutive size. From Palestine came the Christian religion; from Greece came Architecture, Literature and Philosophy; from Rhode Island came Freedom to man to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Now for the anecdote. In November, 1832, Dr. Dewey came to Providence to preach a sermon at the installation of the Rev. Dr. Hall as pastor of the First Benevolent Church. One evening while here he attended a political meeting. It was Jackson and Van Buren against Henry Clay and John Sergeant. The meeting was in the old Town House. Politics were red hot. Mr. Simmons submitted a resolution in support of Mr. Clay, and himself and Mr. Whipple spoke in favor of it; but Dr. Dewey must tell the story. "Finding the speaking rather dull, after an hour or more we rose to leave, when a gentleman touched my arm and say: 'stay, you will hear something worth waiting for.' we took our seats and saw John Whipple rising to speak. I was exceedingly grateful for the interruption of our purpose, for I never heard an address to a popular assembly so powerful, close, compact, cogent; Demosthenic in simplicity and force, not a word misplaced, not a word too many, and fraught with that strange power over the feelings lent by sadness and despondency, a state of mind I think most favorable to real eloquence. Mr. Whipple spoke of the introduction into our politics of the fatal principle of 'to the victors belong the spoils.' It has made our elections a scramble for office and our parties 'rings.' Mr. Whipple portrayed the consequences which we are now feeling, and powerfully urged that his state, small though it was, should do its utmost to ward them off. As he went on he carried us higher and higher until I began to consider how he was to let us down. But the skilful orator is apt to have some clinching instance or some anecdote in reserve, and Mr. Whipple's was this: 'There sleep now, within the sound of my voice, the bones of men who once stood up in the Revolutionary battles for this country. In one of them, he told me, as they stood in line of battle in front of the disciplined troops of England, Washington rode along the line. When he came before us he stopped, and looking at us steadily for a moment, said: "Your commander places great reliance on this Rhode Island regiment." 'And when I heard that,' said the old soldier, 'I clasped my musket to my breast and said, Damn 'em, let 'em come!' Sir, the eye of our great commander is now upon us, and he places great reliance on the descendents of that Rhode Island regiment.'" Messrs Roberts Brothers are its publishers.
The Old Market Regulations:
Some curious regulations in regard to the Market House in Providence were made in 1786. It was provided that the meats should be weighed by scales, and not by steelyards. That fowls and such small things should be sold only by the pound, never at so much a pair. That fish must be weighed by steelyards, which must be sealed by the town officer. That oysters should not be opened after candle light. That a farmer coming into town with produce should not sell out his produce to any shopkeeper or butcher before one o'clock in the afternoon. At one o'clock the Market House was to be closed. Fines were imposed for infringements of all these regulations. In the case of a farmer selling to a shopkeeper, both parties were fined. There were many other singular provisions. One was that no truckman was permitted to ride upon his truck. These regulations were certainly whimsical enough; but there was another one made by the Town Council, in 1815, which rather exceeds them. The Beneficent Congregational Church on Broad street asked and received permission to stretch chains across the street during their hours of service. These tidings seem ridiculous to us now, as they were in fact ridiculous, but our own regulations are quite as absurd. For instance, a shopkeeper is fined for calling public attention to his shop with either a horn, or a bell, while a cotton mill or a machine shop can call public attention by a steam horn which can be heard ten miles. A vehicle loaded with firewood or coal, is not allowed to stand in certain streets fifteen minutes, loaded with any other commodity it can stand as long as its owner wishes. These are but specimens of which our statute books are full.
The Narragansett Historical Register:
This little periodical has nearly closed its second volume. The January number has just been issued, and is being delivered to subscribers by Mr. Arnold, its editor. This magazine is devoted to the antiquities, genealogies, and historical matters generally pertaining to Rhode Island. It has improved rapidly, until it has now come to be a very interesting and welcome visitor. The present January number has a genealogy of the Greenes, of Quidneset, by Mr. Ray Greene Huling, now of Fitchburg; an article genealogical in character, on the Hutchinson family, of Boston neck, written by Colonel Thomas Lincoln Casey, now of Washington, D.C. A sketch of the Cole family, by James B. Pierce. Some account of the Sherman family, by Rev. David Sherman. Sheriff Brown's Diary of a Journey to the Susquehannah in 1762. This was some years before the Rhode Islanders settled in Wyoming. Mr. Rowland G. Hazard contributes a Poem, and Mr. Fred A. Arnold, of this city, an article on the Towne Evidence of Providence Plantation, which means in plain English the original deed of the land from the Indians. The deed is for the first time accurately printed with fac-simile signatures, and with it some explanatory records. This was suggested by the error in cutting the mark of Canonicus on the stone set to his memory in the North Burial Ground. The mark cut was not the mark upon the deed. It was a blunder pure and simple. Why not say so? That Canonicus made various marks on various instruments, is no excuse. The question and the only question is, what particular mark did he make on this particular instrument? That this writer, or that one, has used marks indiscriminately, is no excuse. The originator of this memorial stone says he undertook to cut the mark of Canonicus on his memorial stone, which Canonicus himself had made in the deed.
Having cut something else upon the stone, he, instead of saying at once that he copied from Staples's Annals, without having looked at the original deed, undertakes to throw suspicion and doubt upon the genuineness of the document itself, by claiming that it is not the original. But that Staples's reprint is from another and different one, of which, however, there is no present knowledge. If Staples's is correct, then the city's deed is not even a copy. Until the discovery of the error no such idea had ever entered his head, nor the head of anybody else.
The documents which Mr. Arnold has reproduced in connection with the deed, in his article, are most instructive. They have never before been printed. They seem to settle the question beyond the shadow of a doubt. Staples either had access to another deed, of which the city of Providence is the lawful owner, and which has since 1843 disappeared, or he blundered; which, is a matter of opinion.
The BOOK NOTES believes that he blundered. That he printed in his Annals as the original deed, a copy made in 1658. That when this copy was entered upon the records there was entered with it the circumstances of its entry. There we learn that the original deed was then in existence, and that it was in a torn and fragmentary condition. That it had been torn by accident while it was at the house of William Arnold, at Pawtuxet, and that portions of it had been lost. We learn that there were two true copies in existence. These are declared to be copies and are not confounded with the original. One of these copies was in the possession of William Harris and the other in the possession of Thomas Olney, and we learn that the true words were taken from these copies and entered upon the Records. It is this copy which Staples re-printed. It requires no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the torn copy, which William Arnold declares in 1658 was the original, is the same now in the City Hall. Not only was Staples in error as to the mark of Canonicus, but he was also in every other of the four marks he gives. Neither is correct. Nor was he probably correct in ascribing the copy which he gave to the handwriting of Williams. It is in another hand.
This careful article, containing nothing original by Mr. Arnold, is yet worthy of high commendation. The number of acute, alert, careful, historical students in Rhode Island has very much increased. They are really creditable to the state. How much of this is due to the publication of Rhode Island Historical Tracts it is not for the writer to say; but that their publications have awakened a lively interest in such matters is beyond question.
The New Rhode Island Almanac:
Mr. Stockwell comes again with his Rhode Island Almanac. It is 1884. In one respect he has made a very great improvement. It is in in [sic] the price. Last year he made his selling price 25 cents. This year he has made it 10 cents. Mr. Stockwell's almanac is as much superior in every respect to any Rhode Island almanac which has preceded it as it is possible to conceive. The time in it is the new standard -- the 75th meridian. The sun rises in Rhode Island by Mr. Stockwell's almanac, and by no other. In this respect Mr. Stockwell has a perfect monopoly. The vignettes, of which there are upwards of fifty, are all entirely new and very clever, far better than last year's. The diary of events is confined to Rhode Island, as it should be, and is much fuller than before. In this diary we note a slight change in Mr. Stockwell's politics. Last year, under the date April 18th, he said, "Pretended election of <||a|54|T.W. Dorr||> as Gov., 1842." This year he says, "Thos. W. Dorr elected Governor, 1842." It is clear that Mr. Stockwell has become a Dorrite. In addition to this diary, running through the calendar pages, Mr. Stockwell has made a Chronological Record of events in Rhode Island for the year 1883. This of itself is worth the price he asks for his almanac. Many other things in it are good, especially a map which shows at a glance the new standard time belts. Were you to talk seven days, trying to explain to your children these time changes, they will know less about it than they would by looking at this map seven minutes. The BOOK NOTES has only this to complain of: it dislikes to hunt through fifteen pages of preliminary advertisements in search of the title-page. We lose sight of the real situation; we fondly imagine we are buying an almanac, in which a few advertisements are inserted; we are really buying a book of advertisements in which a little almanac is inserted. The almanac is entirely secondary, the advertisements being the main business. By and by how people will laugh at these absurd advertisements. They will be looked upon as demonstrations of the height to which the ridiculous can be carried.
The Shows which Our Grandfathers Attended a Half Century Ago:
There is more instruction in studying the festivals or games or amusements of a people than would at first sight appear. Let him who doubts this consult the pages of Strutt or of Hone, and he will be quickly cured of his error. Here in Rhode Island, since the people held no festivals nor played games, the BOOK NOTES will be restricted to some of their amusements. Half a century since, the annual Mecca of all pleasure-seekers was the Pawtuxet cattle-shows and Fairs. The general musters and Commencement days were likewise attractions; occasional theatrical plays, and now and then a Psallorian concert was about all they had. Occasionally a curious operator came along. Such a one was Maelzel.
Maelzel is best known as the inventor of the famous automaton chess player. He was also the inventor of the "Burning of Moscow," a dioramic exhibition, in which automata are introduced. He was likewise the inventor of the Automaton Bass Fiddler, the Automaton Rope Dancers and the Automaton Speaking Figures. Mr. Maelzel came to Providence in October, 1828, for the first time with these figures and with the Burning of Moscow. He came again in 1835, and many times in subsequent years. The first account of the Chess Player in Providence is in the Manufacturers and Farmers' Journal, February 16, 1837. While on this subject of amusements it may not be amiss to mention a few others. It was in 1835 that the old Tin Top Meeting House on the corner of Pine and Richmond streets was fitted up as a circus. It was called the Olympic Circus. It was not a success. The annual visitants of that kind being about all that the public would sustain, so it was given up as a circus and elevated to a brewery, which to a recent day it remained. Jenks' Museum was during these same years a standing place of amusement. Here came the learned and industrious fleas. What truth there was in the contemporaneous accounts of this strange exhibition we know not. They tell of harnessing a couple of these diminutive insects to a carriage, another couple enter the carriage for a drive, a coachman in livery mounts the box, and off they all go. Many and strange were the tales they told, but none more curious than this one. It was in August, 1835 that Joice Heth made her first visit to Providence. She was announced as a native of Madagascar, born in 1674, brought to this country and sold into slavery to Augustine Washington, the father of the Father of his Country. The Journal has a double leaded editorial vouching for her antiquity, and supplying us with a few facts not elsewhere so accessible. It says Joice rejoiced in having been the mother of fifteen children, the youngest of whom died two years previously at the infantile age of 116 years. No mention is made of the death of the others, they must, therefore, have been alive. That she had been baptised in the Potomac a hundred and sixteen years since, and was still a member of a Baptist church in Virginia. This would make her baptism in 1720, at which time no such body as a Baptist church existed in Virginia. Just think of the amount of credulity which these people presumed to be in the people. In February, 1828, a young Right whale was captured off the north end of Conanicut; seven parties were out after the animal, or fish. The lucky boat was laid alongside by Oliver Potter, and Tom White threw the harpoon. The whale was drawn out of water upon the marine railway, and tickets of admission were sold by Mr. Earl Carpenter. The first visit of the Siamese Twins to Providence was made in September, 1829. They were in the Franklin House for a couple of days. They had but recently arrived in Boston in the ship Sachem. Dr. David B. Slack published a very amusing account of them. These boys attracted great attention at once among the scientific people of the time. In 1833 there came to Providence a mysterious musician who styled himself the "Wandering Piper." There is a letter in the files of the city clerk from him. It is a beautifully written epistle, both as to the style of composition and the penmanship. There is vastly more curiosity in the Papers as to the identity of this individual than there is with regard to Junius, or the Man with the Iron Mask. Exhibitions were frequently given in the rooms on the second floor of the Arcade. In one of these rooms the Plates of Audubon's Birds were exhibited by the Athenaeum, at an admission of 25 cents. The set was unbound and had been recently given to the library. Very much pleasant reminiscence might be given by a pursuit of the subject herein sketched.
The Entertainments which Our Fathers and Mothers Attended:
As a continuation of the subject of Shows which our Grandfathers and Grandmothers Attended, the BOOK NOTES herein gives a resumé of exhibitions and entertainments in Westminster Hall between the years 1841-1850.
By the courtesy of Mr. Charles Sabin, the BOOK NOTES has had access to the original records of entertainments in Westminster Hall, then owned by his father, and now by himself. The hall was opened for the first time on the evening of October 20, 1841, by Mr. W.R. Dempster, who came thereafter frequently. He was a ballad singer. A few days later Mrs. Mowatt gave dramatic readings. On the evenings of the 12th, 20th, and 26th of January, 1842, Mr. Walter R. Danforth gave his reminisences [sic] of Providence, a very small portion of which has recently been published in the newspapers. In November, 1842, came John Quincy Adams with a lecture on the Social Compact. Abraham Payne, on the evening of December 12, delivered a lecture on Queen Anne, which for forty years has been a favorite subject with him. Among the speakers of this time were Richard H. Dana, Jr., John Neal, Henry Giles, Romeo Elton, O.A. Brownson, Leroy Sunderland, George H. Hill, alias Yankee Hill; and N.P. Banks who came to address the people on the Tragedy and Comedy of Shakespeare. During all these months Rev. Thomas T. Waterman preached in the hall on Sundays.
On the 15th June, 1843, the city occupied the Hall for the reception of President Tyler. The Hutchinson family were frequent visitors. The Franklin Lyceum Lectures were delivered there. Charles Burnett and Thomas L. Dunnell brought Emerson here, and also Henry Giles, for many lectures. October 21, 1844, came the Campanologian Bell Ringers. John B. Gough spoke in the evening of November 1st. Ole Bull came November 14th. On the evening of November 18, Mr. Edward R. Bohuszewicz, a Polish musician, who sleeps now at Swan Point, gave his first concert. He was a gentleman, and moreover a favorite with the best people. Joe Greene, with the American Brass Band, was frequently here with concerts. In April, and May, 1845, Mr. Hudson delivered his Lectures on Shakespeare. In December, 1845, Fletcher Webster delivered two lectures on China and the Chinese. George Bush delivered several lectures on Swedenborg. Charles Sumner came on the 25th of February, 1846. Signor Blitz came for the first time for six evenings in October, 1846. Dec. 7th, the Handel & Haydn Society gave the Oratorio of David. July 1st, 1847, Sherwood Stratton used the hall for Gen. Tom Thumb. Herz & Sivori gave concerts August 25, and October 20, 1847. November 1st, Samuel Lover gave his Sprigs of Shillala. The Seguin Operatic Troupe came in 1847, as did Signorira [sic] Biscacciante. Prof. Wine's lectures on the Ancient Hebrew Laws. The Steyermarkische Company gave many concerts. In April, 1848, came the Germania Society with 26 instruments. Tadesco was here on 30th of the same month. On the 13th and 14th of June, Fanny Kemble Butler gave Shakesperian [sic] Readings. Three times in October, 1849, the hall was used by William Whipple Brown for meetings for the company going to California on the bark Walter. During these years Samuel W. Wheeler used the hall for Peace Conventions; Walter R. Danforth for Free Soil meetings; Amarancy Paine, for Anti-Slavery meetings, and Joseph J. Cooke, for lectures on Fourier's Doctrines. In 1850, the Museum was ready for use, and many entertainments which had been given in Westminster hall thenceforward were given at the Museum, which, in its turn flourished and died. Nothing like a complete record has been given, only those which were most marked. Many a note Mr. Sabin added to his accounts which interests us, as to the success or quality of the entertainments. In many a case the pecuniary risk fell mainly on the owner of the hall. Tasistro came here with three lectures for which Mr. Sabin records the receipt of three notes which were never paid. Poor Tasistro is still asking alms. The following letter from a valued friend of the BOOK NOTES further illustrates the article in number 27:
Editor of the Book Notes:
DEAR SIR: -- In BOOK NOTES, issue of March 15th, in the article on the "Shows which our Grandfathers Attended Half Century Ago," mention is made of the "Young Right Whale" exhibited in Providence in 1828. I visited this "leviathan of the deep" when it was laid upon the marine railway, then located at the foot of South Water street, in the vicinity of Carrington's wharf. Joshua H. Work, now a veteran tailor of Providence, was selling tickets for admission in a little shanty near by, and the "Tom White," who threw the harpoon, as related, was in attendance to explain to visitors the mode of capture, and other particulars incident to whaling. Three years later, in 1831, I was a co-worker with Tom, at Newport, and the subject of the whale capture was a theme of frequent conversation. Tom and a Mr. Gifford seemed to be the heroes of the exploit, and in some doggerel verses then in vogue occurred the following: "When Thomas White first struck the whale, Down went his head, up went his tail, And Gifford cried 'Stern all,'"
Gifford's ejaculation being designed to overcome the downward tendency of the bow of the boat by the struggling of the whale. A.H.
Sidney S. Rider (1833-1917) was a Providence bookseller and amateur historian.