Friday, August 31, 2012

Full of Hot Air

A paper balloon with significant decoration including an American flag.This paper lantern balloon from the 1888 Presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison and his running mate Levi Morton was a common form of campaign advertising ephemera in the 1870s and 80s. Used in evening torchlight parades, the balloon was formed over a wire frame on the end of a long stick with an oil lantern inside. Needless to say, this combination of paper and flame (and their close proximity to one another) virtually ensured the future rarity of these lanterns, if not the short lived terror of the bearer of the stick should a breeze blow unfavorably.

One segment of the balloon has the bastardized slogan "Tippecanoe and Morton too," a play on Benjamin Harrison's father's successful 1840 campaign for the Presidency in which "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" became a famous slogan and song. Benjamin Harrison, who lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college, would have considerably more luck than his father in carrying out the duties of the highest office of the land. William Henry Harrison died a mere 30 days after his famously long inauguration speech in inclement weather. The log cabin motif was also meant to harken back to William Henry Harrison's portrayal of himself as a rugged and frugal frontier everyman despite his genteel southern upbringing and wealth.
The balloon from another angle.

With both the Republican and Democratic conventions upon us it bears remembering, while we watch two wealthy urban candidates attempt to manufacture a common man appeal, that there is nothing new under the sun where politics are concerned.

This lantern, as well as a number of other pieces spanning the years 1841 to 1973, is currently on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries in Rauner Library as part of an exhibit on political campaigns and political action.

You can find the lantern and other interesting campaign materials in the the Ralph E. and William W. Becker Collection of American Political Campaign Materials.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Inhabitants Inside the Earth!

A close-up from a page of handwritten text, showing the name Victoria.In the mid-19th century, when urban dwellers in the United States began to venture into nature for the sake of relaxation rather than conquest, the White Mountains offered an obtainable, yet nicely civilized destination. Once there, tourists were welcomed into luxurious hotels surrounded by breathtaking views and enlivening hikes. They were also met by local color looking for a good audience.

John Merrill was a eccentric tour guide. He set up in Franconia Notch on "The Pool" where he would entertain tourists by showing them the sights and explaining his theories. Boston Rare Maps did some research and found this from the November 1867 Yale Literary Magazine:
Here is an old man in a barge, into which you enter, and he paddles you around the narrow circuit of the Pool. When you have reached the side toward the Falls, where the water is from twenty to thirty feet deep, but clear as crystal, he begins to unfold to you his favorite theory; (for you must know that, in his own estimation at least, the old man is quite a philosopher;) that the earth is a hollow sphere, inhabited on the inside, as well as the outside. He maintains his position by arguments entirely original and irrefutable; has an answer ready for every question, and seeks to proselyte you. He reads a letter he pretends to have received from Queen Victoria,-which here I insert.
A handwritten letter in broadside format.
Merrill issued the letter as a broadside, Royal Despatch of Her Majesty to Hon. John Merrill, Flume House, N.H. (East Canaan: G. F. Kimball, Printer, [1857]), perhaps to hand out to converts, or perhaps to sell for support of his theories.

We have two variations of the broadside--one containing another letter by Louis Napoleon.  Come judge the validity yourself by asking for Rauner Broadside 001457 or visiting the Pool and looking into its depths.