Friday, December 02, 2005

Wilmington's Riverview Cemetery

I have always enjoyed cemeteries. They are often quaint, peaceful, and evocative. There are so many stories in a cemetery that are long lost to memory.

On an extended business trip to a small town in western Pennsylvania years ago, I spent my weekends exploring old cemeteries where generations of Welsh coal miners and steel workers were interred with their families. Some years later, I photographed cemeteries in Philadelphia and New Jersey, studying the Victorian symbolisms on the tombstones. I wrote a lengthy article for the Sunday magazine of the old Philadelphia Bulletin.

Genealogical research on the families of my wife and I has taken us to the Civil War burial ground in Wilmington, North Carolina and to almost forgotten cemeteries in the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri. One was a simple farm burial plot in a pasture full of cows.

Therefore, I was pleased to see a book is available on Riverview Cemetery in Wilmington, Delaware, titled Riverview Cemetery: Reading the Stones - A Collection of Memories from the First State. The author has gone after the human stories as well as details of the site. Written by Dr. Lee Anderson, a psychologist in local practice for many years who often does grief counseling, it can be bought by going to the Web site

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Genealogical and Historical Books and Reprints

Two firms in our region are excellent sources of new and reprinted genealogical and historical books — Willow Bend Books in Westminster MD and Colonial Roots in Lewes DE.

Willow Bend Books closed its "brick and mortar" store October 1, 2005, and will now sell online, by phone, or by mail.

Colonial roots still maintains its store at 217 Schley St., Lewes DE (Wed. thru Sat. 10-5) where used and rare books and maps are also offered. In addition, they sell online, by phone, or by mail. Their recent 94-page catalog covers Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It includes seven pages of Delaware books, including the reprint of Scharf's History of Delaware with the added index.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Trolley Honeymoon from Delaware to Maine

One of the high spots of Delaware book collecting is a little volume by Clinton W. Lucas titled A Trolley Honeymoon from Delaware to Maine. In the decades after 1890, the trolley-car was the great technological innovation. It was like computers and cell phones today. Trolley companies sprang up everywhere. Soon half the country was linked with interconnecting independent local trolley lines.

A pair of Delaware newlyweds decided to honeymoon by taking trolleys from Delaware to Maine. They wrote a 125-page book about the experience. Though the book is undated, it was published in 1904 by the M. W. Hazen Co., New York. Here is a quotation from the book.

"If William Penn founded the Quaker city, God made its suburbs – a fair countryside that now passed before us in dissolving views, as our car at quickened speed plunged on to Willow Grove:

'Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
As the Land skip round it measures.'

"We trolleyed past lawns and meadows, stately villas and trim gardens, old wayside inns and ivy-covered churches lodged under the spreading trees; here a classic gateway with Ionic peristyle; there an ancient mansion half-hidden behind high walls of solid masonry; a wide stretch of green fields in the foreground; a background of woodland; winding country lanes deep in shade; and last but not least a valley sweeping northward and disclosing in far
perspective green hills with a bluish haze …"

'A shady road with a grassy track;
A car that follows free;
A Summer’s scene at early morn;
A nickel for a fee.' "

I have never seen a copy of this book. There is a record that one was sold at Wilson's Auction in Lincoln, Delaware, in April 1990 for $210.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Delaware; A Guide to the First State

In the 1930s a number of state books were written under the auspices of the Federal Writers Project. One of the first was Delaware: A Guide to the First State published in 1938. It is a favorite Delaware collectible. A number of editions were published, and their sometimes confusing history is covered in an article on the Collecting Delaware Books Web site.

The Delaware Heritage Commission has announced it will reprint the 1938 edition. It is slated for release this fall.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Delaware Place Names

History buffs, genealogists, and the just curious can enjoy browsing Delaware Place Names published as U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1245 in 1966. It had six authors, none of whom are otherwise known in Delaware letters. The 124-page book is usually seen in paperback. It lists towns, settlements, rivers, creeks, marshes, beaches, hills, harbors, and other geographic features that have names. Not unexpectedly, the word "mountain" does not appear in the glossary.

For each feature, a description and location are given, including latitude and longitude. For dwelling places, populations and political importance are noted. The origin of a place name is given if it is known, and the authority is cited. Some of these name origins are interesting.

In New Castle County today, Bear is a postal designation that stretches between the cities of New Castle and Newark and from I-95 almost to the C&D Canal forming ZIP codes 19701 and 19702. Originally Bear was just a settlement of 75 about 2.6 miles south of Christiana. It was named for Bear Tavern, used from colonial times to 1845. Later, the railroad had a Bear Station. Newark was once a 1,000 acre tract settled by Quaker Valentine Hollingsworth in 1688. He called it New Worke. He gave a small piece of land for a meeting house which was named Newark. Christina River was named on a 1655 map for Queen Christina of Sweden. Somehow the village got changed to Christiana.

Kent County's Dover was named by William Penn in 1683. It did not become Delaware's capital until 1777. Smyrna was Duck Creek but was renamed in 1806 for the Turkish city. The book gives no explanation. Harrington and Townsend were named for 19th Delaware political figures. Before the railroad in 1850, Townsend was a black community called Charleytown.

In Sussex County, Georgetown was planned in 1791 as a county seat exactly in the center. It was named for George Mitchell who supervised the layout. Lewes received its name from a borough in Sussex County, England, but the book gives no explanation of the names Seaford, Laurel, Bridgeville, or Dewey Beach or of the unusual spelling of the biblical Rehoboth. However Selbyville was named after its first postmaster. Delmar was founded in 1859 by the Eastern Shore Railroad. The name, of course, derives from it straddling the Delaware-Maryland border.

The book is not easy to find and is sometimes pricey.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Mystery Delaware Marine Artist

Alexander Charles Stuart 1831-1898 was an artist working in Wilmington, Delaware, who largely painted marine scenes. He is also a man of mystery. In 1956, a distinguished committee assembled about 100 of his paintings for a 10-day exhibit in the old John Wanamaker store. One of these paintings, titled S.S. Republic, is shown at the right. It was borrowed from the Brandywine Room of the Hotel du Pont.

Betty Burroughs and William P. Frank, members of the committee and beloved News-Journal reporters, researched a 16-page pamphlet for the exhibition. They admit that much of the biographical information is conjecture. I will summarize it below.

Stuart was born in Scotland and educated in both medicine and draftsmanship in Scotland and England. He joined the English navy and sailed the world as a seaman. Around 1861, he showed up in the U.S. and joined the Union Navy. He may have served on the ironclad Monitor in the engine room during its battle with the Merrimac. After the Civil War, he settled in Chester, Pennsylvania, married, and raised a large family. By the 1880s, he was working for shipbuilder Harlan and Hollingsworth in Wilmington as a draftsman and artist. He illustrated a semi-centennial history of the company in 1886. Stuart is also listed as an artist with a local studio in Wilmington city directories, but his home was listed as Chester. In later years, the studio was used by Frank E. Schoonover and Stanley M. Arthurs. In the 1890s, he deserted Wilmington. One story has him practicing gynecology in Eustis, Florida. Just before his death in 1898, he was living with a daughter in Camden, New Jersey.

The exhibition booklet, simply titled Stuart (1831-1898), includes more information including two letters to his children by him. But here is additional information about him from several online indexes of artists —

"Stuart was a marine painter whose work is owned by Atwater Kent Museum,Phila.; Delaware Historical Society; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Mariner’s Museum; Mystic Seaport Museum; US Naval Academy; and the Museum of the City of Mobile, AL. In 1860 he was living in NYC with his wife Dora, a Texan, and their two children. He served in the US Navy from 1863 to 1866, then spent the rest of his life along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Camden, Chester and Wilmington, where he painted ship portraits. He worked for shipbuilders. He was known to be a heavy drinker, and an 1884 newspaper from Eustis, Florida even carried his advertisement as a gynecologist. He signed his worked simply Stuart and sometimes used a monogram of an anchor conjoined with an S. He is listed in Falk's Who Was Who in American Art."

This confirms the Burroughs and Frank biography but they never mentioned the drinking, either because of ignorance or delicacy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Sometimes collectors need to settle for a facsimile or reprint of a book, especially when the original is costly or hard to find. History and genealogy researchers are often quite satisfied with these substitutes.

One good source of reprints is Heritage Books, 65 East Main St., Westminster MD 21157-5026. They list about 12,500 reprinted books from many publishers of all states including Delaware. Several thousand were reprinted by Heritage. They were, for instance, the publishers of the latest reissue of Scharf's 1888 History of Delaware. It is now out of print and auction prices are approaching those of the original because it has a far superior index.

Heritage books and its subsidiary Willow Bend Books issue regular catalogs. However, you can see their stock at

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Want Christopher Ward Info

Wilmington lawyer Christopher L. Ward (1868-1943) wrote books in many areas. He was a respected amateur historian and wrote a number of historic texts. He wrote novels in a variety of settings and moods. And he wrote pure literature including satire and humor. He also hobnobbed with several American literary greats.

I had long wanted to publish an article in Collecting Delaware Books about Ward. I hesitated because the late Jerry Shields was researching him. Alas, Jerry's sudden death in 1998 put an end to that and many other projects.

Recently I decided to revive the article on Ward and add it to the CDB Web site. The record of his writings is clear and includes several surprises. But biographical information beyond his role as a founder of Corporate Services Company is hard to find. Then, by accident, I stumbled on a note that a local book dealer had sold Jerry Shield's notes on Christopher L. Ward a few years ago. If anyone knows who bought these notes, I would appreciate hearing from them.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bounds of Delaware and Liquified Natural Gas

Recent news stories about attempts to build a terminal for unloading liquefied natural gas from vessels on the New Jersey shore of the Delaware River bring to mind the 250 year debate over the borders of Delaware. The New Jersey facility would project out into the river, but Delaware claims ownership of the river in that area all the way to the water line on the New Jersey side. Delaware says its Coastal Zone Act forbids such a terminal.

Lawyer, ecologist, and author Dudley Lunt researched these boundaries in archives in England and the United States. The story starts with William Penn in 1682. Lunt published his slim The Bounds of Delaware in 1947. It details the claims and counterclaims, surveying errors, map errors, and legal actions during the centuries. He tells of the Mason-Dixon line, the famous 12-mile circle around the New Castle courthouse, the "wedge," and the continuation of the circle to the New Jersey shore. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Delaware's claim to the river in 1935.

One can not help but feel the big money petroleum interests will eventually win this fight, but Lunt's book has interesting background information. It has always been a popular collectible.

Other books by Dudley Lunt

Thousand Acre Marsh

The Farmers Bank

Taylor's Gut in the Delaware State

Tales of the Delaware Bench and Bar

The Woods and the Sea

He also wrote notes for selections from Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Call From Dr. John A Munroe

I got a phone call from Dr. John A. Munroe two days ago, passing on a new mailing address. He also told me that at age 91 he is still working. Last year he published two books.

The first was a reprint of his Colonial Delaware; A History. Published by the Delaware Heritage Press, it has material not included in the 1978 original. The title was first issued as part of the History of the American Colonies Series which did not permit footnotes. The new volume has complete citations of the quoted material. I believe it is available in soft cover or hardback.

The second is The Philadelawareans, and other essays relating to Delaware published by the University of Delaware Press. It is a collection of articles published in many places from 1945 on about the relation of Delaware to Philadelphia in the late 18th century. Some of the originals are difficult for the researcher to find today. Some of the articles are totally new.

The subjects include: The eve of the Revolution — The New Castle tercentenary — Nonresident representation in the Continental Congress : the Delaware Delegation of 1782 — The ins and outs of politics : early nineteenth-century Delaware — The Delaware physician of 1800 — The Negro in Delaware — Eight newspaper columns — Delaware as an antique — Separation Day — The Old Collector (Allen McLane) — Reflections on Delaware and the American Revolution — Church versus state : the early struggle for control of Delaware College — The first map of Delaware after statehood — Delaware and the Constitution : an overview of events leading to ratification — A Parson in politics : the expulsion of John C. Brush from the Delaware General Assembly in 1801 — Three nineteenth-century immigrants — The trip to Philadelphia.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

George Caley

The death of George Caley last week left the Delaware book and postcard collecting community with one fewer great champions. He was a gentle man who helped me in many small ways from researching an old Smyrna photo to giving me a ride home when my van broke down. He will be missed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Successful Auction at HSD

The auction conducted by the Historical Society of Delaware April 25 was well run. Though the audience was a bit small, the bidders were buying. Material was in good condition and well-described in the catalog. Prices realized were close to fair retail values. Some of the most spirited bidding of the night was on a complete set of the 12 issues of Art Work of Delaware, Charles Madison Company, 1898, which sold for $625.

Carol ColemanVolunteer auctioneer Carol Coleman was smooth and quick, averaging 100 lots per hour. And, no, she did not wear the trademark broad brim hat I remember from her sales years ago.

Congratulations to the many volunteers and the HSD staff who put in a lot of hours putting this sale together.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Fiction, the Parallel Record

It has always been disappointing that Delaware book collectors are little interested in fiction. They would rather collect dusty histories. Delawareans have been extraordinarily literate, writing hundreds of novels and short stories. Some of these are merely written by Delawareans. Others use Delaware as the setting. To me, these are the most interesting.

If a fictional work is written by a person living at the time the story happens, and the writer bases it on his knowledge of real people and places, it can give the reader an insight into that time and place. This insight can be more complete than that gained from a history. Henry Seidel Canby grew up among the wealthy Quaker business families of Wilmington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His 1920 novel Our House is fiction but is set in that society. Much can learned of their family customs, households, dining habits, and business practices. Canby suggests, for example, that when Quaker young men wanted a good time, they dated the daughters of working-class families. Girls of their own class were saved for loftier purposes. Try finding that in Scharf.

A paper by the University of Delaware's Prof. Augustus H. Able III titled "Fiction as a Mirror of Delaware Life" was printed in the Historical Society of Delaware's Delaware History (Vol. III, No. 1) in March 1948. In it he talks about literature as "a living record running parallel to the historical record." Viewed in this way, some Delaware fiction is worthy of study and detective work.

I have just added two articles from the old newsletter to the Collecting Delaware Books Web site (see "links" in the sidebar) about Delaware fiction.Click on "Articles" and look at the bottom of the section on "Books."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Auctioneer with Class

According to the Historical Society of Delaware's announcement of its April 25 Delawareana and Americana Book Auction, the sale will be conducted by Carol Coleman. I have not seen Carol on the podium since she regularly auctioneered for a gallery on US 40 west of Elkton, Md. The gallery was not my favorite, and the building is now gone. But Carol was a bright spot. She was always pleasant, efficient, and fair as an auctioneer and was the only touch of class in the place. I will enjoy seeing her again.

One question. Carol's trademark was a variety of broad-brimmed hats. Will she wear one for this sale?

Search Engine for Collecting Delaware Books Web Site

We have added a site search engine to the Collecting Delaware Books Web site. It works very well. The results are thorough and nicely presented. Please go to the site and try it.

The search service is provided free by an outside firm. Because of that, sponsored search results may appear, especially when no hits are found on the site. We feel this is a small price to pay. Anyone wishing to add a search to their Web site should go to Burrow deep enough, and you will find the free trial version. It can be used indefinitely at no cost on any Web site of less than 500 pages.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Old Conrad High School

Henry C Conrad was a notable Delawarean 100 years ago as a judge, writer, amateur historian, and historical society officer. His 1908 3-volume History of Delaware was an important update to Scharf. The following email is not about books specifically, but it might strike a chord with some readers.

Quoting --

My name is Jeff Nichols. I am in search of specific articles pertaining to Henry C. Conrad. The reason for this search is the crushing news that the Old Henry C. Conrad High School now recognized as the Henry C. Conrad Middle School is undergoing a change to a Biotech School with a planned name change. I come from a family of seven that had all five children attend Conrad High. Since the closure of the High School in 79' the alumni of Conrad High have continued to carry the spirit of the school. We still have a marching band from the old alumni that performs at our events and charity functions. Alumni from the 1940s still come to these functions. Being that your career and knowledge in Delaware history is vast, I thought you may be able to provide information that may assist me in fighting this potential renaming. Our history is the only absolute we can count on in this ever changing world. To remove pieces that mean so much to so many adds to the deterioration of our communities. The break down of our community schools led to the break down of our neighborhoods which led to the destruction of our communities and fed the problems of our entire society. To have a High School dedicated to you must have meant that you have had a strong impact on the lives of so many and that you had dedicated so much of your own for the benefit of others. If you rename that dedication does it not mean that perhaps all that work is not so important any more. All of the memories and spirit of so many can just be altered by a group of people who have no emotional stake in their decision. I believe we can change and build for the future without forgetting or forsaking the memory and the history of our past.


Jeff Nichols

If any of you feel like joining Jeff in his cause, send me email (see the sidebar link), and I will forward your message and email address to him. -- John P Reid

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Wilson's Auction April 4, 2005

On Monday, April 4, my wife and I went to Wilson’s Auction Sales in Lincoln, DE, for the semi-annual Delaware Special Auction. We have missed very few of these in the last 15 years. The Smyrna-Clayton Heritage Association had a similar auction the same night in Smyrna, DE. I wish these organizations would communicate better. However, the crowd at both auctions was close to normal. Some people managed to get to both.

I went to Wilson's because a dealer can usually buy for resale better there. Indeed, I bought a lot of good clean saleable old books. But this auction is changing. Much of the usual crowd was there: collectors, dealers, historical society people, and the like. However, there was one woman who I know only sells on the Internet. At least two couples and one individual were strangers, and I am guessing from their purchases they were eBay dealers as well.

Dave Wilson was in fine form. He was selling 130 lots an hour. It was sometimes hard to keep track of who had the bid. Most of the Delaware books were sold during the first two hours, and prices were low. Of course, the postcards did well. They always do. Later in the sale the majority of lots were miscellaneous paper ephemera: advertising, billheads, deeds, maps, bookplates, pamphlets, and posters. Some of us sat in awe of little Ziploc bags of brownish paper scraps going for hundreds of dollars.

Wilson's is still a folk rite. The diehard collectors sit all night for the one or two treasures they want. A lot of the old-timers are dead now. Even more are ailing and not up to a night out in a noisy, cold auction gallery. But they are being replaced by the new collectors and the emerging eBay dealers.

How It All Began

In 1985, I started carrying collectible old Delaware books in my antiques shop in New Castle County, Delaware, and found there was a lot of local interest. These books became a major part of my business. I worked hard to become expert in the field and began publishing a printed subscription newsletter Collecting Delaware Books in 1992. In 2000, the newsletter became a Web site. It is still growing, but I wanted a way to offer current news and casual thoughts without the bother of a formal article. Hence, this blog was born.