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.