Where the Sidewalk Ended – Shel Silverstein: Poet, Comic, Musician and All Around Totally Awesome Guy

“Although I cannot see your face
As you flip these poems awhile,
Somewhere from some far-off place
I hear you laughing—and I smile.”

Yesterday in 1999, the United States lost a fantastic poet, cartoonist, writer and amazing person – one who influenced hundreds of thousands of lives with his humorous poems and eccentric cartoons. However, we aren’t here to talk about his death – but rather to celebrate his life!

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 6.51.26 AMShel (short for Sheldon) Silverstein was born on September 25th, 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. He spent all of his formative years in Illinois, attending Roosevelt High School and then the University of Illinois. Though unfortunately expelled from the University, he was then able to enroll in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Now, bear with me readers, as there are some contradictory articles to be found online and truthfully I can’t tell whether he was then enlisted in the army or drafted, but either way he fought in Japan and Korea sometime around 1948-1951. When he returned from the army, Silverstein spent a bit of time in college at Roosevelt University, though would later be quoted as saying his years in college were a bit of a waste. He is quoted as saying, “Imagine – four years you could have spent traveling around Europe meeting people, or going to the Far East of Africa or India, meeting people, exchanging ideas, reading all you wanted to anyway, and instead I wasted it at Roosevelt.” That being said, however, it was also when he was first published (in the Roosevelt Torch, a student newspaper)! His time at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (part of Roosevelt University) was spent studying music and composition, a talent he would pursue throughout his life.

Silverstein began submitting cartoons in many different arenas. His work could be found in the magazines LookSports Illustrated and This Week. In 1957, Silverstein became the leading cartoonist in Playboy, a job that opened his eyes to the world. He was sent to many countries to create an “illustrated travel journal” with descriptions of far off places. Two decades of his life were spent creating these cartoons for Playboy, and he became an adult household name through his drawing. (Though occasionally his household name was “Uncle Shelby” as that is how he referred to himself in many of his comics throughout the the 1960s and 70s – eventually publishing Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book – to the delight of many!)

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 2.09.44 PMBeginning in the 1960s while being published in Playboy, Silverstein began working on poems and cartoons for children. His book The Giving Tree was first published (after four years of trying to find someone willing to publish it) in 1964, and some would argue is his most classic work – having sold over 5 million copies and still amazingly popular. For the next three decades Silverstein would release many best sellers and award winning titles to the delight of children and adults alike. His children’s poems are known for their simplicity and brevity, but also for their tremendous sense of humor! All are accompanied by an intricate black and white cartoon, drawn, of course, by Silverstein himself. However, comics were not his only claim to fame – throughout his life Silverstein kept up a solid musical career as well. While working at Playboy in 1959, Silverstein recorded his first album called Hairy Jazz. It wouldn’t stop there, however, as Silverstein would go on to create over a dozen music albums over the course of his lifetime. Though one could argue that his music was not quite as popular as his comics and poetry, it is obvious that his level of creativity knew no bounds!

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Though Silverstein passed away of a heart attack on May 10th, 1999, still almost two decades later his work is wildly popular with children and adults – the mark, in my opinion, of a success.

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OTD in 1830 – the First Passenger Steam Train Begins a Rigorous Schedule!

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On this day, May 3rd, in 1830, the first steam train regular passenger service began! Though trains had been in use in the early 1800s, they had not been used for the transportation of people – only the transportation of goods! The incredible discovery that these trains could be used as a way to deliver people from one place to another was going to be the hottest thing since sliced bread – and the gateway to mass transportation – the first of its kind!

Trains gave human beings the ability to develop civilizations quickly. Even the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt used tracks that horses would draw buggies on, minimizing the amount of force needed to be done by the horse. It was only a matter of time before the ingeniousness of this mode of transport would be understood. Trains, as they were in the early 19th century, made movement easy and quick – distant lands became easily, and instantly, accessible. A trip from New York to California, which previously would have taken a group with a wagon and horses months, now took only a few days. In regards to transporting both goods and people, it became apparent that there was a need of implementing standardized time zones across the world – in order to more efficiently set up schedules – arrivals and departures of both passengers and industry.

Today, despite the many optional modes of transportation (cars, airplanes, boats… teleportation – just kidding), trains are used in a variety of ways. Subway systems and electric trains are used for short travel distances, and longer trains, though used less and less often due to the abundance of air travel available (in the United States, at least – we are happy to report that trains are still used frequently in other parts of the world), are still available and equipped with all the luxuries you might expect. Freight trains continue to move much industry on all continents (and are the bulk amount of the trains in the US at this time). Bullet trains, high speed modes of transportation, can now reach speeds around 200 mph and are becoming more widespread. It is plain to see how the automotive industry shaped the ability to travel and transport goods, and how it has continued for over 150 years to grow and evolve to suit the needs of passengers!

Now, speaking of trains – we’d like to highlight a few of our most interesting automotive items!

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 7.53.57 AMThis first item is, to me, one of the most interesting as pertaining to this article. Despite us not knowing precisely when it was printed, this schematic of an early Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road Company steam train car is a blueprint to some of the early days of passenger transport! The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, one of the oldest railroads in the United States, was the country’s first “common carrier” and the first to offer scheduled freight and passenger service to the public between the years of 1828 and 1927. See it here>

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This spec sheet from Baldwin Locomotive Works is a bit more scientific in nature. Printed in 1926 it is not a spec sheet for early passenger travel, but for one intrigued by the automotive industry it is certainly a good source of information on the development of trains over time! Check it out here>

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Last but not least, a more local item! This collection of Bay Area transport items is a wonderful fount of information of the rapid Bay Area transit from 1923 to 1957 – contained within the collection are some blueprints, photographs, advertisements, tickets, charts/timetables, booklets and certificates. The Key System Transit Company (as it was then known) went through several transformations until it has developed into the very system we now use today! See it here>

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Announce: UNCOMMON SURVIVORS, A Catalogue

We are pleased to announce that our latest (and greatest) catalogue has hit online shelves everywhere! Don’t miss out on a chance to view and purchase these uncommon and surprising items, beautifully laid out by our very own Kate Mitas! Check it out here>

April 2017 cat cover

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What We Found in a California Gold Mine! I Mean, Book Fair. California Book Fair.

So, it’s been a couple weeks since the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair and over a month since California’s Pasadena Book, Print and Paper Fair and the California ABAA Fair! What that means in layman’s terms is that it has given us just enough time to catalogue some of the highlights found at these fairs and acquired for the Tavistock Books collection! Enjoy some of our latest and greatest, offered here below and linked for your viewing pleasure. Email us at vjz@tavbooks.com with any questions!

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If science and technology is your thing, have we got some goodies for you! Check out this 1873 title detailing a lecture delivered at the South London Microscopical and Natural History Club on April 9th, 1872. The subject? “On Spectrum Analysis as Applied to Microscopical Observation.” Complete with a beautiful original chromolithographic frontispiece as well as its original publisher’s bindings, this is an item not to be missed! Check it out here>

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Now, if you’re more of a reading and writing kind of person, we’ve got something for you too! This English Spelling Dictionary was published in 1752 in Dublin, a third edition thought to be pirated Newbery, it includes all the most important words of the English language to be taught to “Young Gentlemen, Ladies, and Foreigners!” Check it out here>

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One of our more recently explored, but immediately favorited genres is our collection of cook books and menus! It is so fun to see the changes in recipes and menus through the ages, so we do keep a good look out for those. At the recent California fairs we were lucky enough to find this one – a rare cook book from the Castile Sanitarium! Published in 1911, a 2nd edition, but excitingly not found in Axford, Wheaton or Kelly – with OCLC recording only 2 copies and, at this moment, no others available for purchase in the trade! Check it out here>

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The Medical Profession has changed often throughout the centuries – clearly antibiotics were a killer creation, and the leeches thing seems to have run its course (hopefully). Check out this 1856 1st edition of “The Medical Profession in Ancient Times” – a book on a lecture by John Watson to the New York Academy of Medicine the year prior. This copy not only a 1st edition, but also an inscribed presentation copy from the author to George Adlend, Esq. Check it out here>

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Now have we got a gift for the newlyweds in your life! Let’s be totally stereotypical for a moment and enjoy this “Complete Cookery Book with Sections on Household Work, Servants’ Duties, Labour Saving, Laundry Work, Etiquette, Marketing, Carvings & Trussing, the Art of ‘Using-Up’, Table Decoration, the Home Doctor, the Nursery, the Home Lawyer…” and more by Mrs. Beeton! There are 4000+ Cookery Recipes in this one volume… if it isn’t a happy homemaker’s dream come true! Check out this 1923 volume here>Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 10.10.15 PM

 

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Our holding of “Where I Was Born and Raised” by David Cohn is in uncommonly nice condition – complete with its original dust jacket in Very Good condition! This author wrote about segregation in America and his stories, such as “God Shakes Creation” should not be missed. Check it out here>

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And, saving one of the best for last! Our “Life, Trial, and Execution of Maria Manning and Frederic G. Manning for the Barbarous Murder of Patrick O’Connor” is a series of letters written by our main man Charles Dickens after witnessing the public hangings of Maria and Frederic for the murder of her lover, Patrick O’Connor. Dickens was against public executions like this, which occasioned his writing two letters to the Times protesting the practice of public hangings, emphasizing his belief that such events “had only a hardening and debasing influence on their spectators, and that from the moment a murderer was convicted he should be kept from curious visitors and reporters serving up his sayings and doings in the Sunday papers, and executed privately within the prison walls.” Did we mention that no holdings of this item are found on OCLC? Check it out here>

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OTD in 1926 : H.L. Mencken Gets Arrested in Boston for Selling a Banned Copy of The American Mercury!

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By Margueritte Peterson

On this day in 1926, the Jazz Age was in full swing in the United States. Censorship was not an uncommon or unlawful idea at the time, and many Americans were being held to strict moral codes (like that of the prohibition) that they didn’t necessarily believe in. This was the case all over the United States (as well as elsewhere, but that’s another story for another day), but particularly so in the large East Coast City of Boston, Massachusetts, where the phrase “Banned in Boston” was applied to music, literature, motion pictures, plays among other works of art that had been deemed inappropriate or objectionable by a conservative ruling party. Also on this day in 1926, famed American journalist, critic and satirist H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken) was arrested in Boston after knowingly and purposefully selling a recently banned issue of his own magazine The American Mercury. This moment in time will forever be remembered as a startling win for those against censorship, as not only was Mencken’s case dismissed but he was later able to win a lawsuit filed against Boston’s Watch and Ward Society for illegal restraint of trade. Though at the time it seemed that his win did little to change the harsh censorship laws in Boston, it did a lot to gather attention.

Now, H. L. Mencken was no stranger to being in the public eye. In fact, he traveled to Boston with none other than the express intention of getting himself arrested for selling one of his own works. He knew that the Watch and Ward Society would make sure he would be punished for selling his issue (banned especially because of a story about a prostitute named Fanny) – and wanted both the attention and the absurdity that was censorship in Boston to be highlighted for the world to see. Not everyone in Boston agreed with the Watch and Ward Society’s harshness, as he was acquitted the very next day by a lenient judge. In fact, around this time Boston began to bite itself in the behind, so to speak, as their banned books began to unintentionally garner favor in other areas of the United States with the taboo of being salacious!

Mencken was a free spirit if there ever was one, and both the prohibition and censorship angered him greatly. He is quoted as saying in 1922, “I am, in brief, a libertarian of the most extreme variety, and know of no human right that is one-tenth as valuable as the simple right to utter what seems (at the moment) to be the truth.” He used his skills and connections in the journalism community to procure a reputation as, well, a bit of a badass! 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 7.44.27 PMThe story of Mencken’s arrest goes something like this – he boarded a train for Boston and once having arrived in the city organized a meeting in a public square with John Chase, the director of the Watch and Ward Society. Once Chase arrived, police in tow, Mencken offered Chase the banned issue of The American Mercury for a half-dollar coin. Chase handed the coin over, dramatically (or so we presume), and Mencken, after having bit the coin (you know, just for good measure), was placed in handcuffs and escorted from the Boston Common! After his acquittal the following day, when the judge ruled that private citizens should not be in charge of what literature ought to be banned or not, Mencken went to lunch at Harvard University, where a crowd of over a thousand happy fans greeted him with applause and gaiety. 

Suffice to say, on this day in 1926 a fairly important moment in the history of censorship was going down! Though the Watch and Ward Society was not shut down and some could argue that no immediate response was garnered from the showdown between Mencken and Chase, here we are, almost 100 years later, still talking about this single incident! Perhaps it wasn’t all for nothing… let’s give H. L. Mencken some credit!

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The Northern California Chapter Quarterly Meeting

By Margueritte Peterson

This past Tuesday the 21st of March saw the members of the Northern California Chapter of the ABAA at their Quarterly meeting, this time held in Walnut Creek at the elegant Massimo Ristorante restaurant. Tavistock Books had three in attendance, Commander Vic Zoschak, trusty Aide-de-Camp Kate Mitas, and myself! There were 20+ members and guests in attendance, and not only was there a dinner, but as the meeting was held in downtown Walnut Creek, new ABAA member Laurelle Swan held a reception prior to the meeting at her store, Swan’s Fine Books, just a couple of blocks away. On the docket to be discussed at this meeting in particular were some important items – the recent California ABAA and Shadow fairs, our new rep (John Crichton) from the Northern California Chapter in New York, and some very important news on the AB228 law that has severely hurt and hindered many California booksellers. Of course, the evening would not have been complete without some hilarious comments (and some “statements”, too) by many of our local California booksellers. So happy to have been in attendance with a great meal, wonderful conversation and hilarious one-liners – some shared here for your enjoyment along with a few images below!

  • “When the women dressed in drag, married women and fooled them with devices”
  • “She has entered the pit of hell
  • “Uh, no… find another sucker”
  • Insurance fire
  • “Yes, I would probably be banned from China if they ever found out”
  • “I’d like to make some comments if I may… and then make some statements too…”
  • “Everybody was talking about it in MY neighborhood…”

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Beware the Ides of March Today, Folks… But What on Earth are the “Ides of March”?

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By Margueritte Peterson

Have you ever heard anyone say “Beware the Ides of March”? I have known this phrase my whole life, and even known that it speaks of March 15th. However, I have never truly known the whole story behind the Ides or why it was something akin to a Friday the 13th – a date to be feared and treated carefully. So what began a public fear of this date? Is it something we should truly beware? Allow me to answer your questions!

The Ides of March was a date in the Ancient Roman Calendar. Their years used to begin with what we now know as the month of March, and the holidays celebrated within the month are commonly regarded as different New Years celebrations. “Ides” happened every month, however, as they were an observance of the full moon and usually on the 13th or 15th every month, and March was just one of the many. That being said, you don’t ever hear anyone say “Beware the Ides of September” – do you? So what happened to bring March’s Ides into question? Well, the assassination of Julius Caesar, and a pithy and dramatic line from none other than William Shakespeare, of course!

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 11.15.39 AMCaesar was, according to legend, warned by a seer to “Beware the Ides of March”. This was followed by Caesar throwing it gently back in the seers face while on the way to the Theatre of Pompey in 44 B.C. on March 15th, when he joked that the Ides of March had come and nothing bad had happened, and the seer replied with “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” – meaning that the worst was yet to come. Caesar was then assassinated by almost 60 conspirators led by Brutus and Cassius at the meeting of the senate – an event which sparked civil war and led to the creation of the Roman Empire and dissolution of the Roman Republic. Shakespeare, a master of creating phrases that live on in the minds of his audience, must have known that by dramatizing such a famous occasion he would be inducing a world of fear surrounding the 15th of March! But is there any truth to the fear? Well, take a look yourself! Here are what the Smithsonian deems the top 10 events in history that took place on March 15th that coincide with the fear of the day. 

1. Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 B.C.

Conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus stab dictator-for-life Julius Caesar to death before the Roman senate. Caesar was 55.

2. A Raid on Southern England, 1360

A French raiding party begins a 48-hour spree of rape, pillage and murder in southern England. King Edward III interrupts his own pillaging spree in France to launch reprisals, writes historian Barbara Tuchman, “on discovering that the French could act as viciously in his realm as the English did in France.”

3. Samoan Cyclone, 1889

A cyclone wrecks six warships—three U.S., three German—in the harbor at Apia, Samoa, leaving more than 200 sailors dead. (On the other hand, the ships represented each nation’s show of force in a competition to see who would annex the Samoan islands; the disaster averted a likely war.)

4. Czar Nicholas II Abdicates His Throne, 1917

Czar Nicholas II of Russia signs his abdication papers, ending a 304-year-old royal dynasty and ushering in Bolshevik rule. He and his family are taken captive and, in July 1918, executed before a firing squad.

5. Germany Occupies Czechoslovakia, 1939

Just six months after Czechoslovak leaders ceded the Sudetenland, Nazi troops seize the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, effectively wiping Czechoslovakia off the map.

6. A Deadly Blizzard on the Great Plains, 1941

A Saturday-night blizzard strikes the northern Great Plains, leaving at least 60 people dead in North Dakota and Minnesota and six more in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. A light evening snow did not deter people from going out—“after all, Saturday night was the time for socializing,” Diane Boit of Hendrum, Minnesota, would recall—but “suddenly the wind switched, and a rumbling sound could be heard as 60 mile-an-hour winds swept down out of the north.”

7. World Record Rainfall, 1952

Rain falls on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion—and keeps falling, hard enough to register the world’s most voluminous 24-hour rainfall: 73.62 inches.

8. CBS Cancels the “Ed Sullivan Show,” 1971

Word leaks that CBS-TV is canceling “The Ed Sullivan Show” after 23 years on the network, which also dumped Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason in the preceding month. A generation mourns.

9. Disappearing Ozone Layer, 1988

NASA reports that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than predicted.

10. A New Global Health Scare, 2003

After accumulating reports of a mysterious respiratory disease afflicting patients and healthcare workers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada, the World Health Organization issues a heightened global health alert. The disease will soon become famous under the acronym SARS (for Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Now, though I am not at all convinced that the cancelling of the “Ed Sullivan Show” deserves to be on a list alongside the disappearing Ozone layer or the assassination of Julius Caesar (no matter how popular it was), but I’ll bite. It certainly seems like some tragic world events have taken place on this day in history. Then again… tragic events take place every day in history. What about the 26th of December, 2004, when 280,000 people died in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami? Or the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York? What about every school shooting, sinking ships, genocides around the world? Surely other days could be found that have known numerous tragic events, just like the Ides of March, throughout history. 

In any case, perhaps it is best to keep your wits about you today, and hope that all turns out well! What do you believe? 

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