The Columbian Exposition Coin that Challenged the Way a Nation Views Women

In 1893 the commemorative Isabella quarter was struck. The Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition requested authorization of the coin by congress. The quarter depicts the Spanish queen Isabella I of Castile, who sponsored Columbus’s voyages to the New World. It was designed by Bureau of the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber, and is the only U.S. commemorative of that denomination that was not intended for circulation.

Bertha Palmer

The Board of Lady Managers whom requested the coin was headed by Bertha Palmer, whose husband Potter owned the Palmer House, the leading hotel in Chicago. The decisions of the Lady Managers were often reversed by their male counterparts on controversial matters: for example, Palmer sought to shut the fair’s “Egyptian Girls” dancing show after deeming it obscene. The show was one of the exposition’s few successful moneymakers, and the Lady Managers were overruled by the men who voted to keep it open.

At the insistence of women’s advocate, Susan B. Anthony, in 1890, authorization for the Board of Lady Managers to create this coin was granted. Anthony’s goal with this project was to show that women could successfully assist in the management of the fair. Thus, the Lady Managers sought a coin to sell in competition with the commemorative half dollar at the Exposition. When the half dollar appeared in November 1892, the Lady Managers considered it inartistic and determined to do better. Palmer wanted the Lady Managers “to have credit of being the authors of the first really beautiful and artistic coin that has ever been issued by the government of the United States”.

Palmer approached the House Appropriations Committee, asking that $10,000 of the funds already designated to be paid over to the Lady Managers by the federal government be in the form of souvenir quarters, which they could sell at a premium. Congress passed an act authorising the souvenir coin on March 3, 1893. The act required that the design had to be approved by the Secretary of the Treasury and that the total mintage of the special quarter would be limited to 40,000.

With approval for the coin, with albiet a small mintage, Palmer set out to produce a beautiful coin. Palmer asked artist Kenyon Cox to produce sketches, she was, however, determined to have a woman actually design the coin. She also consulted with Sara Hallowell, who was both the secretary to the fair’s Director of Fine Arts and was helping the Palmers amass a major art collection. Hallowell contacted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who recommended his onetime student, Caroline Peddle, who was already engaged in exposition work, having been commissioned by Tiffany’s to produce an exhibit. Palmer agreed to have Peddle do the work.

On March 14, 1893, Edward O. Leech, the Director of the Bureau of the Mint, wrote to Palmer. He asserted that it was encouraged for the design process to be kept in-house at the mint. Palmer replied that the Lady Managers had already decided that the quarter would bear a portrait of Isabella I, Queen of Castile. She also stated that she was consulting artists and suggested that the Mint submit a design for consideration.


Peddle’s sketch

Finally, Palmer officially hired Peddle to do the design work. She instructed the artist that the coin was to have a figure of Isabella on the obverse, and the inscription “Commemorative coin issued for the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition by Act of Congress, 1492–1892” on the reverse, as well as the denomination and the name of the country. The chairwoman did not request that Peddle provide the Lady Managers with the design before sending it to the Mint. The secretary at the Mint said that the long inscription, would appear like a business advertising token, and he asked that it be revised. The Lady Managers, instead would likely have an outside sculptor create the obverse and the Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber to create some designs for the reverse for possible use.

But, Peddle had already designed the coin with Palmer’s previous instructions and sent the sketches to the Mint with the long inscription. The Mint was unhappy with the reverse and officially appointed Barber to design that side of the coin. The Mint also reported that Isabella’s legs would appear distorted if the seated figure were used and advocated a head in profile.  Peddle was informed that Barber would produce the reverse, though the design would be sent to her for approval, and she would have to change her obverse. Meanwhile, Palmer was growing increasingly anxious: with a timeline of two months from design approval to the availability of the actual coins, she feared that the pieces would not be available for sale until well into the fair’s May to October run. Under pressure from all sides, Peddle threatened to quit the project, writing that she “could not consent to do half of a piece of work”.

Two letters dated on April 7 from the Mint to Peddle asserted that the right as Mint director to prescribe coin designs, and told Peddle that the obverse would be a head of Isabella, while the reverse would be based on sketches by a Mint engraver which she would be free to model. The second letter, imposed the additional requirement that Isabella not wear a crown, which was deemed inappropriate on an American coin. And unfortunately, on April 8, 1893, Caroline Peddle withdrew from the project.

The Mint informed Palmer of Peddle’s resignation and Palmer lamented on their inability to work together. Palmer suggested an alternative to the inscription reverse, for the coin depict the Women’s Building at the fair. Barber prepared sketches and rejected the idea, stating that the building would appear a mere streak on the coin in the required low relief. Barber favored a sketch from Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan, showing a kneeling woman spinning flax, with a distaff in her hands. Others were not fully satisfied with the proposal, stating that the juxtaposition of Isabella on the obverse and the Morgan reverse was “too much woman”. Barber tackled the project of producing his own reverse designs which portrayed various uses of a heraldic eagle. The eagle designs were briefly considered but eventually Morgan’s designs were accepted stating that,  “the distaff is used in art to symbolize patient industry, and especially the industry of women.”

Curator at the University of Pennsylvania, Stewart Cullin, possessed a number of medals depicting Isabella, and former general Oliver O. Howard was engaged in writing a biography of the late queen and possessed likenesses of her. It was agreed that these men be consulted for the Isabella design. Still the Mint was reluctant to allow an inscription which made distinctions by sex, such as “Board of Lady Managers”, to appear on the coin, but it was eventually approved.

Palmer was sent a box containing two plaster models of the obverse, one of Isabella as a young queen, the other showing her more mature. Along with the models was a letter that informed her that the distaff reverse would be used. The obverse models were supposedly made by Barber based on an engraving of Isabella forwarded by Peddle to the Mint at Palmer’s request, but Moran suggests that the period of only a day between receipt of the engraving and completion of the models means that Barber was working on them before that. The Board of Lady Managers on May 5 selected the design of the young queen.

The coins final design was fairly well received regardless of the hardships to get to the final product. Many of the Lady Managers were overall discouraged by the process and that they were unable to have their full vision for the coin realized.

Charles Ransom Chickering

Charles Ransom Chickering was a freelance artist who designed some 77 postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office while working at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. His career as a professional artist began while working as an illustrator for the U.S. Army recording and drawing medical illustrations of the wounded and dead during the First World War.

On October 7, 1891, Charles Ransom Chickering was born in the Smithville section of Eastampton Township, New Jersey. His artistic ability was evident from an early age and in high school he was offered  a scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. This began his career as an illustrator. He graduated from this school in 1913 and soon sold his first illustrations to Collier’s Magazine where his career as a freelance book and magazine illustrator was assured.

When World War I began Chickering had to halt his career to enlist in the US Army. He was originally assigned to the infantry where he was soon transferred to a cavalry unit. While drawing in his spare time, the Army recognized his talents and started to assign him more unusual tasks. While stationed in France he was assigned to make medical illustrations of body-part wounds of soldiers who died in battle and were brought in for autopsy. Several of these drawings can still be seen in the Smithsonian collection in Washington, DC. In 1919 he was discharged from the Army. According to 1920 census records he once again continued his career as a freelance illustrator after the war.


Navy recruitment poster, 1942 

The magazine industry grew rapidly between WWI and WWII. Chickering during this time was able to find plenty of opportunities producing illustrations for a number of magazines. Including  Collier’s, Good Housekeeping, The Country Gentleman, Everybody’s Magazine, Blue Book, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Liberty, and the Saturday Evening Post. Some of his drawings were also used in Blue Book stories like Lady on the Warpath, The Blackout Murder, A Matter of a Pinion, and Be Sure Your Sin Will Run You In.

When World War II began, Chickering once again put his talents to use contributing to the war effort. Recognized for his illustrating ability working for the Army during the first world war he was commissioned by the government and designed recruitment posters for the Navy Department. Among his most famous posters was the Uncle Sam poster of 1942. He also designed posters that promoted awareness and the need for successful civilian war production.

Following the war, he had made connections with government officials and embarked on a career designing U.S. postage stamps. In 15 years of work, Chickering was credited for designing 66 stamp designs that were produced unaltered, into the final stamp design, such as the one used in the Opening of Japan commemorative issue of 1953, while 11 other designs were modified somewhat and incorporated into a stamp format.

While designing postage stamps with their frequent historical themes Chickering often spent much time researching and studying historical documents, letters, paintings, statues and photographs before creating the design for a postage stamp. When he designed the Gettysburg Address issue he studied a statue created by Daniel Chester French to create the image of Lincoln on the stamp, while the credo inscribed on the stamp is taken from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address itself.

In his later life Chickering developed heart problems which ultimately claimed his life while living in Island Heights, New Jersey, on April 29, 1970. During the months leading up to his death Chickering was still designing and producing first day covers some of which were consequently released after his death. The theme for the design of his final cachet was the South Carolina Settlement stamp issued in September 12, 1970. Chickering will always be remembered as a talented artist who created some of the most iconic imagery in U.S. history.

The Nova Constellatio

The 1783 Nova Constellatio pattern coins represent a brilliant solution to the foremost economic problem facing the American States during the Revolutionary period – how to create a national currency that incorporated the hodge-podge of monetary systems in use at the time.

The Nova Constellatio coins are the first coins struck under the authority of the United States of America. These pattern coins were struck in early 1783, and are known in three silver denominations (1,000-Units, 500-Units, 100-Units), and one copper denomination (5-Units). All known examples bear the legend “NOVA CONSTELLATIO” with the exception of a unique silver 500-Unit piece.

Robert_morris_portrait

Robert Morris as painted by Charles Wilson Peale

Robert Morris, the Founding Father credited with financing the Revolutionary War, spent two years working on the Nova Constellatio patterns. Morris was unanimously elected the Nation’s first Superintendent of Finance in 1781; on February 21st of the following year, Congress passed the following resolution:

That Congress approve of the establishment of a mint; and, that the Superintendent of finance be, and hereby is directed to prepare and report to Congress a plan for establishing and conducting the same.

The financier’s plan, developed with his assistant, Gouverneur Morris, was ambitious: he hoped to unite the Nation with a monetary unit that would allow for easy conversion from British, Spanish, Portuguese, or State currencies to U.S. funds. More importantly, Morris’s proposal would be the first system of coinage in Western Europe or the Americas to use decimal accounting – an innovation that has been adopted by every nation on earth in last two centuries.

Due to the new government’s precarious financial situation, Congress did not put Morris’s plan into effect; however, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, became champions of the decimal concept after examining Morris’s coins. While Thomas Jefferson was in possession of the Nova Constellatio coins, he wrote a report entitled “Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit and of Coinage for the United States”; in it, Jefferson concluded:

The Financier, therefore, in his report, well proposes that our Coins should be in decimal proportions to one another. If we adopt the Dollar for our Unit, we should strike four coins, one of gold, two of silver, and one of copper,.:

1. A golden piece, equal in value to ten dollars:
2. The Unit or Dollar itself, of silver:
3. The tenth of a Dollar, of silver also:
4. The hundredth of a Dollar, of copper.

This is the first written description of the monetary system ultimately adopted by the United States, clearly illustrating the historical importance of Morris’s patterns.

There are records of seven physical coins associated with Morris’s plan:PlainObverseQuint

1. A single silver coin of indeterminate denomination delivered to Morris on April 2nd, 1783. Upon its receipt, Morris recorded in his diary: I sent for Mr. Dudley who delivered me a Piece of Silver Coin being the first that has been struck as an American Coin.

2. A set of silver coins comprising a 1,000-Unit piece, a 500-Unit piece, and three 100-Unit pieces. These coins were struck after Alexander Hamilton visited the Treasury, initiating correspondence “On the Subject of the Coin” between Morris and Hamilton, culminating in the decision to strike a set of coins “to lay before Congress”.  These coins were later sent to Thomas Jefferson, who composed his “Notes on the Establishment of a Money Unit and of Coinage for the United States” while examining the set. Jefferson recorded the value of the set at $1.8, or 1,800-Units, indicating that its composition was one 1,000-Unit piece, one 500-Unit piece, and three 100-Unit pieces. This is the precise composition of the known silver examples bearing the legend “Nova Constellatio”.

3. A 5-Unit copper piece bearing the legend “Nova Constellatio”, which was sent to London prior to Jefferson’s receipt of the set.

After being returned to Congress, the coins were dispersed. In the mid-1840s, the 1,000-unit and 500-Unit piece from the set bearing the Legend NOVA CONSTELLATIO (A NEW CONSTELLATION) were discovered by a descendent of longtime Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson. From this point forward, Morris’s coins would be called the Nova Constellatios.

Twenty-five years would pass before another of Morris’s coins would be found. A second silver 500-Unit piece was uncovered in 1870; however, this specimen lacked the NOVA CONSTELLATIO legend. Collectors dubbed this coin the “Type-2”, because it’s design differed from the Congressional set’s 500-Unit piece. In 2017, the designation for this piece was officially changed to “Plain Obverse” in A Guide Book of United States Coins 2017: The Official Red Book, when forensic evidence demonstrated that it was struck prior to the example from the set that was sent to Congress.

By 1900, three silver 100-Unit coins – all bearing the NOVA CONSTELLATIO inscription – would be located, leaving only the copper 5-Unit piece unaccounted for. In 1979, this coin, also bearing the NOVA CONSTELLATIO legend, was discovered in Europe. This incredible set of coins shaped how we use and handle money today.

The Controversial Works of G.A. Henty

George Alfred Henty, best known for his historical adventure stories that were popular in the late 19th century, was a prolific English novelist and war correspondent.

G.A. Henty was born in Trumpington, near Cambridge. He was a sickly child who had to spend long periods in bed. During his frequent illnesses he became an avid reader and developed a wide range of interests which he carried into adulthood. He attended Westminster School, London, and later Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was a keen sportsman. He left the university early without completing his degree to volunteer for the Army Hospital Commissariat when the Crimean War began.

800px-Panorama_dentro

Depiction of the Crimean War by Franz Roubaud

Henty was sent to the Crimea and while there he witnessed the appalling conditions under which the British soldier had to fight. His letters home were filled with vivid descriptions of what he saw. His father was impressed by his letters and sent them to The Morning Advertiser newspaper which printed them. This initial writing success was a factor in Henty’s later decision to accept the offer to become a special correspondent, the early name for journalists now better known as war correspondents.

Shortly before resigning from the army as a captain in 1859 he married Elizabeth Finucane. The couple had four children. Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness and shortly after her death Henty began writing articles for the Standard newspaper. In 1866 the newspaper sent him as their special correspondent to report on the Austro-Italian War where he met Giuseppe Garibaldi. He went on to cover the 1868 British punitive expedition to Abyssinia, the Franco-Prussian War, the Ashanti War, the Carlist Rebellion in Spain and the Turco-Serbian War. He also witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal and travelled to Palestine, Russia and India.

Henty once stated  in an interview how his storytelling skills grew out of tales told after dinner to his children. He wrote his first children’s book, Out on the Pampas in 1868, naming the book’s main characters after his children. The book was published by Griffith and Farran in November 1870 with a title page date of 1871. While most of the 122 books he wrote were for children, he also wrote adult novels, non-fiction such as The March to Magdala and Those Other Animals, short stories for the likes of The Boy’s Own Paper and edited the Union Jack, a weekly boy’s magazine.

Henty’s children’s novels typically revolved around a boy or young man living in troubled times. These ranged from the Punic War to more recent conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars or the American Civil War. Henty’s heroes – which occasionally included young ladies – are uniformly intelligent, courageous, honest and resourceful with plenty of ‘pluck’, yet also modest. These virtues have made Henty’s novels popular today among many Christians and homeschoolers.

Henty’s commercial popularity encouraged other writers to try writing juvenile adventure stories in his style; “Herbert Strang”, Henry Everett McNeil, Percy F. Westerman and Captain Frederick Sadleir Brereton all wrote novels in “the Henty tradition”, often incorporating then-contemporary themes such as aviation and First World War combat. By the 1930s, however, interest in Henty’s work was declining in Britain, and hence few children’s writers there looked to his work as a model

s-l1600 (32)

A Tale of the Crimea

Henty usually researched his novels by ordering several books on the subject he was writing on from libraries, and consulting them before beginning writing. Some of his books were written about events (such as the Crimean War) that he witnessed himself; hence, these books are written with greater detail as Henty drew upon his first-hand experiences of people, places, and events.

Even during his lifetime, Henty’s work was a source of controversy; some Victorian writers accused Henty’s novels of being xenophobic towards non-British people and objected to his glorification of British imperialism in such books as True to the Old Flag (1885) which supports the Loyalist side in the American War of Independence, and In the Reign of Terror (1888) and No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée (1900) which are strongly hostile to the French Revolution. However, In Henty’s novel In Freedom’s Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce (1885) the hero fights against the English, and bitterly denounces the acts of England’s king, Edward I.

Henty’s popularity amongst homeschoolers is not without controversy. Quoting from the chapter of By Sheer Pluck called “The Negro Character” (“like children”), American television host and political commentator Rachel Maddow called Henty’s writings “spectacularly racist”. Carpenter and Pritchard note that while “Henty’s work is indeed full of racial (and class) stereotypes”, he sometimes created sympathetic ethnic minority characters, such as the Indian servant who marries a white woman in With Clive in India, and point out Henty admired the Turkish Empire. Some even accuse Henty of holding blacks in utter contempt, and this is expressed in novels such as By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War and A Roving Commission, or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti. Kathryne S. McDorman states Henty disliked blacks and also, in Henty’s fiction, that “Boers and Jews were considered equally ignoble”. In By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War, Mr. Goodenough, an entomologist remarks to the hero:

They [Negroes] are just like children … They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. … They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed. They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.

s-l1600 (33)

Illustration from the novel Facing Death

In the Preface to his novel A Roving Commission (1900) Henty claims “the condition of the negroes in Hayti has fallen to the level of that of the savage African tribes” and argues “unless some strong white power should occupy the island and enforce law and order” this situation will not change.

A review by Deirdre H. McMahon in Studies of the Novel in 2010 refers to his novels as jingoist and racist and states that during the previous decade “Numerous reviews in right-wing and conservative Christian journals and websites applaud Henty’s texts as model readings and thoughtful presents for children, especially boys. These reviews often ignore Henty’s racism by packaging his version of empire as refreshingly heroic and patriotic.”

Despite the controversies, Henty wrote 122 works of historical fiction. Several short stories published in book form are included in this total, with the stories taken from previously published full-length novels. On 16 November 1902, Henty died aboard his yacht in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, leaving unfinished his last novel, By Conduct and Courage, which was completed by his son Captain C.G. Henty. Henty is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.


Check out our eBay store to find some copies of G.A. Henty’s novels!

Origins of the Secret Service

https_blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.comuploadscardimage3676244bf6f066-5266-4faa-86f2-5beb1d66bf19

The Secret Service protecting the President at a parade

Everyone knows that the Secret Service is a federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security, charged with conducting criminal investigations and protecting the nation’s leaders. Mainly we think of a group with earpieces dressed all in black and surrounding the president. What you may not know is that the agency was originally founded to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

With a reported one third of the currency in circulation being counterfeit at the time, the Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency. Chief William P. Wood was sworn in by Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch. It was commissioned in Washington, D.C. as the “Secret Service Division” of the Department of the Treasury with the mission of suppressing counterfeiting.

The legislation creating the agency was on Abraham Lincoln’s desk the night he was assassinated. At the time, the only other federal law enforcement agencies were the United States Customs Service, the United States Park Police, the U.S. Post Office Department’s Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations (now known as the United States Postal Inspection Service), and the United States Marshals Service. The Marshals did not have the manpower to investigate all crime under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service began investigating a wide range of crimes from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling.

After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested that the Secret Service provide presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for presidential protection. In 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to die while serving, in a road accident while riding in the presidential carriage.

The Secret Service was the first U.S. domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Domestic intelligence collection and counterintelligence responsibilities were vested in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) upon the FBI’s creation in 1908.

Secret_Service_Asset_Forfeiture_and_Money_Laundering_Task_Force_(AFMLTF)

Secret Service Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Task Force

The Secret Service is divided into two main parts: Investigative Mission and Protective Mission. The Investigative Mission of the USSS is to safeguard the payment and financial systems of the United States from a wide range of financial and electronic-based crimes. Financial investigations include counterfeit U.S. currency, bank & financial institution fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, illicit financing operations, and major conspiracies. Electronic investigations include cybercrime, network intrusions, identity theft, access device fraud, credit card fraud, and intellectual property crimes. The Secret Service is a key member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) which investigates and combats terrorism on a national and international scale, as well as of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) task force which seeks to reduce and eliminate drug trafficking in critical regions of the United States. The Service also investigates missing and exploited children and is a core partner of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

 

Over the years the Secret Service has taken on many roles and grown to be a massive and vital department that serves the United States. It is an interesting history rooted in greed and counterfeiting that developed the service that protects our nation and nations leaders to this day!

For an extensive timeline of the Secret Service checkout the official website: https://www.secretservice.gov/about/history/events/

Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico

 

September 17, 1859, San Francisco Bulletin newspaper:

“At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens…I, Joshua Norton…declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring.”

Signed, “NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.”

 

Joshua Abraham Norton was a British-born businessman before he was “Norton I, Emperor of the United States”. Norton spent a large part of his childhood in South Africa before migrating to San Francisco during the 1849 Gold Rush. While in San Francisco he invested into the real estate business, and by the early 1850s, he’d turned his original $40,000 stake into a quarter million dollar fortune. But common to the Gold Rush-era, Norton’s greed eventually got the better of him. During a rice shortage in 1853, he planned to conquer the San Francisco market, only to land in financial ruin when fresh shipments poured into the harbor and caused the price to plummet. Norton declared bankruptcy and fell off the map for several years. He resurfaced in 1859 with the San Francisco Bulletin royal decree. He genuinely believed that he was the unrecognized sovereign of the United States. There were no reports of Norton ever exhibiting any symptoms of mental instability or delusion during his business career, but it seemed that in his time away he had lost his mind

Following the decree Norton would become a staple of the San Francisco community. Donning a Navy coat, an ostrich feather-plumed hat and occasionally carrying a military saber, he would stroll the streets and enjoy the celebrity status that came with anyone willing to indulge his royal fantasy. Often being greeted with a bow, the city directory listed his occupation as “Emperor”. Despite his lack of a palace and riches he ate at many restaurants free of charge, had free tickets to theater performances, and even issued his own currency.

 

800px-Emperor_Joshua_A._Norton_I

Emperor Norton in full military regalia, c. 1875

Local newspapers and tourist locations quickly picked up on the popularity of the Emperor. Souvenirs such as photographs of him in imperial dress and Emperor Norton dolls found their way into shops across the city. Newspapers printed his royal decrees in hopes of increased readership despite their absurdity.  On October 1859, he declared in local newspaper, “fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice…in consequence of which, we do hereby abolish Congress.” When congress continued to meet and run as normal Emperor Norton I responded with a decree that demanded General Winfield Scott to march on Washington. In the upcoming year with the Civil War approaching, Norton declared that he had dissolved the Union and replaced it with a monarchy; with him of course as the monarch. With the help of the newspapers these decrees continued to be put in front of the public. When the French invaded Mexico he even added ‘Protector of Mexico’ to his title.

 

As his popularity grew, Norton I became a cherished icon for the city of San Francisco. Theater owners saved him a seat at the opening night of every play; local train and ferry companies let him ride free of charge; and some restaurateurs allowed him to skip out on his tab in exchange for the right to post an imperial seal of approval that read: “By Appointment to His Imperial Majesty, Norton I.” The Emperor remained poor in spite of this; but many admiring subjects ‘paid’ taxes into the ‘imperial treasury’ to support him. In 1871, a local printing firm ran off a special currency emblazoned with a picture of Norton I and his imperial seal. The Emperor passed the notes as his official government bonds until the day he died, and many recipients displayed them as treasured mementos. Army officers gifted him fresh uniform when his old one wore out, and local lawmakers helped furnish the ‘royal wardrobe’ from public funds. When a police officer once dared to arrest the Emperor on charges of vagrancy, the city’s newspapers responded with outrage. The Emperor was quickly released, and from then on, the city’s lawmen saluted whenever they encountered him on the street.

Nort10d
All the while, newspapers continued to print Norton;s decrees in the papers. Some were bizarre such as in 1872, he declared that anyone who referred to his adopted city by “the abominable word ‘Frisco’” was subject to a $25 fine. Others were more logical, in the early 1870s he announced that the city should appropriate funds for construction of a bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. Ignored at the time, Norton’s decree eventually came to fruition in 1936 with the opening of the Bay Bridge.

800px-Lazarus2

A  depiction of Norton dressed as the Pope at the funeral of the dog Lazarus

Emperor Norton’s character inspired fascination from tourists and great artists alike. Mark Twain, who had worked as a journalist in San Francisco during his reign, went on to use the Emperor as the model for the “King,” a royal impostor who appears as a character in his 1885 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Various plays and operas were written about Norton during his lifetime. Despite this, his day to day wasn’t as grandiose; he lived in a tiny rented room and spent his days playing chess, attending religious services, reading in libraries or going on long walks, supposedly with Bummer and Lazarus, his two dogs.

It was during one of these royal walks on January 8, 1880, that Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, dropped dead from a stroke. His passing was written about in dozens of newspapers including the New York Times. San Francisco gave Norton a send-off fit for an Emperor. “LE ROI EST MORT” (“THE KING IS DEAD”), read the headline in the Chronicle. “He is dead,” lamented another paper, “and no citizen of San Francisco could have been taken away who would be more generally missed.” At Norton’s funeral a few days later, around 10,000 loyal ‘subjects’ turned up to pay their respects.

 

Henry Rathbone

The Lincoln assassination is a scary and tragic part of history. But one part that tends to get left out of the story is the life of Major Henry Rathbone, one of the individuals attending the play with Lincoln when the assassination occurred. The true history of Rathbone,_Henry_Reed (1)Henry Rathbone is chilling and seems like a tale out of a horror novel.

On April 14, 1865, Major Rathbone and his fiancee Clara Harris accepted an invitation to see a play at Ford’s Theatre from President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

During the play, noted stage actor John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential box and fatally shot Lincoln in the head with a pistol. As Rathbone attempted to apprehend Booth, Booth slashed Rathbone’s left arm with a dagger from the elbow to his shoulder. Rathbone later recalled that he was horrified at the anger on Booth’s face. Rathbone again grabbed at Booth as Booth prepared to jump from the sill of the box. He grabbed onto Booth’s coat, causing Booth to fall awkwardly to the stage, perhaps breaking his leg. Booth nonetheless escaped, and remained at large for twelve days.

Despite his serious wound, Rathbone escorted Mary Lincoln to the Petersen House across the street, where the president had been taken. Shortly thereafter he passed out due to blood loss. Harris arrived soon after and held his head in her lap while he lay semiconscious. When a surgeon who had been attending Lincoln finally examined him, it was realized that his wound was more serious than initially thought. Booth had cut him nearly to the bone and severed an artery. Rathbone was taken home while Harris remained with Mary Lincoln as Abraham lay dying over the next nine hours. This death vigil lasted through the night, until morning, when President Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. on April 15, 1865.

Rathbone eventually healed back up to full physical health but the events of the night would leave him mentally haunted until his dark end. As time passed by, seventeen years to be exact, Rathbone traveled to Albany, New York, to the office of his wife’s uncle. Hamilton Harris was the man a younger Henry Rathbone studied law with and on this day, Rathbone was on his way back to Europe with his family. This time was different though, as Harris thought, Rathbone was ill and when asked what was wrong, Rathbone simply said it was dyspepsia which is a chronic ailment of the stomach.

By the fall of 1882, Rathbone was 45 years old and was constantly plagued by mysterious medical problems. One doctor that treated him described the attacks as “neuralgia of the head and face” and heart palpitations and difficulty breathing were also symptoms Rathbone suffered from. These are symptoms that we now might recognize at PTSD. Rathbone had changed the night of Lincoln’s assassination, his youth and hopes of a happy family life we’re taken from him. His wife often attested that he was just different, moodier and at times abusive.

In 1870, Rathbone retired from the Army due to his sickness. After Rathbone’s visit to Hamilton Harris’s office, Rathbone and his family set sail to Germany. After their arrival Rathbone’s health continued to fail. He became depressed and some people called him erratic. His marriage also suffered more and was tense much of the time.  As Rathbone’s depression got worse he was convinced that his wife was leaving him and taking the kids. He couldn’t bare to lose any semblance of the life he wished he could’ve lived.

Just before dawn, on Christmas Eve of 1883, Rathbone grabbed his revolver and knife and walked to his children’s bedroom. His wife was able to distract him and had him follow her into their bedroom and closed the door. It was there that Rathbone shot and stabbed Clara until she died. Rathbone then turned the knife on himself, a failed suicide attempt. When the police arrived at the murder scene, the bloody and dazed Rathbone reportedly claimed there had been people hiding behind the pictures on the wall.

News spread fast about the tragic events that took place in Germany. Dr. Pope said, “He never was thoroughly himself after that night [the assassination]…I have no hesitation in affirming that the dreaded tragedy, which preyed upon his nervous and impressionable temperament for many years, laid the seeds of that homicidal mania.” Henry Rathbone was declared insane and was never allowed to be prosecuted for the crime of murder. Rathbone, after recovering from his wounds was sent to live out his days in the Provincial Insane Asylum where he died on August 14, 1911.

Sometimes the saddest and scariest stories are the true ones.


This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

The Aero Club of America

The Aero Club of America (ACA) was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Jasper Glidden and Augustus Post to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. In 1905, few people believed powered aircraft would be feasible in the future. At the beginning, the ACA’s goal was to promote aviation in any way possible, as both a sport and a commercial endeavor. ACA’s early work helped advance aviation in its early years faster than it might have developed otherwise.

Although the ACA officially began in 1905, there are photos of high society and adventurers printed in 1902 with the stamp, “Aero Club”. Charles Glidden, Homer Hedge, Dave Morris, John F. O’Rourke, and Augustus Post, members of the Automobile Club of America, in the summer of 1905 founded the Aero Club of America. They were avid balloonists but found little support in America for the sport of aviation. With determination they established a new club with an organization similar to the Automobile Club but whose purpose was to promote aviation, much like the Aero Club of France. Homer Hedge became the first President and Augustus Post the first secretary.

Three different conventions were held in New York among aeronautical clubs and societies in 1910. The National Council of Affiliated Clubs of the Aero Club of America, was formed. Thirty-nine delegates, representing constituencies from Pasadena, California, to Boston, met at the Aero Club and formed the parent organization of various state chapters.

BelmontParkAirShow

1910 Belmont Park Air Show

At the Belmont Air Show in October 1910, a considerable controversy arose between the Englishman Claude Graham-White and the American J. B. Moisant. In one race around the Statue of Liberty, Graham-White won by several minutes, but due to a technicality, the race and considerable prize money was awarded to Moisant. John Armstrong Drexel made public statements accusing the organization of favoritism toward its own members, and Drexel held a competing dinner banquet at the same time as the awards banquet of the organization. The schism among the membership threatened the integrity of the organization, but was ultimately resolved with Drexel’s resignation.

In 1911, the Aero Club of New York put on the First Industrial Airplane Show that was held in conjunction with the 11th U.S. International Auto Show at Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace, in New York City. It was a spectacular event with prominent speakers, and an enthusiastic large crowd that would gaze upon a full-size airplane for the first time. It started December 31, 1910, until mid-January 1911.

In 1919, the rules for a transatlantic flight competition between New York and Paris were written by the secretary of the club, Augustus Post. He worked with wealthy hotel owner Raymond Orteig in securing the $25,000 for the Orteig Prize. The $25,000 prize was to be awarded “to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris”. After five years of failing to attract competitors, the award was then put under the control of a seven-member Bryant Bank board of trustees, which awarded it to Charles Lindbergh for his successful 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.

Glenn_Curtiss's_pilot_license

Glenn H. Curtiss’ Pilot License

The Club issued the first pilot’s licenses in the United States, and successful completion of its licensing process was required by the United States Army for its pilots until 1914. Some of the later licenses issued by the ACA even bore the printed signature of Orville Wright; Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America’s Contest Committee.

Pilot’s licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after World War I. AMA licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. The ACA was also notorious for the inflexibility of its licensing process, which required,  a letter of application, a photograph of a candidate, appointment of an ACA examiner, and his report of examination, all of which had to be submitted in the correct form and sequence for a license to be issued, whether the candidate passed the flight test or not.

In present day the Aero Club of America is now the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The primary mission of NAA closely aligns with the original Club’s mission; the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight by fostering opportunities to participate fully in aviation activities and by promoting public understanding of the importance of aviation and space flight to the United States. On their website the Association states that in carrying out this mission, National Aero Club of the United States, will:

“Develop opportunities to strengthen the mutual objectives of NAA and its corporate members, air sport organizations, chapters and affiliates, including the formation of affiliated aero clubs in U.S. cities where such organizations do not now exist; Represent U.S. aviation throughout the world as a member of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale; Encourage, coordinate, document, and promote competition and record-making aviation and space events in accordance with the rules prescribed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, of which NAA is the official U.S. representative; Recognize and reward those who make outstanding contributions to the advancement of aviation and space flight through presentations of awards and other honors; Endorse sound national programs and other efforts designed to help the United States remain a leader in aviation and space flight; Support and encourage aviation and space education programs; Promote and encourage public participation in, and appreciation of, U.S. aviation and space activities.”


Whether your into  history, aviation, or apart of the current National Aeronautic Association; this Aero Club of America envelope addressed to the 1911 president of the club is a an artifact to treasure. It is available now in our Ebay store. 

s-l1600 (11)

Edmund Dulac

Edmund Dulac was a French-British magazine illustrator, book illustrator and stamp designer. Born in Toulouse he studied law but later turned to the study of art at the École des Beaux-Arts. He moved to London in the early 20th century and in 1905 received his first commission which was to illustrate the novels of the Brontë Sisters. During World War I, Dulac produced relief books and when after the war he turned to mainly magazine illustrations. He designed banknotes during World War II and postage stamps, most notably, during the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

Edmund_Dulac_-_Prince_and_Princess

“She had read all the newspapers” from “The Snow Queen” London, Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1911

At 22 Dulac was commissioned by the publisher J. M. Dent to illustrate Jane Eyre and nine other volumes of works by the Brontë sisters. He then became a regular contributor to The Pall Mall Magazine, and joined the London Sketch Club, which introduced him to the book and magazine illustrators of the day. Through these connections he began an association with the Leicester Galleries and Hodder & Stoughton. The gallery commissioned illustrations from Dulac which they sold in an annual exhibition, while publishing rights to the paintings were taken up by Hodder & Stoughton for reproduction in illustrated gift books. Books produced under this arrangement by Dulac include Stories from The Arabian Nights (1907) with 50 colour images; an edition of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1908) with 40 colour illustrations; The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1909) with 20 colour images; The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales (1910); Stories from Hans Christian Andersen (1911); The Bells and Other Poems by Edgar Allan Poe (1912) with 28 colour images and many monotone illustrations; and Princess Badoura (1913).

During World War I he contributed to relief books, including King Albert’s Book (1914), Princess Mary’s Gift Book, and, his own Edmund Dulac’s Picture-Book for the French Red Cross (1915) including 20 colour images. Hodder and Stoughton also published The Dreamer of Dreams (1915) including 6 colour images – a work composed by the then Queen of Romania.

 

s-l1600 (12)

1910 Shakespeare’s Comedy of The Tempest Illustrated by Edmund Dulac

After the war, the deluxe edition illustrated books became a rarity and Dulac’s career in this field was over. His last such books were Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book (1916), the Tanglewood Tales (1918)  and The Kingdom of the Pearl (1920). His career continued in other areas, including newspaper caricatures (especially at The Outlook), portraiture, theatre costume and set design, bookplates, chocolate boxes, medals, and various graphics (especially for The Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate).

He also produced illustrations for The American Weekly, a Sunday newspaper chain in America and Britain’s Country Life. Country Life Limited (London) published Gods and Mortals in Love (1935) (including 9 colour images) based on a number of the contributions made by Dulac to Country Life previously. The Daughter of the Stars (1939) was a further publication to benefit from Dulac’s artwork – due to constraints related to the outbreak of World War II, that title included just 2 colour images. He continued to produce books for the rest of his life, more so than any of his contemporaries, although these were less frequent and less lavish than during the Golden Age.

Dulac also designed postage stamps for Great Britain, including the postage stamp issued to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI that was issued on 13 May 1937. The head of the King used on all the stamps of that reign was his design and he also designed the 2s 6d and 5s values for the ‘arms series’ high values. As well he contributed designs for the sets of stamps issued to commemorate the 1948 Summer Olympics and the Festival of Britain.

Stamp_UK_1953_1shilling3d_coronation

Dulac Designed 1953 Coronation Stamp

 

Dulac was one of the designers of the Wilding series stamps, which were the first definitive stamps of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. He was responsible for the frame around the image of the Queen on the 1s, 1s 3d and 1s 6d values. His image of the Queen was rejected in favor of a photographic portrait by Dorothy Wilding to which he carried out some modifications by hand. He also designed the 1s 3d value stamp of the set issued to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II but he passed just before it was issued.

Dulac designed stamps (Marianne de Londres series) and banknotes for Free France during World War II. In the early 1940s Dulac also prepared a project for a Polish 20-zlotych note for the Bank of Poland (Bank Polski). This banknote (printed in England in 1942 but dated 1939) was ordered by the Polish Government in Exile and was never issued.

Halfway through his final book commission (Milton’s Comus), Dulac passed away of a heart attack on 25 May 1953 in London. He is forever remembered as a prominent illustrator of the 20th century.


If you’d like a 1910 copy of The Tempest illustrated by Edmund Dulac check out our Ebay Store

John Ruskin

John Ruskin was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. His writing styles and literary forms were varied; he penned essays, treatises, poetry, lectures, travel guides, manuals, letters, and fairy tales. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

Ruskin was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation steadily improved since the 1960’s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognized as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.

John_Ruskin_by_James_Northcote

Ruskin as a young child, painted by James Northcote

Ruskin was born in 1823 and he grew up in the village of Camberwell in South London. He was educated at home by his parents and private tutors, and from 1834 to 1835 attended the school in Peckham run by the progressive Evangelical, Thomas Dale (1797–1870). Ruskin went on to enroll and complete his studies at King’s College, where he prepared for Oxford under Dale’s tutelage

 

Ruskin was greatly influenced by the extensive and privileged travels he enjoyed in his childhood. Travel helped establish his taste and enriched his education. His father visited business clients in Britain’s country houses, exposing him to English landscapes, architecture and paintings. The tours provided Ruskin with the opportunity to record his observations of nature. He composed conventional poetry, some of which was published in Friendship’s Offering. His early notebooks and sketchbooks are full of visually sophisticated and technically accomplished drawings of maps, landscapes and buildings, remarkable for a boy of his age.

Ruskin’s travels also provided inspiration for writing. His first publication was the poem “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” (August 1829). In 1834 three short articles for Loudon’s Magazine of Natural History were published; they show early signs of his skill as a close “scientific” observer of nature, especially its geology. From September 1837 to December 1838, Ruskin’s The Poetry of Architecture was serialized in Loudon’s Architectural Magazine, under the pen name “Kata Physin” (Greek for “According to Nature”). The poetry was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centered on an argument that buildings should be sympathetic to their immediate environment and use local materials. In 1839, Ruskin’s ‘Remarks on the Present State of Meteorological Science’ was published in Transactions of the Meteorological Society.

Ruskin toured the continent again with his parents in 1844, visiting Chamonix and Paris, studying the geology of the Alps and the paintings of Titian, Veronese and Perugino among others at the Louvre. In 1845, at the age of 26, he traveled without his parents for the first time and it provided him with an opportunity to study medieval art and architecture in France, Switzerland and especially Italy. In Lucca he saw the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia which Ruskin considered the exemplar of Christian sculpture.

During 1847 Ruskin became closer to Effie Gray, the daughter of family friends. It was for Effie that Ruskin had written “The King of the Golden River”. The couple was engaged in October and they married on 10 April 1848 at her home in Perth. The European Revolutions of 1848 meant that the newlyweds’ earliest travelling together was limited, but they were able to visit Normandy, where Ruskin admired the Gothic architecture.

 

Their early life together was spent at 31 Park Street, Mayfair, a home bought for them by Ruskin’s father. Effie was too ill to undertake the European tour of 1849, so Ruskin visited the Alps with his parents, gathering material for the third and fourth volumes of Modern Painters. He was struck by the contrast between the Alpine beauty and the poverty of Alpine peasants.

In November 1849, Effie and John Ruskin visited Venice. For Effie, Venice provided an opportunity to socialize, while Ruskin was engaged in solitary studies. In particular, he made a point of drawing the Ca’ d’Oro and the Doge’s Palace, because he feared they would be destroyed by the occupying Austrian troops. One of these troops, Lieutenant Charles Paulizza, made friends with Effie, apparently with no objection from Ruskin. Her brother, among others, later claimed that Ruskin was deliberately encouraging the friendship to compromise her, as an excuse to separate. Their marriage, not consummated, later dissolved under discord and eventual annulment.

Ruskin’s sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. Effie, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her “person” repugnant:

He alleged various reasons, hatred of children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April [1848].

Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings:

It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.

The cause of Ruskin’s “disgust” has led to much controversy. Ruskin’s biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking. However, Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, “It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife’s pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood.” Ruskin’s biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odor may have been the problem.

Ruskin’s later relationship with Rose La Touche has led to claims that he was a pedophile, since he outwardly declared that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine. It is also true that in letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway he asked her to draw her “girlies” (as he called her child figures) without clothing In a letter to his physician John Simon on 15 May 1886, Ruskin wrote:

I like my girls from ten to sixteen—allowing of 17 or 18 as long as they’re not in love with anybody but me.—I’ve got some darlings of 8—12—14—just now, and my Pigwiggina here—12—who fetches my wood and is learning to play my bells.

Ruskin’s biographers disagree about the allegation of “pedophilia”. Tim Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that Ruskin “was a pedophile” but leaves the claim unexplained, while John Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because Ruskin’s behavior does not “fit the profile”. It is because of this that many speculate Ruskin’s marriage with Effie truly never worked out.

Meanwhile after Ruskin’s marriage was annulled, he was making the extensive sketches and notes that he used for his three-volume work, “The Stones of Venice” (1851–53). Developing from a technical history of Venetian architecture, from the Romanesque to the Renaissance, into a broad cultural history, Stones also reflected Ruskin’s view of contemporary England. It acted as a warning about the moral and spiritual health of society. Ruskin argued that Venice had slowly deteriorated, that its cultural achievements had been compromised, and its society corrupted, by the decline of true Christian faith. Instead of revering the divine, Renaissance artists honored themselves, arrogantly celebrating human sensuousness.

Ruskin was unanimously appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869, largely through the help of his friend, Henry Acland. He gave his inaugural lecture on his 51st birthday in 1870, at the Sheldonian Theatre to a larger-than-expected audience. It was here that he said, “The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues. Thus, its effect on each man should be visible and moving.”

In 1871, John Ruskin founded his own art school at Oxford, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. Ruskin endowed the school with £5000 of his own money. He also established a large collection of drawings, watercolors and other materials with which to illustrate his lectures. His lectures were often so popular that they had to be given twice, once for the students, and again for the public. Most of them were also eventually published. He lectured on a wide range of subjects at Oxford, his interpretation of “Art” encompassing almost every conceivable area of study, including wood and metal engraving (Ariadne Florentina), the relation of science to art (The Eagle’s Nest) and sculpture (Aratra Pentelici). His lectures ranged through myth, ornithology, geology, nature-study and literature. “The teaching of Art…,” Ruskin wrote, “is the teaching of all things.”

In the same year he founded his art school, Ruskin set out to found his ‘utopian society’: The Guild of St George. Its aims and objectives were articulated in Fors Clavigera; a communitarian venture, it had a hierarchical structure, with Ruskin as its Master, and dedicated members called “Companions” whose first loyalty was nearly always to Ruskin personally. Ruskin wished to show that contemporary life could still be enjoyed in the countryside, with land being farmed traditionally and with minimal mechanical assistance. With a personal donation of £7,000, Ruskin acquired some land and a remarkable collection of books, art and other precious and beautiful objects.

Ruskin worked out different levels of “Companions”, wrote codes of practice, described styles of dress and even designed the Guild’s own coins. Ruskin wished to see St George’s Schools established, and published various volumes to aid its teaching, but the schools themselves were never established. In reality, the Guild, which still exists today as a charitable organisation, has only ever operated on a small scale.

Portrait_of_Rose_La_Touche_1861_2

Rose La Touche, 1861, by John Ruskin

In 1858, Ruskin had become acquainted to the wealthy Irish La Touche family; Maria La Touche, a minor Irish poet and novelist, asked Ruskin to teach her daughters drawing and painting. The aforementioned, Rose La Touche was nine, and Ruskin gradually fell in love with her. Their first meeting came at a time when Ruskin’s own religious faith was under strain, which always caused difficulties for the extremely Protestant La Touche family who at various times prevented the two from meeting. Ruskin’s love for Rose was a cause of great joy and deep depression for him, and always a source of anxiety.

Ruskin proposed to La Touche on her eighteenth birthday in 1867, but she asked him to wait three years for an answer, until she was 21. A chance meeting at the Royal Academy in 1869 was one of the few occasions they came into personal contact thereafter. She finally rejected him in 1872, but they still occasionally met. After a long illness, she died on 25 May 1875, at the age of 27. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to increasingly severe bouts of mental illness involving a number of breakdowns and delirious visions. Ruskin turned to spiritualism and was by turns comforted and disturbed by what he believed was his ability to communicate with the dead Rose.

In the 1880s, Ruskin returned his writings to some literature and themes that had been among his favorites since childhood. He wrote about Walter Scott, Byron and Wordsworth in “Fiction, Fair and Foul” (1880) and returned to meteorological observations in his lectures. Ruskin’s prophetic writings were also tied to his emotions, and his more general dissatisfaction with the modern world.

His last great work was his autobiography, “Praeterita” (1885–89) (meaning, ‘Of Past Things’), a highly intimate, but incomplete account of his life.

John_Ruskin,_1882

John Ruskin in 1882

The period from the late 1880s was one of steady decline and it became too difficult for him to travel to Europe. He suffered a complete collapse on his final tour, which included Beauvais, Sallanches and Venice, in 1888. His later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He also attacked Darwinian theory with increasing violence, although he knew and respected Darwin personally.

 

Ruskin’s 80th birthday was widely celebrated in 1899, but Ruskin was scarcely aware of it. He died from influenza on 20 January 1900 at the age of 80. He was buried five days later in the churchyard at Coniston, according to his wishes. As he had grown weaker, suffering prolonged bouts of mental illness, he had been looked after by his second cousin, Joan Severn and she inherited his estate. “Joanna’s Care” was the eloquent final chapter of his memoir which he dedicated to her as a fitting tribute.

Kenneth Clark defines Ruskin:

‘He was a character of great fascination and complexity . . . made up of contradictions:
intelligence and silliness; puritanism and a refined sensuality; selfishness and extreme generosity . . . The central drama of his life, that of the pampered aesthete who gradually becomes aware of social injustice and as a result sacrifices his reputation, his wealth and ultimately his sanity, is as moving as anything in fiction . . . We should read Ruskin for the very quality of his mind . . . his refusal to consider any human faculty in isolation.’


To purchase your own copy of The King of The Golden River, written originally for Effie, visit our Ebay Store!