Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Toddling our way back from Columbus yesterday, Rosemary and I stopped in Zanesville to scout out one of the antique malls there, where they have a lot of nice examples of Ohio pottery: Weller, Roseville, Owens, and even some Rookwood. All priced pretty much beyond what we are ready to pay, however.

My big purchase of the day was, instead, a giant pile of used postal cards, around 150 of them, for a grand total of fifteen dollars, plus tax. They make a small archive, really, centered on one John A Mansfield, an attorney from Steubenville, Ohio, and all dating between about 1879 and 1887. For a brief bio (from Googlebooks) see here. A few are from friends or family members, but the majority relate to cases of various sorts; he apparently worked to collect monies owed on various notes, and a lot of the cards involve that kind of work. One is from the Supreme Court of Ohio, indicating a date assigned for oral arguments in Lindsay v. Ohio, for May 5, 1882.

There's a lot of postal history here, and some of these cards probably have a bit of value as collectibles: six or eight have blue or purple postal cancellations, which command a premium: those are probably worth five or ten bucks each.

But it's the contents that I find most fascinating. Some are hard to categorize: one favorite reads "John A Mansfield. Dear Sir we will be at your house on Wednesday of this week. Govern yourself accordingly. Yours, A N Moore." One wonders just what sort of self-governing is in order when faced with a visit from A N Moore.

I have a long standing interest, of course, in the history of handwriting, and part of the attraction of a batch of cards like this is in the variety of scripts they show. But, given how much time I spend buying (and sometimes selling) books, it was a delight to see that one major strand of the correspondence here involved Mansfield's efforts to build up his own law library, including cards from at least seven different booksellers, from places as far separated as Steubenville, Jersey City, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York.

He seems to have frequently asked for catalogues, and to have ordered many books. When Ingham, Clarke, and Co. in Cleveland wrote in 1881 that "We have just now a full set" of Ohio and Ohio State Reports, "20 vols in 19, 26 vols (last 6 vols new) [and] 56 vols in 55 in Excellent condition" they must have very much hoped he would pay their 120 dollar asking price.

But the other side of the book trade is all too evident here, too: in 1886, Robert Clarke & Co., in Cincinnati, write to say "Replying to yours of 31 Dec, regret that we cannot use the odd vols Ohio Laws you wish to sell. There is nothing in your list we have not already on hand and as they are very slow selling we do not care to duplicate stock."

Somehow, I don't think these cards will make it into my own stock: they don't take up much space, and and it would be a shame to split them up.


John Abney said...

Hi, I stumbled across your blog quite by accident. I'm researching a land fraud case in Missouri that may have involved somewhere between 6 million to 12 million acres of land. One of the main conspirators was Robert L. Lindsay who was tried and convicted in Steubenville, OH in December 1881. Would there be any way to get scans of the documentation mentioning Lindsay's case? He lost on appeal, by the way, and ended up paroled and then pardoned by Ohio's governor in 1886. You can reach me directly at jabney@hughes.net and thank you for your time. John Abney

John Abney said...