Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Nerd Problem: Antique Books

I love all things vintage or historical because they scream--there's a story here!

This past weekend our Sunday School Class went to Shipshewana, Indiana for our class retreat. There are tons of little curiosity shops there. You'd think I'd have come home with knick-knacks, art, quilts, or something of the sort.

But not this book nerd girl!

Ted and I always look forward to browsing the antique store there. Last year I got a pretty red transferware teacup and saucer. This year, I got lost in the old book stacks. The store attendants told me their expert is an old retired librarian. All the books had a sticky note on the inner cover telling the copyright dates, condition, and rarity.

Here I will review two of my purchases: 
Figs and Thistles--a Romance of the Western Reserve by Albion W. Tourgee is on the top of the stack. It was published in 1879 and the inside cover says the sale price was $1.50 and has several reviews.

One review inside the cover says "A capital American story. Its characters are not from foreign courts or the pestilential dens of foreign cities. They are fresh from the real life of the forest and prairie of the West."--Chicago Inter-Ocean. It is considered an American Historical fiction, and even advertises Harriet Beecher Stowe in the back of the book!

Another review in the back of the book states: "The entanglements of romantic love enter immediately upon the scene, in the affection of this youthful scion of a haughty race for the niece of his father's overseer."

The second book on my stack is Women Wage-Earners by Helen Campbell. It was published in 1893. In it Mrs. Campbell compiled a 290 page report of women workers. This book reviews the history of women wage-earners, 19th century conditions, and wages. She recounts information on such trades as cotton, woolens, dress-makers, shoemakers, and straw-braiders (for hats).

She combed public records such as census records and reports from the Labor Bureau. For instance, she found that "in some cases (an expert shirt maker made) $15 a week, but in slop work, and under the sweating-system, wages fall to $2.50 or $3 per week, and at times less." In dry-goods "--the lowest sum per week is $1.50 paid to cash-girls." She also reminds us, most women only worked an average of forty weeks a year due to irregular work.

Did you know that The Labor Law of 1886 in New York, no woman or child under age eighteen was to work more than sixty hours a week?

Check back next week for a review of the other old books I purchased.

What kind of things catch your eye at antique stores?
Do old books fascinate you?
Have you ever cruised around Google books for old book sources?


  1. Anne, Thanks for the information on Women Wage Earners. As difficult as it is today to juggle family and work, it seems like it was impossible in the 19th century!

    1. Right , I was thinking about that at work today.

  2. When I go to an antique store, I like the books, the carnival glass, and the children's toys. And the hats. :)

  3. I collect antique Bibles. I started collecting them about 15 years back at Civil War reenactments. I love them. A few years back, I found and bought one that had an entire family's name and birth dates in it - from the mid-1800's. When I have time, I hope to find the descendants and give them back the precious Bible. I also collect Soldier's Bibles. I gave one Soldier's Bible from 1861 to a pastor and his lovely family at a reenactment in Kentucky. I had paid $65 dollars for it the year before and carried it in my haversack to show. When they saw it, they were moved. The young son held it like gold in his hands. God gave me a nudge and I gave it to him right there. The family was so touched. I knew that little Bible meant a lot to them. My hope was to spark interest in the history.

    Love your selection!

    1. Great story Loree! I have some old Bibles from the family that don't have names in them. I also have one that must have been given the family, 19th century, but the names don't connect to our history. I've tried and tried to look on Ancestry.com to find them, but to no avail yet. I'd love to pass it back to the family someday. Makes me wonder if the family line died out and if that was why it was passed out of the family.


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