History, Research, and Current Themes

"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

Search This Blog & Links


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Note This--
"We Know Better Now": Wendell Phillips Remembers John Brown in 1863

In 1859, Wendell Phillips eulogized John Brown at the time of his burial at Brown's Adirondack farm near Lake Placid, N.Y.  Four years later, when the nation was in the midst of civil war, he spoke at the Cooper Union in New York City.  In that speech he invoked Brown once again. . .

"Four years ago this month I had the honor to assist in giving the body of John Brown to the keeping of the hills he loved.  Selfishness, which calls itself Conservatism, sneered at his life as a ridiculous failure, and some men who called themselves his friends, excused his attempt on the ground that he was a lunatic.  We know better now."

Wendell Phillips, Cooper Union Speech, Dec. 22, 1863, from Pittsburgh Gazette, 25 Dec. 1863, p. 2.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

In Memoriam--
Remembering Ralph Libby

We are saddened to note the death of Ralph Libby, scholar, reference librarian, husband, and father, on  June 17, 2012.  Ralph was the husband of our dear friend Jean Libby, one of our preeminent John Brown documentary scholars.  His obituary, published on Palo Alton online, is reproduced below.  On behalf of the entire John Brown community, we extend our sincerest condolences to Jean and her family at this time of bereavement.--LD  

Ralph Libby, 88, veteran of World War II and Palo Alto reference librarian for more than 35 years, died in his beloved home in Palo Alto after long illness.  Born in Los Angeles on March 7, 1924, he was the youngest of four brothers born to Albert and Anna Murphy Libby of Massachusetts. The family moved to Boston during the Depression, then returned to northern California in 1936, where Ralph was the president of the Class of 1941 at Vallejo High School. He served in the 3185th Signal Corps Battalion in the Army of the United States from 1943 to 1946; with European Theater service in Antwerp as Message Center Chief.

Ralph earned a degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1950. He was a librarian at the Washington Post in the 1950s, where the editorial cartoonist Herblock regularly consulted him for researched facts and ideas. He earned a Master's of Library Science at Indiana University in 1959, returning to California and work at Stanford University until 1965, when he became a reference librarian at the City of Palo Alto until final retirement as a part-time librarian in 2002.
Ralph mentored many present librarians with the fine points of reference service, and was eagerly sought by generations of students and teachers for his thorough answers. One of professional contributions is the original Palo Alto Newspaper Index, which is now online.

He enjoyed classical music, literature, mystery novels and films. His passionate interest from childhood was collecting stamps, giving him a firm grounding in world geography that never lagged. Ralph enjoyed cheering the UC teams, wearing his California Bears tie during Big Game week each year. There are several UCB graduates among his family who Ralph supported and advised through university, including his wife Jean, who attended and graduated with two of the couple's three children in the mid-1980s.

Jean Titus and Ralph Libby met when both were employed at the Stanford University Libraries. They married in the fall of 1961, living in Palo Alto since 1964. Ralph Libby is also survived by their son, Thomas Laurence Libby (wife Nalini) in San Francisco; daughter, Clare Loops (husband Gregory) in London; daughter, Beth Libby in Henderson, Nev.; and four grandchildren. His sister-in-law, Madge Libby, and several of his late brother Thomas James Libby's descendants live in the Napa and Sacramento area, and attended Ralph's family burial at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery on June 21, 2012. At his request, the military honors service did not include the firing of guns.
Ralph Libby's formal associations include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Democratic Party, a life member of the University of California Alumni, and the South Bay Civil War Round Table.

A community memorial gathering will be held Thursday, June 28, at 2 p.m. at the Woman's Club of Palo Alto, 475 Homer Ave., Palo Alto.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Photo Pretendere:
A Note from H. Scott Wolfe, Our Man in the Field

My Dear Sir:

Thank you for alerting the public of the bogus John Brown image...said to have been taken three days prior to his execution. As I have before stated to you, I possess an extensive photo collection...including the world's largest collection of black and white images of rainbows. I also possess the attached image of John Brown, taken in his cell at the Charles Town jail on December 1, 1859...the day prior to his untimely demise. 
The Old Man
(H. Scott Wolfe Collection)

As my prior posts amply show, my historical reliability is impeccable.

From the Field,

H. Scott Wolfe, Esq.

Editor's remarks: Along with my readers, I am most grateful to H. Scott Wolfe for sharing this extremely rare image of the Old Man with his famous beard.  With any luck, this image too will end up for sale on eBay as yet another great tintype of John Brown.--LD  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Photo Contendere, Again--
Another "John Brown" Fake for Sale on eBay

Readers may recall a blog entry from Dec. 11, 2011, which featured an eBay sale of some 19th century daguerreotypes purported to be images of John Brown and his family.  Clearly the images were NOT of Brown and his family.   Now, a reader has been kind enough to notify me that yet another so-called John Brown image has surfaced for sale, once more on eBay.  The image of an old man is presented as "Rare Pre Civil War Tintype of John Brown Abolitionast" [sic].

The eBay seller also writes under the description section: "You are bidding on a RARE PRE CIVIL WAR TINTYPE OF JOHN BROWN.  This is one of a few tintypes I have had authenticated.  Like the other tintypes I got them from a lady in southern Missouri.  Money Back Guarantee!!  100%  authentic!!"

Wow.  A "lady in southern Missouri"?  "Rare pre-Civil War tintype"?  "100% Authentic"?

Even Robert E. Lee would tell you that the old man in this "pre-Civil War tintype" is not John Brown the abolitionist.  He doesn't even look like our man Brown, bearing not the slightest resemblance except for the long white beard.  Even more ludicrous is the verso label that reads: "John Brown Picture 1859 Last Picture Take[n] 3 Day[s] Before hanging  father of Civil War"!  Of course, no such photographic image was made of Brown prior to his hanging.  Unfortunately there was not even a life sketch made of Brown in jail three days prior to his execution.  The whole thing is bogus.

However, if anyone is actually stupid enough to buy this last so-called John Brown father of the Civil War tintype, here are some other pictures of "John Brown" that might also interest them for their collection!

John Brown, oil painting
in his favorite bathrobe
John Brown, sketch
made with nifty cap
John Brown, color
daguerreotype 1858

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Old Tannery Farm on Hines Hill Road, Hudson, Ohio
(Source: John Brown, Citizen of Kent)

Old Tannery Farm was once the home of John Brown

The historic site on Hines Hill Road was once the home of the controversial abolitionist, John Brown, and the location of his tannery business.  The home, built in 1824, was originally a 28 square foot base with four rooms downstairs and four rooms up. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and thought by some to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Original bricks from Brown's tannery
(Photo by L. DeCaro, Jr., 2009)

Through the years the present house has accommodated three major additions.  "John Brown would not recognize, nor would he approve this house," the homeowner said.  The homeowner has blended the old with the new combining family heirlooms with newer purchases.  Visitors to the home pass through a foyer with an archive of John Brown information and comments from the numerous visitors, which the owner graciously accommodates. The foyer wallpaper, designed by Candace Sveda Interiors, features images from an 1875 Hudson atlas. The foyer was originally a porch and later enclosed.

Vestiges of Brown's tannery now
line the property (L. DeCaro, Jr. photo)
The warm, inviting contemporary living room at the back of the home offers a tranquil view of the gardens and outbuildings. A door, placed between two bay windows, leads to a large raised patio constructed with the stones that came from the foundation of Brown's old tannery.  The original tannery, destroyed in 1872, is now the site of the picnic house, which was built with salvaged wood.

Excerpted from Dorothy Markulis, "Hudson Home and Garden Tour: Old Tannery Farm was once the home of John Brown."  Hudson HubTimes.com (10 Jun. 2012)

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Note This--
"The First Effectual Blow": Douglass on Brown

"[John Brown] believes the Declaration of Independence to be true, and the Bible to be a guide to human conduct, and acting upon the doctrines of both, he threw himself against the serried ranks of American oppression, and translated into heroic deeds the love of liberty and hatred of tyrants with which he was inspired from both these forces acting upon his philanthropic and heroic soul.  This age is too gross and sensual to appreciate his deeds, and so calls him mad; but the future will write his epitaph upon the hearts of a people freed from slavery because he struck the first effectual blow.”

Source: “Undisguised, Outspoken Abolitionism,” New York Herald (21 Nov. 1859), p. 2, relayed from “The Reign of Terror in the South,” Frederick Douglass’ Paper (11 Nov. 1859).

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Note This:
Heroes Come in Wholes

"[I]f John Brown's case teaches us one lesson, it's that heroes come in wholes. Success makes some of the difference; moral luck plays a role. But we can control quite a lot of the character that takes a lifetime to build. Had John Brown's life been less than exemplary, we'd be queasier about admiring his willingness to leave it."

Susan Neiman, "What Makes a Moral Hero?"  ABC Religion and Ethics (6 June 2012)