Hope springs eternal. Although where I look changes as I get older. I still hope, despite all logic, to find that buried treasure. When I was young, it was the gold nugget that just had to be around Lake Bracken somewhere. When I found a newly graveled road by my uncles farm near Berwick covered with iron pyrite chunks ("fools gold"), I thought I had succeeded.
Now Im a grandfather. I know iron pyrite when I see it. I learn. Im trainable. But the hope still lingers. Now I look around old book stores; old run-down antique and junk shops in small towns. Maybe that old photo has a original copy of the Declaration of Independence behind it. Perhaps today Ill find a stereoscopic card with Carl Sandburgs likeness selling the cards.
Perhaps Ill find an old bound book with glued-in old newspaper articles, covering a much older and more valuable journal of a famous adventure. Such was my thought when I saw the old 6 by 7-1/2 inch hardback ledger book. It was on the shelf of a used book store that appears to make more money off its used pornographic videos and magazines than it did off of old books. I was able to buy the book for a couple of dollars. It was interesting and clearly old. It was worth the couple of bucks. It was cheaper than a used paperback. The pages looked to be held in place by a hand-stitched binding. Inside, on an old, browned page in hand-printing, was the title page:
"Historical and Biographical Sketches. Voyages and Travels; Reminiscences, Tales. Poetry and Anecdotes Extracted from papers of 1838. No. 13"
On the subsequent pages were articles neatly cut and pasted from old newspapers. The columns bore titles such as "The Sailor and the Bear" and "Awful Steamboat Accident- Loss of 125 Lives." The latter, with no date or year provided with the preserved article described the boiler explosion of the "elegant steamboat Moselle." It was described as being one of the new "brag" boats. It left "this City" (unstated in the article, but it was probably Cincinnati) for Louisville and St. Louis when the boiler exploded.
Most of the articles were cut and pasted without regard to noting their newspaper origin or dates. But a few have dates, confirming 1837 and 1838.
However interesting the odd articles were, glimpses of hand written text on the underlying pages excited me more. The journal was clearly old. The newspaper clippings went back to 1837. The journal had been recycled, with the newspapers glued over older hand-written text. Curiosity brewed. Was the original hand-written document "gold" or another "fools gold"?
I brewed over it. I held the pages up to bright light. I tried to gently remove a glued column or two. The pages were too old, too thick, too dark. The light failed. The glue was too old, too good, and the newspaper too fragile.
At last I decided that I would rely on my old stamp collection days. I carefully wetted down a page about 1/3 of the way through the ledger. I picked a page that had newspaper of very little interest. The glue liquefied and I was able to patiently scrape away the old newspaper and wipe the old glue off the face of the original page of the ledger. It was slow work. Gold or fools gold?
The penmanship was remarkable. A "clear hand" with good quality black ink that had stood the test of time. Was it to be a sailors journal to the Arctic in search of the Northwest Passage? Was it a handwritten draft of a famous speech or a legal oral argument by Abe Lincoln?
What appeared was a one-page text, complete in its exposure. It was entitled "Absolute Monarchy." It read, in part, "Absolute Monarchy is materially different from Limited, although they are both used in the same phrase, and constitute but one which call Monarchal (sic) Government. The power of ruling an Absolute Monarchy is not vested in the hands of the Lords, like that of Limited, but vested, wholly, and entirely, in the hands of the Emperor, whose will is the Law. He succeeds to the Crown, by inheritance, and holds the rein of Government until death ."
The text continues in this vein. At the bottom of the page, it is dated September 3, 1837 and was signed by "S. P. Day."
I carefully removed a portion of the wetted newspaper column on the other side of the journals page, sufficiently to see a similar discussion of Aristocracy. It also ended in one page and was dated September 5th, 1837 and again signed by "S. P. Day."
From this, I concluded that it was likely a school journal. Text was copied down, both as a writing exercise and for learning about the types of governments. Such was the school system, once you were old enough to graduate away from using a small slate to write on. Fools gold, not gold.
Nevertheless, it is a neat old book. I wonder about S. P. Day. Did he succeed in life? Did he ever find the opportunity to discuss aristocracy and monarchy? Did he find the more lurid reporting of 125 people being killed in a steam boat explosion more interesting? "Heads, limbs, bodies and blood were seen flying through the air in every direction, attended with the most horrible shrieks and groans from the wounded and the dying." This must have meant more to a boys imagination than absolute monarchy. Or perhaps the newspaper columns were the addition of a younger sibling.
Such is my luck. It is no Lincoln manuscript. It is not Washingtons journal telling of his cold hands and wet feet while crossing the Delaware.
But I will continue to look around in the old junk stores and through the stacks of old books. You never know. You might find fools gold. You might find gold. Maybe Ill see you there.
I cant be the only fool looking for gold.