Unique Sea Mosses Book Sold at the New York Metropolitan Fair to Benefit Sick and Wounded Union Troops
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“call us not weeds, we are flowers of the Sea.” [CIVIL WAR]. ANNA BIGELOW.
Autograph Manuscript Signed unique calligraphy book with illustrations, pressed sea weeds, and hand lettered four lines of verse titled ‘Sea Weeds.’ New York, N.Y, 1864. 7½ x 10½ on 60-plus pages with 31 moss examples interleaved.
Album donated to benefit Union soldiers, presented at the New York Metropolitan Fair held on March 28, 1864 to raise funds to aid sick and wounded Union soldiers. The Metropolitan Fair was organized to benefit the Sanitary Commission, a private relief agency authorized by federal legislation in 1861. The Commission raised an estimated $25 million in revenue (more than $386 million today), and enlisted thousands of volunteers. A New York Times article on Jan. 1, 1864 provided a preview: “Every branch of agriculture, trade, industry and art, will be invited to contribute its choicest and costliest products for exhibition and sale. Musical and dramatic artists will be invited to aid the common cause with their talent and genius. All the material resources of the great City of New-York and of the region directly tributary to it are to be invoked.”
The great success of an earlier Chicago fair inspired many women in the North to become involved. The Metropolitan Fair included everything from “Architectural Ornaments” to “Wines & Liquors” to “Wholesale Millinery Goods.” Commemorative and ceremonial objects were often specially designed for the Sanitary fairs. Anna Bigelow’s album of sea mosses may have been displayed in the “Arrangements and Decoration” section.
When Northerners attended fairs, donated money or goods, or volunteered their time, they were aiding the soldiers on the front lines. Autographs of leading Americans were often sold; Lincoln even donated an autograph manuscript of the Gettysburg Address to the New York Fair, where it sold for $1,000. For Chicago’s Great Northwestern Fair, Lincoln donated his original signed draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, with an accompanying letter stating his “desire to retain the paper, but if it shall contribute to the relief or comfort of the soldiers, that will be better.”
The elaborately hand lettered and decorated title page of this album bears a small signature “Ellsworth” and “819 Broadway.” Henry W. Ellsworth is listed in New York’s Manual of the Board of Education as a penmanship instructor at School No. 47 on Twelfth Street, between Broadway and University Place (p. 295). There is also an inscription “Drawn by E. W. Gandy, 1864” at the top of the front free endpaper.
All edges gilt. Elaborately gilt stamped brown morocco gift binding with white silk linings, with gilt title “Sea Mosses” at front board, and “Album” at spine. A bit chipped top of spine. Internally, a bit marked at the silk linings. The plates in very good condition, with the each sea moss plate a delicate floral arrangement. Front cover detached. Some soiling and foxing.