Monday, February 2, 2015

Manuscript Monday—Sir Dynamite!

I was delighted to discover this anarchist broadside, with mysterious manuscript notations, in the California Historical Society's Kemble Collection on Western Printing and Publishing. Described by Gary F. Kurutz as the "jewel in the crown of the Society's Research Library," the Kemble Collection comprises an extraordinary diversity of materials related to printing and publishing history, including books, periodicals, type specimens, labels, and manuscript collections. Our local Type Tuesday correspondent presents gorgeous typographic specimens from the Collection each week.


Dated from the 1880s, this broadside was published by Patrick Joseph Healy's Antiquarian Book Store and Song Factory at 104 O'Farrell Street. Healy, to whom an entire chapter is dedicated in Robert Cowan's Booksellers of Early San Francisco, is one of the most fascinating (and endearing) characters in the colorful book history of San Francisco. An Irish immigrant and labor activist, he earned the animus of his comrades by vigorously defending the rights of the Chinese during the sandlot riots. He opened his first bookshop in 1883 at the address above. His shop (later known as "the Tunnel" because of its narrow dimensions) became a sort of informal, democratic salon for political discussion and debate.

The song reproduced here is laden with Messianic expectation, as is typical of the radical discourse of the period:

The weary slave in mill or mine, 
The peasant and toiling herd,
Through the ages awaited the "coming sign,"
And died from "hope deferred."
"How long, oh, Lord!" they cried, "how long,"
Must we toil, and weep, and slave?"
But an answering cry for their cruel wrong
At length the heavens gave, 
In a new Messiah, to loose the bands
That chained down the sons of earth;
Send joyous tidings o er sea and lands
To cheer the poor toilers' hearth.
Let all proclaim his glorious name,
Who comes, man's wrong to right,
A terror he brings to the heart of Kings—
Puissant Sir Dynamite!

In 1905, Healy and Ng Poon Chew, the editor of a Chinese daily newspaper, co-authored A Statement for Non-Exclusion, an impassioned polemic in defense of Chinese rights. This work can also be found in the Society's collection.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
msilva@calhist.org
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