Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Galaxy of Comicalities

One gem of American humor in my collection is a volume composed of the complete file of Galaxy of Comicalities, published weekly in Philadelphia in 1833-84. The editor is not identified (nor is he/she in Sloane) but the contents reveal the spectrum of American humor in its day, including what appears to be the first introduction of magazine readers to America's most important homespun hero, Davy Crockett, first in a December 1833 review of his book about him and then with a few additional anecdotes and this original illustration.

Even more importantly, this rare, well produced and written magazine appears to be the earliest example of an American comic periodical utilizing regular illustration, being profusely adorned with over 200 woodcuts. Before this, the American Comic Almanac, published in 1831, was the first of that genre. Being an annual, it is not strictly a magazine.

The origins of American humor has been an interest for quite some time and my dear friend Joe Rainone shares this interest and has acquired the world's most extensive private holding of this material, including a huge assemblage of Davy Crockett Almanacs, the first of which, 1835, was published prior to his death at the Alamo (Crockett's not Rainone's, the latter being alive and well living in New York). Hopefully I will be able to show you some of the important original material and information he has uncovered.

Another original and wholly unrecorded magazine from his period, perhaps unique to my collection, is Mirror of Mirth, published in Bel-Air, Maryland for twenty five issues between January 30th and August 14th 1834. The only illustration is the masthead.

More to follow. It's a beautiful July day and I'm headed down to the "Jersey Shaw" for the day after a little morning tennis with my S.O.

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