Abraham Lincoln's birthday
and an introduction to Newman F. McGirr

Today marks 200 years since Abraham Lincoln was born, February 12th, 1809, in Kentucky. Coincidentally, I've been to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, and there's nothing there original to his beginnings except for nature. The buildings at the site have been constructed to serve symbolic purposes to help visitors get a feel for what life was like for the Lincoln family there.

Segueing back to bibliophemera... this post card is from bookseller Newman F. McGirr of the State House Book Shop in Philadelphia, postmarked 1917. The front side sports an image of Honest Abe, while the reverse side offers information for a customer query. As the card is not signed or initialed, I can't say for sure that I have a holographic sampling from McGirr. But I have discovered a new bookseller I want to know more about.

The use of the Lincoln image is a curious symbol for a Philadelphia book shop, whose owner seems to have more in common with Benjamin Franklin than Abraham Lincoln. That curiosity aside, ephemera such as this piece, offers more than just interesting graphics and bibliography. It offers an historical portal into the lives and culture of other worlds in other times. The portal in this postcard introduced me to Newman F. McGirr.

McGirr appears to have been, in addition to a bookseller, a writer, editor, and publisher (thus my comaparison to fellow Philadelphian Franklin). I can find several references to works of folklore, particularly in Pennsylvania, that he was involved with. And more particularly, he had a special interest in music history of the region. I could also venture a guess that he was somewhat of a songcatcher, a Lomax contemporary, who had at one time his own record label.

I did find mention of a book he wrote, which I have to get for my library: Experiences of a Pennsylvanian with Old Books, Bibliophiles and Old Records. I can't find anything more than the title and author (McGirr) and it seems to be long out-of-print and unavailable. As a book and music hound myself, I think I will enjoy reading this book. And I'll have Abe Lincoln and his 200th birthday to thank for introducing me to this interesting bibliophile/musicologist.


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