Monday, February 06, 2012

Scribner's Monthly, December, 1879, Vol. XIX. No. 2. The Capitol of New York. pages 161-178.

Some previously unavailable historic resources relating to the building, and decoration, of the New York State Capitol at Albany, have recently made an appearance online. Most significant is a December, 1879 issue---Volume XIX., No. 2---of Scribner’s magazine, which contains a major 17-page article on the imminent opening of the first section of the Capitol building for Legislative use.

It turned up located, wrongfully cataloged, at the Internet Archive, as "The Century illustrated monthly magazine," published "1871," by Scribner in New York, and it occupied a lonely existence, as one of "1 edition record for of The Century illustrated monthly magazine. by an unknown author."

Adding to this mystery, a few years after the issue-date, starting with the January, 1887 Scribner’s, the magazine began anew sequentially---starting over at Volume I. No. 1. Since this way of serial record keeping duplicate the earlier volumes and number run, but not the date, it had the effect of creating two eras in Scribner’s history. The large number of late 19th-century Scribner’s issues found online, most uploaded by the University of Toronto, all date from this second series run. A handful of other low numbers show up tantalizingly in searches, like some listed by the Prelinger Library, "a private research library in San Francisco, open to the public," who describe their online activity as a work in progress.

A search I did within for "The Century illustrated monthly magazine," brought up a half-dozen others, which don’t appear to have ever been genuine, uploaded by entities like T. Fisher Unwin, Roy J. Friedman, and the Making of America Project, their hits return only sentiments---like "Yikes," and "Darn," and then "Fiddlesticks!"---they appear to be manufactured as diversity operations. The Scribner’s article appears to have been the preeminent plank in a wide public-relations effort timed with the public opening of the Capitol building, meant to turn the tide of criticism over the extravagant costs into a eddy of popular relief that it had all been worth it. The magazine's pages were illustrated with 22, pen-and-ink drawings, done by such well-regarded artists as R. Sayre, Francis Lathrop, and W.M. Laffan, while the waspy dean of New York's architecture critics, Montgomery Schuyler, who along with his wife---born a Livingston---represented two of the most ancient and illustrious families in Albany, penned the strongly supportive prose. That this publicity helped to make the opening a great success with the public is without question; and while the building continued to face criticism from professionals, the battle for the hearts and minds of the taxpayers seemed to be breaking their way.

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