Friday, October 19, 2007

Barbers and Booksellers

In 1830, Leonard Deming not only sold books, stationary, ballads, songs and pamphlets, but wanted to let readers know he also gave haircuts.

According to the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), "Leonard Deming is listed at this address in Boston directories for 1829-1831." On one of the songs he published at this location ("The Bloody Brother") is this jolly jingle: "If you’d like a good song to dissipate care--pray call at L. Deming’s, no. 1, Market Square;--where you’ll find a collection the best in the city ..." In all of the items in their collection from this period, no records at the AAS record the barbershop.
However, our good friends at the AAS did the leg-work and say later publications of Leonard Deming's were issued imprinted from "[Boston] : Sold, by L. Deming, wholesale and retail, no. 62, Hanover Street, 2d door from Friend Street, Boston., [Deming was at this address from 1832 to 1837]." According to the AAS, Leonard Deming lived 1787-1853.

Looking for Mr. Deming through Google Books, I noticed an item dated 1851 coming from a Leonard Deming in Middlebury, VT. I wondered if it could be this same gent publishing in Boston from 1829-1837. Further digging revealed all, barbershop included. "[Boston] : Sold wholesale and retail, by Leonard Deming, at the sign of the barber’s pole, no. 61, Hanover Street, Boston, and Middlebury, Vt., [Leonard Deming was at this address from 1837 and 1840]." Emphasis mine, of course. He must have opened a branch office/shop in Middlebury sometime between 1837 and 1840, and by the 1850s Deming transferred his full efforts there. Why the move? I remember there was a terrible fire in Boston that gutted many bookseller and printing operations in the 19th Century. Was that during the late 1830s? Where did I read that? Also, is Deming buried in Middlebury, Vermont?

Through the fog a vague little photo begins to emerge. I've seen this odd combination before. The good folks over at Fine Books & Collections ran a photo of a stamp from another bookseller/ barber from an Arkansas book shop called Roy Bean's Used Book Center and Barber Shop. That stamp includes a 5-digit zip code, which places Roy Bean's in the latter half of the 1900s. Also, it is described as being found in a vintage paperback. See for yourself in the reader's letters section toward the front of your July/August 2006 issue. Seeing another bookseller/barber got me curious how common this combination is. How long do bookseller-barbers go back? At least to 1830, I guess. Anyone know or heard of others?

Enjoy book history or Book Trade history? Check out the 1,000+ images related to the pre-1900 American Book Trade at the American Book Trade Index Flickr group. Help us grow a fun bibliographic tool.

Photo above is by permission of Philenor Rare Books. Book is currently listed on eBay here. Item number 190164124426, if the link breaks. I have no connection whatsoever with Philenor Rare Books and have recieved no compensation for posting their image here.


jgodsey said...

terrific blog - long time coming.
please send me an email
i will be adding you to the bullpen sidebar, but i would like to introduce you to the biblio group community, you may get some quotes for collection additions.

Wystan said...

So, would that maybe account for the barber pole in front of Sheehan's Ann Arbor bookstore? --Wystan