Thursday, January 10, 2008

Captains of Industry and Rural Kansas

This trade card is the type of thing I'm hoping to preserve through the American Book Trade Index. I know nothing about it. It's like millions of other trade cards from the end of the 1800s, but this one is from a bookseller in Anthony, Kansas. This one is also different because it is the size of a modern business card, instead of the more usual trade card size. The story of the Book Trade in America isn't always about people like the Harpers and Mathew Carey. It's about M. Mason too.

Anthony Kansas is on the border with Oklahoma, and as of the 2000 census, home to 2440 souls. Actually, the Anthony Chamber of Commerce currently claims 2302. Many rural towns across the fruited plain are shrinking faster than this. Not only are we losing people, we're losing the stories and history. There is a chance that folks in Anthony Kansas do not remember the Mason Book Store any more, although there are still some Masons in the phone book. Google sure doesn't remember a book store in Anthony, but it is hardly the mighty be-all of human knowledge we wish it could be. It'll also likely be a while before the Harper County Museum gets in on the Open Library, or one of the other digitization efforts. I wonder if anyone there still has a business directory from the end of the 1880s? Would a town like Anthony publish one? Until then, the American Book Trade Index is a start to preserve the history of the American Book Trade, even in places like Anthony Kansas.

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