Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 269

Price Realized: $ 812
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 400 - $ 600
(NEW YORK CITY.) James Horton Taft. Diary of a young man in 1840s Manhattan. 130 manuscript pages. 4to, contemporary 1/2 sheep, moderate wear; minimal wear to contents. Vp, 23 August 1845 to 9 August 1847

Additional Details

James Horton Taft (1822-1906) wrote this diary as a devout young Manhattanite, very active in the Allen Street Methodist Episcopal Church and missionary activities. At least 90% of the content relates to Bible readings, church services, missionary society meetings, Sunday school, church social events, and spiritual discussions. An effort to have an African boy named in his honor for a $30 sponsorship is discussed on 1 September and 28 October 1845, and 26 March 1846.

Horton rarely discussed his work as a drug merchant, although a business trip to Philadelphia on 6-12 January 1846 is recounted at length, including visits to factories for linseed oil and quinine, as well as some tourist excursions. A visit to extended family in Warren, RI is described from 2 to 6 July 1846. He also made an enigmatic reference to a manuscript about the famed whale ship Essex, an inspiration for Moby Dick: "Spent the evening at Ms. Fuller's. . . . Read there the account of the loss of the whaling ship Essex, which vessel was struck & stove by a whale. The account was written by Capt. C.R. Griffith, who obtained it from one of his crew on board of the ship Southport, who was on board the Essex at the time of her loss." (6 October 1845). We can find no other reference to this account of the Essex, which Horton described as a manuscript in the next day's entry.

Although Horton was a young man, and baseball was being born as an organized sport in the New York area in 1845 and 1846, we find no mention of the New York Knickerbockers or their games in Brooklyn and Hoboken. He did visit Elysian Fields in Hoboken on 12 October 1846, 4 months after the famous inaugural game. Horton did indulge in a classic 1840s New York treat on occasion, though: "Ate some stewed oysters, walked down the Bowery a short distance, saw a political procession of the Young Democracy & then returned home." (31 October 1845). The diary concludes with a short entry on Horton's marriage, to the daughter of the minister of his church.