Friday, August 10, 2012

1889 inscription by (presumably) Samuel Adams Wiggin

The above inscription, in lovely cursive, appears on the first page of "Sprigs of Acacia," an 1885 book of poetry written by Samuel Adams Wiggin (1832–1899). The inscription states:

J.N. Lemman Esq.
Foreman. No. 6.
with the regards
of the Author

March 31, 1889
Washington D.C.1

Is it fairly safe to presume that the inscription was penned by Samuel Adams Wiggin himself? I would think so.

Who was Wiggin? He was a military man, a prolific poet and the Executive Clerk to two United States presidents — Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant. Wiggin died from injuries sustained in a fall down a flight of stairs about 10 years after writing this inscription. He was 67.

I don't think, however, we'll be lucky enough to discover much about the recipient of this book, other than the fact that his full name was Joseph N. Lemman. (The name appears again on the inside back cover.)

Meandering footnote
1. On the date this book was signed — March 31, 1889 — the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris as the tallest tower in the world. While surfing through Wikipedia to see what else happened in history during this time — for example, Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler were born a few weeks later, just four days part — I discovered the fascinating tale of The Leatherman. If you live in New England, you have probably heard of him. If not, you might find his tale as absorbing as I did, and get lost in a web of links about his life. The Leatherman — it's possible his name was Jules Bourglay, but no one knows for sure — was a vagabond who traveled a regular 365-mile, 36-day circuit through eastern Connecticut and western New York from 1856 to 1889. He wore a handmade leather suit of clothes, lived in caves at times, typically communicated in grunts, and was quite popular with townfolk when making his rounds through about 50 towns on his continuous circuit. He died of cancer of the mouth, and when his body was found in a cave on March 24, 1889, it was discovered that his cheek had been sown and patched with leather. Here are some links to learn more about The Leatherman:

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