Artifact Corner: Episode 34 – Annual Register

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very special book. This is the Williams’s New York Annual Register for 1831. This book has a leather spine, and a printed paper over board cover. The leather spine of the book is tooled and lettered in gilt. The book was printed by Jonathan Seymour, a fairly well known printer in New York City. This book is in quite good condition even though it’s almost two hundred years old. Let’s explore a bit more about the New York Annual Register.

The New York Annual Register was designed to be a guide for people of business in the 19th Century. In a newspaper advertisement from 1836, the sellers boasted that, “It is a work of general reference. The professional man constantly requires it, the man of business should never be without it, and to the statesman and political economist, desirous of procuring correct data, it is invaluable.” This book contains a myriad of subjects from civil and judicial appointments, agricultural forecast, land valuations, town and village populations, merchant locations, and advertisements, just to name a few. In the same newspaper advertisement it claims to inform the reader of “the names, Masters, &c. Of packet ships owned in the city of New York, steamboats employed on the North and East Rivers, Long Island Sound, and the lakes; with other useful information not contained in previous volumes.” The book also contained historical facts. You can see at the bottom of this page that it says, “Oct. 1, 1807 First successful application of steam to the purpose of navigation, in a voyage from N. York to Albany, by Robt. Fulton, in the Steamboat Clermont.” We’ve done another artifact corner video on Fulton if you’d like to learn a bit more about him and his steamboats.

This particular book was owned by Henry Webb, the husband of Frances Henrietta Delord Webb. Henry Webb and his family were merchants. Henry specialized in crockery, porcelain wares, and home goods. He had a store on State Street in Albany in the 1830’s and 1840’s. In the 1830’s there was just as much of a desire for goods from around the world as there is today. In order to get goods from around the world, he needed to know other merchants, ships masters, etc. This book would have proved to be very useful for a store owner in the 1830’s. The book also provided the total revenues from not only New York State, but also the country as a whole. This information was important for predicting economic downturns, or shifts in foreign and domestic imports and exports.

We are very fortunate that today, if we have a question, we can simply look it up online. Our predecessors did not have that luxury. This book was a valuable source of information on a large variety of topics, all in one place. While I have not been able to find what the price was for the 1831 volume that we have in our collections the cost for the 400 page volume that was published in 1836 was $1.50, which is about $45 today. Given the amount of data that needed to be collected for this book, I think that’s a very fair price. This is a fantastic book that gives us a really in depth look at the state of business in the early 1830’s. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot