JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post #127
This is one of the earliest images of the quintessential American frontier dwelling, the simple log house. The engraving. “The American Log House”, was published in Georges Henri Victor Collot’s masterpiece of post-Revolutionary America, the exceptionally rare A Journey in North America, Containing a Survey of the Countries Watered by the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Other Affluing Rivers, and was published in 1826, although the work itself was completed just before the end of the eighteenth century. This cabin, built undoubtedly in the Ohio Valley at the edge of the American frontier in the 1790’s, shows a small cleared space among the spruce, a woman standing in the doorway holding a broom, looking not too terribly much at home, and more lonely, vulnerable, than anything else. She fills up the doorway, which I imagine wasn’t more than 65 inches high, and we can iterate that the house was pretty small: 60 or so square feet by my reckoning. In the yard is a kettle and a small structure which I guess may be for a little Dutch Oven. It is a lovely, simple, evocative image that just looks terribly “American”.
There is another, beautiful, achingly simple, drawing of two log cabins by a child, and done around 1830. I absolutely adore antiquarian manuscript artwork of children. The observations are pure and simple, and reminds me of what my children draw, except of course for the subject matter. The work of children from 125 years or more ago
is really quite difficult to find: the writing and practice material of choice was in general absolutely ephemeral, taking place on a chalk board to save on paper and writing implements, as paper was far more expensive pre-1850 than it is today. To further complicate things a family would have to actually save the art for four generations so that one could find it today, which is asking a lot from your family. Most of the time the surviving artwork comes in two ways: in the form of a notebook, which has survived through the years intact; and as incidental artwork jotted down on the free end papers in textbooks. In any event, the art is hard to find.
The drawing has two elements: the first shows a man approaching a house, an dis titled “Old Tyler”; to its right and on it side is the glorious image, “Log House”, complete with a flag on a flagpole and a little aphorism:
Set on my log
And take some cider”.
This is just simple a super bit of naïve childhood Americana.
Georges Henri Victor Collot. A Journey in North America, Containing a
Survey of the Countries Watered by the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and
Other Affluing Rivers; with Exact Observations on the Course and
Soundings of These Rivers; and on the Towns, Villages, Hamlets and
Farms of That Part of the New-World; Followed by Philosophical,
Political, Military and Commercial Remarks and by a Projected Line of
Frontiers and General Limits. Illustrated by 36 Maps, Plans, Views, and
Background: “In 1796 the French General George Henri Victor Collot undertook a secret reconnaissance of what was then the United States' frontier. This region, along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, had been claimed by France until it was ceded under the Treaty of Paris, 1763. The French government was anxious to know whether American frontier could be incited to rebel, and then rejoined to the French Empire. ”Collot traveled from Pittsburgh down the Ohio to the Mississippi, up the Mississippi to the Missouri and Illinois Rivers, and then back down the Mississippi to New Orleans. During his journey, he constructed a large number of exceptionally fine manuscript maps and views of the region that he traversed. Many of these were groundbreaking, containing never before recorded information about a wilderness that was just beginning to undergo settlement. ”Collot's maps were engraved in Paris in 1804, but publication was suppressed due to Napoleon's sale of Louisiana to the United States the previous year. The sale ended any possibility that these regions could be acquired by France. As a result the plates were not printed until 1826, when they were issued in a limited number as Voyage dans l'Amerique Septentrionale. Copies were published with both French and English text. "A nineteenth-century bookseller called this work 'one of the most famous, most important, and rarest of all books of Mid-Western Explorations.' Its rarity is due to the deliberate destruction of all but three hundred French and one hundred English copies by the publisher, who had purchased the edition from Collot's estate, hoping to increase its value" (Cohen.) SOURCES: Phillips, Maps of America, p. 327. See Phillips, Atlases, 1214 & 1215; Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 68-70. And more