Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

Tale of Two Cities.jpg

QUESTION:  Philadelphia's own Free Library has in its collection a very special one-of-a-kind piece - the raven Charles Dickens called a pet.  What was its name?
A)  Nevermore
B)  Grip
C)  Jeremy
D)  Blackie

Way back on Monday, we started talking about street organs. It was all triggered by a three-foot tall wheeled case designed to look like four volumes in the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, written by the great English author Charles Dickens in 1859. The original book is Dickens' most famous piece of historical fiction, depicting the awful treatment of the French peasant class by members of the aristocracy, which led to the French Revolution and severe retribution. Paris is one of the cities told about. The other is Dickens' home of London, and he serves to create parallels in the treatment of the people in both urban centers - a portent of things to come in Great Britain's capitol? 

Unquestionably, the most famous thing about A Tale of Two Cities is its opening line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…" and so on and so forth.  Yes, it's a classic, and you should definitely read it. Unfortunately, you will not have the opportunity to do so here at the American Treasure Tour because our copy of it is not actually a book.  You'll notice in the image above that ours is not actually a book, but a cabinet on wheels. Now, if you were to ask why we have a three foot tall mobile cabinet designed to replicate a four volume set for A Tale of Two Cities, well, that's a whole different matter.

ANSWER:  B)  Grip.  Dickens' raven was likely the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem. He died in 1841.

Organ Grinders

QUESTION:  Fiorello La Guardia held what position prior to being elected Mayor of New York City in 1934?
A)  President of the Nabisco Cracker Company
B)  Congressman in the United States House of Representatives
C)  President of the United States
D)  Mayor of Ithaca, New York

In yesterday's blog, we began a discussion about the amazing street organ. First mention of these hand-cranked machines is from literature written in the late-eighteenth century. Originally found in mainland Europe, they spread to England and the United States not long after. Some people loved them and happily gave money to the grinders, but others saw them as no more than a public nuisance. One American who fell into the latter category was Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York City from 1934 through 1945. He grew up on the streets of Manhattan and, as mayor, vowed to clean them up. Citing street grinders for causing traffic congestion and condemning them as beggars, La Guardia outlawed street organs in 1935.

They were not extremely popular in England, as well. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is where our larger-than-life A Tale of Two Cities comes into play.  Charles Dickens famously wrote novels and short stories that described the poor and disadvantaged members of the working class as they struggled against corrupt bureaucrats. And yet, he found himself increasingly unsympathetic to the plight of street grinders. He wrote:
     I am "daily interrupted, harassed, worried, wearied, driven nearly mad, by street musicians… No sooner does it become known to the producers of horrible sounds that any of your correspondents have particular need of quiet in their own houses, than the said houses are beleaguered by discordant hosts seeking to be bought off."

So, Charles Dickens was not a fan of the street organ.  It's sad, but then he never had the chance to hear the Gebruder Bruder street organ on display at the American Treasure Tour!  Make a reservation for a guided tour, and you can experience first hand just how amazing ours sounds!

ANSWER:  B) Congressman in the United States House of Representatives


A Christmas Carol -- December 17, 2014

On this day in 1843, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published in London. The novella about the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge, who learns the error of his miserly ways, became an instant classic. It sold an astounding 6,000 copies in a week! Within five months, it was already in its 7th edition.


How long did it take Dickens to write A Christmas Carol?

a) 2 weeks

b) 6 weeks

c) 6 months

d) 2 years

Answer below!


A Christmas Carol has been adapted into countless film versions. Enjoy this montage from the 1999 made-for-TV version starring Patrick Stewart as Srooge.


Charles Dickens owned a pet raven named Grip, who appeared as a character in his novel Barnaby Rudge. When Dickens came to America, he met Edgar Allan Poe, who thought the raven should have played a more important role in the book. It is presumed that Barnaby Rudge inspired Poe to write his most famous poem, “The Raven.” Dickens had Grip stuffed after the bird’s demise and it is on display at the Free Library in Philadelphia. 


Very rare first edition copies of A Christmas Carol cans sell from $15,000 to an astonishing $40,000!

A Christmas Carol has been translated into dozens of languages...

QUOTES OF THE DAY:  A Christmas Carol edition

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” 

"Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster."

“No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused.” 

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"

“God bless us, everyone!” 


b) Dickens wrote his classic novella in only six weeks. What can you accomplish in six weeks?

Uriah Heep - May 15, 2014

The American Treasure Tour blog has been honoring the bands whose records are displayed in the Music Room for a few weeks now, bands including the hard-rocking British band Deep Purple, considered as one of "The Big 4" heavy metal bands of the early 1970s, along with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and today's headliner:  Uriah Heep.

The British band lifted their name from a character from Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield.  The fictional Heep was a shameless yes man, whose willingness to play into the egos of the rich and powerful made him a despicable character in the book.  The band was formed in 1967, and has seen many changes in its lineup since then.  Its only original member is Mick Box, the lead guitarist.  Influenced by contemporary bands, they incorporated the distinct sound of the Hammond organ and operatic stylings, to very mixed reviews.  They must have done something right, though, because they were internationally popular by the time their fifth album, Sweet Freedom, was released including the highly popular song "Stealin'."  Within a year, the album had obtained gold status, and helped Uriah Heep reach the peak of their popularity. They recently released their 24th studio album, and they are still touring.


Which of the following is NOT an album released by Uriah Heep?

a)  ...Very 'Eavy ... Very 'Umble

b)  Outsider

c)  Abominog

d)  Sonic Origami

e)  Into the Ether

Answer Below


Every now and then, a historical event is looked back upon with dramatically different perspectives:  some people regard them as the worst events to ever occur, while others celebrate them.  Today's anniversary is a perfect example of one of these events, as it marks 109 years since an important transaction occurred.  110 acres of fertile land in the middle of the Nevada desert was sold to enterprising settlers who made sure the railroad came through.  It was not long before a city emerged.  That city proved to be an oasis in the deep of the desert.  And then, Las Vegas legalized gambling in 1931, it has never looked back since.  

When it comes to popular culture, there are few icons as recognizable as Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney's most famous invention.  Although most people know that the first film that hit the theaters starring Mickey was Steamboat Willie (a play on a Buster Keaton short called Steamboat Bill, Jr.), few know that his first actual cartoon came out in May 15, 1928, called Plane Crazy.  Plane Crazy was a silent film, and Disney could not get anyone to show the film because talking pictures were all the craze.  Distribution of it was held off until three later Mickey Mouse films were released.  First and most famously Steamboat Willie, then The Gallopin' Gaucho, and The Barn Dance.  To abuse an over-used cliche, the rest is history....


If the American Treasure Tour blog had its way, the calendar would be chock full of celebrations of special birthdays.  May 15th would definitely be L. Frank Baum Day!  In 1856 Chittenango, New York, the baby boy was named Lyman after his dad.  Hating the name, he always went by Frank.  He also was not the athletic type, despite his parents' hopes for him.  They sent him to military school, but he wanted only to write and paint and dream.  He tried many careers - as a journalist, a chicken farmer, a store owner, and the manager of a theater.  All of them failed.  Then, he tried his hand at writing children's literature.  In 1900, he wrote The Wonderful World of Oz, which changed everything for him.  In the last nineteen years of his life, Baum wrote 14 novels about his fantastical world of Oz and produced successful plays about it.  He also wrote dozens of other stories - some of them offering visionary predictions of the future, including early descriptions of cellphones, laptops, and most importantly advertising on clothing.  Well, we're grateful for his Oz stories, anyway.

If there is one family that can be described as American royalty, there are arguments to suggest their last name is Bush.  With at least five generations of Yale graduates, the Bush clan not only has intellectual pedigree, but also government.  Today is the birthday of Prescott Bush, born in 1895 and the father of President George H.W. Bush and the grandfather of President George W. Bush. Born into a family made wealthy through steel, Prescott expanded that wealth and entered politics - a Republican Senator representing Connecticut, he initially made a name for himself with his dedication to Planned Parenthood, an organization created to provide care o the underprivileged.  In office, he supported President Eisenhower's efforts to halt the Communist witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy, and also the Interstate Highway System, civil rights initiatives, and the development of the Peace Corps.

QUOTE:  We must maintain strong defenses, military and spiritual. - Prescott Bush

Answer:  e)  Into the Ether.  The ATT blog staff made that name up, but now that we think about it, we may want to start our own 'Eavy Metal band and use that name....