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The French Five Hundred and Other Papers.
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The French Five Hundred and Other Papers. William G. Sibley. Paperback, (1901), 2010, 5.25 x 8.25, index, 308 pages.
This book sprang from the desire of the author, a newspaper editor in Gallipolis, Ohio, to write about some subjects that particularly interested him at greater length than allowed by the constraints of newspaper journalism. Consequently several seemingly unrelated subjects are treated in this four-part work. The book is primarily about Gallipolis, which is in the south central part of the state. The French 500 were a group of immigrants who migrated first to Virginia and then to Gallipolis, settling it in 1790. Roughly the first half of this book (about 120 pages) relates details of this process, in which an American land speculation syndicate called the Scioto Company opened an office in Paris and professed to own a vast tract of land in America that would offer an ideal refuge for gentlemen and gentlewomen who were discontented with conditions existing in France, where 'the dark menace of the bloodiest revolution the world has ever known loomed high above the horizon, clouding every fair prospect.' What the French 500 found on their arrival at Gallipolis was a rectangular clearing on the banks of the Ohio River, containing log cabins and surrounded by forested wilderness. Hardships notwithstanding, they made the best of it and preserved a high degree of their social culture in the new locality. The second part of the book, about 90 pages, is an explanation of the origin, tradition, evolution and structure of the Fraternity of Freemasons, along with a history of famous attacks on it. This section will be of general interest to anyone who has ever been curious about Freemasonry, which is thought by many to have its origins before the time of Christ. Here readers will find Masonic facts from Artaxerxes to Zerubbabel, and more information than most Freemasons actually know about the order. The third section returns to the history of Gallipolis for about 45 pages. This section is named 'Bronze John at Gallipolis' and concerns the attack of yellow fever (nicknamed 'Bronze John') which infected Gallipolis in 1878, as a result of the arrival of a steamer from New Orleans carrying infected persons. By the end of the crisis, 35 people in and around Gallipolis had died from the epidemic. The fourth and smallest section of the book (about 40 pages) is entitled 'Cousins of Suicide,' and is a treatise on self-destructive behavior such as worry and anger, 'abuse of the stomach,' lack of exercise, impure air, faulty breathing, and 'indiscretions in attire' (in which the dangers of wearing corsets are pointed out). This is a very readable book written in a pleasing style-at times rather like an editorial piece-with something for almost everyone. An everyname index has been added for convenience.