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Books in Niagara in 1813

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  • ronpontiac
    Thanks to to the War Losses Claims and the fact that the Town of Niagara was burned, the belongings of civilians from all classes were detailed in many of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26, 2008
      Thanks to to the War Losses Claims and the fact that the Town of
      Niagara was burned, the belongings of civilians from all classes were
      detailed in many of these claims. Some had massive collections of over
      40 volumes while others had one or two books in the house. One I
      remember was a local gent who was not able to read yet had two books,
      a Bible and a Cook Book. Brock's library was well documented as it was
      auctioned off after his death.

      Niagara established the first lending library in Upper Canada and while
      there was a subscription fee, some of the less well-to-do could borrow
      a book rather than go through the great expense of buying one. Some
      regiments kept regimental libraries to improve the minds of the men.

      As for a common soldier with a book in his pack or a sailor with one in
      his ditty bag, I would imagine that some would have them. While the
      cost of a volume in relationship to a soldier's pay would be
      prohibitive, there is always looting. The value of reading material has
      to be weighed against the practicality of hauling it along on
      campaign. In barracks, perhaps, but stretching out round the ole cook
      fire after a 25 mile march sounds rather unlikely.

      It might make an interesting "story" for a soldier or sailor at an
      encampment to be perusing a volume that he happened to "find" in an
      abandoned farmhouse on the march--or taken from the pack of an enemy
      who had done so. The act of reading, then, can lead to a discussion
      wiht the public on looting, the penalties for looting, and (read the
      War Losses Claims) the frequency of it.

      Ron
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