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    This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 12 May, 2011.

    “W.K. Lewis & Brothers’ Catalogue”

    Price:  $5.00

    W.K. Lewis Cataloghe rest of the title pretty much says it all: “…of Pickles, Preserves, Sirups, Mustard, Ketchups, Sauces, Hermetically Sealed Meats, Fish, Soups, &c. &c.” W.K. Lewis and Brothers were wholesale provision merchants selling primarily to citizen buyers (as in the trade today, largely retail stores, hotels, and restaurants) and not only in major cities: the original of Mr. Sekela’s soon to be released fine reproduction of a peach bottle is one of Lewis’ products (listed on the front page of this very catalog) comes from the cargo of the steamer BERTRAND which foundered on the Missouri River in April, 1865 near DeSoto Landing, Nebraska Territory: the shipment was consigned to a J. Murphy of Fort Benton, Montana Territory. In short: anything listed in this catalog could be had anywhere in the country; all it took was sufficient money to bring it there. The idea that everyone in mid-19th century America not living in a city wore homespun with antler buttons and ate nothing but squirrel and venison—sometimes still encountered even within the living history hobby—is provably false. Even in the most distant settlements and on wilderness expeditions folks could—and did—dine on lobster and oysters, veal cutlets, and Lamb’s tongue with side dishes of fresh vegetables, all made possible by the relatively-new and still almost miraculous-seeming technology of canning. The trash dumps of almost every Civil War camp show such canned foods were very much a part of military life as well, at least for those who could afford them; and the fact that this fascinating catalog of preserved foods was itself preserved by being bound into the same collection of United States Sanitary Commission papers which furnished our Item No. 6311 (the “Important Sanitary Directions” handbill issued by the State of Massachusetts in May 1861) makes it all but certain that some of the products listed in this fascinating catalog made their way to hospitals for the refreshment of sick and wounded soldiers. Sanitary and Christian Commission, Ladies’ Aid, Medical, and Sutler impressions will be particularly interested in this catalog, printed on laid stock matching the original and folded down to a four-page brochure ornamented with two large custom woodcuts one of which shows the exterior of the block which housed the Lewis brothers’ concern (near the docks in one of Boston’s oldest commercial districts), the other showing the shop’s interior done in the usual (and surprisingly convincing) style of such illustrations: the shop itself is portrayed accurately, but an attempt is made to present it as much larger than it really was by drawing the human figures at roughly half-scale.

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