Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Romance of the Here and Now

I hope others who ponder the questions of the day on local blogs will take some time and dig more into James Hall's story and his writings, to help make connections between Pittsburgh in its early 19th century frontier days and our nueva frontera of today.   Our history -- our human, lived history in this place -- should be a source of energy and shared purpose.  

Pittsburgh was once the place where people like James Hall came and stayed awhile before settling elsewhere.   In Judge Hall's case, he no doubt kept in touch with the learned men of the day back in Pittsburgh, and as an editor drew on their talents during his time in Illinois and Cincinnati.  Together, they helped define Pittsburgh's foundational role forming the West, all that has come forward to us through time in these archive writings.  

I haven't read any biographies of Hall (yet), so I should stop opining on his life; all that I know on the topic comes from several hours of reading what he put into print 180 years ago.  It's all wonderfully evocative of another time, and the Pittsburgh of today is in there somewhere.  

Here is Judge Hall in 1857:

"The Romance of Western History" (1857) is available on the archive.  It includes a story from the summer of 1776, when Captain Gibson and Lt. William Linn were ordered to travel incognito on the river from Fort Pitt to New Orleans and procure gunpowder from the Spanish.   I had no idea.

He revealed the identity of author "N______" from back in 1829.

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