Calvin Blanchard — Those Peculiar Advertisements (1859–1865)

Calvin Blanchard obviously had some fun with his reputation as a purveyor of “dirty books.” His advertisements often contain vague references to “THOSE PECULIAR BOOKS” (or “curious books,” “exquisite books,” etc.) But there is no doubt that most of Blanchard’s activity was, in one way or another, subordinate to his role as a “positivist” and his promotion of the idea that “Heaven on Earth” was possible if we would just study the “laws of Human Nature.” In my recent return to Blanchard’s works, I’ve been reminded how often the advertising material that he produced—whether inserted in the books he published or in various newspapers—formed part of the literature of his “Religion of Science” and “Religio-Political Physics.” The advertisements varied in length from the multi-page extravaganza “My Undertaking and Its Auspices” to the short pieces I’ll be collecting here.

Wisdom and Merriment.

Many a learned and wise (?) man has become insane, and (pity ‘t is) nearly all become, especially with the beautiful half of humanity, dull company, in consequence of not properly alternating the grave and weighty with the gay and light. To indulge in fun, frolic and merriment, is beneath their dignity. And so their dignity mopes through the world, disgusting it with wisdom, and sometimes horrifying it with the any thing but dignified maniac’s yell.

To correct this evil, I publish, along with works which exercise the intellect to its utmost, books, the tendency of which, is effectually to relieve the intellectual, by bringing into corresponding active exercise the humourous, gay and mirthful faculties.

If the mystic claims that—

“Religion never was designed
To make our pleasures less”—

the positivist cannot rationally claim less for deep, independent thinking.

As to the pious libel, that licentiousness is an accompaniment of free thinking, it is beneath my dignity to pay any regard to it; and to be frightened by it, out of the least particle of fun, or natural, and therefore rightful enjoyment, exceeds my cowardice.


C. Graham, M.D., Man from His Cradle to His Grave (1859) [and others]

DON’T KILL THE UNION.—POLITICIANS, STAY your vampirism, put off your diabolical raffle for Presidency and spoils (or play it only of empty form to satisfy the constitution) just this once. That raffle caused secession. That raffle is now the sole hope and dependence of secession. That raffle—that game of caucus and ballot box—is the most woeful delusion, and the swiftest and deepest social damnation that ever was or ever can be inflicted. Apropos, I have discovered the art of real, and perfect and universal freedom. I have written a book, pp 546, $1.75, by mail $2. Synopsis of do. 50 cents; by mail, 50 cents. CALVIN BLANCHARD, Professor of Religio-Political Physics, 30 Ann street, N. Y.

New York Tribune (February 28, 1864): 3.


HOW TO MAKE IT RAIN!!! When the slow pokes find out that the great battles have caused the wet weather, don’t let Doctor Panglass and his associate foo-foos humbug you into believing that the “Almighty” thus taught how to prevent drouth and famine. It would have rained all the sooner, had heavy cannon with blank cartridges, been continuously fired up in the air, instead of being charged with balls, and fired against human beings. Several years ago, I proved and wrote that man can alter the weather, and even the climate to suit his wishes: vide my “Writings,” pp. 546, $2. CALVIN BLANCHARD, Announcer of “The Religion of Science,” New York, No. 30 Ann st., May 17, “1864.”

New York Tribune (May 18, 1864): 2.

THE NATION’S CRISIS!—When Grant took Richmond, recaptured the “State prison birds” that had flown, and wrote himself “Your obedient servant” to Lee, he was perfectly consistent with the masked devilishness that underlies all government. There never was and never can be punishment for being criminal, but only for not being criminal enough! CALVIN BLANCHARD, No. 30 Ann st., has written a Book, scientifically showing a new way. Price 50 cents; by mail 60 cents.

New York Tribune (April 29, 1865): 2.

[New York,December, 1865] [Digitized at the Library of Congress]





We learn, by Special Express, that, about four o’clock in the morning, three omnibuses full of armed men drove to the jail. Ten men, disguised as police officers, jumped out, and called to the keepers to come and take charge of a prisoner they pretended to have arrested. The instant the keepers made their appearance, the whole party pounced on them, secured the keys of the Arch Traitor’s cell, took him out, locked the keepers in, with a detachment of slung-shot and bowie-knife men to keep them quiet, and then hurried off to Lynch’s Grove, where the main body of the rioters were assembled.The Arch Traitor being placed on a cart, under a large tree, from a branch of which dangled the fatal halter, is told that, if he has anything to say, he must say it in ten minutes!


I am about to die, as many a patriot has died before me. I am going to be sacrificed for my devotion to my country; for my courage in upholding the Constitution; and for my zeal in defending the vital principle of our holy religion. [Bunkum! Lay it on thick.] The basis of our political system is, “the consent of the governed.” [That “consent” is a regular “sell”; it’s a clap-trap to catch voters: the “Society for Abolishing Humbug” is going to strike it out, and put content in place of it.] “All men have an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” [Ain’t Indians and Negroes men? Damn the “pursuit of happiness.” The Anti-Humbug Association will furnish all men and women with happiness itself; and that’s precisely what you cursed demagogues don’t know how to do.] Next to the sacred laws revealed to the holy Patriarchs, and specially intended to establish and uphold slavery, the Constitution is the most immaculate revelation ever vouchsafed to mankind. [Laughter and hisses.] I consider the framers of the Constitution, and its glorious expounders, Calhoun and Douglass, to say nothing of my humble self, as little less inspired than the Prophets and Apostles. [Go it.] But as the Old Revelation required the New Revelation to give it fresh life, so, in like manner, did the Constitution of the United States need invigorating by the Montgomery Constitution — a Constitution exactly like the other one, except in being stronger and more explicit in the main clause. [The slavery clause, eh?] Yes; the slavery clause. Well, look at the Negro now. Is he half as well off, in fact, half as free, as he was before the infernal Yankee abolitionists plunged the nation into most devastating war and overwhelming debt, and sapped the foundation of the Constitution? The Yankees had better have looked after the welfare of the white slaves. The black slaves never had starving wives and children crying to them for bread. [Of course, not; they had no children of their own; and their wives(?) were very peculiar wives; and this reminds me of “Those Peculiar Books,” published, I think, by Calvin Blanchard, somewhere in the neighborhood of 26 Ann Street, New York. Now, don’t get mad, because I mention this, at such a critical moment; you’ll be JOLLY GLAD WHEN YOU COME TO KNOW!

The ten minutes had run out just as the foregoing little apostrophe commenced; so that the Arch Traitor thereby gained about half a minute more; and he hadn’t the slightest objection, of course. Well, he exclaimed, if I must die without judge or jury, give me the privilege of wrapping these precious leaves around my head. Taking from his pocket the Constitution, the Pentateuch, and the Gospels.] Put these inside a cotton cap — be sure it’s cotton — and then draw that cap over my head and face. I die, true to the Constitution, and our holy religion.

“But there ought to be some kind of civil and religious formalities on this awful occasion.” suggested one of the executioners. “Ha! all in good time, here comes the Chinese Embassy from California, headed by the venerable old Mandarin, Long-Tung. He’s had the Gospel candle shining on him from the Republican candlestick during the last five years, and is Christianized, of course. And he’s heard Wendel Phillips, and Vallandigham, and been favored with the Tribune, World, Times, Daily News, Independent, and Herald; so that the Constitution must be as clear as law to him. He’s not exactly a white man, but ain’t he good enough for the Arch Traitor’s legal and spiritual comforter?” [Cries of Yes! yes!] And they suited the action to the word, by hoisting the Mandarin onto the cart, and requesting him to pray, or preach, or promulgate, somehow.


“I is no Krisshun, te great Fo-Hi forpit. Soun te gong for te honor of te great Fo-Hi. [A terrible whanging of gongs.] Your religion pe one ferry olt patchwork. It smell awful strong of te olt clo’ Jew shop, an te morality of it pe stole out of Confucius, te Chinese heathen, as ye call him; an all apout tesoul immortality is te invention of te Greek heathen Plato, who lif more fan fife huntret year ‘fore te suppose Messiyah. Te “peace on earf an goot will to mens,” is Secceesh, an all te oter Krisshun wars,I spose, to jutge te tree py te fruit. It is ferry goot, this Krisshun theory, but te Krisshun practice is testeam ram, an te Armstrong cun, and te opium an rum to poison an kill te China mans an oter poor heathen. Te Constitution haf put more debt for te war onto te Motel Repuplic in less tan fife year, tan te Celestial Empire haf got in more tan twenty-five tousan year; an tis Krisshun war pe great tealmore cruel tan te war of Timour te Tartar. As for te law, te poor tefil who steal one letter from te post, go ten year to prison; an te big tief who steal all te post office of te Souf, go free!”

While Long-Tung was speaking, the halter, made of new hemp, had been put around the traitor’s neck, and the cotton cap, lined with the Constitution, the Pentateuch, and the Gospels. But the moment that cap was put on that head, and the cart drove off, the halter parted just where it pressed that religious and constitutional head and cap, as though “1865” years of decay had been concentrated at a congenial point, and taken effect all at once! and, if that “something rotten in the State of Denmark” and all the other States, had come in contact with what made it instantly achieve its utmost putridity, the stink could not have been worse. It knocked the executioners flat down, killed the horse stone dead, and scattered the rioters, as though they were fleeing from the plague. But it didn’t hurt the Arch Traitor a bit. He gyrated the fingers of his right hand with the thumb to his nose, patted his behind with his left hand, and struck a bee line for the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.

Postscript! The Secretary of War has offered another $100,000 reward, and Shoddy & Co. have started in hot pursuit of IT.

Later! A man with a long spy-glass says that Shoddy and the fellow who commands the hundred thousand dollar reward, are holding a parley across the Potomac! By certain signs easily understood by those well posted in State affairs, it is ascertained that the hundred thousand dollar chap offers to surrender for half the money, and a guarantee from any more punishment than can be inflicted on him under the Constitution!

The very latest! The hundred thousand dollar chap has surrendered on his own terms! Two regiments of Major Generals, and other high officers, kept in pay for ornamental purposes, have magnanimously volunteered to go and escort him back again! Flags are flying! Bells ringing! Cannon roaring! Business is suspended! Clergymen, Congressmen, and Politicians are haranguing the People! The office beggars have drove the President mad, and seized the treasury! The Devil’s to pay, and nothing to pay him with! The confusion is perfectly awful! We’re in Hell, sure! A thousand dollars for a race-horse to get me out! That’s fetched him. Ha? No! I’m “sold”! Dam the jockeys; they’re getting as corrupt as legislators! I paid the scoundrels double for a horse, and O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o, I’ve got a horrible night-mare!!!


Jeff Davis’ Escape!!! Nefarious Scheme for getting rid of the “Drawn Elephant.” A Rascally Plot Exposed. A Miserable Old Farce Played Out.


His Excellency, the President.

His Honor, the Chief Justice.

The Jury: six men, so excessively unprejudiced that they haven’t formed an opinion, and six other men, who have taken “the oath, as they understand it.

The Attorney General, and five hundred learned “Doctors of Law” as Assistants, is conducting the Trial.

Messrs. Gammon, Humbug, Bunkum, Blower, and a host of other legal dignitaries, as Counsel for the Prisoner.

The Prisoner. His Excellency, the Ex-President of Dixie:—the dethroned Viceroy of King Cotton; proud and defiant as ever;—a Lion, still, that it’s considered “the better part of valor” not to crowd too hard. His whole bearing is that of the party who feels that he isn’t caught much, if any, the worst; that he is trying, quite as much as being tried.

Police Officers—all regular descendants of Dogberry.


Scene. The Court, convened in solemn form; the vast throng of spectators in breathless silence, and awful suspense.

Enter a grave and Reverend Priest, with a petition from all the Churches in Dixie, and from a multitude of Christians North, South, East and West of Dixie, asking for, or rather requiring the Prisoner’s release. The Priest hands the Petition to His Excellency, the President.

His Excellency, the President. Fellow Citizens of this great country, and Gentlemen of the Court. We are at length assembled on this high and momentous occasion. The eyes of all creation are intently fixed upon us. It therefore stands us in hand, Gentlemen and Fellow Citizens, to give to all creation in general, and to the Kingdoms of the world in particular, a grand and glorious sample of Republican Justice and Christian Magnanimity. [Sensation and applause.]

Policemen. Silence! Order in Court! Silence!

His Excellency, the President. [Holding up the Petition.] I assure my Christian Friends and Fellow Citizens whose names are hereunto signed, that they may set their minds perfectly at rest as to the fate of the prisoner. If he is found guilty of treason or murder, I pledge muself, as head (beg pardon, servant) of the most Christian, most magnanimous, and most free nation in the world, to pardon him. [The prisoner makes a slight bow—a cross between politeness and contempt.] We want to settle the question as to whether treason has really been committed or not. To decide this all important question, we have poured out our blood like water, and no pains or expense has been spared, or will be spared, by this brave and enlightened nation. We have paid one hundred thousand dollars reward for capturing the prisoner, as freely as we would have given away so many strips of printed paper [considerable snickering, disguised by a repudiative sort of cough,] and we shall as freely pay two or three millions more in trying him, and vindicating our glorious Constitution. [A loud Hibernian laugh bursts out, here and there, throughout the vast throng of spectators.]

Policeman. Silence! Order in Court! Silence; or I’ll put every son of an Irishman out of doors. [Here the Irish laugh bursts out from the Policemen themselves, and passes round to every member of the Court except His Honor.]

His Honor. [Looking extremely puzzled.] Gentlemen of the Court. Ahem. Gentlemen of the—[Here His Honor lost his own “self-control,” and joined in with the laugh, so as to be heard above all the rest.] The laughter had now caught so well, that it went of of itself, without any assistance from the Ventriloquist.

His Honor. [Striving with all his might to put on his usual dignity.] Can any one inform me what all this laughter is about, on this grave occasion.

The Irish Voice. Sure, yer Honor, it’s myself can do that same. The laugh is jist becase all Ameriky is turned Irishmen.

His Honor. Sir, I’ll have no more joking. You must speak the sober truth, or I’ll commit you for contempt.

The Irish Voice. Be dad, yer Honor, I’m not joking. Isn’t a bull, as they call a big blunder, the sure token of an Irishman? And was there ever a bigger bull than to shoot and hang more than half a million men for trason, and afterwards try the Chaif Captain to see af himself has committed treason, or af treason has been committee at all at all? Wouldn’t ony one but an Irishman, and drunk at that, have settled the trason question before a single man had been kilt, yer Honor? And as to pardon, Mr. Prisident, didn’t Capt. Wirz, and Mistress Surrat, and the deserters, merit the pardon more than the big blackguard who set them on?

A real Irishman. Och, be Jases! d’ye mane that Irishmen are fools and bloody murtherers?

The Ventriloquist Irishman. Irishmen murtherers? Be no manes. We’re no murtherers, honey. And as for the bull, ain’t we in first rate company?

A Quaker Voice. Verily, friends, if thee’d been half as forgiving about five years ago, thee’d have saved a million lives and eight billion dollars; the spirit moves me to speak to whom it may concern.

The Voice of a Frenchman. One hundred tousan dollar reward for de hero of de Trial! Two tree million more dollar for act de Trial! Morbleu! It is one grand hombog for fool de people, and fill de pocket of de lawyer.

A ‘Cute Yankee Voice. Suppose we try Jeff as an accomplice of murder. I guess that’ll fix things about right.

The Irish Voice. Does yer mother now you’re out, Yank? You’ve clane smashed the tail ov the monster for murther, and rebellion, and trason, and all to that, and now ye’d be afther trying the head, to sae af it’s guilty, or not guilty?

Voice of a Dutchman, so drunk as not to heed the wide difference between truth and discretion. Ish Der Court ‘fraid for shoot more big game than der beetle understrapper, and der poor scribbler, except mid der make-belief powder and der sham gun?

His Honor and the Dogberries make desperate efforts to restore order, but, thanks to the Ventriloquist, they only pile ridicule on absurdity, till the Court has to adjourn amidst uproarious self-contempt, as all Courts would long ago have done, had they chanced to get just drink enough to forget the double and twisted tomfoolery and utter contemptibleness that has always been palmed off for law, and make a short cut across lots for justice and right. 100,000 more murders by Jeff would have settled the legality and constitutionality of his case, without the farce of a “trial,” and he would have been highly honored and applauded by the whole “religious,” “moral,” and “law abiding” world. Failing to achieve complete success in atrociousness, is the only crime that ever has been or ever can be punished. Capt. Sommes, the most atrocious of pirates, has been elected “Professor of Moral Philosophy.” Now let Jeff conspire with the Pole, overthrow Victor Emmanuel, assassinate “His Holiness,” proclaim himself Head of the Christian World, with Captain Sommes for its Moral Head, and openly unfurl the real banner, with the death’s head and cross-bones. If the “Devil” had been victorious in that “war in Heaven,” all the churches would have been built for him instead of the other party, and so-called “religion,” “law,” and “morality” would purely have been diverted of hypocrisy and make-believe. Go it, Jeff. Go it, Sommers. Let the “religious,” “moral” and “political” oppressors of Human Nature fight [. ]. and I’ll guarantee they’ll get so completely [used] up that only the stink of them will remain, and the pure atmosphere of real freedom will speedily overcome that. One word more. At No. 25 Ann Street, New York, you can get “Peculiar Books.” There’s real pleasure in ☞ “Those Books.”

[undated broadside]

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.