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Arctic Ephemera & an Early Colorado Springs Opera

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140.     [COLORADO COMIC OPERA]. HAMP, Sidford F[rederick] and Albert C. Pearson. Below Zero, or A Trip to the Top of the World. A Comic Opera in Three Acts. [Colorado Springs?, 1894] [verso of title page: Copyrighted 1894, by Sidford F. Hamp and Albert C. Pearson]. [1-2] 3-40, [2] pp. 4to (27 x 20 cm), original half white cloth over brown cloth boards, title in gilt on upper cover. Cloth slightly soiled, text leaves separating from binding because of weak stitching and adhesive. Overall, a fine copy of a rare Arctic and Colorado item. Inscribed in ink and pencil on front pastedown from both authors to Mrs. Wray, April 27 & 28, 1894. Very rare. No copies in OCLC, although Library of Congress reports a copy in its collection.

     First edition. Not in Wynar or other standard sources. In this work, Captain Jo of the S.S. Sparrowhawk, The Professor, and millionaire Junius Brutus Botts sail to discover the North Pole after a tearful farewell from their girlfriends (Polly and Claudia) at dockside, during which it is revealed that Botts, who has made his money by cheating others, is underwriting this adventure. In the second scene, the cast awakes at the North Pole, which is revealed to them when an iceberg shatters before their eyes. At that point it becomes obvious that the reason Botts has financed the expedition is that he intends to steal the pole itself and take it back to the U.S. for exhibition. That plan is interrupted, however, by the appearance of Magnetic Pole, who says they have been summoned below by Queen Aurora, at whose court they arrive after a 2,000-mile elevator ride. In the third act, which takes place at court, the travelers are regaled by dancing ladies, and the Queen magically learns to speak the “slang” her visitors use. The festivities are interrupted, however, by the sudden appearance of Polly and Claudia, who are shocked at the men’s unfaithful behavior. Finally, a Western Union messenger appears with a telegram from the U.S Secretary of the Navy ordering them back home.

     Using the search for the North Pole, which had not successfully been reached at the time, the authors’ comic opera buffoons such themes as the unscrupulous rich like Botts, the miserable dialect spoken by some Americans, and the follies of love. The first may have been inspired by Hamp’s uncle, prominent British investor William Blackmore (see Item 60 herein), who helped finance both the 1872 Hayden expedition and photographer William Henry Jackson.

     Hamp (1855-1919), an Englishman, wrote numerous books about his adventures in the American West and was a member of Hayden’s 1872 expedition. As a seventeen-year-old on that expedition, he accompanied Nathaniel P. Langford and James Stevenson on their ascent of Grand Teton, although he did not reach the summit. Both his letters and his diary from the expedition have been published, and he wrote several books and articles for boys based on Western life. Eventually settling in Colorado Springs, he was a prominent member of the city. Albert C. Pearson (1852-1917) was a musician who lived forty years in Colorado Springs, where he was a leading and respected member of the musical community. Leah Lucile Ehrich in a brief 1901 memoir remarks: “Mr. Albert C. Pearson,—a most lovable kindly soul,—has for many years been one of our musicians. A fair pianist, he is a composer of no mean merit, and several years ago amateur talent gave ‘Below Zero,’ a most charming and melodious little operetta of his.” Pearson himself also left a brief 1901 memoir discussing his life in Colorado Springs. The opera was performed at the Colorado Springs Opera House on April 27-28, 1894, and on May 19, 1894.


Sold. Hammer: $250.00; Price Realized: $300.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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