Historical Society gets bonanza: Tilghman Papers

May 31, 1992|By James H. Bready

Big news from the Maryland Historical Society: It has been given the Tilghman Papers, a documentary bonanza rivaled only by the famous Calvert and Carroll family papers acquired years ago.

The name Tilghman (silent g) is as basic to the Eastern Shore as Mencken or Ripken is to the Western. Come kingdom, come republic, the Hermitage near Centreville goes on being home to linear-descent Tilghmans.

Yet the family ramifies. Tench was George Washington's aide-de-camp; but do not overlook his Loyalist brothers Philemon, in the Royal Navy, and East India Dick, a businessman in Bengal. And William Tilghman, who was a vote for, when Maryland's General Assembly was ratifying the new U.S. Constitution, but who then left and was Chief Justice of Pennsylvania's highest court. It was a scattered family, but one that read, wrote and stayed in touch.

Don't overlook William McMurtry Tilghman (he and Edwin Stanton were Kenyon College classmates), the saver. His Hermitage bundles, scrapbooks and family trees are at the heart of the 13 boxes (several hundred documents in each) plus oversize material that Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Chew Tilghman presented to Charles T. Lyle, the historical society's director.

A taste: three unpublished letters from George Washington. Account books from 18th and 19th century agriculture. Court briefs, with precedents. Civil War testimony (Col. Benjamin Tilghman commanded the 3rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, in South Carolina and Florida). Letters from Charles Willson Peale, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, William Cobbett.

Word of MHS's good fortune is out, in the history community. Whole books are going to emerge from these papers, once the social, economic, legal and political delvers have a chance at them.

But not quite yet. In a windowless room at MHS, Jennifer Bryan, curator of manuscripts, is carefully cataloging the entire Tilghman Papers. Defending its doorway are Richard Flint, assistant director, and Penny Catzen, library director.

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There's a lot of Orioles baseball in "Pen Men," by Bob Cairns (St. Martin's, $22.95). The relief pitchers and bullpen catchers he interviewed include Joe Ginsberg, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dick Hall, Moe Drabowsky, Elrod Hendricks and Gregg Olson.

They sit out there awaiting the call, and horse around. Here's Dick Hall, the moth-eater, biting into one of 1970's 17-year locusts: "I'm feeling dizzy, and having eye problems." Here's Joe Ginsberg, up at Aberdeen, catching in the test to see if Steve Dalkowski can throw 100 mph. Here's Moe Drabowsky, giving a hotfoot to the commissioner of baseball -- he stuck a full match folder into the shoe welt, ran a trail of lighter fluid, ignited it and when "the matches exploded, it lit Bowie [Kuhn] up real good."

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David Simon, a reporter for The Sun, has won an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets." (MWA honors "fact crime" books as well as fiction.)

An Edgar is a bust of Poe, the father of detective fiction. Kenneth Silverman also won a 1992 Edgar for his biography "Edgar A. Poe."

Poe's signature was with middle initial, not name. (Allan was from his foster father, whom he hated). Today, people find three full names mellifluous -- or pretentious. They forget the spelling trap.

Sure enough, the book-page ad congratulating Mr. Silverman called it an "Edgar Allen Poe Award."

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Chatter: The Zora Neale Hurston Society's eighth national conference will be at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel June 4-6. Taylor Branch and Marita Golden will speak; art events list Lucy Hurston and Ann Tanksley. Zora Neale Hurston, novelist, was a 1919 graduate of what is now Morgan State University. For details call Ruthe T. Sheffey at (410) 319-3345. . . . It's a two-book year for Craig L. Symonds of the Naval Academy faculty. Besides his "Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography," he wrote the text for "Gettysburg: A Battlefield Atlas" (Nautical & Aviation Publishing, $19.95). Cartography is by William J. Clipson. . . . Dee Hardie's 1985 memoir of life on Thornhill Farm, "Hollyhocks, Lambs and Other Passions," is out in paperback (Johns Hopkins University Press, $12.95).

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