Here’s the pride and joy of my freethought collection: the complete 12-volume set of The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, still in the shipping crate!
The so-called Dresden Editions (named after Ingersoll’s birthplace in Dresden, NY) were published beginning in 1900 (the year after Ingersoll’s death) by his brother-in-law Charles Farrell. I know there were various editions between 1900 and 1929, but I don’t think mine are the first editions. The earliest Dresdens were, I believe, bound in green cloth with red and black print on the title pages; my copies are bound in red and printed all in black. Also, my copies are presented as New Dresden Editions (italics mine), and printed not by the Dresden Publishing Company but by The Ingersoll Publishers, Inc. This makes me think a second company was licensed to print a less expensive edition, or perhaps Farrell set up a second business name for this new edition. Also, it’s my understanding that the Dresden Edition had a 13th volume (an Ingersoll biography by Herman Kittredge) after 1913.
Anyway, here’s a view of the shipping crate, with NEW DRESDEN EDITION stenciled on the side.
Amazingly, the shipping label is still on the crate! It’s very fragile, but still legible:
It’s a little hard to read but the label says “MR GEORGE F. FLICK, VEBLEM [sic], SOUTH DAKOTA, EXP. PREPAID.” A quick internet search reveals that in 1920, George Freeman Flick was a 47-year-old merchant living in Veblen, South Dakota. It’s not clear to me whether Mr. Flick purchased these books for personal use or as inventory in a retail store. I don’t know much else about Mr. Flick: I know he passed away in 1958, and I know there’s a Flick Street today in Veblen. In any event, somebody took great care of these books.
One of the quaint things about this particular set is that a previous owner left half a dozen little bookmarks in various places (mostly these bookmarks are torn envelope corners or unused cigarette rolling papers). Which leads me to another clue on when these books might have been printed. One of the “bookmarks” is a coupon for cigarette paper that expires on December 31st, 1921.
Presumably such a coupon would have been printed a year or less in advance. Anyway, my guess is that these books were printed and sold around 1920.
If anybody out there has better information on the publication history of the Dresden Editions, please contact me.