As Thomas Jefferson put it, “I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” Here at the American Antiquarian Society all of the curators work very hard in acquiring new items for the collections. Every year thousands of items are added to our holdings. Sometimes luck favors a fellow from our hard work.
Recently, a month-long fellow mentioned body armor from the Civil War era during her introductory talk to the staff. Most of us had never heard of such a thing from the 1860s.
The next week AAS acquired this rare issue of The Camp Gazette from Camp Joe Hooker in Lakeville, Mass. (just west of Boston), one of only three known issues of this title (AAS has one of the other two). One of the advertisements on the front page of this October 15, 1862 issue reads, “New military equipment. Line swords. Presentation swords. Sabres, Pistols, Rifles, Chest and Loin Armor, Best straps and embroidery ready made and made to order, by Palmers & Batchelders, 162 Washington Street, Boston.”
I showed her the issue the day it arrived. She was thrilled because she had never seen an advertisement for loin armor and it gave her the name of a merchant selling them. Was it luck that this issue arrived the month she was here, or was it kismet?