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State Library Exhibits its Most Unusual HoldingSalem-News.com
Throughout his life, Adams was a scholar and lecturer on the subject of world history and religion.
(SALEM) - Among the hundreds of thousands of items in the collections of the Oregon State Library, perhaps the most unusual is the work of an Oregon pioneer and resident of Salem, Sebastian C. Adams.
His twenty-one foot scroll: A Chronological Chart of Ancient, Modern, and Biblical History, a "best seller" of the 1870s, is today a treasure to antiquarians but little known to the public.
An exact photo-replica of the first edition of the entire scroll will be on display at the Oregon State Library, beginning on April 18, 2007. A second framed copy of a later edition of the original scroll will also be exhibited. Local historian Virginia Green researched what little has been written about Sebastian Adams, with assistance from Adams' great-great-great granddaughter Margo Cash who resides in Salem and who has worked to preserve her family's history. Silas Cook of Portland is the designer and curator of the exhibit.
The Chronological Chart presents the entire history of the world from its Biblical beginnings until the mid-19th century when the chart was produced. Adams drew upon his extensive knowledge of world history and Biblical history, "synchronizing" the events in a richly illustrated timeline. He worked with Strowbridge & Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, who illustrated and produced the scroll in 1871. Adams traveled throughout the country for six years to sell copies of the scroll to libraries, schools, museums and individuals. It appeared in several editions and today can be found in many library collections. It was widely praised for its scholarship. The English scholar and politician, Sir Charles Reed, was quoted as saying about the Chart, "The author of this work does not need a monument over his grave."
Sebastian Adams was born in 1825 and survived an arduous journey over the Oregon Trail in 1850 to settle near his brother in Yamhill County. He married and made his living as a teacher. He later became a county clerk and a State Senator and was the pastor of the First Christian Church in McMinnville. In the 1860's he moved with his family to Salem and helped to found the Salem Christian Church. At the end of his life he became a successful businessman. His listing in the 1896 Salem City Directory, two years before his death, listed his profession as "capitalist" and president of the State Insurance Company.
Throughout his life, Adams was a scholar and lecturer on the subject of world history and religion. His knowledge is well illustrated in this outstanding example of 19th century chromolithography which taught colorful and dramatic lessons in history.
The Chronological Chart is in the tradition of historical timelines that were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. A Frenchman, Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, an associate of Benjamin Franklin, is given credit for creating the first such timeline in 1753, a fifty-four foot scroll which he called the Carte Chronologique. Similar to Adams' scroll, it resided in an iron case that enabled one to scroll the timeline forward and back. Another famous 18th century timeline was the English scientist Joseph Priestley's Chart of Biography, with the lifespans of 2,000 celebrated men from 1200 BC to 1750 AD. Around the same time that Adams was selling his celebrated timeline, the French philosopher Charles Renouvier created his Uchronia, which depicted both the actual course of history and various alternative paths that history might have taken had certain events had not happened as they did.
The success of the Chronological Chart is evidenced by the fact that it can still be found in many library collections in the U.S. and overseas. In the WorldCat library catalog, which lists the holdings of major libraries worldwide, there are 73 libraries that have copies of the Chart, including the libraries at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, the New York Public Library (four copies) and the University of Johannesburg. After it was first printed in 1871, the Chart was updated and reprinted twice, in 1876 and 1878. There was also another version printed in London in 1871 called Adams Illustrated Panorama of Universal History.
The exhibit of Sebastian Adams' Chronological Chart will be on view on the second floor State Library through the end of the year.
The State Library is located at 250 Winter Street, across from the State Capitol in Salem and is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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