[Little Rock:]: n. p., April 12, 1845. Printed form measures approx. 6 x 7.5 inches, autograph receipt measures approx. 4.5 x 7.75 inches, substantial fragment of the newspaper notice measures approx. 3.75 x 2.5 inches. In good, sound condition only. Item #16634
The story of cataloguing this lot of related material is a curious one, in part because it stands as a testimony to how a bookseller's preoccupations might propel the historical record, hoever incrementally. The printed form and attached receipt were picked up this summer out of a private collection in Kansas as an interesting example of both divorce and the nature of frontier job printing, and it was catalogued on October 29, 2014 with an eye to inclusion in this Occasional List. (See the description below that starts, "The early Whig editor . . .") But then this morning while rummaging around on one of my numerous shelves of uncatalogued material and casting about for a few more items to round out the ranks of the list, I noticed a folded docketed legal manuscript item that another bookseller in Northern Califoronia had earlier annotated in pencil, "1845 Arkansas seeking divorce." I recalled having purchased the item from this Bay Area scout perhaps a couple of years back because of my interests in the history of American marriage and American settlement and frontier life, and the happy coincidence of having two items relating to early Arkansas divorce set off a the usual train of idle speculation that happens prior to any cataloguing. (Perhaps the fluid economic and social vagaries of life on the old Southwest frontier encouraged looser matrimonial bonds? Was Arkansas in the 1840s the proverbial Reno of its day?) But then I realized on closer examination that the name of the complainant John Rogers was identical to that of the printed notice, and in reading further discovered it was in fact one and the same case. This coincidence is of course fortuitous and striking--but perhaps not altogether shocking, since the number of paths that material might take through the trade is finite (if admittedly not inconsiderable) and given that I will nearly always take a second look at early divorce material when selecting inventory (what with its saleable whiff of both sex and conflict), perhaps the chances that the material would be reuinited by even a semi-industrious bookseller were better than one might expect. To preserve for the patient reader of this description something of that original galvanic pleasure I felt upon discovery and subsequent reunification, I present the description of the printed form as it stood prior to the discovery of the complaint: The early Whig editor of the Arkansas Gazette signs the form for the Justice of the Peace attesting to the publication in the Gazette in four successive weeks from Jan. 13, 1845 to Feb. 3, 1845 of the notice of the petition for divorce in the case of John Rogers vs. Sarah Eliza Rogers. Signed by Borden and signed by the Justice of the Peace, and docketed on the verso. With the autograph ink receipt attached for the $7.50 fee for publication of the notice. With a printed copy of the notice attached to the upper left edge, though with some loss to the notice from chipping. An interesting hint at the sexual mores of the Old Southwest: the Arkansas county marriage index suggests John Rogers (born ca. 1818) married 16-year-old Sarah Eliza Clarkston on 11 June 1843 in Chicot, Arkansas; one wonders what occurred to send the marriage south in its first six months. Loss to the paper stock of the autograph receipt from ink burn. Some staining and wear. UPDATED: The manuscript complaint lays out a case of adultery on the part of Sarah Eliza; John Rogers charges "that the Defendant did on or about the [blank] day of May AD 1844 and on divers days from that time up to the [blank] day of June of that year cohabit with & commit adultery with one Tilford Stuart in said County of Chicot in direct violation of said marriage contract, and of the laws of God and man." With signatures from the Justice of the Peace and the Clerk, as well as J. Rogers. Docketed in ink. Splitting nearly the length of the old folds. Some browning and light staining.