[To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read”]

The mastodon, from Peter Parley’s Visit to the City of New-York (1841-1844?)

Among the books published by Mahlon Day were a handful of little chapbooks with the name “Peter Parley" in the titles. Parley—the iconic literary character created by Samuel Griswold Goodrich—was a popular brand name by the time Day’s books came out, which would have made the little paperbacks an easy sell. Some of Day’s “Parley" books were cobbled together from other sources, and Parley’s Book of Books reprinted pieces from Parley’s Magazine; but works like Stories About the Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars and Peter Parley’s Visit to the City of New-York reprinted part of Goodrich’s books.

New-York takes its text from the first chapters of Peter Parley’s Tales About the State and City of New York (New York: Pendleton and Hill, 1832):

The interesting details which are contained in the following pages, comprise the first six chapters of a neat and instructive little work, by that universally admired writer for youth, whose name may be found in the title-page, entitled, “Peter Parley’s Tales about the State and City of New-York;”—containing an account of his rambles, and furnishing many entertaining and useful facts in relation to the natural history of the State, its condition, and its people, and sketches of its early history. It is very appropriate as a reading-book for schools. [“Advertisement”]

What Day didn’t have were the illustrations Goodrich included in his book. Here, it means that the chapbook doesn’t contain the small picture of the mastodon skeleton in Charles Willson Peale’s museum, which appeared in several works by Goodrich.

The mastodon, from Peter Parley’s Visit to the City of New-York. From Parley’s History of New York (NY: Mahlon Day & Co., 1841-1844; pp. 21-22)

I must not forget to mention some very astonishing bones that I saw at one of the museums. They were dug from the earth, and belonged to a huge animal, five times as large as an elephant, called mastodon.

None of these creatures are now to be found in any part of the world, but we know they once existed in this country, for skeletons have been

p. 22

found in different places. Some years ago, the bones of a mastodon were found near Newbury, in the State of New-York. They were dug up and carried to Philadelphia, where they are still to be seen.

It is wonderful to reflect that such huge creatures once roamed in the forests of America. A full grown mastodon must have been as large as a small house. As he walked along, he must have shaken the very ground beneath his feet, and all the other animals must have scampered away at his approach.

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