A scroll through history.
SALEM - Before there was the Internet, there was Sebastian Adams.
If you couldn't surf the 'Net in the early 1870s, you could, thanks to Adams, scroll the Chronological Chart of Ancient, Modern and Biblical History.
"It was a wild, crazy thing that he undertook," Oregon State Librarian Jim Scheppke says.
A framed original first edition and a photo replica of the "thing" that Adams, an Oregon Trail pioneer, created some 136 years ago is on display at the state library through the end of 2008.
It was a best-seller of sorts in its day, Scheppke says.
"It is a work of solid and lasting merit," the Cincinnati Commercial said at the time.
"It is one of the most ingenious productions we have ever seen, and would form an invaluable means of instruction in most schools," the Scientific American claimed.
"We would rather give a hundred dollars for it than not have it," the World's Crisis of Boston said.
It is a 21-foot-long scroll that maps human history from 4004 B.C. to the 1870s, largely from a biblical perspective, from Adam and Eve to President Ulysses S. Grant. That much we know. But exactly what inspired Adams to produce the colorful scroll through a Cincinnati chromolithography company is somewhat of a mystery.
"Maybe he was just one of those people who had a lot of energy," says Adams' great-great-great granddaughter, Margo Cash.
It was Cash's curiosity that resulted in state library staff bringing the scroll out of the basement.
"Throughout my life, I'd always heard tales of 'The Chart,' ' says Cash, a Molalla resident who works for the state doing coverage investigation in the Workers' Compensation Division.
In fact, she works in a building right next door to the library, so she didn't have to travel far to inquire about the scroll that sold for $21 in its day (or about $330 in 2007 value) before being marked down to $12.
"We've had this sitting around in the basement for a long time," Scheppke says. "We finally decided it was time to bring this to light." Someone, no one is sure whom, donated the original first edition to the library in the 1950s, he says.
Little black book
Since the exhibit's unveiling in April, some visitors have said they've seen the scroll before. Apparently, Davidson's restaurant on Southeast Woodstock Boulevard in Portland had a copy at one time, as did the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Scheppke says.
Salem historian Virginia Green worked on the exhibit with Silas Cook of Portland, who designed the photo replica and is the exhibit's curator.
Working with Cash, Green uncovered as much history as she could about Adams.
He was born to a presbyterian family near Sandusky, Ohio, in 1825, and moved to Galesburg, Ill., when he was about 12. In 1850 he traveled the Oregon Trail to California. On the way, he lost all of his possessions and arrived unconscious and near death from starvation. That fall, he moved to Oregon, joining his older brother W.L. Adams in Yamhill County.
Sebastian Adams took up a donation land claim, married a woman named Martha McBride, and sent for other family members in Illinois.
He taught school for four years in a shanty on his land, then moved to the new town of McMinnville, where he was the surveyor. He became the Yamhill county clerk and pastor of McMinnville's First Christian Church.
He founded a Disciples of Christ-sponsored college in the 1850s, only to see it fail just two years later. The property, however, was given to nearby Bethel College, and it ultimately became McMinnville College, then Linfield College in 1922.
Adams moved to Salem in the 1860s, became a state senator and helped found the Salem Christian Church. He became a successful businessman. A listing in the 1896 Salem City Directory, two years before his death, says his profession was "capitalist" and that he was president of the State Insurance Company.
Adams' sales acumen is evident in a little black notebook sitting on a table in Scheppke's spacious, high-ceiling, second-floor office at the library. Donated by Cash's father's cousin, a Fred Taylor of Mill City, Calif., the worn notebook contains a list of "subscribers" to Adams' scrolls recorded in neat penmanship.
The book is filled with names, number of copies purchased, place of residence and a column for "remarks." Sometimes there are specific dates of sale, falling between 1872 and 1874.
The listings show the extent of Adams' travels as he went about selling his creation, up and down the Willamette Valley, as well as in California, Utah, Kansas, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee.
There are even a few listings for "Eugene City," where copies were sold to a W.H. Odell, a J.H. Campbell - listed as "Eugene City Pastor" - and an E.L. Applegate, among others. There's also an entry under Oct. 29, 1872, for "L.F. Grover, Governor of Oregon." LaFayette Grover, who served from Sept. 14, 1870, to Feb. 1, 1877, was the state's fourth governor.
Grover wasn't the only governor to buy a scroll - a March 23, 1873, listing says the "Governor of the Utah Territory," George Woods, bought one, too. George Lemuel Woods was also Oregon's third governor, from 1866 to 1870. An Internet search says he was born in Missouri, raised in Yamhill County, attended McMinnville College, married Louisa McBride and, after not being renominated for a second term in Oregon, was named governor of the Utah Territory by President Grant in 1871.
That Woods' wife's maiden name was the same as Adams', and that the two men were from the same county in Oregon, suggests the two men likely knew each other, maybe were even related. Whatever the case, Adams certainly got around when it came to selling his masterpiece.
"I think it was sort of like the World Book Encyclopedia when I was growing up," Scheppke says. "Every family had to have one."
The scroll, whose original editions contained levers to move it back and forth - somewhat like a horizontal version of a pull-down map - is a sensory overload of information that looks somewhat like a game board in spots.
The photo replica divides it into eight panels, each containing about 800 years of history. The first panel lists Adams' references under "books consulted."
Included, among others, are the Bible, Josephus, Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies, Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, Xenophon's Works, a History of the World by Samuel Maunder, a Universal History of the World by John Von Muller, Worcester's History and Grote's History of Greece.
The first panel begins with an image of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden next to 4004 B.C. in bold black letters, reflecting the fundamentalist Christian belief, and the biblical interpretation, that God created the world about 6,000 years ago.
From there, the scroll follows a horizontal black line divided every century by vertical black lines, and every decade by thin, red vertical lines.
An image of the Earth sits in the bottom left-hand corner of the first panel with the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia in darkness and "those countries that are the subjects of history previous to the discovery of America" - including Russia, Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, Carthage, Egypt, Persia and Parthia - depicted in bright reds and oranges, greens and yellows.
The second panel encompasses the years roughly from 3200 B.C. to 2400 B.C., and includes a history of alphabets in different languages, from English to Hebrew to Greek. There is also a detailed list of the original Seven Wonders of the World.
Kingdoms of the world
Cash says one of her favorite parts of the scroll is in the exhibit's third panel, which has five images depicting the "Races of Men" - from "Negro or African," to "European or Caucasian," to "Malay" and "Indian or American" and "Chinese or Mongolian."
The third panel includes the "Nations and Kingdoms of the World" represented by "streams running parallel with the Streams of Time." When any kingdom is conquered, it runs into the conquering nation and disappears from the scroll.
In the fourth panel, from about 1600 B.C. to about 800 B.C., Moses, David and Goliath and Homer appear.
The fifth panel holds an image of the Persian Empire (559 B.C. to 330 B.C.) and a depiction of Babylon's 15 square miles next to a drawing of Alexander the Great.
Confucious appears in China's stream about 500 B.C. and Socrates "drinking the hemlock" in 399 B.C.
Christ appears on the cross in the sixth panel, followed by the Roman Empire, an image of the Coliseum being completed about A.D. 79 and Stonehenge about 600.
The seventh panel is so full of words and images that it's difficult to focus on just one, but this is where we see the Crusades about 1096.
The eighth and final panel shows "Columbus and the Egg" in 1492, the "first printing" by Gutenberg in 1440, the "first watch" at Nuremberg in 1477 and an image of Martin Luther in 1521.
Then comes Shakespeare, Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis XIV and, if you look closely, a bespectacled, bald-headed man flying a kite in a lightning-filled sky between the red lines of 1730 and 1740. The words "United States of America" and a listing of U.S. presidents from Washington to Grant, the first locomotive in 1830 and images of Abraham Lincoln and Grant come next.
The final image is something that looks like a comic strip in a vein similar to maybe "Prince Valiant," with Washington, Jefferson and the French general, Marquis de Lafayette, hovering above an image of the presidential seal, with two columns below depicting images of the past and present.
Cash points to an image under the "past" of a woman trying to sew by candlelight next to the words, "The hard and slow old way," and then the "present" image of "The new and better way" - a woman happily working away at a sewing machine.
"People must have told him, 'You're crazy if you think you can pull this off,' ' Scheppke says. It's an amazing story."
OREGON STATE LIBRARY
Where: 250 Winter St. N.E., Salem, across from the State Capitol building.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Sebastian Adams' exhibit: An eight-panel photo replica of the Chronological Chart of Ancient, Modern and Biblical History is on display through 2008.
Kenneth Gear (Member): Adams Chronological Chart of Ancient, Modern and Biblical History 12/3/2007 3:54 AM
I found this article very interesting and it has given me a greater insight into the chart.
I live in New Zealand and have an original chart (not a copy or print) that was discovered in an old house being demolished.
Friends find the chart fascinating although to display it I have to lay it out on my living room floor.