The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 52, December 7, 2003, Article 26


  Anyone who would mortgage their home to buy books
  is a bibliomaniac in my opinion, although in the end many
  such hobby maniacs turn out in the end to be crazy like a
  fox.  One numismatic example is John Pittman, who I
  believe put a second mortgage on his home to obtain funds
  to purchase rare U.S. coins in the fabled Farouk sale.  His
  investment paid for itself many times over.   The Wall Street
  journal ran a front-page profile of a bibliomaniac in another
  field.  The December 5, 2003 article describes "A Man's
  Pursuit Of Lewis and Clark - Construction Worker Builds
  A University's Collection."  Some excerpts follow:

  "In 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark reached the
  Pacific Ocean ....  at the end of their epic journey across
  North America.

  In 1986, Roger Wendlick embarked on his own daunting
  quest: to buy everything ever written about the expedition.
  Every book, journal, article and government record. In
  English, German and Dutch. From the first report by President
  Jefferson in 1806 to the 1979 paperback bodice-ripper about
  Sacagawea and beyond.

  "I'm just a construction guy," says the 58-year-old Mr.
  Wendlick, who laid sewer lines in the Portland drizzle, never
  married and didn't go to college. But he needed a hobby, he
  says, and "there's no better story in American history" than
  Lewis and Clark."

  "The weathered and wiry Mr. Wendlick says his interest in the
  expedition began with a souvenir plate from the centennial and
  an eight-volume set of the journals that a Wisconsin
  newspaperman named Reuben Thwaites published in 1904,
  the first time the journals were printed. When he inherited the
  plate from his grandmother, Mr. Wendlick says, he decided to
  start collecting centennial knickknacks -- crockery, buttons and,
  in 1986, a first-edition set of the Thwaites journals that cost him
  $695, or about $395 more than his weekly take-home pay.

  The books, he quickly realized, were a bigger challenge and a
  better investment than the tchotchkes. There were so few of
  them, and with the expedition's bicentennial approaching, he
  figured their value could soar. So, for $1,000, Mr. Wendlick
  next bought an account of the expedition that was written in
  1814 by a banker named Nicholas Biddle, who wasn't on the
  trip but had read the captains' journals. After that, for $200,
  came a copy of a journal kept by Patrick Gass, a sergeant
  on the expedition and the first member of the corps to get to

  "In 1991, 1993 and 1995, he refinanced his house to buy
  books. He ran up $142,000 in debt on nine credit cards.
  He worked six days a week, bulldozing trenches even in
  Portland's raw winter, as a crew foreman for a construction
  company that laid utility lines for housing developments."

  "Finally, in what Mr. Wendlick calls the perfect sale, he
  moved his Lewis and Clark library to Lewis and Clark
  College, which already had a small collection about the
  expedition and wanted more. In 1998, the college agreed
  to pay Mr. Wendlick $375,000 in cash and $30,000 a
  year for a decade, and gave him a desk in the library.

  Mr. Wendlick retired from his construction job the next
  day and then, for the first time, began to read his books.
  "I dove in," he says, working his way through everything
  except the novels in three years."

  [See the Journal for the full article.  QUICK QUIZ:
  What famous bank was Nicholas Biddle affiliated
  with?  And what is the bank's connection with numismatics?

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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