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A Tampa book fair seeks to bring History Alive // Turn back the pages of time

Published Jul. 6, 2006

Wary of crossing that bridge to the 21st century? Why not take a trip to the past instead?

On May 4, an unusual themed book fair called History Alive: A Bridge to the 19th Century, will be held at the Unversity of Tampa. The fair will feature author talks, entertainment and special workshops _ all with the flavor of the Victorian Age. There also will be a number of living history exhibits, including an authentic Punch and Judy show, a re-enactment of a Civil War encampment and chances to talk with Famous Dead Authors and Tampa historic figures from the 19th century. The fair will run from noon-5 p.m.

The University of Tampa is uniquely suited as a setting for a book fair focusing on 19th century history. Its main building, Plant Hall, with its onion-shaped domes and graceful porches, was built by Henry Plant at the end of that century as a luxury hotel and ended up becoming the launching grounds for American troops headed for the Spanish-American war.

History Alive: A Bridge to the 19th Century is produced by the Times and hosted by the University of Tampa with support from the Florida Humanities Council, Ybor Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the City of Tampa Recreation Department. All events are free.

On this page we'll tell you about some of the fair's highlights.

_ Margo Hammond, Times Book Editor


CHANNELING THE 19th CENTURY . . . Several Famous Dead Authors and Tampa historic figures will be roaming the grounds during the festival. Henry Plant (played by Kelly Reynolds of Bradenton) will be welcoming fair-goers to his hotel. Mark Twain and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (played by and Corrine Broskett from Venue Theatre) will be on hand to talk about their work and answer questions.

YBOR CITY IN THE LATE 1800s . . . Former Hillsborough State Attorney E. J. Salinas, dressed in 19th century garb, will recreate the role of el lector, the reader who read novels, non-fiction and newspapers to cigar workers as they rolled cigars in Ybor City in the late 1800s. Salinas will read _ in English and Spanish _ some of the actual texts that were chosen for the workers.

CIVIL WAR REDUX . . . Living historians, or re-enactors, from Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties will set up small encampments representingsoldiers and settlers of this area during two periods _ Fort Brooke c. 1835-36 and Tampa Town c. 1862-63. They will demonstrate camp cooking, some drilling and idle time activities, which, of course, included reading.


A BYGONE BESTSELLER . . . Piers Anthony, a bestselling author in the 20th century, will discuss what it was like to be a bestselling author in the 19th century. The subject of his talk will be essayist, poet and statesman Thomas Babington Macaulay whose novel, Horatius at the Bridge, was a 19th century hit.

CENTURY-OLD GOSSIP . . . Daniel Pool, author of Dickens' Fur Coatand Charlotte's Unanswered Letters: The Rows and Romances of England's Great Victorian Novelists (HarperCollins), will dish up some amusing and scandalous stories about favorite 19th century writers.

FORGET O. J. . . . Idanna Pucci, author of The Trials of Maria Barbella: The True Story of A 19th Century Crime of Passion (Vintage), will tell the story of another scandalous Trial of the Century _ the 19th century, that is. Pucci is the great-granddaughter of Cora Slocomb, an American-born Italian countess who fought in 1895 to save the life of a young Italian immigrant named Maria Barbella, the first woman sentenced to die in the electric chair. Barbella was accused of killing the boyfriend who beat and raped her.

CIVIL WAR TALE . . . Howard Bahr will present his recently published first novel, The Black Flower: A Novel Of The Civil War (Nautical & Aviation ofAmerica). The Black Flower was nominated for the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction.

A Florida long past

FLORIDA BAD GUYS . . . James M. "Mike" Denham, author of A Rogues' Paradise: Crime and Punishment in Antebellum Florida, 1821-1861 (University of Alabama) will talk about 19th century Florida crooks.

BLACK TAMPA IN THE 1800s . . . Rowena Brady, author of Things Remembered: An Album of African-Americans in Tampa (University of Tampa Press), and Canter Brown, Jr., historian in residence at the Tampa Bay History Center, will speak about 19th century black life in the Tampa area.

JULES VERNE'S TAMPA TOWN . . . University of Tampa professor Richard Mathews and University of South Florida professor Rick Wilber, editors of Tropical Speculations: Science Fiction in Florida, will speak on 19th century writer Jules Verne and his influence on science fiction in Florida. In the 1800s Verne, in Journey to the Moon, prophetically launched a rocket to the moon from "Tampa Town," just a few miles from the site where an actual spacecraft was launched to the moon a century later.

MARTI IN TAMPA . . . Tampa poet Dionisio Martinez will speak on the poetic legacy of Jose Marti, including a reading in Spanish of "Los Pinos Nuevos," the historic speech he gave on Nov. 27, 1891, in Ybor City.

YBOR'S EL LECTOR . . . USF professor Gary Mormino will explain the role of el lector, the reader in Ybor City's cigar factories.


TRACING YOUR ROOTS . . . Two sessions on geneological research will be conducted by Jim and Terry Willard, authors of Ancestors (Houghton Mifflin), which is the companion book for the PBS series of the same name dedicated to geneological research.

ART OF MARBLING . . . James Tapley of Bradenton will teach the art of marbling and papermaking from the 1800s.

COLLECTING OLD BOOKS . . . Michael Tennaro, owner of the Book Corner in Brandon, will discuss the art of collecting antiquarian books.


PUPPETS AND POETS . . . Among the entertainers on the grounds during the festival will be Steve Lombardo's Fritzy Brothers One Man Circus, roving musician George Aldrich and Gordon Bennett's Punch and Judy Show. Tampa poet laureate James Tokley will give an impromptu poetry reading on the veranda of Plant Hall.