History of the city of Altoona and Blair county, Pennsylvania
A book without a preface is considered incomplete. So is a ship without a figure-head. In either case the affixture is more ornamental than useful. A book without a preface is nevertheless a book, and a ship without a figure-head is nevertheless a ship. Notwithstanding this, in conformity to a custom which has existed from time immemorial, and remembering that custom makes law, and that law must be obeyed, we submit the following preliminary remarks:
Before commencing the preparation of a history of any particular locality, a city or county for instance, the custom has been to call upon leading- citizens, and particularly property owners, for contributions of money to aid the project, the presumption being that the publication cannot fail to result in benefit to the community. No one designing to assume the position of publisher, unless he has more wealth than he knows how, otherwise, to dispose of, or is a literary gentleman of "elegant leisure," fond of seeing his name in print, feels like solely depending upon the income derived from the sale of the book as remuneration for the expenditure of time, money and labor to which he would subject himself; for it must be remembered that the sale of such a book, with but trifling exceptions, is confined to the immediate locality in which it is published, and, consequently but a limited number is demanded. When contributions have been obtained, unless very liberal, the price of the book is generally fixed at double the amount charged for publications of corresponding size, quality of paper, binding, etc., and thus placed beyond the reach of many of the poorer classes.
In order to avoid the necessity of calling upon citizens for contributions in money, and, at the same time to enable us to place the book within the reach of all, as well as to secure for ourselves a reasonable remuneration for labor and outlay of capital, we adopted the plan of calling upon merchants and other business men for advertising patronage, believing that to them, by publicity given, we could render an equivalent for the amount expended. They liberally responded, as will be seen by the number of announcements, and we take this occasion to return our thanks.
As will be observed the advertisements do not interfere with the text of the book. It is true that the arrangement of matter is some- what different from the course usually pursued by publishers, but the history is just as complete in itself as it would have been had not a single advertisement made its appearance. Indeed the business announcements make the book more interesting, for, by this means, if no other, the reader is enabled to discern who the wide-awake business men are, and such as are possessed of sufficient public spirit, as citizens, to aid in enterprises which result in good to the community.
This book is not perfect — no man ever saw one that was — but we console ourselves with the reflection that we did the best we could under the circumstances, sparing neither labor, time nor expense in getting at the facts underlying the subjects treated.
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In a restricted sense, leaving out the disparity of years, the life of a city is like the life of a man. There is infancy, puberty, adolescence, manhood, old age, and death. Were the lives of cities coextensive with the lives of men, we might appropriately say that Altoona has passed through the period of infancy, with its imbecility, helplessness and perils. It has not only reached the age of puberty, but, from that point has passed through the entire period of adolescence. It has arrived at the age of thirty-one years, adolescence, in man, according to Dunglison, closing at five-and twenty, and, therefore, has fully entered upon a career of vigorous manhood. What m triumph to commence with!