The Last American
by John Ames Mitchell (1844 – 1918)
Color illustrations by F. W. Read ()
Decorative designs by Albert D. Blashfield ()
Black-and-white illustrations by the author
First published 1889
Renaissance man John Ames Mitchell was a publisher, architect, artist, and novelist. Among other achievements, in 1883 he co-founded Life magazine with Andrew Miller. Mitchell penned a half dozen novels, the most famous of which, Amos Judd (1895), was made into the 1922 silent film, The Young Rajah, starring Rudolph Valentino.
The Last American is a short future-history novel (ca. 10,000 words). It is the fictional journal of Persian admiral Khan-Li, who in 2951 rediscovers North America by sailing across the Atlantic. The world has been devastated, and North America virtually wiped out by climatic changes which had by then reversed to earlier conditions. The Persians know about America, but civilization is only just recovering technologically (to the level of 1889). The book takes a satirical look at United States ways and customs as reconstructed from the ruins and their own spotty histories by the Persians (whose names are all puns). It can also be read as a spoof of the archaeological discoveries that were beginning to be made at the time it was written.
—[Information adapted from Wikipedia.]
As I sat upon the deck this afternoon recording the events of the morning in this journal Bhoz-ja-khaz and Ad-el-pate approached, asking permission to take the small boat and visit the great statue. Thereupon Nofuhl informed us that this statue in ancient times held aloft a torch illuminating the whole harbor, and he requested Ad-el-pate to try and discover how the light was accomplished.
They returned toward evening with this information: that the statue is not of solid bronze, but hollow; that they ascended by means of an iron stairway into the head of the image, and from the top looked down upon us; that Ad-el-pate, in the dark, sat to rest himself upon a nest of yellow flies with black stripes; that these flies inserted stings into Ad-el-pate’s person, causing him to exclaim loudly and descend the stairs with unexpected agility; that Bhoz-ja-khaz and the others pushed on through the upraised arm, and stood at last upon the bronze torch itself; that the city lay beneath them like a map, covering the country for miles away on both sides of the river. As for illuminating the harbor, Bhoz-ja-khaz says Nofuhl is mistaken; there are no vestiges of anything that could give a light — no vessel for oil or traces of fire.
Nofuhl says Ja-khaz is an idiot; that he shall go himself.
Editorial notes: 25 illustrations, plus illustrated chapter heads and small decorations, none with text wrap. Illuminated drop caps with text wrap (alternate version uses Large Caps instead). Formatted curly quotes, emdashes, italics. Chapter heads (dates at beginning of chapters) cross-linked to html Table of Contents. Illustration captions cross-linked to html List of Illustrations.
This is a fast, fun read, with an unusual ending. But there be puns in there — you have been warned!
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