If you don’t know Jerry McCoy, you should get hip. He is a local institution. Whether it be in Silver Spring, Maryland of which Jerry is President of the Silver Spring Historical Society or Washington, D.C. where Jerry works for the DC Public Library’s Washingtoniana Room and Peabody Room.
For Mark Twain in Washington, D.C., Jerry has made invaluable contributions to two upcoming chapters — “Georgetown Lecture” and “Gen. Washington’s Negro-Body Servant.” He has also continued to keep his ears open and eyes peeled for Douglass material. Scores of local and national historians, authors, journalists and research students have been helped by Jerry, a fellow author.
Below is a “thank you” note I submitted to DCPL in the spring following Jerry’s assistance.
This past Saturday, Sat., March 9th, Jerry McCoy and I uncovered a previously unpublished item from The Georgetown Courier [22 February 1868] announcing Mark Twain’s lecture later that evening at Forrest Hall which still stands today on Wisconsin Avenue as the GAP clothing store. In looking through near hundreds of biographies of Twain his lecture in Georgetown has been mentioned but it has not been give more than a sentence or two in the less than half dozen biographies where it does appear. [ED Note: Mark Twain on the Lecture Circuit, which I have since acquired gives Twain’s Georgetown lecture a handful of paragraphs.]With Jerry’s guidance and direction I am confident I will be able to shine new light on this unique Twain lecture in a book, Mark Twain in Washington, D.C.: Adventures of a Capital Correspondent, set for release later this fall. While in Washington, D.C. from November 1867 to March 1868 Twain turned down lucrative offers to lecture. While in Washington, he got his first book contract and began working on Innocents Abroad while sending “Washington Letters” to numerous newspapers from Nevada to California to Chicago to New York. My speculation is there is a personal connection Twain had who asked him to give this benefit lecture. For hardcore Twain scholars this is groundbreaking and for Georgetown it helps confirm another unique story in the neighborhood’s lore. In 1868 the “Ladies’ Union Benevolent Society” was founded with a donation from William Corcoran. It remains in Georgetown today.Jerry’s encyclopedic knowledge and guardianship of the Peabody Room’s collection has been recognized by dozens of authors, journalists and scholars over the years. Witnessing Jerry in action — pulling never before published photographs, vertical files, antiquarian books complete with separately typed index, maps, ephemera and other items with his memory his only finding aid — I now know why he is lauded by anyone who has ever had a question about Georgetown’s history, both past and present.