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Sidney Rider (1833-1917)

Collector and writer Sidney Rider was born to George Clinton and Ann Eliza (Turner) Rider in Rensselaer County, New York, on November 5, 1833. At the age of 12, Sidney began an apprenticeship with Charles Burnett, a Providence bookseller located in Market Square. During his apprenticeship, Rider found his calling and began an obsession with Rhode Island History.

In 1859, Rider opened his own bookstore at 17 Westminster Street, Providence. Uniquely, he merged his passion for history, politics, and culture with a business centered on selling books and subscriptions to his self-published periodicals. He captured the attention of potential customers in a highly competitive market by demonstrating his expertise in the book business and publishing magazines and journals that covered a variety of topics. Alongside his book listings and descriptions, Rider and other authors composed articles about Rhode Island culture, art, history, politics, and current events. Debunking popular historical myths and legends about Rhode Island became a specialty. His most successful magazine, Book Notes, ran for 33 years and produced 870 issues.

Book Notes served as Rider’s controversial sounding board where he discussed the most pressing political, social, and economic issues. Powerful politicians and institutions such as the Providence Journal and the Union Railroad Company frequently suffered the wrath of his pen.

Rider’s collecting habits transformed his shop into a time capsule of sorts, stockpiling everything from valuable manuscripts to the smallest vestiges of daily life. Consequently, Rider’s shop gained popularity as a gathering place for local bibliophiles and academics.

Allison Kiernan, Student at Rhode Island College, and Michelle Valleta, MA, Rhode Island College


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