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Rail Splinters

In Memoriam: Jonathan H. Mann (1961-2023)

August 15, 2023

This is a day that doesn’t seem to end. It is also a day I never expected to see. My friend and colleague of 30 years, Jon Mann, passed away. On August 5th, Jon was walking on the Manhattan Bridge on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when he was accosted by a deranged homeless man and savagely beaten. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital, receiving treatment and surgery. Discharged, he was staying with friends at Shelter Island when he experienced difficulty breathing, collapsed and died.

Jonathan was born in San Francisco. He graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, studying business ethics. He lived and worked in Manhattan. He loved it there, rarely venturing outside of its confines. A loyal client, he kept many Chinese take-out joints afloat. He relished all the amenities that New York had to offer.

He looked down at people who merely existed and had no ambition to accomplish things. Being constructive was a badge of honor for him. We are all familiar with his work at The Rail Splitter, as publisher and co-founder. He also produced two short documentary films and two short feature documentary films one of which, “Oratorio”, was broadcast on PBS. He managed to persuade Martin Scorsese to appear in the film and give permission to incorporate clips from some of his films… no small task! He also was involved with the exhibit of the Dr. John Lattimer Collection at the Metropolitan Book Center, the exhibit at the dedication of the refurbished Grant’s Tomb, the “Lincoln in New York” bicentennial exhibit at Federal Hall and the publication of “That’s the Ticket! A Century of American Political Ballots.” None of these projects were profitable in the monetary sense. The secret of how much money he lost goes with him to the grave. But that was not the point nor a concern.

Jonathan managed to assemble the finest collection of 1860-1864 campaign ribbons in the country. He also had an extensive collection of campaign songsters, Lincoln-era photographs and primary source material (letters written by the average person describing political events and issues of the time).

He had many friends in the hobby and antique trade. Like Lincoln, he was taken from us prematurely by a deranged maniac while there was still work to do. We will all suffer as a result. His work lives on.

Rest in peace, friend. D.A.

I, as everyone who was blessed to have known you, will miss you dearly. One in a billion. Can’t stop crying. JO

We’ve lost a dear, loyal, loving friend. He was indeed one in a billion. I, too, was the recipient of many of Jon’s outrageous phone calls and messages, sometimes including Jon singing.  I looked forward to them.  I loved his wicked sense of humor… he made me laugh.  Recalling Jon’s antics helps me get through this sad, depressing time. TH

Now, in addition to the loss of a great scholar and man I loved like a brother for nearly 40 years, I have to ask myself some questions…Who will call me to tease me, identifying himself to my staff alternately as Gary Zimet, Fred Ziffle, and Benito Mussolini? Who will propose to my wife on a weekly basis? Who is going to serve as “Gossip Central”? Who is going to tell me the most outrageous jokes that even I would blush? His shoes are unfillable… But take solace in knowing that Jon’s passing was not drawn-out but rather calm and peaceful, in a beautiful setting, and with deeply loving and caring friends. BP

What can I say that those of who knew him don’t already know and feel?  There will never be another like Jonathan.  What a crushing loss to us all. TS