Clues from Abroad in America

Last updated: 2021-07-01

Introduction

Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation, 1776-1914 is a book written in 1976 by Marc Pachter. It's a book about people who came to visit American during its formative years, documenting their thoughts and opinions of this new nation. The reason that this is relevant to The Secret is that there are two exact quotations from Abraod in America embedded within two of the verses.

The Connection

As far as I can tell, q4t user forest_blight was the first to make the connection between The Secret and Abroad in America. He was able to tie 3 lines from Verse 2, to a passage in Abroad in America.

From Verse 7:

Here is a sovereign people
Who build palaces to shelter
Their heads for a night!

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 49

From Abroad in America:

Here is the sovereign people who build palaces to shelter their heads for a night!

Abroad in America pg. 110

With the exception of a single word (i.e. a vs the), the quotation is an exact match. This raises the question: why would Priess include an exact quote from this book? Another q4t user, Egbert asked: What would be the purpose of putting in these references which no one could figure out? The underlying assumption here being that Abroad in America would have been an obscure reference in 1982.

Perhaps by 2007 the book's 15 minutes of fame had been all but forgotten, but in 1976, it was very popular within academic circles. The book was released as part of a 3-part Bicentennial exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (Smithsonian Institute) in Washington, DC. People came from all over the world to view the exhibition. For example, Dr. and Mrs. Hiroshi Nakahama, who came from Japan. There was even a big article about it in the April 26, 1976 edition of the New Yorker. Not to mention that the hints from the Japanese edition of The Secret refer to it as a famous book. To this day, a quick Google search will bring up results of academic papers that make reference to Abroad in America. I think it fair to say that at least the intelligentsia, including Priess, considered Abroad in America to be a big deal in its time.

We know Byron Priess as a publisher and an author, as well as a creator of one the of the most challenging puzzles of all time. I don't think it is a stretch to consider him an academic, as someone who would have read The New Yorker, or someone who would be up to date with the current exhibitions at the Smithsonian. It does not seem unlikely for him to, not only be intimately familiar with the book, but also to have referred to it as famous.

It also does not seem all that far fetched to think that a book about Visitors to the New Nation (i.e. America), would play a role within a mythology based on immigration to America.

Explicit References

In the previous section I outlined the exact quote from Abroad in America that is embedded within Verse 2. In context, the quote is a reference to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana from 1847. The assumption here is that this three line stanza, is a reference to ultimately tie Verse 2 to Painting 7, through the quote in Abroad in America. The latitude/longitude hint in Painting 7 (29 / 90) gets us roughly to New Orleans. The Abroad in America hint in the Verse gets us to the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans. That's a strong connection.

The second explicit reference related to Verse 6:

Edwin and Edwina named after him

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt pg. 51

From Abroad in America:

[H]e even had twin babies named after him, Edwin and Edwina Wilmont Blyden

Abroad in America pg. 164

This quote is taken from a section about a trip that Edward Blyden made to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1889. Again we see a quote from Abroad in America being used as a confirmation of the city. Painting 2 has a number of image confirmers for Charleston, such as map of Charleston in the mask, a representation of Fort Sumter, and latitude/longitude numbers in the lion's mane and whiskers. With such clear connections to Charleston in the image, perhaps BP wanted to put a more opaque reference to Charleston in the verse. The quote about an event from Blyden's time in Charleston definitively connects the Verse 6 to Painting 2 through Abroad in America.

Conclusion

In the 1980s one of the only places to do the work required to solve The Secret was the library. Given the overarching theme of the history of immigration to the West within the story, it seems likely that we might have used the Dewey Decimal System's 900 class (History & Geography) to look for other books about history and immigration. That's where we would have found Abroad in America, right at 917.3/04/0922.

Check out this article for further analysis about other potential connections to Abroad in America within The Secret.