Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2017 Issue

Indians and the West from the George S. MacManus Company

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Indians & the West. Part I.

The George S. MacManus Company has published their Catalogue 418 of Indians & The West. This is Part I, with a second part scheduled to be issued later. There are many books about the West in general, a few about eastern Indians, and many that cover both Indians and the West. A note of caution here: there aren't many books about the Indians that were actually written by Indians. There are exceptions, but most are by whites, and these books being concentrated in the 19th century, the depictions aren't that often objective or sympathetic. Again, there are exceptions here by whites who came to know the American natives and understood how poorly they had been treated. However, in many of the books, the Indians are described as "savages," by people who did not recognize how savage they could themselves be. Here are a few titles from this new catalogue.

 

We begin with a book for easterners looking to travel west. Item 262 is Route Across the Rocky Mountains, With a Description of Oregon and California. That journey may require only a leisurely drive today, but getting the route right was a matter of life and death when Overton Johnson and William H. Winter published their guide in 1846. MacManus notes, this is "one of the earliest and rarest of overland guide books to the Oregon Trail," only the second such book published. It holds a "d" rating for rarity from Howes. The authors traveled to Oregon in 1843, before the rush. Winter continued on to California, and then returned to Indiana where the book was published. The book provides not only the guide to Oregon, but provides an account of Winter's trip to California and back home, a long description of Oregon, and also describes the Bear Flag independence movement in California, and gold in Santa Barbara (in the pre-Gold Rush days). Winter eventually settled in Napa-Sonoma, wine country before it was wine country, and real estate was still affordable. Priced at $20,000.

 

This traveler didn't go quite as far as Oregon, but then again, his starting point was much more distant than Indiana. Item 292 is Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley... edited by James Linforth. While Linforth added some of the text, this is an account of the journey of Frederick Piercy, a 23-year-old Mormon convert from Liverpool who made the long journey to the home of the Mormon church. What makes this book so valuable is not so much his account, or Linforth's description of Mormon emigration. It is Piercy's illustrations. He was a talented artist, and he drew what he saw, from his arrival in New Orleans, up the Mississippi to draw the ruins of the earlier temple in Nauvoo and the jail in which founder Joseph Smith was killed, to landmarks on the trip west such as Council Bluffs, Fort Bridger, and Scott's Bluff, to scenes at his destination such as Salt Lake City. Howes described his work as "one of the most elaborately and beautifully illustrated western books." Having set out in 1853, Piercy was back home in Liverpool by 1855 when he had this book published. Item 292. $30,000.

 

Here are some more, not quite as early pictures of the west, only these are photographs. Item 212 is Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery, with a Description of the Geographical and Geological Features, and Some Account of the Resources of the Great West; Containing Thirty Photographic Views Along the Line of the Pacific Railroad, From Omaha to Sacramento. This book combines the efforts of geologist Ferdinand Hayden and photographer Andrew J. Russell. They were sent out by Union Pacific to document the recently completed Pacific Railroad. Hayden was interested in the geology of the area, and points to the pictures displaying various geologic formations along the route. However, many now see Russell's photographs more for their artistic than geologic merit. It should be noted that while the title refers to the photographs being from the Rocky Mountains, they cover a wider expanse of the route. Twelve were taken in Wyoming, sixteen in Utah, and two in California. $15,000.

 

Union Pacific didn't help build the Pacific Railroad out of a sense of civic duty. They built it as they were given vast quantities of land they could sell along the route. Once sold, primarily to farmers, they could also sell their services transporting the produce grown and raised on these farms to market. Item 4 is a promotional pamphlet, Creameries and Dairying in Nebraska. What has been done and what may be done. Published in 1883 by the Union Pacific's Land Department, it touts the grazing lands and quality of milk produced by Nebraska's cows. It also provides a list of lands being offered for sale by the railroad. $350.

 

Most white people didn't have much concern or respect for America's natives, but occasionally there was someone who was not only a missionary, but one who romanticized the lifestyle. Amanda Barber was such a person, entranced by the native life. It wasn't as much fun as she imagined. Item 14 is her account, The True Narrative of the Five Years' Suffering & Perilous Adventures, by Miss Barber, Wife of "Squatting Bear," a Celebrated Sioux Chief, published in 1873. Squatting Bear was actually a junior chief, not so celebrated, but a little hyberbole for your ex-husband is understandable. The future Mrs. Squatting Bear was a clerk in Washington who loved to read when Squatting Bear and some other chiefs visited Washington. She longed for the freedom of the open plains she read about in books. She also wanted to mission to the Indians. Miss Barber promptly married the chief. She headed west with her new husband and took up Indian life. However, she discovered it drudgery not excitement. Women made baskets and the like, and when her husband was out hunting, the others were not always very kind to her. Traveling on unsaddled horses was painful, meals and lodgings not up to Hilton's standards. The Indians' interest in her theological instructions was at best limited. She couldn't take it any more, so Ms. Barber-Bear attempted an escape on foot. She was promptly caught. Her husband was not understanding. He promptly knocked her down, stomped on her, and sold her to a Cheyenne Chief. It was at this point that she concluded the Quaker policy of turning the other cheek did not work on the plains. She suffered terribly as a slave the next two years before finally escaping to an army fort and being sent home. $600.

 

The George S. MacManus Co. may be reached at 610-520-7273 or books@macmanus-rarebooks.com. Their website is www.macmanus-rarebooks.com.

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