Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2004 Issue

All Kinds of Americana <br>From Almagre Books

R2a

Americana from Almagre Books


By Michael Stillman

Almagre Books has issued its 21st catalogue, "Americana." This is a large and far-ranging collection, 476 items in all. It starts with a book of Ansel Adams photographs and ends with a report on some meteorites found in the Yukon. Just about everything else pertaining to America, primarily America of the North, is in between. Included are many obscure and forgotten titles, just the type collectors love. Here are some.

Most of what you read about American history tends to be focused on those people who arrived earliest, either colonial or at least pre-Civil War times, from Europe, and to a lesser extent, on those who arrived involuntarily on slave ships. The second wave of immigrants, who arrived around the turn of the century, more often from eastern and southern Europe, don't get as much press. For those with ancestors who came in that second wave, Quarantine. Glimpses of America's Threshold, will be an interesting book. Published in 1906, it describes and documents with photography the immigration processes at Ellis Island in New York. Immigrants were quarantined, disinfected, and those deemed undesirable rejected for admittance. Almagre notes that they were treated like cattle, and that the writers of this book were approving of the process. Item 193. Priced at $275.

If New York amazed these new residents, here's something that must have left them speechless: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. From 1883 until 1917, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody toured the country showing incredulous Easterners what the West was no longer like, nor ever was, for that matter. It was an exaggerated characterization of the Old West, but the audiences loved it, and it helped shaped the image future generations would have of that time and place. Item 115 is a collection of eight programs from these shows, ranging from 1885 until the final year of 1917. Venues included New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Hartford. Most of the programs contain many pictures of the show. The final program was issued shortly after Cody's death. His reputed last words were "Let my show go on." It didn't. $3,500.

Here is another example of what the West was never like: Captured and Branded by the Comanche Indians in the Year 1860: A True Narrative, by Edwin Eastman. Evidently, this pamphlet was not written to tell the truth about anything. It was designed to sell a patent medicine of the day, supposedly learned by this captive from an Indian medicine man. This pamphlet promotes the author's separate book which Almagre, quoting from G.P. Garrison, describes as "a revolting fictitious story written to advertise Dr. Clark Johnson's Indian blood syrup." Let this be a warning the next time you see a book with the word "true" in the title. Item 148. $150.

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