Western Books and More from Johns' Western Gallery
By Michael Stillman
This month we review our first catalogue from John's Western Gallery. Johns, of San Francisco, is probably best known as one of the foremost Western Americana auction houses. For Western collectors not familiar with their auctions, we recommend you check the auction calendar on this website for their upcoming auctions (next one scheduled for October 28, 2005). Their auctions are filled with the familiar and obscure memorabilia of the Old West, and you are likely to find items for your collection at reasonable prices. However, Johns' also publishes catalogues of books and ephemera, and today we take a look at number 16.
Item 68 is a signed document pertaining to the earliest days of California statehood. It is a request for the Public Printer to print copies of certain bills that had been introduced before the U.S. Senate. The date is September 16, 1850, just one week after California's September 9th admission. It is signed by both of the state's senators, John C. Fremont and William M. Gwin. The handwriting and dating is evidently in Gwin's hand, while both senators added their signatures. The admission of California to the Union as a free state was part of the Compromise of 1850, an admission favored by the North that was balanced by the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Laws favored by the South. Senator Fremont, an opponent of slavery, would go on to be the first presidential nominee of the as yet unformed Republican Party six years later in the election of 1856. Gwin, on the other hand, was a supporter of slavery, who was arrested during the Civil War for disloyalty. Priced at $750.
Item 505 is another reminder of those tense years before the Civil War. It is a copy of the Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, In the Celebrated Campaign of 1858... The book also includes two later speeches of Lincoln. These were probably the most famous of all American political debates, as Lincoln tried to finesse his antislavery beliefs into positions acceptable to audiences which did not fully share them, while Douglas attempted to paint him as an abolitionist. Ultimately, Douglas prevailed in the 1858 senate election, though Lincoln would win the more important one two years later. The copy here offered is the third edition, fifth state, which is important because it includes Douglas' objection that some of his words had been altered in a manner "designed to do me injustice, by placing me in a false position." The publisher's response in this 1860 edition is also included. $200.
Item 470 carries the interesting title Grandpa was a Polygamist. The explanation for this 1960 title is that author Paul Bailey grew up in a Mormon family in Utah shortly after the turn of the century. This sometime humorous account retells life in the community at the time. Bailey would grow up to be a newspaper reporter and later western book publisher, publishing this and many other books he wrote plus the works of numerous others. All of this leaves me curious as to what Bailey's relationship was to the other grandmas. Are they step-grandmothers when they and your grandmother are married to your grandfather at the same time? $50.