Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2006 Issue

Western Americana from Arthur H. Clark


The latest from the Old West offered by Arthur Clark.

By Michael Stillman

Just arrived is catalogue number 926 from The Arthur H. Clark Company. Clark offers catalogues in Americana with a focus on the American West. Material runs from contemporary reports of events and explorations of the Old West to more recent historical reviews. These catalogues present material for the collector and the historian, as well as those looking to learn about the past or find some interesting reading. Whatever your reason, if your interest is the American West, you should be subscribing to these catalogues. Now for a few examples:

Item 155 should be the final book in a collection of Kit Carson. Carson was a trapper and trader with the Indians of the Southwest in the 1840s who became a legend when he helped guide General Fremont's expedition to the Pacific. He was serving as a Federal Indian Agent in New Mexico when the Civil War broke out. New Mexico sided with the Union, but in 1862, was invaded by Confederate forces from Texas, seeking to reach the gold fields of Colorado. Carson joined the military and formed a band of volunteers to help repel the attack. Carson and the New Mexicans had little success, but ultimately, the Confederate aims were thwarted by Colorado volunteers. He was then called on to fight the Navajos, and led a brutal campaign destroying their crops and livestock until they were forced to surrender and undertake a 300-mile "Long Walk" to confinement and eventual resettlement on a much reduced reservation. After the Civil War, Carson moved to Colorado to go into ranching, but he died only a few years later in 1868. Item 155, as we noted, is an appropriate finale for a Carson collection, as it recounts The Last Days of Kit Carson. The book was written by H.R. Tilton, a U.S. Assistant Surgeon General who attended Carson in his final illness and was present when he died. This is a limited edition (250 copies) published in Grand Forks in 1939. Priced at $72.50.

Here is another Kit Carson item, and a technical question. The book is Kit Carson's Own Story of His Life: as dictated to Col. and Mrs. D.C. Peters about 1856-57, and never before published. However, this is a 1955 reprint of a 1926 book. Can you use the original title with the phrase "never before published" in a reprint? This book is a dictated autobiography by Carson, which Peters used to base his own biography of the western legend. Item 57. $38.50.

Sarah Cummins was a young bride when she was among one of the earlier parties to travel the Oregon Trail. She set out in 1845, traveled with Fremont part of the way, and all in all had a most unpleasant trip. By the time they traversed the Barlow Road of Oregon near the end of the trail, she was down to 80 pounds and half starved. Interestingly, she describes being saved by Indians along the way. Most of what was written about Indians in those days involved attacks and captivities, but in the early days of Oregon journeys, before the huge volume of travelers posed a threat to their way of life, most Indians were helpful and friendly to the trekkers. Mrs. Cummins book is Autobiography and Reminiscences, published in 1914. Item 236. $70.

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