Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2010 Issue

Texas and the Old West from Kenston Rare Books

Kenstonwinter2009

From Texas and the West by Kenston Rare Books.


By Michael Stillman

Kenston Rare Books has published a Winter 2009 catalogue (and it is still winter, even if technically no longer 2009). The title is Fine Books on Texas and the American West. Offered are 227 items mostly from the Lone Star State, though some concern New Mexico (and old Mexico), Oklahoma, Colorado, Montana, and the environs. Stories of the Old West are never boring, and this catalogue reminds us of that truism. It is a land of cows and cowboys, outlaws and lawmen, settlers and Indians, Texans and non-Texans. So, saddle up your horse and we'll take a trip back in time.

The gentleman pictured on the cover of this catalogue is probably not well known to you, though he lived an exciting life. He went by the name of "Lone Star Harry." Born in 1855, he became a cowboy at a young age, catching the attention of General George Crook, perhaps the most notable American military leader of the western Indian wars. Harry hired on as a scout for the General. Along the way he evidently became very sharp with a pistol, as he obtained the moniker of the "Revolver King." After twelve years as a scout, Harry parlayed his experiences and skills into a career on the show circuit. He performed with Pawnee Bill and others, and was friendly with Buffalo Bill, though it does not appear he performed in Mr. Cody's show. Item 15 is Lone Star Harry American Representative Scout. It was published by the equally obscure Dick's Publishing House of New York, probably around 1893 since it was either then or 1894 that the firm appears to have published all of its booklets. This souvenir pamphlets tells us about Harry, his skills with a revolver, a bit about Texas, prints the lyrics to a few cowboy songs, and gives Harry's account of a large cattle drive from Nueces County in South Texas to Nebraska in 1882. This item is not found in the usual bibliographies as it was unknown until a small group of copies was discovered a few years ago. Priced at $375.

Item 92 is the autobiography of Texas' most notorious killer: The Life of John Wesley Hardin From The Original Manuscript, as Written By Himself. Hardin killed his first man when he was 15, and, by his own admission, killed several dozen more (or perhaps not, as he may have been prone to exaggeration). Whatever, he did kill more men than just about anyone else did, even in Texas. He killed one man in an adjoining hotel room in Abilene, Kansas, for snoring too loudly. It sent local Marshal Wild Bill Hickok on his trail. Hardin was fearsome, but not totally crazy. He got out of town, never to return, rather than face the formidable, gunslinging marshal. Eventually, the law caught up with him in Alabama. Hardin was returned to Texas, and spent 17 years in prison before being pardoned in 1894. It was probably the worst thing that could have happened to him, in effect removing him from protective custody. He moved to El Paso and took up the practice of law, of all things, but a year later, he lay dead after an argument with a local lawman, shot in the back. After his death, Hardin's manuscript autobiography, on which he worked during the last year of his life, was discovered and published as this book the following year. Offered is a first edition, first state, with the portrait of his brother Joe mislabeled as that of Hardin, and with the correct portrait of John Hardin laid in. $425.

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