Rare Book Monthly
The Wild Southwest<br>From Almagre Books
By Michael Stillman
Almagre Books of Bloomington, Indiana, recently published its “List 58A,” or more specifically, “New Mexico, Texas, and the Southwest, Mexico and Latin America.” This is a wonderful catalogue of rare books primarily pertaining to the lands along the U.S.-Mexican border, including many about the disputes that arose along that changing borderline in the 19th century. If you collect what Mary Austin called in her famous 1903 book “the land of little rain,” this catalogue is for you. And yes, there is a copy of Ms. Austin’s book available in this catalogue (a 1906 printing). It’s item 36 and is priced at $90.
Item 333 is a contemporary account of the Mexican War. It’s John Jenkins’ History of the War Between the United States and Mexico, from the Commencement of Hostilities to the Ratification of the Treaty of Peace. Originally published in 1849, this is a second printing from 1850. Surprisingly, it was printed in Auburn, New York. This is a well-regarded early history of the war. The book also contains an appendix on gold discoveries in California. $90.
General Zachary Taylor would make a name for himself in the Mexican War, enough of one to propel him all the way to the presidency. This was not his first battle. He had been a fighter as far back as the War of 1812, and spent many years on the frontier fighting Indians. And yet, this old soldier, in his 1849 inaugural address would proclaim, “it eminently becomes a government like our own… to exhaust every resort of honorable diplomacy before appealing to arms.” In 1846, two years prior to his presidential run, a book was published about “Old Rough and Ready” called Life and Public Service of Gen. Z. Taylor… This book is offered as item 336. $125.
You may associate railroads with travel and transportation, but how many people think of fine cuisine in association with railroads? Well, think again. Here’s Our Dining Car Recipes: Southern Pacific, published by that railroad in 1940. The recipes were prepared by Chef Paul Reiss, whom they described as the “internationally famous supervising chef of the Southern Pacific Commissary Department.” Evidently railroad food must have greatly surpassed the quality of what was to come later: airline food. All aboard for “Chicken Gumbo Southern Pacific” and “California Prune Fritters.” Item 155. $75.
Speaking of railroads, Mexico had its own Casey Jones. His name was Jesus Garcia. When Engineer Garcia spotted a train loaded with dynamite on fire, he alertly drove it out of the Mexican mining town of Nacozari. Garcia saved many lives, but sadly, not his own. The brave engineer’s story is told in Djed Borquez’s El Heroe de Nacozari, published in 1926. Item 545. $60.