The American West from Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts

- by Michael Stillman


The American West from Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts

Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts has issued their Catalogue Fifty-Four – Americana. The subhead targets the material more closely, A Fine Selection of Books, Pamphlets, Manuscripts, Broadsides & Maps Pertaining to the American West. The American West is usually associated with the word “old,” and that is true of most works offered herein, a century and more for all but a few. There aren't a lot of stereotypical “Old West” items of cowboys and Indians, but more relating to railroads, settlements, development of towns and cities, and more of the West that is not quite as far west as Hollywood. It is the unvarnished American West. These are a few items from this large selection of western material.


General George Armstrong Custer is unfortunately remembered for his one momentous defeat. Custer was very good at self-promotion which had the misfortune of making that one-sided loss much more famous than it might otherwise have been. Custer wasn't always a loser, and this item takes us back to early in his career when he wasn't an Indian fighter. This one placed him on the winning side though he was only one of many players in the war. This is a broadside headed Headquarters Third Cavalry Division, Appomattox Court House, VA., April 9, 1865. Custer was there for Lee's surrender and made the announcement to his men with this broadside. He wrote, “Your Commanding General avails himself of this his first opportunity to express to you his admiration of the heroic manner in which you have passed through the series of battles which to-day resulted in the surrender of the enemy's entire army.” He has signed it in print. Custer was never publicity shy. Item 70. Priced at $4,500.


A lot of dreams of finding hidden wealth under the ground drew not only prospectors but investors, who sought to participate from the comfort of their homes by contributing part of their wealth to the cause. I don't know how many succeeded, but probably no more often than did prospectors. This was an attempt in 1867 by some investors to purchase land in the Mexican state of Sonora from the Cincinnati and Sonora Mining Association. This 18-page circular is the Proposed Purchase of the San Juan Del Rio Mines and Lands, belonging to the Cincinnati and Sonora Mining Association. The investment group was seeking to raise $250,000 to purchase and develop the San Juan del Rio Ranche in Sonora. Some people may have been reluctant to invest in Mexico considering it had just concluded a revolution to overthrow Emperor Maximilian I. It was not a stable time. However, the organization made a reassuring claim to American investors for which I have found no trace of the source. They claim, “The probable purchase of the State of Sonora by the United States Government, and its admission at an early day as one of the United States.” Perhaps this sounded reasonable because only a little over a decade earlier the United States had purchased a large piece of Sonora during the Gadsden Purchase. However, having been pushed into that sale Mexico had no interest in ceding any more territory to their expansionist neighbor. Item 9. $1,500.


This is a broadside preparation for a calamity. When the calamity came, no one was prepared. It was printed in five languages, with the English heading reading Urgent ! Warning! Urgent! It spells out, “Tuesday night, May 20, 1941, between 9:00 and 9:30 o'clock, “Blackout Enemy” Planes will again Simulate Attack on Your Island and Your Homes!” Yes, the island mentioned was Hawaii. The message continues, “While the raid is only make-believe, act as if it were real...We hope the time will never come that Hawaii Nei will actually be bombed but if that time ever does come, we want to know that you know your part in the defense plan.” Evidently, the fear was an aerial attack at night as the instructions were to black out all lights of any sort. General Walter Short later reported to Congress that he witnessed the complete blackout of Honolulu, including “the great Pearl Harbor naval base.” He concluded, “I think we can meet with confidence all threats of enemy encroachment even that of bombardment from the air.” Think again. The Japanese avoided the blackout by bombing early in the morning of December 7, 1941, when no one was anticipating an attack. General Short was relieved of command in Hawaii ten days later. Item 95. $1,500.


This letter was written from Fort Halleck in what is now Wyoming on September 30, 1862. It was sent to his mother back in Ohio. The writer was Caspar W. Collins, the 18-year-old son of Union army officer William O. Collins. The younger Collins was traveling as a companion to his father, rather than in a military capacity. Also traveling with them was famed trapper, mountain man and guide James Bridger. Collins writes of the food they had, hunting for more, plans to explore another road, his preference for riding a mule rather than a horse, the high winds but natural beauty, and camping “two nights in the rain and sleet without any tent, and had a rather disagreeable time...” Unfortunately, Collins would get caught in the middle of an Indian fight in which he was killed three years later. Fort Caspar, and later the city of Casper (misspelled) were named for Caspar Collins, Fort Collins, the fort and later the city of that name in Colorado, were named for William Collins, Fort Bridger and Bridger, Montana, for James Bridger. Item 53. $1,750.


This September 24, 1881, issue of the Mountain Mail newspaper from Salida Colorado contains a large map of the state. It also contains some advocacy. A vote to name the capital city of Colorado was held that year and the Salida newspaper thought Salida was the best choice. While admitting that Denver was the business capital of the state, it pointed out that the major cities of New York and Chicago are not their state capitals. Salida, it said, was more centrally located. Others in the running were Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Canon City. Salida is a nice place with gorgeous views of some of the tallest mountains in Colorado, but seriously... It was only one-year-old at the time. Even today it's population is barely over 5,000 versus 700,000 for Denver. It would have been a strange choice. The voters evidently felt the same as Denver won with 66% of the vote. Salida was fifth with 1.5%. Item 115. $1,200.


A few years later, a similar contest would be held to name the capital of South Dakota. This time it went to a smaller city. In 1890, a referendum was held to name a temporary capital. It was a landslide for Pierre, handily beating out runner-up Huron. In this case, being central geographically was a major consideration. It later was named permanent capital. Pierre today has a population of 14,000 making it only the ninth largest city in the state. Item 184 is a broadsheet headed Pierre for the Capital of South Dakota. It was published in 1889 by the Brookings County Sentinel. Brookings County is nowhere near Pierre. $1,850.


Michael D. Heaston Rare Books & Manuscripts can be reached at 512-417-8045 or