Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2007 Issue

Texas and the American West from Kenston Rare Books

Despite the large reward, Charles Baker was never heard from again.


Here is a biography of a man whose name is very well known today, even if he is not: Erle P. Halliburton: Genius with Cement. Halliburton founded the company that today bears his name in 1919 with technology applicable to oil wells. His "genius with cement" does not refer to building highways or skyscrapers, but with his process for cementing oil wells. This was needed to keep water out and keep the sides of the wells from crumbling. Halliburton's business came to dominate the field, and he died in 1957 an extremely wealthy man, richer even than Dick Cheney. J. Evetts Haley's biography was published two years later. Item 113. $110.

For cacti collectors, item 35 is twelve issues of the Cactus and Succulent Journal from 1947. It was published by the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, still active to this day. Kenston says, "it is a must for any cactophile." Is that really a word? $50.

Here's one for collectors of "wanted" posters. It offers a $5,000 Reward will be paid...for the body, Dead or Alive, of Chas. R. Baker. However, this is not your usual criminal wanted poster. Charles Baker was a successful businessman, a buyer for the family firm. In 1908, he headed west on a buying trip. He traveled to San Francisco and from there departed for Seattle. He was never heard from again. His family had this poster printed, offering what was an enormous reward at the time, secured by the First National Bank of their hometown, Weatherford, Texas. No one ever collected, and his will was finally probated by his sister in 1936. However, at least one person who lived in the old Baker homestead believed he returned many years later, or at least his ghost returned. For a wonderful story about Charles Baker, his family, his home, his ghost, and the full text of this poster, see http://www.texasescapes.com/CentralTexasTownsNorth/WeatherfordTexas/BakerMansionWeatherfordTexasHauntedhouse.htm. Item 10. $150.

Looking for some cheap real estate? This circa 1907 land promotional pamphlet offers Home, Sweet Home...A Home in Town and a Farm in the Country in Balmy South Texas for $120. Charles Simmons had been induced to "practically give away" this land located along the Nueces River in Live Oak County, a place quite accurately described as "balmy" in these days before air conditioning. Still, that's one heck of a deal – a lot in town and a farm outside of it, all for $120, less than the current value of the promotional brochure! Item 267. $550.

Here's another spectacular land deal: Mueller Subdivision Block "O" of Western Addition to Junction. Junction is a small town west of San Antonio. This one is an amazing package deal. For again less than the current value of the brochure, you received a lot, pumping plant, "good" barn, a two-room house, a "nice" residence with five rooms and a bath, and "a new single-cylinder Cadillac automobile." All of this for the amazingly low price of $175. How do they do it? This was around 1911, and rural land was cheap in Texas, but still, they've thrown in a Caddie. Item 269. $200.

Kenston Rare Books may be reached at 214-526-7033 or ken.huddleston@sbcglobel.net.

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