Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2008 Issue
New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and the Southwest from Almagre Books
By Michael Stillman
Almagre Books of Santa Fe has issued its List 60A, a fascinating collection of works concerning New Mexico, Texas, and The Southwest, Mexico and Latin America. Offered are over 600 items, some exceedingly scarce, concerning the Southwestern U.S. and its neighbor to the south. It covers revolutions, wars, settlement, Indians, gunslingers, cowboys, art, personal letters, photographs, and more. It presents a wealth of attractive material for those interested in western Americana and Mexico. Here are a few samples.
Item 15 is certainly an item of humanitarian legislation: Bill and Report of John A. Bingham, and Vote on its Passage, Repealing the Territorial New Mexican Laws Establishing Slavery and Authorizing Employers to Whip "White Persons" and Others in Their Employment, and Denying Them Redress in the Courts. Bingham was an abolitionist Republican congressman from Ohio, who in the years following this 1860 bill would be a judge at the Lincoln assassination trials, active in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, and one of the authors of the 14th Amendment which required states to provide equal rights to the recently freed slaves. As for this bill, I know slavery is now illegal in New Mexico, but I'm not sure about whipping white persons. Priced at $125.
Here is some medicine and other products you should only use with the greatest of caution: Ra-Tor Radium Mineral Water, Ra-Tor Radium Fertilizer, and Ra-Tor Beauty Clay. These three pamphlets promote products claimed to be radioactive. The mineral water promotion cautions against wasting time and money on "inferior preparations too weakly radio-active to have therapeutic value. Every bottle is guaranteed to contain Radium and to be strongly radio-active." The beauty clay, when applied to the face and neck, "has an activity...of five million alpha rays per second, giving a constant ionizing power almost beyond computation... No other thing will do for the skin what Radium thoroly accomplishes." That last sentence, at least, is true (even if the spelling has been genetically altered). These early 1900s promotionals came from the New Mexico mining town of Tyrone, built by Phelps Dodge. They are as rare as surviving Ra-Tor customers. Item 286. $250.
Next is a southwestern obscurity, all the way from France: Une Francaise Chez Les Sauvages (a Frenchwoman in the home of the savages). Author Jeanne Goussard de Mayolle came to America with her husband, a mining engineer, in the 1880s. She stayed in Pueblo and Durango, Colorado, and Bloomfield, New Mexico. She wasn't much impressed with the culture of the savages, and unlike with Americans, "savages" did not just refer to Indians in her book. This rare book was published in 1898 in Tours, France, and has never been translated into English. Item 211. $900.