Books From The Old West From Arthur H. Clark
Catalogue 923 from the Arthur H. Clark Company.
By Michael Stillman
We have just received The Arthur H. Clark Company's 923rd catalogue featuring Americana and the American West. The Arthur Clark Company has been selling and publishing books for over a century, and this Spokane, Washington, firm remains one of the best at finding titles of interest to those who collect or study the Old West. Their selection includes both older material suitable for collecting, and more recent reprints appropriate for reading and learning. There is something here for anyone interested in Americana and the West in particular. Here are a few of the 369 items offered.
Mormon Brigham Young was one of the boldest and most effective leaders America ever had, but not even the best leaders experience universal success. Young promoted a new alphabet, known as the "Deseret alphabet," for 15 years. Not even his enormous influence could convince his people to accept it. In 1854, Young convinced the church to create a new alphabet. This was not a new language, simply a new alphabet which could present English phonetically. Produced at Deseret University (now the University of Utah), the alphabet consisted of 38 letters. Among Young's primary motivations for this phonetic language was that it would enable school children to learn to read much more quickly, so that they could focus more time on other studies. Foreign converts, who learned to speak but not read English, would also be able to learn to read much more easily. Other reasons may have been a desire to make it more difficult for outsiders to eavesdrop on their culture, or to limit what members were capable of reading. As sensible as the motivations may have seemed to Young, the flock wasn't buying, and essentially ignored the new language. Only four books were ever published in Deseret, the Book of Mormon, First Book of Nephi, and two schoolbooks. Item 219 is one of them, The Deseret Second Book by the Regents of the Deseret University (In Deseret phonetic alphabet). This book was printed in Salt Lake City in 1868. By 1870, the new alphabet had been effectively abandoned. Priced at $175.
Finn Burnett was a cowboy, Indian fighter, railroad man, and general son of the Old West in the second half of the 19th century. He seemed to be around for historic events. He was at Fort Phil Kearney in 1866 when the boastful Col. Fetterman led his 80 troops out to defeat the Sioux. They did not return. It was the White man's worst defeat save for Custer's escapade a decade later. Burnett took part in the Hay Field Fight, a successful battle for the Whites. He was also in Promontory, Utah, for the completion of the transcontinental railroad. In his later years, Burnett made his peace with the Indians and dedicated his life to teaching farming to the Indians on the Shoshone Reservation. His story can be found in Finn Burnett, Frontiersman: The life and adventures of an Indian fighter, mail coach driver, miner, pioneer cattleman, participant in the Powder River expedition, survivor of the Hay Field fight, associate of Jim Bridger and Chief Washakie. Item 172 is the 1937 edition published by the same Arthur H. Clark Company that in 2005 published this catalogue. $245.
Books From The Old West From Arthur H. Clark
Brigham Young's Deseret alphabet was never accepted.
Oregon collectors will be interested in two congressional documents from 1846. Item 300 is Settlement and adjustment of the Oregon Question...transmitting a copy of the treaty entered into between the government of the United States and Great Britain. This is the House of Representatives document pertaining to this treaty. $85. Item 301, Message from the President of the United States, communicating a copy of a convention for the settlement of the Oregon question...is the senate equivalent. $75. In 1846, Great Britain still had claims on the Oregon territory dating back to Captain Cook's expeditions. Meanwhile, expansionist Americans had pushed for a U.S. Canada border at the 54-40 parallel, which would have relegated western Canada to the land of permafrost. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 concluded this dispute, placing the western Canadian border at latitude 49 while giving the Oregon territory to the United States. Perhaps even more importantly, ending the dispute with the British allowed President Polk to focus his forces on Mexico, where he would soon seize California and the Southwest in the Mexican War.
Here is a recent book about the participants in a 200-year-old journey. The title is, The Fate of the Corps: What became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers after the Expedition, by Larry E. Morris. Most people are aware that Lewis died just three years after the expedition returned, of gunshot wounds under mysterious circumstances. Clark went on to have a long career as an Indian agent, and his friendly and fair dealings with the tribes set a tone sadly not followed by others. He lived until 1833. What about the other 31 members? Simply order item 207 to find out. The last survivor died in 1870, meaning he lived to see the transcontinental railroad turn their incredible journey into unknown lands into a couple of days trip in the luxury of a railcar. $20.
Hello? Hello? Did they really have telephones in California's Owens Valley in 1914? Evidently they must have, as item 90 is their 1914 telephone book. The Owens Valley telephone book covered the communities of Bishop, Barstow, Victorville and more. Eighteen pages, including many advertisements, was sufficient to cover all of the area's telephones at that time. $27.50.
Independence Rock is a large outcropping along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. It became known as the "register of the desert" as many who passed that way, including parties traveling to Oregon, California, and Mormons heading for Utah, carved and painted their names on the huge rock. It is estimated that close to half a million people passed by the rock during the great westward migration prior to the opening of the transcontinental railroad. The first name was carved in the rock in 1824, but most are from the middle of the century. The origin of the rock's name is unknown, theories including that early travelers celebrated Independence Day there, or that the name signifies the rock standing by itself, independent of all others. For a history, pictures, and map of the rock and its surroundings in 1930, Clark offers Independence Rock: The Great Record of The Desert. It was published by the Natrona County Historical Society. Item 257. $42.50.
You may find The Arthur H. Clark Company online at www.ahclark.com, or reach them by phone at 800-842-9286.