American Adventure, Exploration &c. From Arthur H. Clark
Catalogue number 925 from The Arthur H. Clark Company
By Michael Stillman
We recently received catalogue number 925 from The Arthur H. Clark Company of Spokane, Washington. They have been in the business now for over a century, but by my math, that still comes to a catalogue about every 40 days. Obviously, they have had a long time to perfect this process. As usual, number 925 is an interesting collection of Americana, with a focus on the West, plus a few other topics thrown in for variety. Here is a brief look at the 342 items within this latest of a long line of book catalogues.
It was America's first major arctic exploration, and it proved to be both a success and a horrific disaster. As part of the first International Polar Year, the United States sent out an expedition to make observations and record the weather (cold) in the far, far Canadian North of Elsmere Island. Twenty-five men, under the command of Lieutenant Adolphus Greely, set up shop in Fort Conger, on Lady Franklin Bay (named for the widow of an earlier Arctic explorer who lost his life searching for a northwest passage). They arrived in 1881 and all went according to plan. Unfortunately, bad weather prevented their supply ship from reaching the men in the summer of 1882. Nevertheless, they stuck it out. However, when supplies again failed to reach them in the summer of 1883, Greely made the decision to abandon the fort and use their small boats to head south. They made it 500 miles down the coast of Ellsmere Island before winter conditions forced them settle at Cape Sabine. By this time, many of the men, including the staff physician, were in virtual mutiny against Greely, who despite what would later be a long and distinguished career, was not well trained for dealing with arctic conditions. The men had headed south with 40 days worth of food, and now had to winter over. Hunting and fishing only brought in meager rations, and the men began to starve. What followed was horrific conditions of starvation, freezing, and cannibalism. By the time they were rescued the following year, only six, including Greely, had survived. Item 160 is Adolphus W. Greely's International Polar Expedition: Report of the proceedings of the United States Expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, Grinnell Land, published in 1888. Priced at $175.
Alaska is a fairly cold place too, but for a couple of days in 1912, part of the Alaskan peninsula was heated by one of the most spectacular volcanic eruptions in recorded history. Ten years later, Robert Griggs published this account, The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, for the National Geographic Society. The eruption from Mount Katmai devastated all plant and animal life for miles. Griggs reported that the volcano covered an area the size of New York City with ten to fifteen feet of ash. Furthermore, if New York had been the volcano's site, even Philadelphia would have been under a foot of ash and dark for two and one-half days, and Washington and Buffalo would have had a thin ash covering. Over seven cubic miles of ash were said to have been released into the atmosphere. Item 3. $60.
American Adventure, Exploration &c. From Arthur H. Clark
The six survivors, including Adolphus Greely (seated, center), of the Greely Arctic expedition.
Everyone knows about Buffalo Bill (Cody) and Wild Bill (Hickok), but how many remember Alfalfa Bill? Here is your chance: Alfalfa Bill; An Intimate Biography, by Gordon Hines (1932). William Henry Murray was a native of Texas who moved across the border to the Oklahoma territory at the turn of the century. He was involved in the transition to statehood, and legal and political affairs for many years. His career peaked in the early 1930s when he was elected governor. Murray was a Democrat, but anti-New Deal. He ran against Roosevelt for the party's presidential nomination in 1932, but despite garnering only a handful of votes, he resented his party's nominee. His was a colorful governorship, characterized by calling out the National Guard, for causes as varied as keeping toll-free bridges to Texas open, to collecting tickets at University of Oklahoma football games, to enforcing segregation (Bill had an ugly, racist side). However, it was his promotion of planting alfalfa to renew the soil that gave him his nickname, "Alfalfa Bill." Item 68. $42.
Item 225 is a rare first edition of Among the Shoshones, a book also known as the "White Indian Boy," by Elijah Nicholas Wilson, also known as "Uncle Nick." Wilson spent a few years living with the Shoshone as a youth in Utah, and later became a pony express rider before moving on to Wyoming. The small town of Wilson, Wyoming, outside of Jackson, is named for him. Along the way, he met many of the characters of the Old West and witnessed memorable events. Wilson's adventures became a popular tale of the Old West, but this rare first edition is particularly notable as it contains his account of how he lost his Mormon fiancée to a polygamist. According to Wilson, this edition was suppressed, only twenty copies printed for his private collection, after which a revised edition without reference to his fiancée and the polygamist was published. From 1910. $2,950.
Here is a much more recent, and much less exciting book: The Quotable Richard M. Nixon, compiled by Perry D. Hall. One hesitates to call this a "wit and wisdom" book as Nixon was not terribly noted for either, but this 1967 book contains some of his most notable lines from the years before he became president. However, being pre-presidential, it lacks Nixon's most famous quote of all, "I am not a crook." Item 16. $20.
The latest Arthur H. Clark catalogue is now available for download online at www.ahclark.com They may be reached at 800-842-9286.