Texas and the American West from Kenston Rare Books
Texas and the American West from Kenston Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
This is our first catalogue from Kenston Rare Books of Dallas, Texas. It isn't hard to guess what type of books a Dallas bookseller would be likely to carry. This is their Spring 2007 catalogue, and the title is Fine Books on Texas and the American West. This is a catalogue that will excite any collector of Texiana or the West. It is filled with material you will want to read as well as collect, stories of cattlemen, rustlers, thieves, lawmen, Indians, settlers, and other extraordinary people. There are books on notable events in Texas history, from the Revolution to the Mexican War, to more recent times.
There are also many local, particularly county histories among the 322 items. We will describe a few of the books which likely have broader appeal, but if your collecting is focused on a particular corner of Texas, you should check out this catalogue. It may have you covered.
Item 203 is one of the earliest travel accounts of Texas written in English, Trip to the West and Texas... Amos Parker traveled from New England to Texas in the days before the Texas Revolution. He journeyed across the Great Lakes to Chicago, down the Mississippi, and then overland to the Colorado River in central Texas. He describes the land and its settlements, and the cultural conflicts with Mexico that would soon lead to the Revolution. He then retreated to New Orleans in early 1835, from which he returned to New England by steamer. His book was published later that year. Priced at $750.
Item 190 is another early book about Texas, although this one moves a few years forward to the republic period: History of the Revolution in Texas, Particularly of the War of 1835 & 36... by Chester Newell. This book is filled with historical information and physical descriptions and data about the area. Newell was not himself a Texan, but gathered his information through thorough research of books about Texas, official documents, and other information obtained from public officials such as Sam Houston. $2,000.
Here is a 1919 pamphlet concerning a technological problem that sounds odd today. The piece is Investigations in Adapting the Automobile to Accurate Soil Survey and Road Traverse Work, published by the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (today better known and Texas A&M). As Kenston explains the issue, in the old days, surveyors measured distances by placing counters on the axles of horse drawn buggies. The circumference of the wheel was such that 500 revolutions came to exactly one mile. However, in 1919, the bulletin points out, "field men have found it increasingly difficult to secure livery accommodations in all parts of the country, due to the fact that the automobile has so largely taken the place of the horse in local and short distance driving." Evidently those automobiles were not yet equipped with odometers. Item 42. $40.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.