Indians and the West from George S. MacManus Co.
More Indians and the West from George S. MacManus Co.
By Michael Stillman
The George S. MacManus Company has issued Catalogue 399, the latest installment in its series Indians and the West. The first edition covered, alphabetically, A to the mid C's. This one runs from C to H. It looks like there could be many more catalogues to come in this series. Despite the limited number of letters, there is no shortage of material. This catalogue contains 470 items of primarily western or frontier Americana, as early as the 17th, as recent as the 20th century, but most either 18th or 19th. There is much here on the conquering of the west, and the natives who found their land conquered from beneath their feet. Here are a few of the books of Americana in some way associated with the letters C through H.
It was all going to be Utopia. Author Mrs. Miriam Davis Colt, her husband and family were vegetarians, responding to circulars from the Vegetarian Company for a new settlement in Kansas. So, in 1856, they sold their farm in cold, upstate New York, to join the community in lush Kansas. It didn't quite work out that way. The community was not as developed as they thought, and the border ruffians of Bleeding Kansas turned life into a struggle just to stay alive. The community failed, people went hungry, and various diseases set in. Within a few years, Mrs. Colt returned to New York, but her husband, son, and other relatives died along the way. Life was incomprehensibly tough in those days. Her book is Went to Kansas; Being a Thrilling Account of an Ill-Fated Expedition to the Fairy Land, and Its Sad Results... Item 18. $750.
Father Pierre De Smet was neither an ordinary missionary nor explorer. He devoted his life to helping the western Indians. In 1840, he headed west at the behest of the Flathead Indians, who were seeking a missionary to teach them. Father De Smet not only taught them his faith, but techniques of farming, a necessity in a world where declining open spaces were putting an end to traditional nomadic life. De Smet proved to be an inspiration not only to the Indians, but to other missionaries he was able to recruit to assist the natives. There weren't all that many white men the Indians came to trust, but Father De Smet was the exception. As late as 1868, he was still able to convince Sitting Bull to agree to a treaty. Item 103 is a book by De Smet recounting his early travels deep into the west: Letters and Sketches: With a Narrative of a Year's Residence Among the Indian Tribes of the Rocky Mountains, published in 1843. $2,000.
Item 144 is an important account of a voyage to the Pacific coast of North America: A Voyage Round the World; But more Particularly to the Northwest Coast of America: Performed in 1785...1788...by George Dixon. Dixon had participated in Cook's third voyage, which surveyed the Pacific Northwest. Dixon's aim was to provide a more accurate mapping of this coast than was possible for Cook. Along with mapping, Dixon brought back much information on the natural history of the area and its inhabitants. The book also includes charts from Hawaii. His book was published in London in 1789. $6,500.
Indians and the West from George S. MacManus Co.
Father De Smet was one of the few whites to earn the trust of the Indians.
Item 173 is a very different but truly fascinating look at travel in America: A History of Travel in America...by Seymour Dunbar. The timing of this book makes it particularly interesting -- 1915. Dunbar looks at the development of modes of travel in America, from simple canoes to steamboats, canals, and most notably, the railroads that changed the face of the land in the 19th century. However, Dunbar is also aware that he was writing at the edge of a new era, where new methods of transportation would leave even the railroads behind. He notes that "the recent perfection and widespread adoption of mechanical vehicles designed for use on land highways...has made it necessary to rebuild a large proportion of all existing American land roads..." But this is not all. "The recent accomplishment of human flight is a feat so tremendous that...it still seems a figment of the fancy; an absurd hallucination." He sees much of the machinery of railroads disappearing, it instead rushing above the land where there are no tracks "at eighty or a hundred miles an hour." And there was still more. Physical travel is now, he observed, in many cases no longer necessary. "Instead of going in person...to make visits we send our words or voices only, and keep our bodies at home." Dunbar is speaking of telegraphs and telephones. He notes that people can now "fly through the air," and look down at cities where "log cabins are gone, and we sit amid wires, push-buttons and tubes by which we summon light, heat, water, food, drink, absent friends, messenger boys, motor-cars and music, as our fancy wills." For a look at transportation up to the dawn of its enormous leap forward, this is an excellent resource. It also provides a surprising amount of side material on the Indian tribes who were at one time a bit of an impediment to travel by the settlers. This detailed review consists of four volumes. $275.
Item 333 is a first-hand account relating to one of the later Indian uprisings in the West. The event took place in 1885 in what is now Alberta, Canada, when some younger Cree warriors, in a bit of freelancing, took twelve white settlers, including the local Indian agent, prisoner. They were taken prisoner near Frog Lake, hence the name "Frog Lake Massacre" to describe what happened. Evidently the agent resisted and was shot, whereupon eight other men were also shot. Only one man, hidden by Cree women, and two white women, both of whom became widows that day, survived. Those two women, who were rescued a few months later, authored this 1885 book: Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. The Life & Adventures of Theresa Gowanlake and Theresa Delaney. Big Bear himself was convicted of the crime, though he was not involved, but given what amounted to a suspended sentence. The younger warrior who led the uprising was executed. $400.
The George S. MacManus Company may be reached online at www.macmanus-rarebooks.com or 610-520-7273.