Western Americana from Thomas Goldwasser Rare Books
Western Americana from Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books.
By Michael Stillman
Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books has issued a catalogue of Western Americana, Including Publications of the Book Club of California. We might add it also contains many printings from the famed Grabhorn Press (some overlapping with Book Club publications) and other limited editions. However, this catalogue is hardly limited to such special editions. It contains many other works from California and the West, including a few very rare and highly valuable works. In all there are 441 books being offered, so there must be something for every collector of the American West. Here are but a few.
Item 6 is one of those Book Club of California items printed by the Grabhorn Press, in a limited edition of 400 copies. Published in 1957, the title is The Drawings of John Woodhouse Audubon Illustrating his Adventures through Mexico and California, 1849-1850. If that name sounds familiar, yet not quite right, John Woodhouse was the son of famed painter of birds John James Audubon. John Woodhouse devoted much of his adult life to assisting his father in his work, and after the latter died, to publishing later editions of his works. John Woodhouse was intimately involved in producing the reduced images of his father's birds used in the octavo editions of "Birds of America," and drew half of the illustrations in John James' "Quadrupeds of America." In between, John Woodhouse Audubon managed to do some of his own painting, and undertook a few travel adventures. One of those is depicted in this work, a difficult journey in which disease and bandits forced many of the participants, including the leader, to turn back. Audubon led those who remained through the rest of the journey. Priced at $175.
Item 411 is an even scarcer travel story: Reminiscences of California Life, by R.N. Willcox. Willcox was a carpenter who made his way to California during the Gold Rush and found work as a miner and by employing his trade. He writes about his experiences in California, and notably San Francisco. Among his topics are the mines, San Francisco vigilance committee, Indians, Chinese laborers, opium smoking, the Donner party and outlaws. Willcox privately published his memories in 1897 in Avery, Ohio. It appears that only 75-100 copies were printed. $750.
Stephen J. Field also published his California memories in 1880 "for a few friends," Personal Reminiscences of California. Field first traveled to California in 1849, where he became deeply involved in local politics. He became Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court though he was not beloved by all. Specifically, he had a dispute with former fellow California Justice David Terry years later as a result of a case involving that judge's wife. When confronted in a dining car, Field's bodyguard shot and killed Terry. In 1863, Field was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln. Field developed a reputation as a defender of powerful business interests, as well as being a personally vindictive man, and unlike Lincoln, no great friend of African Americans. However, what he lacked in quality he made up in quantity, serving longer on the Supreme Court than any other judge -- 34 years in all. Nevertheless, his rare description of the early years of Gold Rush California is said to be one of the best. Item 130. $500.
Western Americana from Thomas Goldwasser Rare Books
Bodies of the Dalton Gang: Bill Powers, Bob Dalton, Grattan Dalton, Dick Broadwell, along with later photo of Emmett Dalton.
Item 260 is one of the most important studies of the American Indian, History of the Indian Tribes by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. McKenney was the first Director of Indian Affairs, and after being dismissed from his post by President Andrew Jackson, set out to preserve their rapidly changing traditional culture for history. Together with James Hall, he produced this look at the Indians, including 120 hand-colored plates depicting chiefs and other notable members of the tribes. Offered is a copy of the third octavo edition, noted for its brilliant color. $35,000.
Item 83 is the story of one of the most notorious criminal gangs of the Old West by one of its members. Emmett Dalton and two of his older brothers, once lawmen themselves, turned to crime around 1890. Perhaps it ran in the family, as they were related to the Youngers, whose gang gave Jesse and Frank James their start. The Dalton Gang was very successful at robbing trains, perhaps too much so for their own good. Along with several others who joined them, they decided to attempt something no other bandits had accomplished -- rob two banks on the same day. Of all places to choose, they selected their hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas. They donned fake beards and wigs, but townsfolk quickly recognized them, and took up arms as the gang held up the banks. When they tried to escape, the townspeople were waiting. The date was October 5, 1892. It was the last day the Daltons rode. Brothers Bob and Grat were killed on the spot, while Emmett, his body riddled with bullets, was not expected to survive. However, Emmett did recover, was sentenced to life in prison, reformed and was pardoned 14 years later, and moved to California. Emmett Dalton would then play himself and others in a couple of movies, become a real estate agent, and write this book: When the Daltons Rode. It was published in 1931, with Dalton surviving until 1937 (his obituary is pasted in this copy). The copy also includes an inscription from Dalton to famed newspaperman H.L. Mencken. $2,750.
You may visit Thomas A. Goldwasser Rare Books online at www.goldwasserbooks.com, or reach them by phone at 415-292-4698.