The William E. Boeing Library from Restoration Books
The Boeing Library (William Boeing holds a mail sack in the photo of the first international mail flight -- Victoria, B.C. to Seattle --1919).
By Michael Stillman
We recently received an exceptional catalogue of the library of an exceptional man: Selections from the Library of William E. Boeing. Even those not familiar with the man will instantly recognize his name, synonymous with air travel. Boeing actually began his career in the timber business, where his late father had built substantial wealth. This led him to move to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, now home of his namesake company's airplane manufacturing facilities. It was there that he witnessed an air show in 1910, which generated his interest in aviation, and determination to improve upon the technology.
By 1915, Boeing was in the business of designing airplanes. This led to an early foray into carrying airmail, from which he would buy out other carriers, unifying operations under the name United Aircraft. This in turn led to passenger travel and parts manufacturing as well. However, following a scandal concerning mail routes in 1934, the government forced a separation of all manufacturers from airlines. United was broken into three companies, United Airlines, United Technologies, and Boeing Airplane. William Boeing was disgusted by the government's action and essentially retired from the aircraft industry, concentrating his energies on thoroughbred horses, ranching, traveling on his spacious yacht and, of course, his library. He died in 1956 aboard his yacht, just as it was returning to Seattle.
This half-inch thick catalogue has been prepared by Restoration Books of Boeing's hometown of Seattle. This is Part I of what will be two major catalogues: Polar, Maritime, and Overland Travels and Explorations. There is a notable number of travel books whose ultimate destination would be the American or Canadian Northwest. In addition to these primary catalogues, another 1,500 books from Boeing's library will be offered through topical lists. Finally, Restoration later plans to issue a listing of 200 Boeing library books in the field of aviation that were donated to The Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Boeing's library included a mix of notable and less consequential books. Restoration decided that rather than just publish one catalogue of his most important books, they would include both the rarest works and some of less significance, though still interesting in terms of their content. Here are a few from Part I.
One of the rarest and most significant Oregon Trail narratives is Journal of Travels Over the Rocky Mountains, to the Mouth of the Columbia River, Made During the Years 1845 and 1846... by Joel Palmer. It is the only contemporary account of settler travel in 1845, which doubled Oregon's white population (by adding 3,000 immigrants). Palmer's detail was so extensive that this book became a guide for travelers who set out on the trail. However, it may be this practical use of the book which explains why so few copies remain today. They were worn out. Boeing's copy is a first edition from 1847, possibly the second issue (it lacks the errata slip). It comes with a letter Boeing received from Chicago bookseller A.C. McClurg in 1915 saying, "It is undoubtedly the rarest book relating to Oregon..." McClurg's price was $90, probably enough to buy an airplane at the time. Currently priced at $5,700.
The William E. Boeing Library from Restoration Books
William E. Boeing.
Offered is a bound set of documents pertaining to the final settlement of the border between the U.S. and Britain (in the days when Canada was British). Disputes had gone on for years, particularly with regard to Oregon, when the Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled the border at the 49th parallel. At least everyone thought it settled the border. The boundary followed the 49th parallel all the way to Vancouver Island, where it dipped south, to give the British the entirety of Vancouver Island. The treaty had provided that the border proceed along the channel separating Vancouver Island from the mainland. However, that wording was subject to two interpretations. The border could go through the channel east of the San Juan Islands, placing those islands in Canada, or west of the San Juans, placing them in America. At one time, the countries came to blows of sorts, the infamous Pig War (a British pig gave its life in this struggle, though no humans made such a sacrifice). By 1860, the two sides were amicably sharing the San Juans again, but in 1873, the countries decided it was time to resolve the issue once and for all. The dispute was submitted to German Kaiser Wilhelm for a decision. These seven items pertain to the British arguments submitted to the Kaiser. They weren't good enough, as the decision came down for America, making the San Juans part of U.S. territory. $2,500.
Joseph Wallace published a biography in 1870 of a man mostly forgotten, perhaps because he died too soon: Sketch of the Life and Public Service of Edward D. Baker, United States Senator from Oregon and Formerly Representative in Congress from Illinois... Baker was born in England, emigrated to the U.S. as a child, lived for five years with his parents in the utopian community of New Harmony, and then onto southern Illinois, where he was admitted to the bar. His profession and political interests would introduce him to another young politically active lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. Both would join the Whig Party, and in 1844, each would seek the party's nomination for a seat in Congress. Baker won. However, it did not affect their friendship. Two years later, Lincoln named his second son, Edward Baker Lincoln, after Baker ("Eddie" Lincoln died just short of his fourth birthday). In 1846, when Lincoln was elected to Congress, Baker declined to seek reelection. Instead, he resigned and went off to fight in the Mexican War. He would return to successfully seek a seat in a different Illinois district in 1848, but again not seek reelection at the end of his term. Instead, he moved to California. In 1860, he moved once again, this time to Oregon, where he was elected senator as a Republican. Despite his position, Baker formed a regiment of volunteers early in the Civil War, and this is where his story ends, too soon. He died in battle on October 21, 1861. He was the only sitting senator to die in the war. His death shocked and saddened Washington. $150.
Another of Boeing's books was a complete set, atlas included, of Cook's three voyages. Cook spent more time around Australia and the Antarctic, but his third voyage would bring him to the Pacific Northwest as he sought, unsuccessfully, like so many others, to find a Northwest Passage. $55,000.
Speaking of the Northwest Passage, the man who finally did find it was Roald Amundsen, although the route did not provide a usable shortcut to the Pacific. Living in arctic conditions would prepare Amundsen for his greatest triumph a few years later - the first man to reach the South Pole. This copy is the 1908 New York edition of Roald Amundsen's "The Northwest Passage," Being a Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship Gjoa... $1,500.
The Boeing Library catalogues are available for $40 for a set (the second volume will be mailed when published). You may contact Joseph C. Baillargeon and Restoration Books at 206-322-8852 or email@example.com.