AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2011 Issue

More Rare Americana from the Past by David Lesser Antiquarian Books

Lesser118

Rare and obscure pamphlets from David Lesser.

David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has released a new catalogue of Rare Americana (with a few British items thrown in), No. 118. Lesser primarily offers pamphlets, the majority ranging from colonial times through the 19th century. Some cover obscure issues, such as church, college, and fraternal organizations' charters and events. Others discuss the major issues of the day, such as politics, slavery, and the building of roads and railways. Then there are the trials, accounts of crimes most awful (mainly murders), and personal disputes that played out in pamphlet wars. Here are just a few samples from this latest collection of 176 rare works from centuries past.

 

Here is a not-quite murder case. It would have been if the perpetrator had better aim. Item 87 is the Address to the Jury by Col. John Hallum in Self Defense in the Case of the State of Texas Against Him. An Indictment for Shooting a Minister of the Gospel… This was not a case of self-defense, at least from bodily harm. No, the 63-year-old Hallum, a Confederate war veteran and lawyer, showed up at the busy Texarkana train station one day in 1896 and pumped four bullets into the body of the Baptist preacher Rev. W.A. Forbes. He made no attempt to disguise the shooting, viewed by countless witnesses, and then left Forbes lying on the ground, thinking he was dead. Nonetheless, the first trial for attempted murder (Forbes survived) ended in a hung journey, and Hallum received the conviction he requested in the second, simple assault for which he was fined $50. How did Hallum get away with such an obvious crime, and against a clergyman no less? This is a case of what was (still is?) a classic unwritten law in the state of Texas:  you mess with another man's wife, he has the right to shoot you. Rev. Forbes and Mrs. Hallum were evidently fooling around in Hallum's absence on a business trip. Hallum got wind of it and wrote the two that he would kill Forbes if he ever showed up in his house again. Forbes ignored the prophecy; Hallum kept his word, or at least attempted to. This pamphlet includes Hallum's appeal to the jury, where he admits what he did, and said he would do it again if it took a thousand years to track down the "Judas Iscariot in clerical robes." Priced at $600.

 

Next is another shooting, a more successful one, between newspapermen. It wasn't a business rivalry. James King was a banker who saw first-hand the corruption in 1850s San Francisco. He started a newspaper that took corruption head on. One of his targets was Charles Cora, a gambler who had shot a U.S. marshal. James Casey, a city supervisor and also a newspaperman who was obviously friendly with Cora, confronted King in the street. Casey drew his revolver, and ordered King to do the same. Before King had the chance, Casey shot him down. King died a few days later. The killing brought the old San Francisco Vigilance Committee back together. A few days later, they stormed the jail, captured Casey and Cora, held a "trial," convicted the two men and hung them. The ends may have been good, but the means questionable. Item 66 is A True and Minute History of the Assassination of James King of Wm. At San Francisco, Cal., by Frank Fargo, published in 1856. $1,500.

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