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C[harles] F[ayette] (1847-1931). History of the Donner Party:
A Tragedy of the Sierras. Truckee: Published by Crowley and McGlashan,
(Proprietors Truckee Republican), . 193 pp. 8vo,
original full sheep, gilt-lettered dark green morocco spine labels,
marbled endpapers. Some stains on lower cover and binding worn (upper
joint cracked, lower joint beginning to crack, spine rubbed, lower
spine label chipped, corners bumped with some board exposed, one small
void approximately 1 cm in diameter on back cover), interior fine other
than occasional mild staining. Overall a very good to good copy in
the rare and fragile sheep binding. Contemporary ownership inscription
on front flyleaf: “Mrs. D. W. Willard, Jany 28th 1880.”
Slightly later pencil inscription erased (Mrs. H. A. Keller). A few
faint old mathematical calculations on lower endpapers.
First edition. Bennett, American Book Collecting, pp. 149-50. Blumann & Thomas 2208. Cowan I, p. 148. Cowan II, p. 406. Graff 2610. Holliday 728. Howell 50, California 627: “Still regarded as the definitive book on the subject.” Howes M102: “Best account of the most harrowing of all overland disasters.” Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 53. LC, California Centennial 94. Libros Californianos, pp. 40, 43 (Powell commentary); p. 66 (Hanna list): “An essential item for the student of the California story.” Mintz, The Trail 318. Norris 2275. Paher, Nevada 1195. Rocq 6004. Streeter Sale 2964. Zamorano 80 #53. ($600-1,200)
53A. McGLASHAN, C[harles] F[ayette].
Terrible! Thrilling! True! History of the Donner Party. A Tragedy of
the Sierra [view, with “Photo Eng. Co. White” at lower right corner]
Price, Paper, - - $1.00. Sent Prepaid to any Address on Receipt
of Price, by the Author C. F. McGlashan, Truckee, Cal. Sacramento:
H. S. Crocker & Co., . Broadside advertisement printed
on heavy paper in blue with red and green decorative border (27.7
x 35.5 cm; 11 x 14 inches). Fine.
The tragedy of the Donner Party is, without doubt, one of the most
sensational events in the history of the American West, rivaling
the fall of the Alamo and Custer’s last stand. C. F. McGlashan, the
editor of the Truckee Republican and earlier author of a series
of articles on the emotion-charged Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah,
wrote the first detailed narrative history of this horror in the
snow which still must be regarded as the beginning point for any
serious study pertaining to this most controversial of all overland
episodes. McGlashan had the advantage of timing. He was distant enough
from the event to have perspective and yet close enough in time to
have access to the primary sources. In preparation for this book,
he interviewed twenty-four out of the twenty-six living survivors,
wrote and received over two thousand letters, read virtually every
printed account, read manuscript diaries including the famous Patrick
Breen diary, and thoroughly inspected the scene of the disaster while
still in a relatively undisturbed state. His thoroughness in gathering
documentation was nothing short of remarkable for a journalist of
the 1870s not trained in historical method or archaeology. McGlashan
succeeded in gaining the confidence of many of the families including
Graves, Murphy, Reed, Breen, Donner, and Tucker, and from them pieced
together this heart-rending history. Furthermore, McGlashan followed
up his chronicle of tragedy with a review of the subsequent recriminations,
rumor mongering, and demonizing of Lewis Keseberg, and how individuals
and families were faring in the 1870s. By and large he was able to
separate fact from mythology. Regrettably and tragically for history,
McGlashan burnt much of his Donner archive shortly before his death
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: George H. Hinkle and Bliss McGlashan Hinkle, Foreword to History of the Donner Party: A Tragedy of the Sierra (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1940); Joseph A. King, Winter of Entrapment (Lafayette, California: K & K Publications, 1998), pp. 185-86.
Item 53 & 53A. McGlashan’s History of the Donner Party, the definitive account of the overland tragedy, with the rare advertising poster.
Item 53. Selected chilling text from McGlashan’s riveting History of the Donner Party.