Dorothy Sloan -- Books

AUCTION 20

William Jackson Color Photographs of Yellowstone

35. [JACKSON, William H. (photographer)]. SCHMIDT, Carl E. A Western Trip By Carl E. Schmidt. [Detroit: Herold Press]: For private circulation only, [ca. 1904]. 91 [1 blank], [2] pp., 30 mounted photographs (12 full-page photochrome process prints, 18 smaller black and white). 8vo, original full brown leather gilt-lettered and with gilt illustration of cowboy on rearing horse roping, t.e.g., fore-edges untrimmed, burgundy silk endpapers. Binding lightly scuffed (mostly along edges), hinges cracked, light to moderate offsetting to photographs, otherwise a fine copy of a fragile format book. With author’s signed presentation in ink on front flyleaf: “C. L. Levants from Carl E. Schmidt, Jan’y 1905” (ink inscription offset onto the title).

     First edition. Eberstadt 136:667d: “Printed in a few copies ‘for private circulation only.’ An interesting journal of the Yellowstone Country, and because of the circumstances of its printing, extremely difficult to come by.” Howes S170. Streeter Sale 4123. The book is an idiosyncratic example of bookmaking, not only because of its unusual illustrative matter, but also because of the author’s selection of old English type and the binding created in the author’s own tannery. The black and white photographs are candids taken by the party. The color photographs are the work of William Henry Jackson (1843-1942), who served as official photographer of the Hayden survey from 1870-1878 and took the first photos of Yellowstone Park. “William Henry Jackson, the greatest of all Western photographers [with the] ability to capture the many scenes of sublime beauty in the West on his photographic plates and stereopticon slides, did more than anyone else to publicize the tourist’s West... Jackson, like the avant-garde writers, the scientists, and even the local colorists of his time, was helping to usher in a new era of realism that would in part replace, and at the same time, as far as subject matter was concerned, parallel the romanticism of an earlier day” (Goetzmann, Exploration & Empire, pp. 499-500).

     Leaving Chicago on August 31, 1901, in the company of three other people (his daughter Emma, friend Frank Pingree, and the latter’s son Everett), Schmidt embarked on a trip inspired by a painting of Yellowstone geysers he saw while waiting in a dining room for his omelet to be served. After describing his train trip West, which included a few humorous detours, Schmidt and his party spent several weeks in Yellowstone enjoying the sites and having various adventures and misadventures, most of which Schmidt describes in a jocular, even-handed manner. Some of the incidents seem to be reflective of the author’s own amused awareness of his greenhorn-tourist status. At one point, a trip from the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is preceded by Schmidt’s elaborate order to the kitchen for lunch, which included an extra two-dollar bill to ensure service. However, when the lunch was opened the next day, it turned out to be nothing but ruined scraps. He also describes a somewhat successful fishing trip in which several trout were caught. However, upon arriving at the hotel and handing over the fish to the cook with instructions for preparation, the fish were ruined because they were fried in “wagon-grease butter.”

     The journal concludes with a visit and descent into a mine near Butte, Montana. Schmidt remarks: “Here comes our party and with them the mine boss, Capt. Sammie. He looks like a highwayman, but we find out later he is a Baptist deacon and plays the organ up at the big camp tent” (p. 85). The trip to the mine also includes a recounting of a shoot-out that occurred a few months before their arrival. On the return trip to Chicago, the party stopped briefly in Salt Lake City. For more on Detroit entrepreneur Schmidt, see The Book of Detroiters: A Biographical Dictionary... (Chicago: A. N. Marquis & Company, 1914), p. 198. ($1,500-3,000)

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