One of the “Big Four” Cattle Books
149. [COX, James]. Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory. St. Louis, Missouri: Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co., 1895. [1-9] 10-743 [1, blank] pp., color frontispiece (A Stampede [signed in print at lower right] Gean Smith [below title] Copyrighted 1895 by Gean Smith, New York City From Original Painting Owned by W.H. Woodward, St. Louis; image 15.5 x 23.8 cm; image and title: 17.5 x 23.8 cm), 16 photographic plates, numerous text illustrations (portraits, ranches, activities with cattle, etc., many photographic), tables. Folio (31.7 x 26.5 cm), original black gilt pictorial leather covers stamped in gilt and blind, upper cover with gilt longhorn within star of Texas, spine gilt-lettered. Of the original spine, about half remains, which has been professionally laid down on new sympathetic spine. Corners expertly renewed, floral endpapers lightly browned (due to contact with leather turn-ins). Interior with occasional browning and a few minor stains; the frontispiece has a few nicks and minor spots, and the photograph plates have mild to moderate foxing due to interaction of tissue guards and images. Overall, this is a very good, complete copy, with the color frontispiece (often lacking). This is a book difficult to secure in fine condition and complete. Pencil signature of J.W. Ray on front free endpaper with ink notation “Elijah Ray page 610” just below it and the same notation in pencil on the following leaf. The writer was Elijah’s son James Ray, mentioned in the biographical entry, or a descendant.
First edition. Adams, Herd 593: “Very rare…. One of the ‘big four’ cattle books. An important book on the history of the cattle industry, and no collector’s library would be complete without it. It is rarely found with the frontispiece, and since it is an unusually heavy book and the leather has deteriorated with age, its backstrip is usually missing or in bad condition. It is said that the scarcity is due to the fact that nearly all the edition was lost in a warehouse fire.” Basic Texas Books 34: “This compendium on Texas cattle and cattlemen is also one of the rarest Texas books…. Nearly 400 pages are devoted to biographies of some 449 Texas cattlemen, and these sketches are a gold mine for research into the cowboys…. The other half of the volume…provides one of the two or three best contemporary accounts of the history of the Texas cattle trade.” Campbell, My Favorite 101 Books about the Cattle Industry 23. Dobie, p. 100: “In 1928 I traded a pair of store-bought boots to my uncle Neville Dobie for his copy of this book. A man would have to throw in a young Santa Gertrudis bull now to get a copy.” Dykes, Collecting Range Life Literature, p. 12; Kid 29; Western High Spots, p. 27 (“My Ten Most Outstanding Books on the West”); p. 103 (“The Texas Ranch Today”). Graff 891. Howes C820. King, Women on the Cattle Trail and in the Roundup, p. 15. Merrill, Aristocrats of the Cow Country, pp. 9-10, 17: “Great source book for both history and biography.” One Hundred Head Cut Out of the Jeff Dykes Herd 51. Rader 1891. Reese, Six Score 24: “One of the ‘big four’ cattle books, and after Freeman’s Prose and Poetry, the most important. Vital and useful.” Saunders 2846. Vandale 44.
This is a lavishly illustrated work for nineteenth-century Texas. Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas 1554-1900, p. 334, “Contains…a few engravings, including ‘Old Time Cowboys of the Plain’ [D6.8] which is copied or plagiarized from Leslie’s Weekly Newspaper”, p. 366: “This book contains a colored frontispiece and 272 photographic illustrations. Many are full-page illustrations designated as cynographs. There are a large number of photographic portraits. The frontispiece is a full-page chromolithograph…. There are several end pieces that are probably metal engravings and a few wood engravings that are listed here. None of the images is signed by artist or engraver.” The frontispiece is by Gean Smith (1851-1928), a painter and illustrator especially focused on horses and equestrian portraits, although he also did other genres of painting, such as his 1884 Civil War painting of General Grant and his Staff at Fort Donelson and the illustrations for George W. Peck’s 1883 classic of American humor, Peck’s Bad Boy. Smith was born in New York State and moved to Chicago in 1871, where he established a studio until 1884. The next year, he moved to New York City and worked there until 1923, when he settled with relatives in Galveston, Texas, where he died. An obituary of Gean Smith is in the Galveston Tribune (December 8, 1928; copy at the Center of American History, University of Texas, Austin).
Cox was clearly an indefatigable researcher who had access to first-person accounts that can never be recreated. Thus, his text preserves much, especially in the individual biographies, that might well have been lost without him. He complains, “The absence of authentic records as to the history of the cattle industry in Texas and the Southwest had added materially to the difficulties of preparing the introductory chapters.” Nevertheless, he overcame such limitations to provide a text valuable today. Much of the biographical information in the discussions of individual cattlemen could hardly have come from anywhere else but the subjects themselves. Cox also has the virtue of not tiring of his subject, despite the fact he had to prepare a long history section, procure illustrations, and write over 400 biographies. For the most part, his text remains fresh and readable even today. Even he knows, however, that he writes against a changing and perhaps fading scene. One of his crucial chapters is entitled “The Cowboy, As He Was, and Is, and Is Supposed to Have Been,” which he opens with this sentence: “It is doubtful whether any human being in any age or generation has ever been so absurdly caricatured and misrepresented as the cowboy” (p. 171). The chapter contains apparently authentic information about cowboy life. It closes, ironically, with a description of cowboys who are riding a cattle train to Chicago and the hardships involved in such an enterprise, which are quite different from those of the trail drive.
This is also a superb source for women in the cattle country of Texas, with many biographies and portraits of the distaff side of the ranching world. Many of the women are, of course, married to ranchers and share in their ups and downs. On the other hand, some women had to forge their own way without a husband. As discussed here, when Lucinda Dalton’s husband was killed by Native Americans in 1869, the family was already somewhat prosperous, and Mrs. Dalton, by astute management, preserved and increased her fortune. A more difficult path was followed by Anna Martin, who had no fortune when her husband died in 1879, leaving her with two small boys in the wilds of a Mason County inhabited by numerous unsavory characters. She did, nevertheless, manage to become extremely prosperous and respected, although she never remarried. Cox, in describing her life, sums up what must have been the feelings and experiences of numerous frontier women, both in Texas and elsewhere:
Mrs. Martin still vividly recalls the scene of loneliness and desolation that assailed her eyes upon her arrival at the spot which is still her home. She was a young girl at that time, reared and bred to city life, and being suddenly transferred to a wild country uninhabited by civilized whites, but literally overrun with savage Indians, and still more savage Caucasians, it is little to be wondered at that a feeling of home-sickness and horror at her isolated position took possession of her. The first part of her life here was filled with hardships and sufferings, but, like a true Spartan woman, she lived down adversity and built upon its ruins, in what was regarded but little better than a desert, a fortune and a domain that might be envied by a princess” (p. 471).
Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009