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19. CLYMAN, James (1792-1881). James Clyman,
American Frontiersman, 1792-1881: The Adventures of a Trapper and Covered
Wagon Emigrant As Told in His Own Reminiscences and Diaries. Edited by
Charles L. Camp. San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1928.
-247 [4, index] pp. (complete), frontispiece portrait of Clyman (tipped-in
silver gelatin photocopy, probably from an albumen photograph); plate
(portrait of Hannah Mecombs Clyman, photographic print), 3 maps: Route
of Jedediah Smith’s Party over the South Pass in 1823-24, and the Route
of James Clyman’s Return to Fort Atkinson (21.5 x 12.5 cm; 8-3/8
x 5 inches); Clyman’s Route from Oregon to California in 1845
(12 x 21.5 cm; 4-3/4 x 8-3/8 inches); Emigrant Trails to Oregon and
California in 1844-46 (30.5 x 19 cm; 12 x 7-3/8 inches); text illustration
(facsimile of a page from Clyman’s diaries). 8vo, original navy blue
gilt-lettered cloth. Fine in worn, chipped, and soiled d.j. Thomas W.
Streeter’s copy, with his book label and pencil notes, including: “Howell...tells
me April 17, 1938[?] that this is getting quite rare. He has had 1 copy
in last 5 or 6 years and he sold it for $15. Decker offers this Dec.
1949 at $100. A copy sold at $70 at...Swann Gallery...1949.” Warren Howell’s
pencil note on rear pastedown: “150 riytx [cost code].” Catalogue slip
from Streeter Sale laid in.
Item 19. Frontiersman James Clyman (1792-1881).
Merrill J. Mattes, the noted historian and bibliographer of the Overland
Trail, wrote, “Here is one of the most remarkable of all emigrant diaries....
Clyman has a gift for phrasing and an awareness of an epic in progress.”
Wright Howes (C81) described it as “One of the most trustworthy narratives
of the Far West, for the period 1842-46.” This publication of the California
Historical Society consists of diaries and reminiscences artfully assembled
and skillfully edited by the incomparable Charles L. Camp. They cover
a wide range of subject matter from Clyman’s days as a frontiersman
in the Rocky Mountains in the 1820s to his trips to California in 1845-1846
during that volatile transitional period from Mexican to American rule.
In writing the introduction, Camp commented on the value of Clyman’s
reminiscences and daily journals: “They are epics of the frontier; a
stirring commentary upon the swift conquest of the continent, reflecting
the spirit of the sturdy, free-roving trappers and emigrants who blazed
the trails and established themselves in the arcana of the wilderness.”
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Merrill J. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives: A Descriptive Bibliography of Travel over the Great Central Overland Route to Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Other Western States and Territories, 1812-1866 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988), entry #102.