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Auction 12: The Zamorano 80 Collection of Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 25

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Item 25. Dale’s masterfully edited Ashley-Smith Explorations—“A source-book about Jedediah Smith, the first white man to enter California overland from the eastern U.S.” (Daniel Woodward).

25. DALE, Harrison Clifford (ed.) (1885-1971). The Ashley-Smith Explorations and the Discovery of a Central Route to the Pacific, 1822-1829, with the Original Journals.... Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1918. 352 pp., 2 maps, 3 plates. 8vo, original red cloth, t.e.g. Binding faded and lightly worn, interior very fine. California Thespian Jean Hersholt’s copy with gilt bookplate on front pastedown (Talbot, Historic California in Bookplates, pp. 230-31, illustrated).
First edition. Clark & Brunet, The Arthur H. Clark Company 55: “One of the basic works in fur trade history.” Cowan II, p. 154. Edwards, Enduring Desert, p. 64: “Jedediah Smith is the first known white man to come into California via the overland route from the east, crossing the Mojave Desert into Los Angeles.” Howes D21. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 25. Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 6. Paher, Nevada 427. Plains & Rockies IV:34n. Zamorano 80 #25. With this lot we include a companion volume to Dale relating to the cartography of the Ashley-Smith exploration: MORGAN, D. L. & C. I. Wheat. Jedediah Smith and His Maps of the American West. San Francisco: Printed by Lawton Kennedy for the California Historical Society, 1954. [6] 86 pp., 7 maps (6 folding). Tall folio, original rose cloth. Spine faded, else fine. First edition, limited edition (530 copies printed). Evans 33. Harding, Wheat 108. Libros Californianos, pp. 78 (Powell commentary): “Trapper, trader, and first white man overland into California, Jed Smith is here given the fullest treatment possible in view of the scarcity of material about him.” (2 vols.) ($600-1,200)


This handsome Arthur H. Clark publication is credited with rescuing Jedediah Smith from obscurity. Dale L. Morgan, the great scholar of overland travel and biographer of Smith, praised Dale’s book for opening “new vistas in fur-trade history.” Dale, a professor of political science at the University of Wyoming, produced one of the seminal books concerning the exploration of the Far West. He proved that Smith deserved the appellation of “Pathfinder” before John C. Frémont. The basis for his book consisted of several manuscripts he discovered in the collections of the Missouri Historical Society. In his introduction, he summarized the contents of his book: “The narratives of these explorations comprising a recently discovered manuscript account by William H. Ashley, describing his journey to and down Green River, in 1824-1825, a letter of Jedediah Smith, covering his first expedition to California, an unpublished letter, also by him, describing his second expedition through California to Fort Vancouver, and the unpublished fragmentary journals of Harrison G. Rogers, covering both the Smith expeditions.” Dale supported these documents with extensive footnotes and biographies of Ashley and Smith.
Importantly, Dale brings out the true significance of their accomplishments, frequently drawing comparisons with Lewis and Clark. The latter, of course, were “professionals” in the service of their government; whereas Smith and Ashley were not trained scientists or explorers but mountain men in search of furs. In comparing degrees of difficulty, Dale points out that “Ashley and Smith, crossing from one complicated drainage area to another, were obliged to traverse a series of lofty mountain barriers as well as vast stretches of difficult and trying desert.” Smith accompanied Ashley to the Great Salt Lake and from there he pushed through largely unexplored territory to the Pacific. During his eight years of wandering through unknown hostile territory, Smith accomplished an incredible number of firsts. He became the first white man to reach California overland, the first since Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific coast, the first to cross the Sierra, and the first to cross the Great Basin. No one prior to Smith had seen so much of the West and contributed so much to geographic knowledge. His death at the young age of thirty-two cut short a life full of promise.
Dale, at the time he researched these manuscripts and wrote his accompanying narrative, did not have access to the journals of Smith. They were presumed lost and only brought to light by George R. Brooks in 1977. Fortunately, he at least had access to the fragments of the “record of daily occurrences” kept by Harrison G. Rogers, the clerk of the company. “Nothing,” Dale noted, “escaped his attention.” The Rogers journal is not only invaluable for tracing the movements of Smith and his company of fifteen men but also for its detailed record of their stay at Mission San Gabriel. Beginning on November 27, 1826, and ending on January 19, 1827, Rogers recorded a superb overview of the mission system shortly before its dissolution. Although influenced by his Calvinistic upbringing, Rogers gave a sympathetic account, including their religious beliefs and ceremonies. He further reported on the difficulties experienced with the local government officials who were naturally suspicious of the Americans. The second journal began on May 10 and ended on July 13, 1827, and provided important documentation on their movements in northern California and Oregon, their visits to Mexican settlements and encounters with government officials, and interactions with foreigners living in Alta California. It includes fascinating descriptions of their meetings with the various Native American tribes.
For his time, Professor Dale did a masterful job of editing, and through this publication, the record of a true Western hero came to light. The Arthur H. Clark Company published the volume in an edition of 810 copies, and in 1941, published a revised edition of 1004 copies. Dale’s work, not surprisingly, has been complemented and superceded by the work of later scholars including Dale L. Morgan, Maurice S. Sullivan, Carl I. Wheat, George R. Brooks, and David J. Weber.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: George R. Brooks, editor, The Southwest Expedition of Jedediah S. Smith: His Personal Account of the Journey to California, 1826–1827 (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1977); Harvey L. Carter, “Jedediah Smith,” in The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1971), vol. 8, pp. 331-48; Dale L. Morgan, Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964); David J. Weber, The Californios versus Jedediah Smith 1826-1827: A New Cache of Documents (Spokane: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1990).

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