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

Lots 45 & 45A

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Item 45. Ide’s Biographical Sketch of the the leader of the Bear Flag Revolt and the virtual conquest of California—“Important source on the beginnings of American rule in California.”

45. [IDE, Simeon (1794-1889)]. A Biographical Sketch of the Life of William B. Ide: With a Minute and Interesting Account of One of the Largest Emigrating Companies (3000 Miles Over Land), from the East to the Pacific Coast. And What Is Claimed As the Most Authentic and Reliable Account of “The Virtual Conquest of California, in June, 1846, by the Bear Flag Party,” As Given by Its Leader, the Late Hon. William Brown Ide. [Claremont, New Hampshire]: Published for the Subscribers, [1880]. [2, half-title: Scraps of California History Never Before Published, verso blank] 239 [1, “The Inscription”] pp. 16mo, original brown cloth with decoration and ruling in black, upper cover gilt-lettered. Minor shelf wear and a bit of chipping to endpapers, old ink-stamped number on copyright page, interior very fine and clean, overall a fine copy, signed by author in pencil on front flyleaf: “Editor Boston Traveler, with the Respects of Simeon Ide.” Front pastedown with bookplate of Monsignor Joseph M. Gleason (see Talbot, Historic California in Book Plates, p. 99 [illustrated] & p. 213). A very scarce book—as early as 1886, Josiah Royce (q.v.) referred to Ide’s book as “uncommon” (p. 67).
First edition of “the first book dealing exclusively with the Bear Flag Revolt” (LC, California Centennial 118n). Two variants followed this first printing (see Streeter Sale 2967, 2992, 2993, for good collations and distinguishing features of the three incarnations). Blumann & Thomas 4583. Cowan I, pp. 118, 270-71. Cowan II, p. 301. Eberstadt, Modern Narratives of the Plains and the Rockies 241. Graff 2059. Hill, p. 152. Holliday 544. Howell 50, California 541. Howes I4. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 45. Jones 1606. LC, California Centennial 119. Mintz, The Trail 250: “One source [states] only eighty copies were printed.” Norris 1714. Streeter Sale 2967: “Interesting account of the overland journey of 1845 and important source on the beginnings of American rule in California in 1846.” Zamorano 80 #45 (J. Gregg Layne): “The edition was small and copies are now extremely rare.” ($1,500-3,000)

45A. IDE, Simeon. The Conquest of California: A Biography of William B. Ide...with Map and Illustrations.... Oakland: [Printed at The Grabhorn Press, San Francisco, for] Biobooks, 1944. [10] 188 [1] pp., frontispiece, plates, folding colored map (Map of Sonoma County California 1877). 8vo, original maize cloth over red boards, printed paper spine label. Very fine. With laid-in typewritten note on San Francisco bookseller Newbegin’s printed stationery, exhibiting creative and bold bookselling: “May 19, 1944. With this note I am sending you a copy of the new Grabhorn Press item CONQUEST OF CALIFORNIA. Of course the item may be returned in [case] you do not wish to retain it, but as the supply was limited I did not wish you to be overlooked.” Lower pastedown with Newbegin’s small gilt and cream printed label.
Limited edition (500 copies), with foreword by Joseph A. Sullivan and added material. Grabhorn (1940-1956) #396. ($50-100)


Simeon Ide, in assembling and printing these “scraps of history” about William Brown Ide, wanted to establish his brother’s place in history. He believed that too much credit and attention had been given to John C. Frémont (q.v.). For a short-lived period of twenty-two days, William Ide, one of the leaders of the famed Bear Flag Revolt of June 14, 1846, became “Commander-in-Chief” of the California Republic. Even with its adulatory, self-serving purpose, Simeon’s book contains a wealth of firsthand information on the activities of the Bear Flaggers, the capture of Sonoma and General Mariano Vallejo, establishment of a so-called republic, and the final conquest of California by the United States with the aid of a group of hardened, roughneck volunteers known as the California Battalion under Frémont. In addition, this sextodecimo includes biographical information on the pioneer before his arrival in California, an account of his overland trek from Illinois in 1845 written by his daughter Sarah E. Healey, and information on his life in Tehama County following the conquest. In the final analysis, although motivated by family pride and deep acrimony directed at a more successful self-promoter in Frémont, Simeon’s publication remains as a significant record of the Americanization of California.
Certainly the central theme that Simeon wanted to promote was his brother’s George Washington–like role in establishing the “California Republic.” The key document that accounts for the book’s importance is “President” Ide’s own narrative of the Bear Flag Revolt and its aftermath in a letter he wrote to Senator W. W. Wambough before his death in 1852. Additionally, it offers important documentation on the feelings and suspicions of American settlers on the eve of the uprising. Many feared expulsion or death at the hands of the Californios. In appraising the value of the Wambough letter, Hubert Howe Bancroft (q.v.), gave it high marks: “This is by far the most important part of the work. In many respects it is a more complete record than any other narrative. It is most eloquently though quaintly written. This letter, however, is a piece of special pleading, everywhere colored by a violent prejudice, sometimes amounting to a mania, against Frémont, whom Ide honestly believed to have robbed him of his fame as a conqueror and founder of a republic.” The Ide’s family obsession with the “Pathfinder,” however, did not take into account or credit the role of invading U.S. army and naval forces or the leadership of other “conquerors of California” such as Robert F. Stockton or Stephen Watts Kearny. This was not a reprise of Lexington and Concord or the Battle of San Jacinto.
There has been much debate over the importance of the insurrection and “President” Ide. The revolt itself may simply be considered as symbolic, having been swept aside by Frémont and U.S. forces. Or, it may be characterized by some as an isolated incident carried out by an intoxicated rabble out to buck authority and raise Cain. Regardless, it is doubtful if Ide would have become the “father” of an “Independent Bear Flag Nation.” Historian Sharon A. Brown, in a careful review of primary sources including the testimony of Bear Flaggers, concluded that Ide’s authority was not taken seriously and they viewed him as an “idealist” and “policy maker” and not as a military leader. Bancroft stated that Ide was chosen as the “temporary” leader because of his zeal and his fellow insurgents simply indulged his “harmless eccentricities” paying but slight attention to him. While several of the “Bears” or “Osos” enjoyed Vallejo’s wine and brandy, the Sam Houston pretender penned articles of capitulation and issued a florid proclamation declaring the birth of a republican government in Alta California. When Commodore John Drake Sloat landed in Monterey and raised the stars and stripes on July 2, the situation immediately changed from a revolution to an invasion. With professional U.S. military forces on hand and Joseph Warren Revere (q.v.) raising the American flag over the Sonoma Plaza, the growling republic came to a whimpering end with the Bears joining Frémont’s California Battalion. Ide, the former “president,” deeply resented Frémont’s shoving him aside and giving him the rank of a lowly private in a volunteer army. His Texas-size dreams of glory had ended in humiliation. Because of his brother’s book, however, the memory of Ide as California’s only president has not been forgotten. On May 1, 1960, the State of California further enshrined this pioneer by dedicating the William B. Ide Adobe State Historical Monument in Red Bluff, Tehama County.
The bibliographic history of Simeon Ide’s immortalization of his brother is as complex as the history as the revolt itself. In describing the making of this book, the eighty-six-year-old Granite State printer said: “I spent upwards of two years in its production, set it into type myself, did all the proofreading and correcting, printed it on my ‘toy’ printing press, attended to the making of its plates and forms, and even to folding and gathering the sheets ready for the binder.” The discovery or appearance of the Wambough letter caused the project to be suspended until it could be incorporated. As explained in his preface, he alludes to having previously sent off “proof-slips” to family members without this new information. At least three variants of A Biographical Sketch are known. In 1880, Simeon also produced another publication, Who Conquered California? (his brother, of course), which is a partially reset, abridged version of A Biographical Sketch, with a new preface but without the Ide family history and the overland narratives. It also included some textual changes and new material covering Ide’s tour with Frémont. Three variants of this title are known to exist.
In 1967, the Rio Grande Press of Glorieta, New Mexico, reprinted in one volume A Biographical Sketch and Who Conquered California? with a foreword by Governor Ronald Reagan and introduction by Professor Benjamin Franklin Gilbert.

——Gary F. Kurutz

Additional sources consulted: Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Company, 1886), vol. 4, pp. 688-89 and vol. 5, pp. 188-89; Sharon A. Brown, “Historical Perceptions: The Controversy Surrounding William Brown Ide,” Dogtown Territorial Quarterly 16 and 17 (Winter 1993 and Spring 1994), part 1, pp. 6-7, 24-26, 31-32, and part 2, pp. 54-59; Fred Blackburn Rogers, William Brown Ide: Bear Flagger (San Francisco: John Howell–Books, 1962).

Item 45. Cover detail from Ide.

Item 45. Author’s signed presentation copy.

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