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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lots 111 & 112: The Bear Flag Revolt

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Bear Flag Revolt - Ide’s Proclamation

111. IDE, William B. Contemporary manuscript copy in ink, in an unknown hand, commencing: “To all persons Citizens of Sonoma requesting them to remain at peace...”; at end: “Headquarters Sonoma, June 15, 1846.” 2 pp., on green wove paper with small embosure at top left (illustration of a crown with the word “Bath” beneath), with conjugate docket leaf titled in ink: “Proclamation of California Independence Dated 1848.” Creased where folded with minor splits into text (no losses), top edge darkened, light uniform browning. According to accompanying documentation by descendent John Lucas Greer, this copy was sent to John Coppinger of the Rancho Cañada de Raymundo. Preserved in red cloth slipcase with gilt-lettered black leather label and red cloth chemise.
    Ide’s proclamation is a seminal document of the Bear Flag Revolt, which resulted in the short-lived Republic of California, of which Ide was the only President ever. Bancroft (California V, pp. 151-153) takes a dim view of the truthfulness of this proclamation and of the motives of those who drew it up. He also notes that this is the early version of the text. See Bancroft, History of California V, pp. 150-156, et seq.
    According to Fred Blackburn Rogers (William Brown Ide, Bear Flagger, San Francisco: John Howell-Books, 1962, pp. 83-84), there are three locations of Ide’s proclamation in his own handwriting: (1) Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park in Sacramento (a draft, from the archive of James F. Reed, a member of the Donner Party and Sheriff of Sonoma County in 1847; Rogers conjectures Reed obtained his copy directly from Ide); (2) Bancroft Library (reported in error); (3) Stanford (incorporated in a letter Ide wrote to Senator W. W. Wambough before his death in 1852). Bancroft (pp. 151-152) reported an original proclamation in Ide’s handwriting at The Society of California Pioneers (which The Society reports was probably lost or burned in the 1906 fire and earthquake in San Francisco). As Bancroft remarks, however, there were many copies of the document made. Rogers locates the following contemporary copies of the proclamation not in Ide’s handwriting: National Archives, Bancroft Library (reported in error), Huntington Library, and California Historical Society. To that census may be added the present copy.

    Comparison of the text of the original (as published by Bancroft) with the present one suggests strongly that the present copy is a draft or an earlier version of some type sent to Coppinger for his information. The present copy, like all copies except the Reed-Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park copy, does not contain the passage commencing: “To exterminate the power, authority and existence of that government which, being invited by our countrymen...” and ending “the determined purpose of the brave men who are associated under his command.” Rogers conjectures that the Reed-Sutter’s Fort State Historical Park copy was either an important early draft of the original proclamation or an attempt by Ide to improve upon his proclamation as first issued and repeated in subsequent copies.
    Kurutz, in Volkmann, Zamorano 80 #45 comments: “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 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.... 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.”

112. JOHNSON, O. & William H. Winter. Route across the Rocky Mountains, with a Description of Oregon and California, Their Geographical Features, Their Resources, Soil, Climate, Production, &c. &c. Lafayette, Indiana: Semans, 1846. 152 pp. 8vo, original blue cloth over pale olive green boards. Skillfully rebacked, remains of original label, boards darkened and rubbed, minor foxing throughout, old pencil markings on both pastedowns. First three leaves in facsimile.
    First edition, mixed issue, with chapter head on p. 16 reading correctly, slug on p. 36 (line 13), and signature mark 81 on p. 57 correctly placed. Bradford 2705. Cowan I, p. 122: “One of the rarest of the narratives of early overland travel.” Cowan II, p. 315. Graff 2221. Howell 50, California 125. Howes J142. Jones 1126. Plains & Rockies IV:122. Sabin 36260. Smith 5279. Streeter Sale 3145. One of two contemporaneously printed accounts of the great migration of 1843 to Oregon and one of the rarest of the early overlands. “In the description of California, the authors discuss the Bear Flag Revolt, already underway, and the discovery of gold. ‘Gold is found in considerable quantities, and a company was formed about the time of our leaving (1845) to engage in the business.’ The narrative also includes a detailed account of the trip across the Plains, with descriptions of Indians, frontier forts, and the different known routes” (Howell).

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