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AUCTION 16

“THE WORLD RUSHED IN”
THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH

Lot 51

51. [DIRECTORY]. FITCH, Thomas & Co. Directory of the City of Placerville and Towns of Upper Placerville, El Dorado, Georgetown, and Coloma, Containing a History of These Places, Names of Their Inhabitants, and Everything Appertaining to a Complete Directory. Together with a Business Directory. Placerville: Placerville Republican Printing Office, (Sebastopol Hall, Old Court House), 1862. 128 pp., “Explanation” (errata) slip tipped to front free endpaper. 8vo, original brown sheep over light green paper-cover boards, covers printed in red, upper board with cover title within decorative border, lower cover with ads, spine gilt-lettered. Binding with light wear, discoloration, and mild waterstaining to lower right corner, small voids at spinal extremities, spine neatly repaired and somewhat darkened, endpapers browned, otherwise in a fine state of preservation. Association copy with nineteenth-century ink stamp of noted lawman and Wells Fargo Detective James B. Hume “Special Officer W. F. & Co. San Francisco, Cal.” on front free endpaper (see below). Laid in a burgundy cloth clamshell case lined with forest green suede, gilt-lettered tan spine label.

     First edition of the first book printed in Placerville, the first Placerville directory, and the first El Dorado County directory. Cowan II, p. 171. Graff 1339. Greenwood 1685 (4 locations). Howes F159 & P405. Quebedeaux 11: “First book printed in Placerville.... Without a doubt... one of the most important historical sources of the California gold region”; and quoting from American Art Association Catalogue, January 9, 1924, item number 652): “The first directory ever published in El Dorado County. Very few copies on record and perhaps the rarest of the mining town directories.”

     The original name of Placerville, an early Gold Rush town, was Hangtown because of its method of exacting justice. Later the name of the town was changed to Placerville because of the local method of washing gold from the hillsides. By 1854, it was the third largest town in California. This historic imprint constitutes an important source on towns and mining camps that have long since disappeared, with names of citizens, histories, advertising, churches, government officials, etc. The region covered in the directory was significant during the California Gold Rush. The prim errata is hilarious spin-doctoring: “Explanation. A slight error occurs in the History of Placerville, which was not discovered until after the work was in the binders’ hands. The Soubriquet of ‘Hangtown’ was applied to Placerville not from the hanging of ‘Irish Dick’ in 1850, but from the summary execution of the two Frenchmen and the Spaniard, who were hung in 1849, and not in 1854 as stated on p. 11. No hanging, by a mob, has occurred here since 1850.”

     This copy bears the contemporary ownership stamp of James B. Hume (who is listed on p. 16 as “constable of Kelsey Township” and on p. 44 as a resident of Placerville). James B. Hume (born in New York ca. 1827) began his career as a lawman in Placerville in 1862 when he was appointed City Marshal. Hume is one of the first modern detectives in U.S. history. Although involved in any number of shoot-outs and stand-offs, he is best remembered for his patient tracking and arrest of Black Bart, whom he finally arrested after identifying his laundry mark on a handkerchief discovered at the site of a failed Wells Fargo stage robbery. ($5,000-10,000)

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