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History of Custer County with Photographs by S. D. Butcher

14. BUTCHER, S[olomon] D. Pioneer History of Custer County and Short Sketches of Early Days in Nebraska. Broken Bow, Nebraska: [Printed at Denver by Merchants Publishing Co.], 1901. 403 [7 ads] pp., copious photographic text illustrations (some full-page), mostly by Butcher.  4to, original gilt-stamped and blind-embossed black cloth, all edges red.  Binding worn and fragile, text loose with first signature starting, title with a few light stains and a small chip at top blank margin, leaves rippled due to water (but no staining visible). Rare.

     First edition. Adams, Guns 350: “Long chapter on the lynching of Kid Wade.” Adams, Herd 385: “Scarce.” Bradford 1901.  Howes B1048. Much information and illustrations are devoted to ranching, including chapters “Cattle Industry in Ranch Days,” “Hunting Buffalo on the Great Plains,” “The Killing of Two Cowboys at Anselmo,” “A Cowboy’s Story,” “Brighton Ranch,” “Tearing Down of Settler’s Houses by Cowboys,” “Tailing up a Texas Cow,” “Hunting Wild Horses,” “Mike O’Rafferty as a Cowboy,” etc. Outlaws and violence are frequent subjects of images, with staged shots of bad men engaged in evil deeds and a hanging that emanates an existential dolor. These shadows are relieved by the lighter ambience of social history, with images of women riding in full Victorian dress, gingerbread-trimmed houses, children in airy white ruffly batiste, and innocent pleasures.

     Butcher (1856-1927) took up photography in 1874, established a photographic gallery in Custer County in 1886, obtained a mail route, and farmed. Over the next seven years he created over 1,500 documentary photographs, but most of these were destroyed in a devastating fire. Butcher resolutely recommenced his work, and with the help of rancher Ephraim S. Finch, published this rare work. “It has articles on...the feud of Print Olive with Mitchell and Ketchum, and other primary material. Butcher did a most worthy book; it is illustrated with his photographs, many of them re-enactments of moments of early life and history of the area, since Butcher did not reach Nebraska until 1886, long after many celebrated local events were history. Knowing this, however, does little to detract from his work. Butcher also wrote Sod Houses of the Great American Plain (1904), some of which is incorporated into the second edition of his Pioneer History” (Thrapp I, pp. 198-199).  ($600-1,200) 

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