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Earliest History of Miles City, Montana
Photographs by L. A. Huffman

42. GORDON, Samuel. Recollections of Old Milestown. Miles City, Montana: [Independent Printing Co.], 1918. [2], 42, [4] pp., 18 photographic plates of people (including frontispiece of author) and scenes by L. A. Huffman. 8vo, original brown moiré cloth over flexible boards, lettered in gilt on upper cover. Minor shelf wear and corners slightly bumped, hinges starting (but strong), otherwise a very fine copy of an ephemeral publication.

     First edition. Adams, Guns 849: “Scarce.” Graff 1593. Howes G255. Smith 3688. This work, the earliest history of Miles City, is a very rare source on the Vigilantes of Montana and the Code of the West. Gordon has an entire chapter on “The Vigilante Days,” especially the first hanging, which occurred in 1883.

     Growing from a military fort established after Custer’s defeat, Milestown (modern-day Miles City) rapidly grew into an extremely important cattle and ranching center, especially after the railroad arrived. Gordon, for over three decades the local paper editor, here reviews the growth of the town based on his own personal knowledge. Interestingly, in Gordon’s descriptions it is obvious that in the town’s early days such things as ranches, corrals, supply businesses, and other such ranching related industries were literally right in the center of the present town. Particularly on pages 16 and 17 he reviews the decline of cowboy culture as the town became more settled. As an example of the early town he relates that one section of the main street “now so handsomely improved” was actually an “always dirty and foul-smelling” corral.

     The documentary photographs are the work of Laton Alton Huffman (1854-1931), “the premier photographer of the northern range” (Reese, Six Score). “The Huffman pictures constitute one of the finest pictorial records of life on the western frontier” (Thrapp II, pp. 688-689). In his introduction, Gordon comments on the genesis of his history and its illustrations: “At the inception of the original plan there was no thought of `getting into print’ and consequently no thought of illustrations but once it was decided to put the story between covers the matter of illustration became an essential feature, and this principally because Mr. L. A. Huffman—himself one of the original committee—had in his possession an abundance of material for this work; `shots’ snapped on the spot and at the time written of, having an intrinsic merit that cannot attach to `fake’ pictures, no matter how skillfully posed. Thus the story told in the text is illustrated by pictures practically `taken on the spot.’ And so, this book and its pictures, is in a way the accomplishment of the task undertaken by the committee of long ago, and while it appeals almost entirely to the sentimental side of the old-timers, it is hoped that it will prove to be of interest to those who will in time become `old-timers’ and who will feel the same pride in ‘Old Milestown’ that its founders now have.”  ($1,500-3,000)

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