Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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Original Printed Wrappers

51. HARDIN, John Wesley. The Life of John Wesley Hardin, from the Original Manuscript, As Written by Himself. Seguin: Published by Smith & Moore, 1896. 144 pp., text illustrations (by noted Texas artist R. J. Onderdonk), including the incorrect portrait of Joe Hardin rather than John Wesley Hardin. 8vo, original grey pictorial wrappers decorated and printed in blue, stapled (as issued). Paper browned as usual, spine lightly chipped (no losses), hinges splitting; despite the condition report, in much better condition than this miserable, pulpy production is usually found. Carl Hertzog’s copy, with his book label. With this is a copy of the second issue (fine in wraps), identical except for the inserted separate full-page portrait of John Wesley Hardin with caption: “The picture on opposite page is that of Joe Hardin, brother of John Wesley.”  After publication, the portrait in the book on page [3] was discovered to be a picture of Hardin’s brother Joe instead.

     First edition, first and second issues, of one of the few autobiographies written by a western outlaw. Adams, Guns 919. Adams, One-Fifty 66: “Scarce.... The book is carefully written; in fact, so well written that some claim that it came from the pen of someone more literate than Hardin. On the other hand, Hardin was not as illiterate as many believed; he taught a frontier school as a young man, and his study of law while he was in prison no doubt improved his education.” Agatha, p. 84.  Basic Texas Books 84: “The book was withdrawn from circulation a few days after publication and stored in a San Antonio warehouse. The warehouse burned and destroyed all of the edition except for 400 copies sold surreptitiously to a local bookseller.” Campbell, p. 71. Graff 1780. Howes H188. Norris 3908. Rader 1780.

     Robert G. McCubbin states in the introduction to the latest edition: “Hardin has become somewhat of a legend in Texas. He ranks head and shoulders above other notorious desperadoes of that state, which certainly had no scarcity of the breed.... [His] book is an accurate and amazing account of one of the West's most notorious badmen and gunslingers.” C. L. Sonnichsen wrote that “Hardin was an unusual type killer, a handsome gentlemanly man who considered himself a pillar of society, always maintaining that he did not kill anyone who did not need killing.”  Graff notes that "Burton Rascoe, in his biography of Belle Starr, claims that Hardin was almost illiterate. However, Howes points out that Hardin passed his bar examination and practiced law in Texas—not, however, a difficult feat at that time."  Hardin was captured in 1877, served time at Huntsville, and upon parole took up the practice of law.  He was killed in the Acme Saloon in El Paso by John Selman in 1895.

     It might seem that Hardin was too busy killing people and running from the law to have time to work, but this is not so. In 1871 Hardin went on a trail drive to Abilene, Kansas, but he didn’t allow that trail drive to interfere with his true calling. During the trail drive, Hardin killed four law men, one Native American, and about a half dozen Mexicans. After marrying Jane Bowen of Coon Hollow in 1872, Hardin tried to settle down as a horse-trader, but by the next year was embroiled in the Sutton-Taylor feud and in 1875 was running a cattle operation in Florida. 2 vols. ($200-400)

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