The Law East of the Pecos
53. HARMAN, S[amuel] W. Hell on the Border; He Hanged Eighty-Eight Men. A History of the Great United States Criminal Court at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and of Crime and Criminals in the Indian Territory, and the Trial and Punishment Thereof before His Honor Judge Isaac C. Parker, “The Terror of Law-Breakers,” and by the Courts of Said Territory, Embracing the Leading Sentences and Charges to Grand and Petit Juries Delivered by the World Famous Jurist-His Acknowledged Masterpieces, Besides Much Other Legal Lore of Unknown Value to Attorneys, and of Interest to Readers in Every Walk of Life-A Book for the Millions-Illustrated with Over Fifty Fine Half Tones. Fort Smith, Arkansas: Phoenix Publishing Company, . xiii [1 blank], 720 pp., frontispiece portrait of Judge Parker, text illustrations (mostly photographic and full-page, including bird’s-eye view of Fort Smith). 8vo, original green wrappers printed and decorated in black, original string stitching. Except for slight wear to fragile wrappers (especially along spine), very fine. A remarkable survival in this condition.
First edition of the first book to detail Judge Parker's tenure. Adams, Burs I:171. Adams, Guns 929. Adams, One-Fifty 68: “Exceedingly rare. The rare original edition has become a collector’s item and is the chief source of practically every book and feature story about the old court and Oklahoma outlaws. It originated from an idea of J. Warren Reed, the criminal lawyer who was such a thorn in Judge Parker’s side. Although Reed’s name does not appear, he financed its publication. He had Samuel W. Harman, a professional juryman, write it, and it appears under his name. The book was printed in an edition of only 1000 copies, and though large, statistical and dry, the first edition was soon exhausted because of the reputation of Judge Parker’s court.” Anderson 1642:525 (calling the book “scarce” in 1922). Bauer 386. Campbell, pp. 71-72. Dykes, Rare Western Outlaw Books, pp. 22-23. Graff 1785: “An important source book,—all the statistical part of the book, the biographical sketches of those connected with the court and transcriptions from the Court records, were the work of C. P. Sterns and are said to be scrupulously accurate. The same cannot be said of all the narratives written by Harman.” Howes H203. Littell 800. Rader 1780.
This lurid book presents a biography and judicial history of Federal Judge Isaac Charles Parker (1838-1896), known as “The Hanging Judge” on account of his having pronounced death on 160 men during his twenty-one years at Fort Smith (“only” 79 were actually hung). Judge Parker is a confusing man—in spite of his history of harsh judgments, he was an early advocate of woman’s suffrage and promoted progressive measures for Native Americans. Here is a full and horrid chronicle of crime and punishment in the Western District of Arkansas, which then held jurisdiction over the desperado-infested Indian Territory. The outlaws were of various persuasions, including some cowboys who took the wrong trail, or owlhoots like Texan James Moore who was versatile enough to rob a crippled farmer or join a cattle drive from Texas to Missouri intending to murder the trail boss, drive the herd to market himself, and sell the cattle. Belle Starr, lady rustler and Confederate spy in Texas and the Indian Territory, is given extensive coverage (Harman’s Belle Starr, the Female Desperado, published in Houston at the Frontier Press in 1954, consists of excerpts from the present book). Hell on the Border comes from the name of Judge Parker’s jail, which is preserved at the Fort Smith Historic site. ($1,000-2,000)
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