Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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77. LANGWORTHY, Franklin. Scenery of the Plains, Mountains and Mines: Or a Diary Kept upon the Overland Route to California, by Way of the Great Salt Lake: Travels in the Cities, Mines, and Agricultural Districts-Embracing the Return by the Pacific Ocean and Central America, in the Years 1850, ’51, ’52 and ’53.  Ogdensburgh, New York: Published by J. C. Sprague, Book-Seller, Hitchcock & Tillotson, Printers, 1855. 324 pp. 8vo, early three-quarter brown sheep over textured brown cloth, spine with gilt-lettered red leather label, raised bands, gilt-rolled and decorated, marbled endpapers. Binding moderately scuffed (especially at corners), interior fine except for scattered light spotting.

     First edition. Bauer 247. Blumann & Thomas 5033. Braislin 1121. Byrd 57. Cowan I, p. 135: “A scarce book, and no doubt served its purpose; but it is a most dreary performance in literature.” II, p. 383. Flake 4741. Graff 2392. Holliday 635. Howell, California 50:509. Howes L84. Jones 1336.Kurutz, The California Gold Rush 392a:  “Franklin Langworthy started for California on April 1, 1850, from near Galena, Illinois, followed the California Trail, and arrived at the Humboldt Sink on October 2. He crossed over the Sierra Nevada by way of Carson Pass and arrived at Sacramento on October 27. While in the vicinity of Placerville, he noted that ‘Cooking [not mining] seems to be one of the most lucrative employments.’ Langworthy spent two years traveling throughout California and the mining regions and presented his readers with a compact, but vividly written description of the mines, mining methods, and mining society. His accounts of thievery and gambling halls painted a sordid picture of the land of gold. Langworthy also wrote of the November 1852 fire in Sacramento; Dr. Bourne’s hydropathy; bull and bear fights; San Francisco; and the burning of the S. S. Lewis. These observations were balanced with positive statements about California’s flora, fauna, and agricultural wealth.”

     Littell 616. Mattes 872: “Superbly written account, giving meticulous descriptions of the landscape.... Notes the Platte offers an ideal grade for a railroad and forecasts its construction up North Platte, where crowds will come to feast their eyes on the scenery.” Matthews, p. 326. Mintz, The Trail 284. Paher, Nevada 1071: “As a diarist Langworthy excelled amid the hordes of emigrants bound for California in 1850. His graphic descriptions of the Humboldt Basin and the dreaded 40-mile desert reveal without embellishment why the landbridge Nevada was such a bane to the disillusioned fortune-seekers who crossed it. At one point he mentions that their chief fuel for campfires was from abandoned wagons of less successful parties. Well worth reading; a classic of its type. A scarce work.” Plains & Rockies IV:258. Rader 2201. Sabin 38904. Streeter Sale 3179. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 122.

     Includes descriptions of buffalo herds and stampedes in Nebraska and Wyoming and government cattle: “Feeding upon this range we saw a large number of domestic cattle. They belonged to Government, and are kept for the purpose of supplying the military frontier posts with beef” (p. 59). On pp. 243-244 Langworthy discusses the extreme skill of Mexicans with the lasso.  He reports that they even take geese and ducks on the wing in this way. More darkly, he states that Mexican robbers lasso travellers, who are then dragged into the woods to be robbed and murdered. ($200-400) 

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