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First Book To Contain Cowboy Songs

180. STANLEY, Clark. The Life and Adventures of the American Cow-Boy. Life in the Far West by Clark Stanley, Better Known as the Rattle-Snake King. [ Providence ?]: Published by Clark Stanley, 1897. 39 [10 ads] [1 blank] pp., 11 photographic plates. 8vo, original tan wrappers with photographic portrait of author in blue within red border, stapled (as issued). Wrappers lightly browned, light vertical crease where formerly folded.

     First edition of the first book to contain cowboy songs.  Another issue of the same year has the price on the front wrapper, ads on both endpapers, last page lacks illustration of snake, etc. Dobie, p. 120: “This pamphlet of forty-one pages, plus about twenty pages of Snake Oil Liniment advertisements, is one of the curiosities of cowboy literature. It includes a collection of cowboy songs, the earliest I know of in time of printing, antedating by eleven years Jack Thorp's booklet of cowboy songs printed at Estancia, New Mexico, in 1908. Clark Stanley no doubt used the contents of his pamphlet in medicine show harangues, thus adding to the cowboy myth. As time went on, he added scraps of anecdotes and western history, along with testimonials, to the pamphlet, the latest edition I have seen being about 1906, printed in Worcester , Massachusetts .”

     Adams , Guns 2088. Adams , Herd 2147: “Scarce.” Anderson Sale 1686:1012.   Howes S875: “If the medicine this fakir sold was as ineffective as his book the snakes died in vain.” Graff 3042. Merrill, Aristocrats of the Cow Country, p. 25: “Exceedingly rare.” Rader 2971. cf. Taylor & Maar, The American Cowboy, p. 114 (illustrated):  “Little is known of Clark Stanley beyond what he tells us in this pamphlet...that he was born in Abilene , Texas ; that he first went up the trail to Kansas at the age of fourteen; that he worked as a cowboy for eleven years.” 

     The booklet begins with the tale of Stanley’s years on the range, explaining the life of a cowboy, and how to become a prosperous rancher, with many range photos and cowboy songs thrown in for authenticity. However, the last pages are clearly the advertisements and promises of a snake oil salesman. Clark Stanley, “better known as the “rattlesnake king,” was a manufacturer of snake oil liniment. This book was obviously published as a vehicle for touting his product. The advertising matter at the end and on the wrappers extols the magical properties of snake oil, and its advantages are incorporated in the “adventures” of a cowboy.  How useful this book may have been for someone who emigrated to the West, its intended audience, is dubious.  For example, how much use his poem “Come to Texas ” (p. 24) would have been to an actual emigrant is debatable. ($250-500)

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