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Very Early New Mexico Directory—Original Photograph of Las Vegas in 1882

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166.     [DIRECTORY]. PORTER, Gay E. City Directory of Las Vegas, New Mexico for the Year 1882-3, By Gay E. Porter. Price Two Dollars. Compiled and Published by Gay E. Porter, Real Estate and Collection Agent. Las Vegas, New Mexico: Carruth & Layton, Printers, 1882. [1-5] 6-75 [1, “Territorial Mining Law”], [1, “Addenda”] [1, blank] pp. (including 9 full-page ads), 2 leaves of inserted ads on heavier, colored paper (one on pale yellow paper, before p. [1], and another on light green paper after p. 24). Tipped in as frontispiece is an original albumen photograph (9.7 x 18.2 cm) showing a panorama of Las Vegas with three well-dressed ladies in the foreground looking over the town, on card mount (13.3 x 20.5 cm) with imprint: F.E. Evans, Photo., | Las Vegas, New Mexico. 8vo (20.5 x 14 cm), original olive green printed paper boards over black cloth (expertly re-backed with sympathetic black cloth). Boards rubbed and moderately darkened and chipped (loss of some letters), corners rounded. Moderate to light soiling to interior (mostly confined to blank margins), some finger soiling and scattered contemporary pencil notes, a few minor closed tears and mended chips (not affecting text). The photograph has some edge soiling (not affecting image) but is otherwise fine, with excellent contrast. Wants a folded illustrated ad between pp. 40 and 41, which is present in the Bancroft Library copy, the only other known copy of this directory. (Provided with this directory is a facsimile of the folded ad in the Bancroft copy.) The Bancroft copy does not have the original photograph. Early twentieth-century ink ownership inscription of Chas. E. Liebschmer of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and later small printed ownership label (both on front pastedown). Exceptionally rare.

     First edition of the first directory of Las Vegas, New Mexico, one of the earliest directories of any New Mexico town (if not the first), and a somewhat early imprint for Las Vegas. Not in Saunders and other standard sources. Bancroft cited the present directory as a source in his 1889 History of Arizona and New Mexico 1530-1888 (p. xxxv), and that is probably the reason that the Bancroft Library holds a copy. The directory includes an advertisement for the publisher, the printing establishment of Carruth & Layton, Printer & Binders.

     The author asserts, we believe correctly, in his introduction: “I have the satisfaction of presenting to the public the first complete Directory of Las Vegas.” The Eberstadts (133:742) list a 1907 Las Vegas directory which they conjecture to be the first directory of that town. We locate three earlier candidates, all of which are components of larger works. A brief four-page directory of Las Vegas appeared within H.D. Wilson’s Historical Sketch of Las Vegas, New Mexico (ca. 1880). In 1882, a Santa Fe publication called A Complete Business Directory of New Mexico: and Gazetteer of the Territory for 1882 provided a territory-wide survey of New Mexico. An omnibus publication published in Oakland, California in 1882 included directories for New Mexico towns on the railroad route of the AT&SF. It had the long-winded title McKenney’s Business Directory of the Principal Towns of Central and Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Kansas: Including Cities and Towns on the Southern Pacific, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, Kansas Pacific, and St. Joseph and Western Railroads, with Their Branches and Connections from San Francisco, Cal., to Kansas City, Mo. Giving Name, Business, and Address of Merchants, Manufacturers, Professional, and All Business Men of Cities and Towns on the Above Roads and Branches. The only other early New Mexico directory relating to a single town we locate is the Albuquerque Business Directory for 1883 (printed in Albuquerque). We find no directories for New Mexico listed in AII, Check List of New Mexico Imprints and Publications, 1784-1876.

     As noted above, this directory is a somewhat early Las Vegas imprint. The first Las Vegas imprints are conjectured to be ca. 1869-1870. The first Las Vegas imprint listed by AII, Check List of New Mexico Imprints and Publications, 1784-1876 (#228) is a broadside Manifiesto by Cristóbal Sánchez y Baca, conjectured to have been printed in Las Vegas with attributed date ca. 1870. Porter A. Stratton, The Territorial Press of New Mexico 1834-1912 (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1969, p. 6) states: “Las Vegas, founded in 1833, had grown slowly as a supply center for sheep ranchers and had a population of 1,090 in 1870…. Journalism was late in starting. The first paper in Las Vegas, the Acorn, published by A.F. Avoy, was not founded until 1869” (p. 6)

     The excellent panoramic photograph of Las Vegas in this copy is a bonus, providing early documentation of the booming town of Las Vegas shortly after introduction of the railroad in 1880. (The earliest printed view of Las Vegas listed by Reps is from 1882.) By 1882, Las Vegas was rapidly becoming a leading commercial center in the West. Photographer F.E. Evans had a studio in Las Vegas in the 1880s (see Mautz). An ad for Evans’ studio can be found on p. 42 of the present directory, where it is listed at 311 Grand Avenue, East Las Vegas. It is touted as “The Largest and Most Complete Photographic Establishment in New Mexico.” The photograph shows the town looking west across the rail yards on the east side, with hills in the distance. In one interesting detail, one of the trains is moving and is therefore blurred in the photograph. The inclusion of the proper Victorian ladies elegantly attired in the foreground visually reinforces the author’s strong assertions that Las Vegas is now a model of civility and industry, worlds away from the not-so-distant days when Billy the Kid was being interviewed by Las Vegas newspaper reporters after his incarceration in 1881. As the author notes (pp. 5-7):

Sensational writers had accepted New Mexico as the field of their fertile imaginations, and many a scene of rapine and murder had been pictured as occurring within her borders by their romantic pens. A state of semi-civilization was exaggerated into a condition of heathenish barbarism, and the usual occupation of most of the residents was described as closely resembling the calling of Dick Turpin or Rob Roy…. This was the picture five years ago, but with the coming of the railroad with its manifold blessings all experienced a change and nowhere in the Territory has the change been more rapid or unequivocally for good than in Las Vegas. In this city the one story adobe houses have given place to elegant and substantial structures of brick or stone. The silence and dearth that for long years hung like a cloud over us, have disappeared and we now live in the daybreak of better things…. You will find in the new city, the queen city of the great southwest, miles of side tracks, elegant and commodious offices of the management of the New Mexico division of the A.T.& S.F. R.R., mammoth wholesale and commission houses carrying stocks of millions of dollars. The hum of manufacturing industries will attract your attention. A line of street railways, water works, gas works and a telephone exchange will be found in operations; and pushing and inspiring all are seven thousand busy people. The future of New Mexico, if written to-day, would be called an Aladdin’s story; her possibilities are bewildering.


Sold. Hammer: $4,200.00; Price Realized: $5,040.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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