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1882 Promotional—Las Vegas Hot Springs In New Mexico

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436.     [NEW MEXICO]. The Climate of New Mexico and Las Vegas Hot Springs. Presented by the Management. Chicago: Poole Bros., Printers, 1883. [1-5] 6-16 pp., full-page wood-engraved illustration opposite title: Las Vegas Hot Springs, New Mexico [in image at lower left] Poole Bros. (image depicting three large buildings, the largest flying a flag reading “The Montezuma,” mountains in the background and a large fountain in front), image: 12.3 x 20.7 cm. 8vo (23 x 15.2 cm), original salmon wrappers with fancy lettering in red on upper wrapper, original stitching. Wraps slightly darkened and chipped with some minor losses at corners and lower spine, creased where formerly folded, light waterstain at upper corners, not affecting text.

     First edition. Not in standard sources. This promotional issued by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad focuses on the health benefits of New Mexico, especially the Las Vegas Hot Springs. Scientific data from government sources and other authorities on the climate patterns of New Mexico are compared to other parts of the country. Mineral analysis of the waters and mud of the hot springs is provided. Among the diseases said to be cured and ameliorated by the Las Vegas waters and mud baths are rheumatism, gout, blood poisoning, glandular and scrofula diseases, general disability, mental exhaustion, “nervous affections of all kinds,” catarrh, dyspepsia, “Female Weakness,” asthma, syphilis, and the all-encompassing, sanguine “etc., etc., etc.” Details and costs of various baths are provided, along with train routes and rates and hotel accommodations (with emphasis on the grandeur and comfort of the Montezuma Hotel).

     Text and subtext encourage female health consumers. The arrival of the railroad in New Mexico in 1879 removed the barrier of arduous, perilous overland travel, considered unhealthy for women in the nineteenth-century. The increasing perception of New Mexico as a safe environment rather than one of violence and danger, as it had been seen in not-so-distant times, also helped. The pamphlet is cited in an article by Conevery Bolton Valencius, “Gender and the Economy of Health on the Santa Fe Trail,” Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. XIX (2004), pp. 79-92: “Travel, held nineteenth-century wisdom, could be uncomfortable, dangerous, and unhealthy. Yet it could also be restorative, strengthening, and healing. Not travel alone, however, but travel to particularly healthy places was a therapeutic response.”

     The engraved plate of the Montezuma Hotel documents a vanished pile of redolent Victorian architectural splendor combined with Gilded Age domestic innovation and set down in a western landscape more habituated to simple adobe structures. The Montezuma evolved from the original Hot Springs Hotel built in 1879 by F.C. Martsolf, an opportunistic contractor who struck gold by following the railroad from boom town to boom town. In 1880, the directors of the Santa Fe Railway formed the Las Vegas Hot Springs Company, bought the original hotel, bath houses, and property, laid a narrow-gauge track from the Las Vegas depot to the hot springs, and built a new hotel at a cost of $200,000. Christened “The Montezuma,” the complex was larger and more luxurious and up-to-date than any building of its kind in New Mexico. It was opened to the public with great fanfare on April 17, 1882. Despite its modern fire-prevention equipment, fire-alarm system, and water piped to every floor, the Montezuma burned to the ground on January 17, 1884. Cf. New York Times (August 10, 1885) and Louise Harris Ivers, “The Montezuma Hotel at Las Vegas Hot Springs, New Mexico,” The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3 (Oct., 1974), pp. 206-213.

     The Poole Brothers publishing and engraving establishment was active in Chicago from the 1880s to 1915, with an emphasis on Western and railroad promotionals, maps, and some bird’s-eye views. See Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition, Vol. III, p. 450.


Sold. Hammer: $250.00; Price Realized: $300.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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