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1840 Guide to Texas with an Excellent, Early Map of Texas

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513.     STIFF, Edward. The Texan Emigrant: Being a Narration of the Adventures of the Author in Texas, and a Description of the Soil, Climate, Productions, Minerals, Towns, Bays, Harbors, Rivers, Institutions, and Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants of that Country; Together with the Principal Incidents of Fifteen Years Revolution in Mexico; and Embracing a Condensed Statement of Interesting Events in Texas, from the First European Settlement in 1692, down to the Year 1840. By Col. Edward Stiff. Cincinnati: Published by George Conclin [on verso of title] Cincinnati. Stereotyped by Glezen & Shepard, West Third Street, 1840. [i-iii] iv-v [1, blank] [7] 8-367 [1, ad] pp., 2 full-page primitive but early wood-engraved illustrations of Texas by John H. Lovejoy: [1] View of Galveston City and Bay (at p. 151; image: 7.8 x 11.6 cm, shows Texas flag flying and steamship plying the waters); and [2] Battle of San Jacinto (at p. 319; image: 7.8 x 11.5 cm); plus engraved folded map on bank note paper with original outline coloring of boundaries of impresario grants: Texas. Cincinnati Published by George Conclin [lower right] Doolittle & Munson Engravers. Cincinnati, neat line to neat line: 23.5 x 29 cm; overall sheet size: 26.5 x 31 cm. 12mo (20 x 12.7 cm), publisher’s original full brown speckled sheep, spine with gilt ruling and black leather label lettered in gilt: Texan Emigrant. Light shelf wear, especially at corners and spinal extremities, upper joint weak, offsetting from map to title, scattered light foxing to text, overall the book is very good and in original binding (seldom encountered thus). The map has a few minor spots and short splits (no losses to map or border), else very fine. Overall a fine copy in original condition with the elusive map of the Republic of Texas.

     First edition. The book was exceedingly popular, but the map was omitted from subsequent editions which were expanded to include material on the Mexican-American War. By 1849, at least seven editions had appeared. American Imprints (1840) 6331. Bradford 5210. Braislin 1735. Clark, Old South III:244. Eberstadt, Texas 162:760. Graff 3989. Howes S998: “One of the objective accounts of Texas affairs issued in the days of the Republic.” Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas, 1554-1900, pp. 39 & 42 (figures 3.9 and 3.10, the engravings of the battle of San Jacinto and Galveston attributed to “Lovejoy or unknown”). Groce & Wallace, Dictionary of Artists in America (“Lovejoy”), p. 405. Morgan, Bibliography of Ohio Imprints 3989. Palau 322527. Rader 2983. Raines, pp. 195-196: “By an independent thinker, and not always favorable to Texas and the United States. In fact, somewhat of a Tory in politics. Notwithstanding, one of the best books on Texas issued during the Republic. Very scarce.” Sabin 91727. Sibley, Travelers in Texas, p. 221. Streeter 1367: “Here conventional accounts of the physical features of Texas and of its cities and towns are interspersed with gossipy comments on various named individuals and on life in Texas in general, making it quite an entertaining book.” Ellis Turner, In the Trail of the Buffalo: A Descriptive Bibliography of the Oregon, California, and Texas Guidebook, 1814-1860 (Dissertation, 1980, George Washington University), 38. Vandale 168. Basic Texas Books 199:

One of the most controversial guide books written by a visitor to early Texas…. Stiff’s guide is most useful for the light it sheds on such Texas settlements as Houston, which he states consisted of 382 houses and a population of three thousand, of which only about forty were women. He deprecates the moral character of the citizens, points out that there were 65 places of business, 47 of which were saloons or gambling houses…. Stiff’s viewpoint throughout the book is decidedly pro-Mexican. He castigates the Texas Revolution as having been fought by opportunists who “rebel first and find out the reason afterwards.”

     As indicated by the preceding quotations from various worthy sources, Stiff’s book evokes strong opinions ranging from: “one of the best books on Texas issued during the Republic” (Raines) to “entertaining” (Streeter) to “little merit” (Clark). We vote for Streeter. Of course Francis Moore, Jr. in his scathing review of Stiff’s guide in the Telegraph (March 2, 1842) had his own agenda and history when he grumped: “To those Texian emigrants who like Col. Stiff emigrated from the Republic [of Texas] because they were too vicious and too shiftless to conduct any honest business there, and who derived no other benefit in visiting the country than a stolen title, the book may be useful; but to all persons desiring to acquire accurate information relative to the country or its inhabitants it is useless… Indeed, the copy now before us was handed to us by an emigrant, who said he ‘bought it at an auction for a bit and got bit at that.’” Moore naturally was irritated on several counts. When Stiff served as Deputy Constable in Houston, he was twice fired by the Mayor for drunkenness while in office. Undoubtedly, Moore’s ire was further inflamed that Stiff put out his barbed, anti-Texas guide the same year Moore published his own quite superior and positive guide to Texas, complete with an new edition of Stephen F. Austin’s monumental map of Texas (Streeter 1363; see Item 426 herein).

     Stiff presents some unusual information, for instance, some details on the Battle of the Alamo (pp. 313-316). He claims to have learned from a Texan officer who spoke with Santa-Anna’s servant (probably Ben, who was actually Almonte’s man) that Santa-Anna did not order the perished Texan fighters burned, but rather they were buried, and that Crockett, Travis, and Bowie were interred together in their own grave. In this version, sixteen dead Mexican soldiers were discovered around Crockett’s corpse, and Crockett’s huge knife was buried to the hilt in the chest of one of the Mexican soldiers. This version is not generally accepted today in the “How Did Davy Die?” dispute, and Stiff himself acknowledges his version is a third-hand account. Stiff erroneously predicts that Crockett will not be remembered by Texans (say it’s not so!): “It seems the Texans can forget honest Davy Crockett, for not a street or even a stone recalls to mind the brilliant career of this singular man… Had he remained with his wife and children in Tennessee instead of espousing the cause of the war party in Texas, he probably would have escaped premature death as well as the unenviable charge that he was a victim of an unhallowed ambition.”

     Stiff reports that Sam Houston is the best looking man in Texas and “nature’s orator”: “Perhaps no man ever lived more qualified to harangue a popular assembly” (p. 105). Stiff expresses great respect and admiration for deceased Stephen F. Austin (“the Father of Texas”), and accuses unnamed members of the war party of untruthfully and deviously reporting to authorities in Mexico that Austin was fomenting rebellion against Mexico, thus leading to Austin’s arrest in Mexico (p. 243). Stiff claims the war party’s motive was to get rid of Austin and promote their interests.

     Stiff writes with genuine excitement about the use of the lasso by the inhabitants of Texas when capturing wild horses, buffalo, and other wildlife. Following an accurate physical description of the lasso, Stiff remarks: “The lazo is the harbinger of misery and servitude, in the republic of Horses, and exercises as pernicious an influence there, as the stratagems of wily demagogues, or the heartless devices of money worshipers, often do in the republics of men” (p. 39). In the description of the new seat of the Republic in Austin, Stiff praises the choice, describes the developing town and the supposedly navigable Colorado River, and notes that the Hill Country is perfectly suitable for successful ranching endeavors.

     The handsome and rare Texas map appears to be based partially on Hooker, but with less detail. Stiff does not give the source of the map, although he refers to it several times in the book (pp. 32, 119, 148, 198). The map is divided into the various impresario grants. Place locations include Austin, Fort Alamo, San Jacinto battleground, Stephen F. Austin’s colonies, Stiff’s Prairie, Peak of Otter, Salt Springs, etc. Texas is shown in its small, early Republic configuration, without the Panhandle and with the Nueces River as the southwestern boundary.

     Handbook of Texas Online:

Edward Stiff (?-?), writer, was originally from Virginia but had been a hatter in Baltimore, Maryland, before he came to Texas in 1839. He served briefly as deputy constable in Houston but was dismissed from that position for alleged drunkenness. Shortly thereafter he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he wrote The Texan Emigrant… (1840). This work was intended as a guide for people who planned to settle in Texas and has been described as one of the best books of its genre issued during the period of the Republic of Texas. At the time of publication, however, it was discredited as fictitious and inaccurate. Francis Moore, Jr., editor of the Telegraph and Texas Register, denounced Stiff as a drunken fraud who had not traveled beyond the Houston and Galveston area and had not remained in Texas longer than about sixty days…. Sometime after his visit to Texas, Stiff published a newspaper in Cedar Bluff, Alabama. He later killed a man and was jailed in Ashville, Alabama, where he committed suicide. He was buried in an unmarked grave near Centre, Alabama.


Sold. Hammer: $9,000.00; Price Realized: $10,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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