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Financial Agent of Texas Revolution—Robert Triplett, a.k.a. Roland Trevor

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543.     [TRIPLETT, Robert (attributed)]. Roland Trevor: Or, the Pilot of Human Life. Being an Autobiography of the Author. Showing How to Make and Lose a Fortune, and Then to Make Another. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Co., 1853. [i-iii] iv-xvi, [13] 14-415 [1, blank], 1-36 (publisher’s catalogue) pp. 12mo (19.7 x 12.5 cm), original black cloth, blind-embossed sides, gilt-lettered spine. Upper joint split but strong, light binding wear at spinal extremities, first signature loose, minor foxing at front and back, overall a very good, bright copy.

     First edition. Eberstadt, Texas 162:858. Graff 3556. Raines, p. 206: “Contains a sketch of the Texas Revolution. The author…became the financial agent for the Republic.” Streeter Sale 393: “Triplett was a Kentucky merchant who was much involved in the financial affairs of the Republic of Texas. Bibliographers vary in their treatment of this item, some considering it fiction, others entering it under Trevor as authentic.” Wright II:2121: “LC enters under Trevor, Roland, as if this were authentic, which it may be.” See Streeter 235, 1237, 1272, 1282 & 1294: “It appears that [Triplett] was a successful merchant in Kentucky. He also opened coal mines and built woolen mills and cotton factories there.”

     This work seems to be a slightly embellished autobiography of Robert Triplett (d. 1853), who says in his introduction that he is writing this work for his son’s benefit. Triplett is best known in Texas history as one who helped secure loans for the Texian government in 1836. (The majority of the Texian Loan certificates [Criswell 36A] signed by Stephen F. Austin, B.F. Archer, and William H. Wharton are made out to Triplett.) He had visionary plans for both his own and for Texas’ financial expansion and aggrandizement. Unfortunately, in Triplett’s case, he bought land in an area the Mexicans had excluded from sale but was able to get his money refunded. He was, nevertheless, apparently the largest investor in the Texian Loan and served as Financial Agent for the Republic of Texas. (The Papers of the Texas Revolution documents correspondence to and from Triplett.) Unusual material related to Texas is found in this work. For instance, Triplett proposed a steam-powered war locomotive with wheels ten feet high and twelve feet apart. Bales of cotton placed on a light frame of iron rods would protect against the cannon balls of the Mexicans.


     Before coming to Texas, Triplett was active in railroads and mining in Kentucky and helped develop the first railway in the state. Coal was moved from Bon Harbor Hills to steamboats on the Ohio River. Triplett was the first to get coal substituted for wood as fuel on river boats below Louisville. The town of Bon Harbor Hills, where his operations were based, was founded by him but ultimately failed.

     As is obvious, scholars disagree on the extent to which this text is fiction or actual autobiography, a question we cannot settle. Some parts seem clearly factual and could hardly have been written by anyone else but Triplett. For example, on pp. 302-303 is a Henry Clay letter published without the recipient’s name, although Clay himself states that he wrote it to Triplett. Also, on pp. 275-282 are details of the duel that took place in Kentucky between Triplett and Phillip Thompson, referred to in the text as Mr. T—. The details of this affair could hardly have come from anyone other than a participant, unless one wishes to ascribe the entire incident to the writer’s imagination.


Sold. Hammer: $300.00; Price Realized: $360.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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