“One of the most interesting books of travel through the southwest”—Camp

Another Child of Humboldt Explores America & Discovers, Among Other Things, Sally Skull

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152. FROEBEL, Julius. Seven Years’ Travel in Central America, Northern Mexico, and the Far West of the United States. By Julius Froebel. With Numerous Illustrations. London: Richard Bentley, Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty, 1859. [i-v] vi-xiv, [2], [1-3] 4-587 [1, blank] pp., 8 wood-engraved plates (including frontispiece), engraved text illustrations. 8vo (22.7 x 16 cm), publisher’s embossed blue cloth, spine gilt-lettered and decorated (neatly rebacked, original spine preserved, new endpapers supplied). Binding shelf slanted and somewhat faded, lower part of spine discolored, corners bumped and edge wear. Interior with uniform light browning and scattered light staining at lower blank margins. Plates very fine. Overall a very good copy, untrimmed.

Plate List

Each wood-engraved plate measures about 10.5 x 16.7 cm (sans title). Overall sheet size: 22 x 14 cm.

Deserted Mission of San Xavier del Bac. Frontispiece. Mission founded in 1692 by Father Kino, about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. This beautiful structure has the epithet “The White Dove of the Desert,” and Froebel was rightly impressed by its architectural splendor.

View Taken from the Edge of the Table-Land of Upper Mosquitia. Opposite p. 116. Mountain scene in Nicaragua.

Castle of Omoa. Opposite p. 177. Of this ancient Spanish fortress in Honduras (one of the few such structures to survive in the Americas), Froebel observes: “We cast anchor in front of the old castle, which stands as a monument of Spanish greatness as well as of its decay, and as a memento mori to the race on which the inheritance of the latter alone seems to have devolved” (p. 179).

Sierra de los Órganos. Opposite p. 307. The Organ Mountains in the region of the juncture of El Paso, Doña Ana (New Mexico), and north of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

View in the Mining District of Santa Eulalia, with the Ruins of the Old Mining Town Magellanes. Opposite p. 342. Imposing mountain scene looking over a mining town in Chihuahua founded in the early 1700s for extracting silver.

Valley of the Rio Grande, Near Mesilla. Opposite p. 390. Magnificent scenery from Mesilla, New Mexico, showing some of the real estate acquired by the U.S. in the Mesilla Treaty, also known as the Gadsden Purchase.

Watering-Place, Called the Dead Man’s Hole [lower right in image] J. W. Whymper. Opposite p. 451. The site is about 36 miles from present-day Van Horn, Texas, in the Big Bend Country. Included in Dr. Kelsey’s bibliography of Texas engravings. The illustrator was Josiah Wood Whymper (1813-1903) noted British artist, watercolorist, and book illustrator. At the time of this work Whymper’s wood engraving business was one of the most successful in London.

Saguarro Trees. Opposite p. 509. In this scene of a little forest of saguaro cactus, a man in European dress holds a long pole to harvest the fruits of the lofty sagauro.

     First edition in English, with additions(first edition, Leipzig, 1857-1858, entitled Aus Amerika; see Streeter Sale 174). Clark, Old South III:316 (better biographical coverage of Froebel than most sources in English): “During his seven years in America, Froebel traveled extensively through the Southwest, the Far West, and Parts of Central America. Much of his travel in the South, except for his two trips into Virginia in May and July 1850, was en route between New York and the Southwest.... [He] painted with broad and bold strokes the overall picture of American institutions, with their highlights and shadows of regional exception, [and his book] is rich in materials describing Texas—the early routes of travel to Galveston, San Antonio, and El Paso, the vegetation and wildlife, German settlers, and geological lore.” Cowan, p. 226: “During his stay in San Francisco, he published a journal.” De Kalb, “A Bibliography of the Mosquito Coast,” p. 248. Graff 1448. Holliday Sale 408. Howes F390: “Describes several trips over the Santa Fe Trail and a journey from Tucson and the Gila to Los Angeles.” Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas 1554-1900, Fig. 4.270. Munk (Alliot), p. 84. Morrison, Publications Relating to Interoceanic Canal and Railway Routes, p. 25. Palau 95117. Parker, Travels in Central America, p. 322. Pilling 1333. Plains & Rockies II:292: “This is one of the most interesting books of travel through the southwest.” Plains & Rockies IV:292:2. Raines, p. 85. Rittenhouse 231. Sabin 25992.

     Froebel (1805-1893, pseudonym C. Junius) was a German scientist, author, politician, and publisher, and the son of educational pioneer Frederich August Froebel (1782-1852). Shortly after being condemned to death but reprieved, Julius Froebel left Germany for America in 1848, where he compiled the material for this book. Froebel was a “Forty-Eighter,” a term used to describe European freethinkers who supported the European revolutions of 1848–1849, favoring unification, constitutional government, and guarantees of human rights. Many of the Forty-Eighters emigrated to the United States and Texas, and Froebel was part of the circle that included Nicolaus Zink (surveyor for Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels), Frederick Law Olmsted, Julius Dresel, et al. (see Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 & Handbook of Texas Online: Forty-Eighters). Froebel returned to Germany in 1857 and eventually resumed his career as a diplomat. Herman Ehrenberg acknowledged Froebel’s assistance with his landmark 1854 Map of the Gadsden Purchase, Sonora and Portions of New Mexico, Chihuahua & California (Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 803). In 1854 the United States government published Froebel’s “Remarks Contributing to the Physical Geography of the North American Continent” in an issue of the Smithsonian Institution report. This report also appeared in an 1855 U.S. government document. In essence, Froebel set out in detail the importance of the Gadsden Purchase and the necessity for scientific geography and exploration of that newly acquired prime real estate. As Froebel had worked at the Industrial School in Zurich, he was known to Alexander von Humboldt, and was indeed another of “Humboldt’s Children,” as is evidenced by the depth, detail, precision, and humanity of the present work.

     The first part of the present volume describes Froebel’s travels in Nicaragua in 1850 while investigating a possible canal route; the second describes his trip over the Santa Fe Trail to Chihuahua and his return through Texas; and the third describes his journey in 1853 and 1854 across Texas, through New Mexico and Arizona to California. Among the places he visited in Texas were Galveston, San Antonio, and El Paso. In California his itinerary included Los Angeles, Monterrey, San Francisco, and New Almaden. In Chapter 9 of the second book, Froebel mentions his encounter with Edvard Emil Langberg, who served as military escort for the American and Mexican parties surveying the new international boundary in the Chihuahua region following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Froebel’s account is excellent, evincing his keen interest in politics, science, mining, natural history, and archaeology.

      In an 1859 review of the book in the Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art (London, August 27, 1859, Vol. 8, p. 268), the reviewer notes: “The wood engravings with which it is embellished belong to a high order of merit, and are materially useful in illustrating the text.” The Photographic Journal reviewed Froebel’s book favorably, noting “We shall take occasion to review, from time to time, works of travel to distant parts of the world, especially such as are sufficiently illustrated, and afford an insight into the nature scenery of the land, being then quite germane to the especial scope of the Photographic Journal,” but then grumps about Froebel’s view of Upper Mosquitia: “It is very creditably executed indeed, the mountain-forms well seized; but what would such sights be, if rendered through the camera of an able artist?” (Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, September 15, 1859, Vol. 6, pp. 47-48). The numerous text illustrations include many detailed pictographs of Southwestern tribes. Bancroft in Native Races notes that Froebel perceived these pictographs as language and communication, contrary to Bartlett’s generalized illustrations and his theory that the Pima and other tribes had no such capability.

     The book includes some excellent passages on ranches and cattle drives. Donald Brand cites Froebel’s book as one of the overlooked accounts by visitors to Northern Mexico between 1832 and 1884 that “give us a picture of excellent grazing lands and the continued presence of great herds of cattle” (“The Early History of the Range Cattle Industry in Northern Mexico,” Agricultural History, Vol. 35, No. 3, July, 1961, p. 135). Finally, Froebel includes what is probably the earliest printed description of Sally Skull (fortuitously noted by Dan Kilgore in “Two Sixshooters and a Sunbonnet: The Story of Sally Skull” in Legendary Ladies of Texas, pp. 59-71). Froebel provides the following characterization of Sally Skull, which gives a good idea of his gossipy style (p. 446):

The conversations of these bravos drew my attention to a female character of the Texan frontier life, and, on inquiry, I heard the following particulars. They were speaking of a North American amazon, a perfect female desperado, who from inclination has chosen for her residence the wild border-country on the Rio Grande. She can handle a revolver and a bowie-knife like the most reckless and skillful man; she appears at dances (fandangos) thus armed, and has even shot several men at merry-makings. She carries on the trade of a cattle-dealer, and common carrier. She drives wild horses from the prairie to market, and takes her oxen-waggon, alone, through the ill-reputed country between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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