Collecting the Old West…

March 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Few eras in the broad range of American history have the appeal as that of the “Wild West“, a romanticized period following the end of the Civil War thru the  end of the 19th century. It was a time when America was healing from the wounds of war and the adventurous were pushing the American boundary further West. It was the 1849 California Gold Rush which sparked interest. Now with the war over, new adventures were sought by many.

Those of the Baby Boom generation grew up on western movies and cowboy & Indian television shows. Even Disney’s hugely popular Mickey Mouse Club and the newly minted Disneyland had the Wild West as a popular theme. What we remember are battles with Native Americans, saloon brawls, gunfights, and a multitude of other events which seem to define the era. And to the delight of collectors, all are found in newspapers from the Old West.

Geographically our “Old West” definition would be any from west of the Mississippi. Some 25 years ago we were fortunate enough to purchase a sizable collection of Old West newspapers which were deaccessioned from the Bancroft Library, including many titles which existed only there, then only in our inventory. With some regret many have long since sold out, but most remain available.
Ways of collecting this era are many. Some might pursue one of as many different titles as are available. Content is a lesser concern; they just want one of everything. Some might collect one from every state from before the 20th century. Many states would be easily found but others can be challenging, particularly Arizona, New Mexico & perhaps Idaho. Others might be more specific and collect only titles from before statehood, typically known as “territorial newspapers” (note: Arizona & New Mexico joined the Union in 1912 so early 20th century issues are “territorial”). Again, many can be easily found while others are more of a challenge. California became a state in 1850 (interesting how quickly Congress can act when a pile of gold is found in the backyard) and the number of titles which existed in the Golden State before 1850 were very few. For the best of collections, finding an early issue of the first newspaper to publish in each state can be a special challenge. But of course this is the fun  of collecting.
Then there is a larger segment of collectors who pursue content, whether it be the iconic events of the Old West such as Custer‘s Massacre, Killing of Jesse James, the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, capture of Sitting Bull, or just mundane reports of iconic events such as skirmishes with Indians, barroom brawls, bank & railroad robberies, and general reports of lawlessness. Yes, they are all found in Western newspapers of the day, and the search can be exciting.
As a subset of an Old West collection  is Mormon content, as the story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is part & parcel of the westward expansion. Many titles from Salt Lake City are available and contain a wealth of Mormon content from shortly after their settlement in Utah. Another subset might be popular Western towns. Yes, 19th century newspapers are available from Tombstone, Sacramento, Deadwood City, Tucson, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Laramie, Reno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Leavenworth, and on and on. Of special intrigue is finding newspapers from ghost towns. Bodie, California is a great example of a once booming mining town which is currently a California State Park and popular ghost town attraction. Many of our titles from Northern California are from towns which are today a fraction of their size in the 19th century.
The world of Old West collecting is endless, and to the surprise of many prices for most newspapers of the era are unexpectedly low. Explore this interesting era of American history and discover a new facet of collecting!

Tombstone was about to fade away…

August 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Having offered several Tombstone newspapers from its brief heyday in the late 19th century, I thought you would find this article from the “Prescott Journal-Miner” of Arizona, July 8, 1930, interesting.  Having visited Tombstone about 3 years ago I can assure all that it does survive, albeit primarily as a partially reconstructed tourist attraction. It’s a fun town to visit if ever in Southern Arizona: