An English explorer visits the Wild West!
(WILD WEST.) MARKHAM, ALBERT HASTINGS, Capt.. Illustrated autograph manuscript journal of his tour of the United States, including the Indian Territories and Dodge City
England to the United States and back, 22 September 1877 to 8 March 1878
4to. Approx. 360 pages on ruled paper; 10 watercolors; ephemera; correspondence. Contemporary half dark green morocco, spine gilt-stamped “America” and “A.H.M.,” front board with Markham arms. Light wear, occasional soiling, but generally in fine, fresh condition.
A FAMED ENGLISH EXPLORER IN THE WILD WEST. Albert Hastings Markham (1841-1918), a distinguished officer in the Royal Navy, is best known for his role in the British Arctic Expedition of 1875-76. Leading a sledge party attempting to reach the North Pole, Markham achieved a Farthest North, surpassing Parry’s mark set in 1827. The newly-promoted Captain Markham then secured an eight-month leave for an exploration of the American prairies. “He made arrangements to join a United States Cavalry Regiment at Fort Sill, in the Indian Territory, with the nominal objective of scouting after a hostile band of Apache Indians” (Markham, The Life of Sir Albert Hastings Markham).
This tremendous illustrated manuscript journal details Markham’s adventures in the Old West. His journey takes him from Liverpool to New York by Cunard steamer, then to Wisconsin to see his mother, who had emigrated there, and on to St Louis. He continues into Indian Territory, traveling by rail and then stage to Fort Sill. For four weeks, accompanied by two Indians, he hunts buffalo and cougar, wolves and turkeys. His journal is filled with fascinating stories of his interactions with Indians and his adventures and misadventures on the prairie. He then makes his way, with the assistance of the Caddoc Indians, to Camp Supply, from which he took the stagecoach to Dodge City. Approaching Dodge he was joined by a party of “cow boys” armed with “six shooters,” and he stayed with them at the camping site outside Dodge City known as Soldiers’ Graves, or Bear Creek, Station.
Dodge City was established in 1872, just five years before Markham’s arrival, and it quickly became the “cowboy capital,” attracting the great lawmen and gunfighters including Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday. Markham notes that Dodge “enjoys the reputation of being the rowdiest of all rowdy western towns” and that it “contains a population of about 600 people – the houses are all wooden, and the majority of them are either saloons or dancing houses.” He marvels at “the sink of iniquity, the perfect ‘hell upon earth’ that Dodge City really is.” “Like Sodom & Gomorrah it would be difficult to find half a dozen virtuous people residing there!”
This manuscript contains a very early use of a celebrated Western idiom—to die with your boots on. Discussing the cemetery at Dodge, Markham writes, “the majority are of those who, to use a Western phrase, ‘died with their boots on!’” According to the Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, “Die with your boots on was apparently first used in the late 19th century of deaths of cowboys and others in the American West who were killed in gun battles or hanged.”
Markham has a taste for adventure and an ear for great stories, and he soaks up what he learns from the “cow boys” he meets. The following passage gives a taste of the manuscript: “shortly after crossing the Cimarron we passed what is called a ‘cow camp’, that is a camp composed of ‘cow boys’ or ‘herders’ in attendance on a herd of cattle which they are driving from Texas to Kansas. This camp belonged to a party of 26 ‘cow boys’ and ‘bull whackers’, who had arrived thus far with 7,000 head of cattle. As we were jogging quietly along we were called in peremptory fashion to halt, when a couple of the roughest looking fellows I ever saw in my life each armed with a Winchester repeating rifle and a ‘six shooter’, and each carrying a saddle, intimated their intention of taking passage with us as far as Dodge! Our waggon was pretty crowded as it was but the driver thinking it better policy to acquiesce to their demand and thus avoid a brawl, consented to carry them on. One was a negro, the other a white man. Their clothes, if such rags as they had on their backs could be so called, were in the most tattered state it is possible to imagine! On their legs they wore stiff leather leggings, and their feet were wrapped up in old flannel and cloth bandages for want of shoes! One wore a crownless sombrero that it certainly could not be considered as a covering for the head–the other was hatless. Long flowing hair reaching to the shoulders with unkempt beard and moustache adorned the head & face of Jack the white man, whilst thick wool on the face of Bob, completes the description of their appearance, which, to say the least, was decidedly unprepossessing! We were not long kept in ignorance regarding the character of our fellow travelers, for it soon transpired, from their conversation, and they took no pains to keep it secret, that they had left their gang, or ‘outfit’ as they term their party, because they had enough of hard work & blood shed! Three days previously Jack had the ‘misfortune’ to shoot the ‘Boss’, or head man of the outfit, and he was afraid the Boss’ friends would take his life–hence his desertion …”
When he arrives at a ranch, “I soon found out that we were in a regular den of murderers and thieves, whose stories as they related them round the fire was enough to curdle one’s blood, even if they were shorn of the fearful blasphemous expressions that interlarded their conversation. Out of the entire party there was not one who did not boast of having killed his man, or who had not himself been desperately wounded during one of their orgies. I was a little amused at the woman of the ranche coming up to the table at which only the black murderer and myself were seated and asking if ‘both you gentlemen would take coffee?’’”
This illustrated manuscript, containing vivid tales of the American West by a keen observer with a taste for adventure, is worthy of exhibition and publication.
The manuscript is extensively illustrated with inserted watercolors, ephemera, and correspondence, as follows:
1. Cunard steamer Algeria salon passenger list
2. Cunard steamer Algeria track chart
3. Union Club dinner menu, October 4, 1877
4. Skunk and rattlesnake, watercolor
5. Cougar (“Ye pussy that was hunted to death”), watercolor
6. Bluffs (“The Bluffs” on Cache Creek”), watercolor
7. Fort Sill, Fourth Cavalry regimental band music program, November 2, 1877
8. Dogs chasing a wolf, watercolor
9. Buffalo and calf (“Ye monarch of the plains”), watercolor
10. Hunter on horseback shooting a buffalo, watercolor
11. Encampment with tents, horses, and people around a fire, watercolor
12. Turkeys in grass (“Ye 5 Gobblers murdered by A. H. M. with one shot”), watercolor
13. Kiowas’ puppies (“Ye fierce and wild beasts that did daunt and terrifie A.H.M.”), watercolor
14. Man and horse upended in mud (“An awkward flight”), watercolor
15. Pullman’s Palace Dining Car menu, Chicago & Alton Railway, 18 December 1877
16. Arctic Explorations lecture by Capt. A. Markham, R.N., admission ticket
17. Correspondence and newspaper clippings relating to Markham’s American lectures on Arctic Explorations
18. Several letters and invitations relating to Markham’s travels and lectures
19. Large folding map of Western Territories by G. L. Gillespie (1876)
20. Letters and newspaper clipping s relating to Markham’s lectures in Wisconsin
21. Robert Burns Anniversary programs, Janaury 25, 1878
22. Markham’s autograph journal, approx. 30 pages, describing a brief trip he made to the United States in 1867, during which he visited Chicago (“…wherever I go there is still the everlasting spitting & chewing going on…”) and a Barnum’s freak show.