Monday, November 13, 2017

More Postcards from the US-Mexico Border Circa 1916

It's a hazard in rare book nerderie: the ephemera bug bit me! I'm just back from the Center for Big Bend Studies Conference at Sul Ross State University in Alpine (Far West Texas), where I presented on "John Bigelow, Jr.," about which a longer post is forthcoming, but in the meantime, fresh from that book fair with its bodacious selection of ephemera, herewith a few additions to my burgeoning collection of Texas postcards from the era of WWI and the Mexican Revolution:

OCT 10

 hellow Jack
how are you I am fine & dandy.
Well I rec your letter
OK but I am still in the war
Well regards to all Your friend LB [?]

Jack Hendrix
Medicine Mound
AUG 30


Will write a latter lato
[? ? ?]

El Paso Texas
August 29, 1916
Dear Burt:
Rec you letter
and was glad to hear
from you they have everything
in the stores down here that
they have have in Mass but they have a
lot of Mexican things here that they
dont have in Mass we had Gov inspection
this morning but i passed alright the
[?] R F D got excellent love to all

Mrs Elmer Loving
Palmer Road





Sept 19 '16
Dear Mother:
Am feeling fine
and as hard as a
rock and brown
as an Indian. Just
3 months ago tonight
we were called out
Remember? How
is every thing and
every one? L.A.B.

Mrs F.G. Ball
11489 N. Main

> See also my previous post, Postcards from the US-Mexico Border of Yore.

P.S. My favorite rare book dealer blog is Greg Gibson's Bookman's Log. Watch out, these rare book and emphemera guys are dangerous. If he ever scares up a Manhattan clipper ship card...

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Further Notes on John Bigelow, Jr. (1854-1936): ON THE BLOODY TRAIL OF GERONIMO, the Rare 1958 Westernlore Press Edition

John Bigelow, Jr.
UPDATE: Bibliography has been posted here.

Last Monday's post was a batch of notes on John Bigelow, Jr. (1854-1936), an undeservedly obscure personality in late 19th century and early 20th century American history. This Friday at the Center for Big Bend Studies conference I'll be giving a talk about the diverse periods of his life and achievements. The title: John Bigelow, Jr.: Officer with the Tenth Cavalry, Military Intellectual, and Nexus Between West and East. 

I'm not aiming to write Bigelow's biography, although he certainly merits one,* and I hope my work may encourage and aid some other scholar in that endeavor. Apart from this talk and, fingers crossed, resulting paper for the Journal of Big Bend Studies, my project is a literary travel memoir, World Waiting for Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas, in which Bigelow appears, briefly, or at some length, in various chapters, as he was stationed in or traveled through Fort Stockton, Fort Davis, Peña Blanca (now Peña Colorado, a public park south of Marathon), the Guadalupe Mountains, and other sites in the Trans-Pecos, that is to say, Far West Texas at different times in the late 19th century. Hence, it behooves me to do this research-- and wagonloads more about the Apaches and Comancheset al-- and if you find this subject half as fascinating as I do, gentle reader, you're in for a fiesta with more than a few firecrackers.

*An excellent partial biography by Marcos Kinevan is Frontier Cavalryman: Lieutenant John Bigelow with the Buffalo Soldiers in Texas (Texas Western Press, 1998).

My copy of the 1958 edition of John Bigelow Jr's
(The cover shows an illustration by
Frederic Remington)
Apropos of researching John Bigelow, Jr., new in my working library is a handsome hardcover, the 1958 Westernlore Press limited edition of Bigelow's collected articles for Outing, his brother Poultney Bigelow's magazine: On the Bloody Trail of Geronimo: A Soldier's Journal-Account of the Apache Campaign of 1886, introduced and annotated by Arthur Woodward. 

Bigelow's articles in Outing, and as reproduced in this tome, are accompanied by illustrations by a number of artists including Poultney Bigelow's Yale University classmate, the then-unknown Frederic Remington.

As Woodward writes in his foreward, "It was a fortunate combination. Bigelow the young lieutenant who was breaking into print for the first time, and Remington, who was likewise doing his first important commission as an illustrator."

In fact, this was not Bigelow's first publication-- although it was his first for a general readership. Two years earlier, in 1884, Bigelow had published his study of two major battles in the Franco-Prussian War, Mars-La-Tour and Gravelotte. And, over the years, he would go on to produce an important oeuvre on military strategy.

Bigelow's Outing essays comprised his diaries as an officer in the Tenth Cavalry, published as a series of 14 articles under the title "After Geronimo," beginning in March 1886 and concluding in April 1887. As in Texas, Bigelow remained with the 10th, an African American regiment first established in 1866, but in this action they had been sent further west, to Arizona, to mop up the last of Apache resistance. The Comanche had been defeated in Palo Duro Canyon in 1874, and with Geronimo's surrender in September 1886, the wars in the southwest ended. (On the northern Plains, the Ghost Dance War, Pine Ridge Campaign, and Massacre at Wounded Knee would be over by 1891.)

Despite the title, Bigelow's diary says little about the Apaches and less about Geronimo, but it provides a rare and colorful felt sense of what is was like to serve in the West in the last days of the Indian Wars. It is also a window onto Bigelow as a military intellectual, one supremely well-versed on the literature of war and, in particular, battles of the U.S. Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War-- and one who, even while chasing Apaches on horseback, was thinking about the logistics and professionalism required for the industrialized wars of the future.


Linguistic evidence suggests that the Apache arrived in the southwest of what is now the United States after having migrated from the northwest centuries ago. The story of the wars against them, first by the Spanish, then the Mexicans, sometimes the Comanches, and then beginning in the 1830s, the Americans, is an ugly one with many chapters. By 1885 the Apache had been decimated, and survivors eked out a meagre life on reservations (another ugly story in itself, with many chapters). On May 17, 1885, a small contingent of Chiricahua Apache led by Geronimo and Nachez bolted the reservation with over 100 other warriors, women and children, heading towards Mexico. Writes Woodward in his introduction of Bigelow and his men:

"[T]heir work guarding the mountain passes leading out of Mexico into Arizona was a most important one. No one knew exactly where Geronimo and his band would strike."

A graduate of West Point's class of '77, Bigelow had no personal animus towards the Apache. He was a patriot from the very core of the Eastern Establishment, a career officer in want of the field experience that could bring him a promotion. Previously, he had served in Texas with the Tenth Cavalry from late 1877 through the end of 1879, participating in the Victorio Campaign, then returning to West Point as an assistant professor of French. He married in Baltimore in 1884, then returned to Texas again, this time with his bride and baby, first stationed at Fort Davis, Texas, then to Fort Grant, Arizona for the Geronimo campaign.

There is much more to say about his varied and outstanding career, but to return to the Geronimo Campaign, Bigelow made no bones about his motives for returning West. As he writes in his diary for May 19, 1885 (Outing, April 1886):
"I had rejoined my regiment with the expectation of gaining in efficiency from experience in the field, and I realized the fact that the opportunities for doing so in our army were becoming fewer and harder to seize every year. I also realized that laurels were scarce along Indian trails, and that they grew in difficult places. It was principally for the practice of looking and reaching for them, with the hope that the skillfulness this acquired might some day serve me under more favorable conditions, that I aspired to getting on the trail of these Chiricahuas."

But in the same entry, Bigelow also says:

"The American public does not know the meaning of the phrase, Indian atrocity-- not its true meaning... There is no public organ to give them utterance. Their revolting indecency often excludes them from every respectable paper..." 


In the past, for this sort of research I would have made do with online materials or purchased an ex-library or otherwise beat-up "reading copy" from whatever used bookseller. But I have become a rare book nerd! And this fine, mylar-covered and autographed (by the editor, Arthur Woodward), was not so expensive after all (say, half the cost of a pair of not-quite-Ferragamos, or less than the cost of 4 pounds of brisket BBQ). It is a finer edition than I expected, and with a crisp, two-color title page. Check this out:

The two color title page, 1958 edition, in pristine condition

The editor of the volume, Arthur Woodward, was Chief Curator of History and Anthropology
of the Los Angeles County Museum, and the author of several books on Western history.

The end papers, front and back, show the same map:

This first illustration, a portrait of Geronimo, is not by Frederic Remington but by J.R. Chapin, dated 1885.
Portrait of Geronimo by J.R. Chapin

And here are several of the Remington sketches:

"Tenth Cavalry Types" by Frederic Remington

"Arrival of the Doctor" by Frederic Remington

"The Dog of Nogales" by Frederic Remington

"A Six-Mule Government Team and Wagon" by Frederic Remington

"Reading the Orders" by Frederic Remington

"The Race" by Frederic Remington

"One of the Pack Mules Turned a Somersault"
by Frederic Remington

"Surprised by a Party of Mexicans" by Frederic Remington


Bigelow was an unusually well-educated officer. His father was a renowned New York newspaper editor and eminence of the Republican Party whose friends included such literary lights as Charles Dickens, Joaquin Miller, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde. (Bigelow, Sr was also the editor of Josiah Gregg's iconic best-seller Commerce of the Prairies, and when serving as US ambassador to France during the Civil War, had rescued Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. More about Bigelow, Sr. anon.) John Jr.'s diary is wonderfully rich with vivid detail, e.g.:

"May 19, 1885... The men and officers have not remained in the fiery furnace in which the command unsaddled. The men are mostly strewn along the railroad track, asleep in the shade of the freight cars; others are in the pump-house, through which water is brought up from an artesian well into the railroad tank; others are lounging on the platform of the station. They officers are in the warehouse. They are an ennuyé-looking set at this hour of 4 P.M.; one of them is sleeping on the hand-truck... About 5 P.M. took place the great excitement of the day-- a passenger train came in from the West, and stopped about five minutes. A brisk sale ensured of newspapers and California fruit, in which a crushing railroad monopoly possessed itself of many a last cent. One officer paid 4 bits (50 cents) for four oranges." (Outing, April 1886)
"September 6, 1885... Like most primitive American towns [Harshaw] consists of one street, lined with box-like frame houses, largel eating and drinking places; in front of these we saw an assortment of Harshaw's men of leisure, whose facial expressions conveyed a seeming determination not to be the first to say good-day."  (Outing, June 1886)


While Bigelow does describes the saguaro cacti, gila monsters, and other exotica, including Mexican tortillas, pinole, and panocha, he and his men traverse a rapidly industrializing Arizona of railroads and hardscrabble mining towns. When possible, to spare the horses, he would march them along the railroad.

In Clifton:
"October 3, 1885... While coming into the town, I had noticed a peculiar intermittent light... which I thought might come from an electric light; now I saw that it came from a smelting work across the river. It was produced by the fresh slag; the pigs-- that is, I believe, what they call them-- breaking open as they rolled down the side of the dump, exposing the incandescent mass inside. having seen to the feeding and grooming of my horses, I started out with Lietnenant Reade in search of a dinner. We wandered down the street to near the end of the town, and entered the largest and brightest-lighted of the many resorts that we passed-- a typical mining-town amusement hall. From a sort of large box I looked over a breast-high, counter-like partition into the main room upon a crowd of men and women of various ages and nationalities. At the middle of the side opposite the entrance was the bar. At the farthest end, from which came the sounds of lively music on the violin and other instruments, I could see figures bobbing and whirling through square and round dances. About the middle of the room was a mixture of Mexicans and Americans, sprinkled with Germans, English, Irish and other nationalities... Some of these people were playing at the billiard-tables, others were seated on the side of the room opposite the bar, or standing about the floor engaged in more or less excited conversation. The women, coming up in their promenades between the dances for a change of scene and air-- sometimes for refreshment at the bar-- were fewer here than at the farther end of the room. As seated at one of the restaurant tables, I took in the animated scene, I questioned to myself the propriety of my being where I was, especially of my being seen here in uniform. Before I had answered this questioning to my entire satisfaction, a couple of well-dressed gentlemen came into our little room, and as they sat down at the table next to ours, one of them was designated to me as the Governor of the Territory. I had no further concern as to the propriety of my situation. Having eaten a good supper, I repaired, rather tired, to my saddle and blankets for the night." (Outing, August 1886)

"January 21, 1886. My authority for a leave having come yesterday, I... boarded a train and settled down with my Spanish grammar and my papers and periodicals to their enjoyment from a spring-cushioned seat. At Benson, the junction with the Southern Pacific Railroad, I lunched at a Chinaman's, at the small cost of twenty-five cents, and I think I know what I ate. It brought me back to civilization to find myself, as I did at one o'clock, seated in a sleeping car opposite a young man in a close-fitting checked suit, carrying an extreme height of collar and sporting a varnished cane."(Outing, November 1886)


Not a scene Lt. Bigelow saw: Geronimo and his warriors in Mexico,
prior to their surrender in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona

Bigelow did not see much action nor even get close to Geronimo; the Apache warrior-shaman seems an almost ghost-like presence in the diary.

"Sept 8, 1885... Geronimo is thought to be making for the San Mateo Mountains, the Indian strongold in New Mexico. I expect soon to hear of a movement of troops from the border towards the interior" (Outing, July 1886)

"October 7, 1885... About an hour after dark I made out a fire among some trees ahead of me. Having proceeded to within a few hundred yards of it, I halted, dismounted the troop, and advanced with my ranking non-commissioned officer to determine what it was. The corporal put his ear to the ground and reported, "They are cowboys, sir; I hear the voices." So I mounted and pushed on. When about one hundred yards farther, we crossed a railroad and a hard level stretch beyond it, and came upon a stream about twenty feet across, which I took to be the Gila. I worked my way along it toward the fires on the opposite bank, hallooing for some one to come and show me where to cross. I was soon answered by a man standing close to the water's edge, who told me to do so where I stood, and asked me who I was. Upon telling him, I asked him, with lively curiosity, "Who are you?"
"I am Lieutenant Reade." 
It turned out to be my friend and classmate, Lieutenant Reade, of my regiment, and my corporal's alleged cowboys were his men." (Outing, August, 1886)

"October 4, 1885... I went to the telegraph office for news. Learned that... General Crook concludes that the Indians have returned to Sonora." (Outing, August, 1886)  
"February 3, 1886... I apprehend that Geronimo is not yet ready to make an unconditional surrender." (Outing, December 1886) 
"March 4, 1886... Camp-life seems drearier and emptier than ever. I try to reconcile myself to it as a wholesome  discipline in preparation for the intervals of inaction in real way, but it is hard to imagine this inanity in real war." (Outing, January 1887) 
"March 18, 1886. It is now three days since General Crook was to have met Geronimo, but we have not yet heard of his doing so."  (Outing, January 1887) 
"March 21, 1886... This time last year I was packing to move from Texas to Arizona and I have been pretty constantly in camp or on the march ever since. When I consider what little professional advantage that this roughing it is affording me, I am satified with the prospect of a return, without honor or distinction, to my garrison home." (Outing, January 1887)
But the violence, and for Bigelow, the chase, heats up in May. Bigelow and his men are in the field, hearing stories of killings and kidnappings, seeing signs of Indians, visiting abandoned and pillaged ranches-- but still, no Geronimo. The last article in the series, published in April 1887, in the main diary entries from June 1886, have Bigelow and his men roughing it out in the field.

"June, 1886... we found the body of a man shot through the heart. From papers lying near him and from his appearance, I judged him to be a German. He was evidently camping here, cultivating a small vegetable garden.. I noticed on the top of his head a raw, white circle about the size of a dollar, which showed him to have been scalped." (Outing, April 1887)

They cross the border into Mexico, passing near American-owned mines:

"San Lazaro, Mexico, June 14, 1886... I am told that the day after I passed through here going east, a party of Indians, numbering thirty-seven, crossed the road some twenty-five miles below, testifyng to their hot pursuit by eating raw meat." (Outing, April 1887) 

Without ceremony, the diary trails off with the last installment in Outing April 1887, when presumably, readers would have known of Geronimo's surrender in September 1886 in Arizona's Skeleton Canyon.

In the diary published in Outing Bigelow says little of the Chiricahua Apache. Most of his descriptions of Indians of are of his own scouts, Tontos and Mojave. However brief and light his focus, Bigelow has an eye for novelistic detail:

"December 14, 1885...After issuing them their arms, ammunition, accoutrements and camp equipage, I proceeded to take down the wants of my Indians in the way of clothing. which struck me as rather capricious. Some wanted a hat, and some did not; the same was the case with boots... In order to get at the sizes they needed, I had toi let them try on my own boots and hat and gauntlets.... One Indian amused us very much in his first attempt to utilize a boot-jack." (Outing, September 1886) 
"January 30, 1886... Tonto Jim... did not stay long, as I offered him nothing to smoke. These Indians are greater smokers if cigarettes than the Mexicans. Not smoking myself now, I have discontinued keeping tobacco, and I apprehend that my Indian friends will fall off from me. They used to come in and make long visits on my tobacco-box, and would often ask me for tobacco and cigarette papers, of which I kept an extra supply for them. They never say "thank you," or anything that seems like it. I do not think there is any such phrase in their language." (Outing, December, 1886)


I cannot help but wonder what Bigelow would have made of the rest of Geronimo's life, and whether he reflected upon his own influence on Geronimo's fame. (Perhaps I shall find out, if I can consult his diaries, which are in the Library at West Point.) After a stint as a POW in Florida, then Alabama, Geronimo lived out his life in Fort Sill, Indian Territory. Writes William A. Clements in Imagining Geronimo:

"Geronimo became a celebrity. He attended world's fairs in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1898; Buffalo, New York, in 1901; and Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1904. He participated in Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration in 1905 and was courted by Wild West show entrepreneur Gordon Lillie (Pawnie Bill). He was a tourist attraction and provided good copy for journalists who speclated that he had gone mad, that his much heralded conversion to Christianity was only a sham, and that he was plotting an escape. Newspapers sought his opinions on topics such as the Filipino resistance to the American presence following the Spanish-American War and the education of Apache children. Geronimo died in 1909 from pneumonia that he contracted after lying out all night after one of his protracted drinking bouts." (p. 10) 

Much more anon.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

# # #

NOTE: Normally I post on Mondays, but since I'll be at the Center for Big Bend Studies conference, the next post will appear mid-week. Speaking of tardiness, because of multiple household moves this year, I am behind schedule with the podcasts, mainly interviews, apropos of my book. Stay tuned! Podcasts 21 (Seminole Scouts), 22 (Sanderson), 23 (Archaeologist Andy Cloud) and the final 24 (The Blue Lady, Maria de Agreda) are all in-progress and will be posted, starting early in the new year. In the meantime, I invite you to listen in any time to the other 20 that have been posted to date.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Notes on John Bigelow, Jr. and "Garrison Tangles in the Friendless Tenth: The Journal of First Lieutenant John Bigelow, Jr., Fort Davis, Texas"

A portion of the prodigious accumulation
UPDATE: Bibliography has been posted here.

As those of you who follow this blog well know, I live in Mexico City and have been at work on a book about the Trans-Pecos (that, is Far West Texas) for more than a spell. Books on the Trans-Pecos are sparse on the ground south of the border, so when I travel to Texas I always try to scour a bookshop or three. Thus have I accumulated a working library, including not a few rare and unusual books. For this sort of project, archival research is also important to do-- and I have done some-- but it can be woefully expensive to travel to and spend time working through archives. So whenever an historian has taken the trouble to transcribe and publish anything relevant from any archive of interest to me, I am triply grateful for such a find.

One example is the work by Douglas C. McChristian, a retired research historian for the National Park Service: "Garrison Tangles in the Friendless Tenth: The Journal of First Lieutenant John Bigelow, Jr, Fort Davis, Texas," published as a chapbook of about 60 pages by J.M. Carroll & Co in 1985. The copy I found is in excellent condition with, halleluja, a mylar cover and autographed by the editor.

Why is this excerpt from Lieutenant Bigelow's diary, from 1884-1885 in Fort Davis, Texas, so interesting and important?

The Tenth refers to the Tenth Cavalry, one of the African American regiments -- "Buffalo Soldiers"-- established after the U.S. Civil War, famed for its exploits in the West during the Indian Wars of Bigelow's time (and later, in the Spanish-American War, also of Bigelow's time, but that would be another blog post).

Fort Davis, tucked among the volcanic Davis Mountains, and surrounded by hard desert for hundreds of miles around, was one of a string of US Army forts set up to protect the El Paso Road.

To give an idea of the remoteness, Bigelow wryly remarks:
Fort Davis, Texas. Thursday Jan. 15, 1885 ... One is apt is a country like this to suspect everybody one meets with some discreditable reason for being here, without thinking that one is subject to the same suspicion oneself.

It was highly unusual for anyone to keep such a detailed, articulate, and thoughtful diary as did Lt. Bigelow. No doubt he was encouraged in this endeavor by his father, John Bigelow, a dedicated diarist himself, and newspaper owner and editor, author, ambassador, and publisher. (For one of my previous books, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, a novel based on the true story during the French Intervention in Mexico, I consulted Bigelow Sr.'s diary in the New York Public Library's Manuscripts Division. More about Bigelow, Sr. anon.)

Back to Lt. Bigelow. Writes McChristian of Lt. Bigelow's Fort Davis diary:

"A keen observer and a skillful writer, Bigelow left a vivid record of events and relationsips at the post as he witnessed them. He included no expeditions or battles, no heroics, no glitter-- only the realities of life on the frontier."

Nuggets in Lt. Bigelow's diary include:

Fort Davis, Tex. February 12, 1885 Have written to Chicago for 1/2 doz. base balls for the troop. The men have bats and bases. I hope my efforts to afford them recreation will counteract the unpleasant impression they receive from the extra drill that I give them and the increased severity of discipline to which I subject them.

The men were not so isolated as they might have seemed:

Fort Davis, Texas. Sat. Feb. 14, 1885... I read the report in the New York Herald today that Khartoum had fallen. From that paper I gather that the British do not comprehend yet the power of their enemy. They think of turning the tables with five or ten thousand additional troops. They will want five or ten times that many troops to conquer the Mahdi.

And Bigelow mentions meeting Quanah Parker:

Fort Davis, Tex. Tuesday Dec. 9, 1884. Have just returned from a call at Lt. Woodward's where I met the Chief of the Comanches in the Indian Territory [Oklahoma]. His tribe is not regarded as civilized. It is behind the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles. All communications with his tribe from the Federal Government go to him.  He assembled the heads of families with whom he discusses the matter. Ten years ago, says Woodward, this man wore a blanket and breech clout. Today he is dressed like any white man. He has two other Indians with him. All three are going tomorrow about 60 miles south of here to get a certain herb which they prize as a medicine. Clarke is to escort them with about 1/2 dozen men. Quanah has a determined, and intelligent, though not a bright look. His mother was a white woman captured in Texas when quite a child; who subsequently married an Indian.

[Quanah's mother was Cynthia Ann Parker and his father a chief, Nocona. The "certain herb" they were heading south to harvest was peyote cactus, then abundant in the Big Bend along the Rio Grande.]

Lt. Bigelow and Quanah are among the personalities I will be including in my book on Far West Texas. Apropos of that, this November I will be presenting a paper about Bigelow at the Center for Big Bend Studies conference at Sul Ross State University-- in heart of the Trans-Pecos. Indeed, there are continents more to Bigelow's life than his brief posting to Fort Davis and these few pages of his diary might suggest. The original diary, which spans many more years, including his earlier postings in the Texas in the 1870s, is in the United States Military Academy (West Point).

There is also a substantial archive of John Bigelow Jr. (and Sr. and family) correspondence during the Texas years (and much more) at Union College in Schenectedy, New York.

Bigelow's father, John Bigelow, Sr. was an ardent reader of Emanuel Swedenborg, having encountered the Swedish mystic's books on a journey to Haiti in his work as an Abolitionist (whew, yes, that is all packed into in one sentence! Never a dull moment with John Bigelow, Sr.). So I have been wondering to what degree, if any, his son might have been influenced by those ideas. I have little to go on at this point, but one comment in Lt. Bigelow's diary is suggestive:

Fort Davis, Tex. Dec 4, 1884... I have begun reading to Mary (a chapter every evening) a book that was given to her in Baltimore: Natural Law in the Spiritual World. I find it original, interesting, and edifying. 

Natural Law in the Spiritual World was a best-seller of its day; the author was Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond (1851-1897). As far as I can ascertain from a search through the digital edition of this book however, Drummond was not retailing Swedenborgiana.


Bigelow's time at Fort Davis, as well as his earlier stints out west, when he was Fort Duncan, Fort Stockton, scouting around the Big Bend out of Peña Blanco (now Peña Colorado, a public park a few miles south of Marathon), and elsewhere in Texas, are well covered in the excellent biography by Marcos Kinevan, Frontier Cavalryman: Lieutenant John Bigelow with the Buffalo Soldiers in Texas (Texas Western Press, 1998).

Also of note is the masters thesis by Howard K. Hansen, Jr., "The Remarkable John Bigelow, Jr: An Examination of Professionalism in the United States Army, 1877-91," Old Dominion University, 1986, which provides a splendid introduction to Bigelow's oeuvre as a military intellectual, including Mars-la-Tour and Gravelotte; The Principles of Strategy; and The Campaign of Chancellorsville.

Today Bigelow's best-known publication is his series of 15 articles, "After Geronimo," based on the diary he kept as a cavalry officer with the Tenth in Arizona, which he published in his brother Poultney Bigelow's magazine, Outing in 1886-87. Some of these articles included illustrations by Poultney's Yale University classmate and friend, the soon-to-be-world-famous artist Frederic Remington. John Bigelow, Jr.'s  articles for Outing were collected and republished in 1958 as On the Bloody Trail of Geronimo, with an introduction and notes by Arthur Woodward.
Read this book for free on

John Bigelow, Jr. also fought in and wrote about the Spanish-American War of 1898. That book is Reminiscences of the Santiago Campaign, published by Harper & Brothers in New York and London in 1899.

From his obituary in the New York Times, March 1, 1936:

... Expert strategist and tactician, Spanish War veteran, geographer, author, college professor and descendant of a family distinguished in American history, Colonel Bigelow was well-known in military and social circles both in the United States and abroad.
His father was John Bigelow, United States Ambassador to France under President Lincoln, and his mother, the former Jane Tunis Poultney, a social leader of her day. Poultney Bigelow, the author, is a brother.
The colonel was born in New York on May 12, 1854. After attending private schools in New York, Providence, R.I., and in Europe, he was appointed to West Point, from which he was graduated in 1877. One Jun 15 of that year he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Promoted to first lieutenant on Sept. 24, 1883, he was made a captain on April 15, 1893, a major on Dec. 8, 1902, and lieutenant colonel on Sept. 15, 1904, being retired at his own request the same day. From 1887 to 1889 he was adjutant general of the District of Columbia Militia. 
Colonel Bigelow particularly distinguished himself during the Spanish-American War. He was wounded four times at the battle of San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. For his heroic conduct then he was cited in general orders and received the Silver Star...

And I found him and his wife (née Mary Dallam) listed on p. 57 of the 1918 New York Social Register.  Bigelow was then at Rutgers College in New Jersey.

Much more anon.

Next up on my reading list is McChristian's latest, Regular Army O! Soldiering on the Western Frontier 1865-1891, published this year by University of Oklahoma Press.
> See the Q & A with McChristian over at the Civil War Books and Authors Blog.

> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Typewriter Manifesto by Richard Polt, Plus Cyberflanerie on Technology

 [Viva, Richard Polt! 
He says that if you send him your address he will send you this postcard.]

One of the themes in my work-in-progress on Far West Texas is the nature and pervasive influence of technology, especially digital technology-- but also other kinds of industrial and military technology.

So what's with the typewriter poem? The poem pictured above, "The Typewriter Manifesto," is by philosophy professor Richard Polt. I'm a big fan of his blog and his book, The Typewriter Revolution.

My 56 year-old Hermes 3000
works fine, no need to update the OX!
(Yes, ribbons are easy to score
on eBay)
Nope, I am not a Luddite, but yep, I use a typewriter on occasion. When needed, I also use a Zassenhaus kitchen timer, a 30 year-old finance-nerd calculator (I used to be a finance nerd), and a battery-operated alarm clock. Yes, I know there are apps for all of those, and yes, I actually have downloaded and previously used all those apps on my smartphone but, e-NUFFF with the digital! Too many hours of my day are already in thrall to my laptop, writing on WORD or blogging, emailing, podcasting, maintaining my website, surfing (other blogs, mainly, and newspapers, plus occasional podcasts and videos), and once in a purple moon, making videos. Most days my iPhone stays in its drawer, battery dead, and I like it that way.

But kiddos, this not a writer-from-an-older-generation-resisting-innovation thing. Back when I was avid to adopt new technology. I had a cell phone when they were the size and shape and weight of a brick. I started my website in 1999! I bought the first Kindle model, and the first iPad model. I was one of the first writers to make my own Kindle editions (check out my latest). I started podcasting in 2010. I even spent oodles more time than I should have figuring out the belles-and-whistles of iTunes' iBook Author app... and so on and so forth.
From Charles Melville Scammon's
"California Grays Among the Ice"
Whales! Magnificent outside!
Digestive juices inside!

In short, with technology, especially anything having to do with writing and publishing, I dove right into the deep end... and I have seen the whale. And it was not, is not, and will not be on my schedule to get swallowed whole.

(My schedule, by the way, is on my Filofax, a paper-based system, and paper-based for good reason.)

P.S. Ye olde "Thirty Deadly Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing." I hereby remind myself to take my own advice.


Richard Polt's NYT Op-Ed "Anything But Human"

Mark Blitz explains Martin Heidegger on technology.

(The original pretzel-brain inducing essay by Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology," with its handful of profound points coccooned within copious noodathipious deustcher Philosophieprofessor fluffermuffer, is here.)

On the express elevator to the top of my To Read tower: Richard Polt's Heidegger: A Introduction


Recommended reading on technology:

E.M. Forster "The Machine Stops"

Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants

Jason Lanier's You Are Not a Gadget

Dmitry Orlov's Shrinking the Technosphere

Ted Koppel's Lights Out

Matthew Crawford's The World Beyond Your Head


For those who can handle an esoteric discussion on technology without firecrackers going off in their wig, there is Dr. John C. Lilly:
And here is the Lilly interview with Jeffrey Mishlove, for "Thinking Allowed" (the one where Dr. Lilly wears his earrings and Davy Crockett hat).


Delighted to have surfed upon Tadeuz Patzek's blog, LifeItself. Patzek is a professor of petroleum engineering, recently chair of the department at University Texas Austin. He is co-author with Joseph A. Tainter of Drilling Down. I read Drilling Down on Kindle this week, then bought the paperback to read it again.

Brief interview with Professor Patzek:

See also the Texas Observer interview with Professor Patzek.
And here is what Patzek has to say about agrofuels in a long and extra crunchy lecture.


Nearing the tippy top of the "To Read" pile:
Philip Mirowski's More Heat Than Light: Economics of Social Physics
Douglas Rushkoff's Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus


Nearing to the top of the "To Listen" list:
Douglas Rushkoff's Team Human Podcast



As for financial technology, "A Letter to Jamie Dimon" by Adam Ludwin is best thing I have seen to date on cryptocurrencies.

Ludwin's second most interesting quote:

"Cryptocurrencies are a new asset class that enable decentralized applications."

In other words, "cryptocurrencies" are not currencies as we know them. "Crypto" is too sexy a word for what these actually are. So let's call these puppies NACTEDAs. Rhymes with "rutabagas."

Ludwin's most interesting quote? Buried deep in the middle of his explanation of the nature of NACTEDAs is this colorful explanation of how NACTEDAs are generated or "mined":

"Now we need an actual contest... On your mark, get set: find a random number generated by the network! The number is really, really hard to find So hard that the only way to find it is to use tons of processing power and burn through electricity. It's a computing version of what Veruca Salt made her dad and his poor factory workers do in Willy Wonka. A brute force search for a golden ticket (or in this case, a golden number)."

This is not a point Ludwin makes (he sails on, with utter nonchalance): It is just a question of time-- maybe a loooooooong time, albeit perchance a seemingly out-of-nowhere-pile-on-Harvey-Weinstein moment-- until people recognize the environmental and social justice implications of such extravagant electricity use for generating NACTEDAs.

Can you say, opportunity cost?

As it stands, most people don't or don't want to grok where the magic invisible elixir that always seems to be there at the flip of a switch actually comes from.... which is, uh, usually... and overwhelmingly... coal. And neither do they grok that this flow of power is not never-ending, but a utility that can be cut off. Ye olde winter storm can do it for a day or so. More ominously, the grid itself can fail for lack of maintenance, or any one of one a goodly number of events-- it need not necessarily be some cinematically apocalyptic cyberattack or epic solar flare. Can you say Puerto Rico. Can you say Mexico City after the earthquake. Can you say what happens when you don't pay your bill. Or if the electrical company makes a mistrake. Lalalalala.

In any event, I wouldn't recommend a camping vacation on some random mountaintop in West Virginia any time for... the rest of your life.


And herewith, hat tip to Root Simple, Lloyd Kahn demonstrates his low-tech dishwashing method. The duck part at the end is charmingly weird.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Medieval Party Music, Plus Cyberflanerie: Clive James on Lewis Namier; Ilya Zorn's Typewriter, Bob Lefsetz, Rachael Laudan & Etc

More and extra-wicked-effective email ninjerie... I am whittling down my Outlook Express inbox to the Medieval Music Party Mix:

Because of multiple household and office moves this summer and fall I have gotten so woefully behind with my correspondence that you might wonder how I can proffer advice on managing email (one of the top posts in the 11-year history of this blog). Well, gentle reader, point number 9 of my 10-Point E-Mail Protocol is...


....boomwackers and bongo drums... 

... enter stage left, monkey in turquoise silk suit, a-banging a garbage can lid... 

....descending from ceiling, forest of gamelan bells... 

... and another... 



Works better than a charm! And when it doesn't, well, the world keeps turning, with everybody on it managing as best they can. Somebody wins the lottery, somebody wins the booby prize, and the sun will rise again tomorrow replete with infinite possibilities, except for the dead who have, bless them all, achieved inbox verily zero.


Grow new brain cells whilst reading Clive James on Lewis Namier!

Over at my other blog, Maximilian and Carlota, for researchers of Mexico's Second Empire & French Intervention, a post on Konrad Ratz's Correspondencia inédita entre Maximiliano y Carlota.

Life in a Typewriter Shop: The Amazing Story of Ilya Zorn and her Gold Royal Typewriter. (Yes, I have been pulled into the surprisingly charming orbit of the Typosphere...)

Nigeria-Norway fish connection via food historian Rachel Laudan. (As Laudan says, it's nerdy, but I say, Total Yum if you like salted fish and Quintuple Wow Yum if you happen to be fascinated by food history and economic history.)

Bob Lefsetz on the Enimem video. This is important reading about an alligatoresque moment in the swamplands of US culture and politics-- and precisely why it is such a moment-- and it is especially important reading for those (and that would include myself) who would sooner buy a rabid raccoon than download an Eminem tune. Hey, that rhymes! Uh oh. Naughty Muse.

"Casual empiricism suggests"-- I spotted this marvelous pompadour of a phrase over at Marginal Revolution blog, quoting one Todd D. Kendall. "Little gems": Not just a kind of lettuce! As casual empiricism suggests.


I am truly honored that Joseph Hutchinson, Poet Laureate of Colorado, has reviewed my latest Kindle, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," a longform essay about the Mexican literary landscape written with todo mi corazón. Check it out.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Notes on Poultney Bigelow, Author, World Traveler, Pioneer Publisher of "Outing: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation"

[ POULTNEY BIGELOW, 1855-1954 ]
Andy Warhol must be twirling his wig there in some fuggy realm of the astral watching the Instagramming-Tweeting-Facebooking smombiedom of our day. So it seems, everyone and their neighbor's cousin's twinkle-eyed cat is a 24/7 celebrity in their own iPhone. A century ago, many a decade before Mr Warhol's meteoric flash through the bizarropheres of celebridom (which I daresay have reached their apogee with our Tweeter-in-Chief, DJT), celebrity meant something different, and if not always, at least usually a more curated and dignified elevation to social visibility, and perchance of a literary nature. Well! I'll leave it for our social historians to parse out the granular detail from that particular conceptual bramble-clogged tarpit. I'm just bloggin' here about POULTNEY BIGELOW, an obscure figure today, but a dazzler of a literary celebrity in his time. 

One measure of that celebrity: when he died in 1954 at 98 years of age, the New York Times granted him this lengthy obituary.

The author of a raft of books and pioneer publisher of the sports magazine Outing, Poultney Bigelow has popped up on my radar because I am at work on a book about Far West Texas that will include some discussion of his older brother John Bigelow, Jr.'s articles about the Indian Wars, which Poultney published in Outing, along with illustrations by his Yale University classmate, Frederic Remington

> View Outing online. Also here.

> Next up on my reading list: G. Edward White's The Eastern Establishment and the Western Experience (Yale University Press, 1968).


Poultney (b. 1855) and John Jr. (b. 1854) were the sons of John Bigelow, a skyscraper of a figure in US, New York State, New York City, and Panama Canal history. As President Lincoln's Minister to France, John Bigelow Sr. also had quite a bit to do with twisting Napoleon III's arm to remove his army from Mexico... and Abolition... publishing history... and Swedenborgianism....

See also this article about the Bigelow family homestead in Malden-on-Hudson, where Poultney lived his last decades.
"The First Family of Malden: Eccentric and Worldy" by Jennifer Farley, Saugerties Times, July 10, 2012

More about John Bigelow, Sr. and John Bigelow, Jr. anon.


His papers are in the New York Public Library

Some letters to his father are in the John Bigelow Archive at Union College.

[ A wee selection from Poultney Bigelow's ouevre ]

The German Emperor and His Eastern Neighbours (1892)

Paddles and Politics (1892)

Bismarck (1892)

The Borderland of Czar and Kaiser: Notes from Both Sides of the Russian Frontier (1895)

History of the German Struggle for Liberty (1896)

White Man's Africa (1897)

The Children of the Nations: A Study of Colonization and Its Problems (1901)

Prussian Memories (1916)

Genseric: King of the Vandals and First Prussian (1918)

Prussianism and Pacifism (1919)

Japan and Her Colonies (1923)

Seventy Summers (1925)


Poultney Bigelow's best-known work is his memoir, Seventy Summers, in two volumes, 1925.

When he was a boy, as mentioned, his father was President Abraham Lincoln's Minister to France. Those familiar with Mexican history will recall that the French Imperial Army had invaded Mexico to support a return to a Catholic monarchy: the regime of Maximilian von Habsburg. By 1866, thanks in part to Bigelow's persistent pressure in support of the Mexican Republic, Napoleon III's support for Maximilian was waning, and the Mexican monarchy began to collapse. Poultney Bigelow (vol I p. 33):

[ The Prince Imperial of France ]
"The Emperor sent his only child, the Prince Imperial, to mark his warm friendship for Uncle Sam. It was a bitter pill for Eugenie, and still more for her Court, who had invested much money in Mexico. How they must have cursed the heretics, Lincoln and Stewart and Grant, for thus destroying their dreams of easy money!...  
"Prince Imperial was not so attractive to me... His hair was perfumed, oiled, and curled; he wore a velvet suit with a wide lace collar; he was pale, thin, and obviously on an official mission. An arm-chair became his baby throne, and behind it stood a forbidding Field-Marshal whose uniform was rich in decorations, and whose grandeur checked any impulse we boys might have cherished as regards a rough romp.
"My brother [John Bigelow, Jr] and myself were formally presented-- and amongst the many elders many compliments were exchanged, and much emphasis laid upon the Emperor's kindness so nobly manifested. But the formality was an empty one-- we did not play any games with His Imperial Highness, and he soon retired with his war-like equerry to tell his fond mamma that he had been among the American savages, that he had escaped alive, and was uncommonly glad at not having had to share in our brutal pastimes."

Playtime in Potsdam with Prince Wilhelm (1859-1941), whom he calls William, who would become Kaiser Wilhem II, was a marked contrast (vol I p. 76):

[ The Future Kaiser ]
"At the Neues Palais I was cordially welcomed by Prince William and his brother Henry... From the hour of my first visit until our departure for New York in the fall of 1872, I was an almost constant playmate of the future Kaiser... We romped about the great palace if the weather was bad, played hide-and-seek in the vast attic spaces, and once had the rare treat of working the stage machinery in the theater. Of course, as in the case of most normal boys, we compared notes on likes and dislikes. Prince William knew his Fenimore Cooper by heart, and thirsted for games reminiscent of Uncas and Leatherstocking."

Literary connections were multitudinous in the Bigelow household. Babe Poultney is held by Washington Irving (p.19), as a boy shakes hands with Charles Dickens (p. 54); and later visits with Samuel Clemens, aka Mark ("Dear old Mark!") Twain in Johannesburg and in London (pp. 165-168). On the poet Joaquin Miller (p.197):
"Joaquin (pronounced Walk-een by the initiate) had rented a cottage on my father's place near West Point, and acted the part of an interesting savage  slowly accomodating himself to the ways of the white man... On his head was a picturesque Mexican sombrero, beneath whose broad brim flowed a massive main after the fashion of Buffalo Bill..."
[ Jeff Davis ]
Giants of politics and captains of industry make their cameo appearances, among the former, Jefferson Davis (breaks up a dog fight with his bare hands p. 225), Theodore Roosevelt (vol I 272, vol II 194, 212 212....) and among the latter, Andrew Carnegie. With Carnegie, as with certain others, Poultney can be cutting-- and this apropos of Carnegie's annual visits on John Bigelow, Sr.'s birthday (p. 198):
"Carnegie awakened my dislike from first meeting him in the early 'eighties, and this instinctive feeling was further fortified by my father who was profoundly religious."

The scene in which Bigelow Sr invites his birthday visitor to finance the translation and publication of the works of Swedenborg would make a prize-winning playlet.

Poultney's first taste of Yale University did not suit him. He took a two year leave to travel the world. It would be difficult to overstate his adventures before starting Outing magazine: China, Japan, Papua New Guiness, Borneo, China... returning to Yale in 1876... and many more subsequent world travels...

At Yale University he meets Frederic Remington; together they take a drawing class (p. 301):
"The most difficult of all statues for a beginner was given us: the madly dancing Faun generally credited to Praxiteles. At long intervals the melancholy professor of drawing entered our cheerless room, gazed sadly at our clumsy crayoning, made a few strokes by way of emphasizing our clumsiness, and then disappeared." 


The range of sports covered included bear hunting, moose hunting, salmon fishing in Canada, blowing up an abandoned ship in the waters off Madeiria, camping in Yellowstone , cruising to the Bahamas in winter, chasing Geronimo, tennis... Uf, I am breathless just typing all that.


I just kind of went acorns & hazelnuts taking screenshots from the series of articles on biking, "Around the World on a Bicycle" by biking pioneer Thomas Stevens (1854 - 1935), illustrated by W. A. Rogers. 


And here are a few of the ads in Outing-- which give an idea of the magazine's readers, or at least as the editor and his advertisers might have envisioned them:

In general the articles in Outing are long, dense (no pull quotes), and sparsely if interestingly illustrated. The contrast with most of our contemporary magazines-- a froth of pull quotes, splashy photos and advertising featuring more splashy photos (for the most part of stick-thin people exuding  ennui, disdain, or immanent coma) and the whole of it but sprinkled with driplets of prose-- is striking. I quail to think of Mr Bigelow's reaction were he to have seen the likes of Sports Illustrated.

The prose in Outing gives me a yen for crumpets, or something. From the opening of a November 1885 "To the Pole on Sledges" by W.H. Gilder: 
"Do I think that any one will ever reach the North Pole? Most assuredly."
The poetry is, shall we say, evidence that literary tastes have since evolved. Herewith a couple of samples (after which point my bemusement wears thin):


[ Screenshot of an article by Theodore Roosevelt in Poultney Bigelow's Outing ]

[ A buff-looking portrait of Theodore Roosevelt by J. R. Chapin ] 


[ Later in this article there is a gruesome drawing 
of doing in a hippopotamus, not shown here.]

Notes about Poultney's older brother John Bigelow Jr, his career, and his reporting on the Indian Wars for Outing anon.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

(a post on the English translation of Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg's book 
with an introduction by John Bigelow)