“Narrative of the travels and adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and western Texas” (1843)


This month we’re sharing excerpts from a title found among our many well-preserved old books: the fictionalized narrative of one man’s travels throughout the U.S. southwest entitled the Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and Western Texas. Written in 1843 by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), Monsieur Violet was based loosely on Marryat’s own North American journey. He had been quite the world traveler before the book’s publication, however, serving in the British Royal Navy and sailing all over the globe for several decades.


Marryat was a widely published novelist, and is credited with being one of the first to write “sea stories” (think Master and Commander, or Moby Dick), with his most popular being the semi-autobiographical novel, Mr Midshipman Easy (1836). His authorial popularity even landed him the acquaintanceship of Charles Dickens. Oh, and in his free time Marryat invented a maritime flag signaling system.


In 1839, four years before Monsieur Violet, Marryat published his relatively-less-fictional Diary in America. It was replete with criticisms of nineteenth-century America’s alien–to his eyes–way of doing and looking at things. Suffice to say, in the U.S. it was not uncommon to see the book publicly getting burned alongside effigies of Marryat. If he was trying to capitalize off the popularity of Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 sensation, Democracy in America–and let’s be honest, he was–then he failed spectacularly.


But back to Monsieur Violet. It was also written after Marryat’s stint in North America, and is fairly detailed in its descriptions of the southern and southwestern U.S., including the Native American tribes that inhabited those regions. We’d describe it further, but it’s not a bad read, and you may peruse it at your own leisure here: http://hdl.handle.net/10605/947. And if you’re adventurous, then perhaps you could search around the internets to see if you can locate it under its other title, The Travels and Romantic Adventures of Monsieur Violet among the Snake Indians and Wild Tribes of the Great Western Prairies.


“Celebrating the National Parks: The Photography by Ro Wauer” – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library

Alaska Katmai-18x14Katmai National Park, Alaska

“The national parks of the United States possess the best examples of the continent’s natural heritage, complete with the grandest scenery and most stable plant and animal communities still in existence. North America’s national parks represent a microcosm of our last remaining wildlands.” – Roland Wauer

In 2016 the National Park Service (NPS) will be celebrating 100 years of preserving the wild places of the United States. To commemorate that at the Southwest Collection, we are installing an exhibit entitled “Celebrating the National Parks: The Photography of Ro Wauer.” It consists primarily of photographs taken by Roland “Ro” Wauer, a thirty-two year veteran of the NPS. The exhibit runs from mid-January until mid-summer, and if you’re of a mind to do so, also take a look at his extensive library, manuscript collection, and photographs reside at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.

My Wild Life

Wauer had a varied career. He began his NPS stint as a seasonal ranger, ultimately leading him to serve at eight national parks, the NPS regional office in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finally as Chief of the Division of Natural Resources in Washington, D.C. Until his retirement in 1989 (and, of course, for years afterward) he saw a little bit of everything that nature had to offer. He visited California and Alaska, traveled south into Mexico, and even journeyed to farther locations such as the Virgin Islands and other U.S. affiliates. One of his passions was the study of birds and butterflies, leading to a large portion of his twenty-five books and 200 articles on those subjects (and several others.) His autobiography, “My Wild Life,” formed the core of the content in this exhibit.

Big Bend Bear-14x18Black bear at Sam Nail Ranch, Big Bend National Park, Texas

“My Wild Life” is an interesting read; a trek through many of the parks in which he worked, and the extensive time he spent observing and interacting with the birds and animals therein. Although he is more modest about his accomplishments, there is no question that his study of bird populations and their habitats was significant and widely recognized. Similar acclaim could be accorded to his studies, often through large research projects, of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and a host of other species. Seriously, he details encounters with bighorn sheep and large falcons; poisonous snakes and mountain lions; and of course, owls, swallows, and, honestly, an Audobon guide’s worth of birds.

Badlands-18x14Badlands National Park, South Dakota

So if you want to see some more of these excellent photos of the flora, fauna, and grandeur of the United States’ national parks, stop on by this spring or summer and take a look at our exhibit. And of course, if you’d like to peruse the papers of Ro Wauer, our Reference Staff is always happy to arrange that for you.

Head West!

At the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is), many corporations, investors, and capitalists wanted to share a little something wonderful with you: THE AMERICAN WEST. Anywhere west of the Mississippi River was a latter-day Eden, and for a few cents on the acre you could own a piece of this unique prize. Only a fool would pass on thousands of square miles of: Bountiful harvests! Spacious ranches! Amazing weather! And plentiful railroads!

California Is the Place You Want to Be!


Jerome Madden, Land Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad (S.P.R.R.) Company, knew everything about California in 1890. His mission was to share that knowledge with you. In his publications, nary an acre of land nor the crops that flourished there were left unexamined (the orchards alone could conjure a man’s fortune!) No comparison to other regions was left unexplored, either. How did California compare to Europe? Madden knew this much: “the superiority of the climate of California over that of Italy has been mentioned by many noted travelers.” Why, even the London Spectator described California’s weather as “the nearest (to) perfection in the world,” comparable only to Tasmania!


Now that Mr. Madden had potential buyers’ attention, it was time to tell them how to find to this coastal paradise. Fortunately, there were only three railroads headed west (that bore the S.P.R.R.’s seal of quality, at any rate), keeping the move to California as simple as possible. Pick one, and profit!

Colorado, Here We Come!


California wasn’t the only paradise on earth in the United States, at least according to the Union Pacific Railroad. South Platte Valley, Colorado boasted soil vastly superior in depth and content to that of the “Eastern and Middle West States,” which was fortunate because there was cash money in that soil…in the form of sugar beets! “It is the belief of experts that the production of sugar beets will become the leading business of inhabitants of this valley” due to its “bright sunshine” and light summer rains. There were other financial opportunities in the area, to be sure, but for the discerning emigrant, beets were Coloradan gold.


Not to be outdone by competitors such as the S.P.R.R. whose helpful directions were undoubtedly inspiring Americans to move west by the gross, the Union Pacific line’s publications shared their extensive travel information. The Union Pacific Overland Route was, after all, “the only direct line to all principal points West.”

Hurry On Out to Sunny Texas!


The Caswell Brothers knew what the savvy homesteader really wanted: tillable land on the cheap! And, if you were feeling particularly cowboyish, there had a little ranch land to sell, too. But wait! Why not live in the city instead? After all, Fort Worth had boomed from a modest hamlet of 11,000 people with no railroad access in 1876 to a whopping 30,000 souls in 1880, every one of whom could boast that they now enjoyed eleven railroads leading out of town!


Texas held more temptations than just the railroad-clogged metropolis of Fort Worth. After all, weren’t folks tired of the incessant blizzards plaguing them in, presumably, every other part of the United States? Look no further than Texas for sweet relief! This image, helpfully provided by the Caswell Brothers in their promotional material, shows the truth of the matter. The shivering masses turn their eyes to the Lone Star and its abundant crops, cattle, and cowtowns. Why, who wouldn’t point their wagon toward sunny Texas immediately?

The Southwest Collection is full of a variety of curiosities such as these promotional land pamphlets, many of which can be found in digital format here. Our Reference Department would be happy to help you find any others if you, the interested researcher, would like to see them.

The Coronelli Globe!

2AFL1380The Southwest Collection/ Special Collections Library is home to a variety of incredible artifacts, but none compare to our most prized possession: the historic Coronelli Globe. The only one of its kind on permanent display outside of the Library of Congress, the globe was first purchased in Italy during the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst. In the 1950s Dallas oilman Robert Moody acquired the globe, and through the efforts of Texas Tech President Grover Murray and Library Director Ray Janeway the globe became the Texas Tech Library’s one millionth acquisition in 1968. The globe was then displayed in the Library foyer until 1996, when it underwent conservation. Finally, in 1997 the globe was installed in the Southwest Collection’s rotunda where it remains on permanent display.

Franciscan monk and cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, from whom the globe takes its name, designed and created this artifact in the 1680s. Coronelli spent most of his life in the city of his birth, Venice. At the age of twenty-eight, he constructed his first globe in his Venetian workshop in 1678. By the time of his death in 1718 he had designed more than twenty different globes with diameters ranging from less than two inches to over thirteen feet. At forty-two inches, the Southwest Collection’s globe is an example of Coronelli at the height of his powers, combining a keen artistic sense with his extensive knowledge of astronomy and geography.


The globe is also a window into the late seventeenth century world, illustrating the extent of European exploration. For example, while the coasts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas are depicted in great detail, the continents’ interiors include regions with fanciful drawings rather than geographical features. It also contains errors, such as Australia’s inaccurate size, blank east coast, and illustration of an elephant as an inhabitant of that continent.


One of the more glaring misrepresentations is in regard to California. Although earlier maps had correctly depicted the region as a peninsula, descriptions given by several early seventeenth century explorers mistakenly claimed that California was an island. These tales soon became widely accepted, and as a result Coronelli depicted the North American west coast as separate from the mainland.


Another interesting detail is the placement of the Mississippi River. On the globe, it lies far to the west of its actual course. This may result from the documentation by French explorer Robert de La Salle, who had explored the river in 1682. His confusion as to the river’s exact location would soon result in more than incorrect maps, for in 1684 La Salle attempted to form a French colony at the mouth of the river but located it instead on the coast south of present day Victoria, Texas. For years historians have portrayed La Salle as veering off course and shipwrecking on the Texas coast. Some cartographic scholars, however, believe that the globe shows that La Salle arrived precisely where he thought he was going. Either way, the settlement lasted only until 1688 when Karankawa-speaking Indians massacred the last remaining colonists. In the meantime, relying on La Salle’s information, cartographers such as Coronelli depicted the Mississippi’s location inaccurately.

Globe half clean

The Coronelli globe underwent conservation in 1996. This required an often difficult decision process. All repairs were undertaken only when they would stabilize and strengthen the artifact. The globe’s surface is covered in some fifty paper sections called ‘gores.’ As these—as well as the globe’s layers of dirt, varnish, and overpaint—were removed to reveal its true beauty, part of its history was also erased. For example, two layers of material existed: the original dirty top layer and a foundation layer of coarse burlap. In order to properly preserve the globe, some portions had to be permanently removed. Fortunately, such decisions did not always result in historical tragedy. The globe’s installation also revealed another layer of engraved paper inside the outer one. Hidden for centuries, this layer is evidence that this globe might have been Coronelli’s own experimental working model, making it of enormous importance to research.

If you ever visit the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, you would be well-served to take a look at the Coronelli Globe. And, as always, give our many archival collections a look, too!