Archive for the ‘Bibliographical Notes’ Category

J. M. Scanland

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

John Milton Scanland must have shaken in his boots when he opened his door one day and stood face to face with a man he thought was dead — Wyatt Earp.

More than two years earlier, in March 1922, Scanland, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, had published an article about the legendary western lawman best known for his involvement in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The truth about the fight had become distorted since 1881, when it took place, and Earp’s reputation had been tarnished by rumor and false accusations. Rather than as an upholder of the law, Scanland depicted Earp as a no-good bandit and murderer. He even claimed Earp had been killed at Colton, California.

In fact, Earp was alive and well — and living in Los Angeles. When he opened up his copy of the Times and found Scanland’s disparaging article, he decided he’d had enough of all the lies people were spreading about him. Although it took him several years to find the article’s author, he eventually tracked him down, intending to give him a piece of his mind. To his surprise, Earp discovered Scanland was an old man like himself who said he had just been trying to make a living. Earp settled for a written apology and retraction of the article’s statements. But from then on, he decided, things were going to be different. “Earp buffs everywhere owe Scanland a debt of gratitude,” one historian has written. “There can be no doubt that Scanland’s garble of historical libel prompted Wyatt to overcome his reluctance to talk about his life.”

Who was J. M. Scanland? Research recently conducted for the Louisiana Digital Newspaper Project sheds light on this unwittingly important figure in the history of the American West.

Scanland was born in Mississippi around 1843. Orphaned at a young age, he began his career at the Caddo Gazette in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he and his brother William Henry Scanland, who later rose to prominence as editor of the Bossier Banner, worked as apprentices. After serving in the Confederate army, Scanland edited the Bienville Messenger in Sparta, a small town near Shreveport. There he courted Adele Coleman, daughter of a prominent local planter. Scanland’s reasons for leaving Sparta aren’t clear but may have stemmed from Coleman’s rejection of him and marriage to Marshall Harvey Twitchell, a troublemaking Carpetbagger from Vermont. Twitchell was later a target of Louisiana’s equivalent of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral — the Coushatta Massacre of 1874, in which at least 11 men were murdered because of their political views.

By 1867, Scanland had become editor of the Natchitoches Spectator, a Democratic newspaper. His politics, however, were somewhat ambiguous. When accused of being sympathetic to the Radical Republicans, who had taken over Louisiana after the Civil War, Scanland denied the charges, but in September 1868, he sold the Spectator to Major James Cromie, a Republican officeholder and former commissioner of the local Freedman’s Bureau. Cromie immediately began publishing a Republican newspaper, the Red River News.

Scanland eventually found his way to California, where in the 1880s he edited the Ojai Valley View and the Santa Paula Graphic. Later he wrote articles, mostly on western topics, for various newspapers, including the L.A. Times, which hailed him as “a pioneer California journalist” when he died in 1935. In 1908, in El Paso, Texas (where he was probably working as a news reporter) Scanland published a biography of another western lawman only slightly less famous than Wyatt Earp — Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid. Garrett, incidentally, had grown up on a plantation not far from Shreveport. One can only wonder whether he and Scanland crossed paths in their youth.

– Michael Taylor, Asssitant Curator of Books

Hans Sloane and his Bookplate

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Hans Sloane bookplate

Bookplates are generally good ways of tracing the provenance, or previous ownership, of a book. Sometimes, however, they can be misleading, and researchers should be careful not to jump to conclusions.

A book from the LSU Libraries’ McIlhenny Natural History Collection illustrates this point. Inside the cover of John Ray’s Wisdom of the Works of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1756) is a bookplate with the name “Hans Sloane, Esqr.” printed on it. One might assume that the book belonged to Sir Hans Sloane, the famous natural history collector whose bequest of books and artifacts formed the foundation of the British Museum. (Sloane is also famous for having “invented” milk chocolate, the recipe for which was later adopted by John Cadbury, founder of the Cadbury chocolate company).

There’s just one problem: Sir Hans died in 1753—three years before this book was published.

A quick look at the Dictionary of National Biography reveals that Sir Hans had a son, also named Hans; unfortunately, the child died in infancy. However, an inquiry to the Sloane Printed Books Project at the British Library, which is trying to recreate Sloane’s library (many books from which were sold in duplicate sales in the 19th century), reveals that Sloane had a great-nephew, also named Hans, who used a bookplate. Given the 1756 printing date of LSU’s copy of Ray’s sermons, the book must have belonged to Sir Hans’ great-nephew rather than to Sir Hans himself.

At least one other U.S. library with a book bearing the bookplate shown above has identified it as being from the library of Sir Hans. Bibliographers beware! Hans Sloane, Esq., and Sir Hans Sloane were not one and the same.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

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