Monday, December 1, 2008

E.H. Cushing - Houston Bookseller & Printer, 1871

Here is my earliest example of ephemera related to a bookseller from my hometown of Houston. Meet E.H. Cushing, circa 1871.

Edward Hopkins Cushing, of Vermont, came to Houston in the 1850s, for a bit of adventure it would seem, after graduating from Dartmouth. He wanted to teach and did at three schools in the Houston area before getting involved in the newspaper publishing business. Writing for a newspaper eventually led to part ownership of the paper and later a controlling interest in another paper, the Houston Telegraph, which he used to promote his ideas for business and education in his beloved, adopted hometown of Houston. His interest in the arts and sciences extended to Texas authors, agriculture, and horticulture. An accomplished horticulturist, Cushing is reported to have had one of the most complete collections of flowers on his estate, Bohemia, in the United States.

During the Civil War, Cushing kept his publishing business afloat, sometimes using wallpaper or whatever was handy to print his newspaper. But his politics leaned in favor of secession, which curried no favor with the Reconstructionists after the war. In fact, Texas' Reconstruction governor, Edmund J. Davis, recommended to President Andrew Johnson that Cushing be hanged instead of pardoned for his actions in the war. If the governor ever entertained ideas about publishing his memoirs after leaving office, I doubt Mr. Cushing would have made the short list of potential publishers!

After the Civil War, Cushing was lured to bookselling, sold his newspaper business and bought an existing book and stationary business on Franklin St. in Houston. There, he sold books like the ones in his brochure, shown above, until he died in 1879. I don't know if he specialized in law books. As he was a man of many interests, I think he probably stocked books on a variety of subjects.

Cushing's interest in books extended beyond bookselling into printing and publishing, as evidenced by this auction from Dorothy Sloan Books, of Austin, in 1998:
29. BRADY, Wm. Glimpses of Texas: Its Divisions, Resources, Development and Prospects. Houston: [Gray and Cushing], 1871. 104 [1, index (inside lower wrapper)] pp., folding colored map of Texas by G. W. & C. B. Colton (Map of Texas to Accompany "Brady's Glimpses of Texas." E. H. Cushing, Houston, Texas, 1871, 11-15/16 x 14-15/16 inches). 16mo, original tan printed wrappers, sewn. Wraps lightly soiled and creased, text very fine, map excellent and bright, printed errata slip pasted on inside wrap. The guide was issued both with and without the map--copies with the map are the exception. Signed postcard by pioneer printer and newspaperman E. H. Cushing, who printed the pamphlet.

First edition of a rare promotional, with an excellent map. Adams, Herd 303: "Rare. Chapter on stock raising." Day, p. 85. Graff 387: "Devoted to the enticement of immigrants." Howes B714. Rader 460. Raines, p. 30. Winkler-Friend 2779. Promotional touting resources and opportunities in Texas, including cotton, sugar, corn, and wheat farming, stock raising, lumber, manufactures, railroads, lands for sale, ads for businesses in Houston and Galveston, etc. In his glowing section on "Society in Texas," Brady declares: "Outrage, arson, forgery, swindling, and malicious mischief rarely occur in Texas." The fine map of Texas contains insets of "Plan of the Environs of Houston" (showing Houston-Galveston area with railroad and wharf connections) and a general map of U.S. and Mexico. See New Handbook II:458 for more on Cushing.
The book realized a price of $1,725. Note also that the publication date of the pamphlet is 1871. Cushing is credited as publisher/printer, so evidently he did not completely divest himself of publishing and printing interests when he entered the bookselling business (bookstore brochure above also dated 1871).

Now, if I can find out who used to own the business Cushing bought and collect a billhead or letterhead from them, they would be my earliest among Houston bibliophemera. And I'd also like to know if Cushing's business survived his death, either in his name or another at the Franklin St. location or elsewhere.

Sources: The Handbook of Texas Online and Dorothy Sloan - Books,


  1. I enjoyed your post about E.H. He was my wife's GGgrandfather After he died in 1879 his son returned from TAMC and helped his mother dispose of the bookstore and publishing company. I have yet to find out if this was a complete sale or if it was pieced out. The 1880 cencus shows his wife and two of three children living with her father, Burk, the mayor, at his residence while E.B. his oldest was employed with one of the companies which finally became the S.P. RR as an "axe man" what ever that means. I have accumulated a bit if information about both E.H. and E.B. if you are interested. E.H. was married twice and saw the death of one wife and seven children, most not living long after birth. Hie estate "Bohemia" alluded me for a while but I finally located it in Houston. The ten acres are still intact as the campus of San Jacinto High School now HCC at San Jacinto and Holman.

    My files about E.H. and his oldest son E.B. are extensive but not complete. You made a note about finding an earlier publisher, of which I am sure there are several, and were querying as to from whom he may have bought the bookstore. E. H. had started it from scratch with the oversight of a Mr. Cave. They had a store in Houston and Galveston while he was still the owner/editor and publisher of the Houston Telegraph. He sold the paper in 1866 and concentrated on his publishing and bookstore business. As you seem to be interested in the "things" of this history, I am interested in the story of the two lives. My goal is to establish a link between E.H., the ratification of the Morrell act and the establishment of TAMC in 1876. He donated 300 books to the library in 1876 which were lost forever in the tragic fire of the old Main Bldg 1912 preceeded by the mess hall fire in 1911. This left TAMC with no place to feed the students and no classrooms. The legislature told the BOD to move the college to Austin. E.B. was the chairman of the board and rallied to prevent this along with underwriting $76,000 worth of expenditures to keep the college going out of his own purse

    For this and many other acts of support for TAMC they named the library for him after his death in 1924 and its erection in the 30’s.

  2. Thank you, JRC, for taking the time to share all that wonderful information. I have done a lot of genealogical research on my and my wife's family history, so I can appreciate your interest in your wife's family and, in particular, E.H. Cushing. My historical interests, with respect to Cushing, are in both the local history (Houston) and the history of my profession (bookselling). My acquisition of Cushing's 1871 handbill or promotional piece for his books enabled me to barely scratch the surface of the history behind the man and his business. I greatly appreciate your filling in some of the other history. You quickly answered my two main questions about Cushing's predecessor and successor in the bookstore on Franklin. In either case there was none. That he owned the store before selling the newspaper and devoting his energies to publishing and selling books is interesting and makes me wonder if such a transition were tied to certain political and business forces during the Reconstruction Era (i.e., political support during the Civil War). Evidently, The Handbook of Texas Online misstated or inaccurately reported that Cushing sold his newspaper and used the proceeds to purchase an existing bookstore. It's a shame that the bookstore didn't continue in some capacity after his death. My research did not go deep enough to learn about the Cushings' associations with Texas A&M. Fascinating! And I wish you well with your research in establishing a link between E.H. Cushing, the Morrell Act, and the origins of Texas A&M. As if that weren't enough for a family legacy tied to a university, E.H.'s son helped preserve the university in its present location. Can't imagine Aggieland in Austin. And one last thank you for answering another question I had, but did not pose in my blog entry: Where was Cushing's home Bohemia located? As a side note, I remember a few study sessions in the Cushing Memorial Library at A&M and years later I took a class for fun at the HCC campus in Houston with absolutely no knowledge of what a beautiful estate must have once existed on that property.

  3. I cannot site the exact source but it is my understanding from my research that E.H. used the funds from his sale of the paper to expand his bookstore project. When one surveys the Galveston News from that time they will find many advertisements both before the sale and after sighting offerings of books and other printed materials as well as seed and other agricultural items being available at the address of the paper/bookstore. Immediately after the war E. H. and his family with Molly Moore traveled to New York to purchase a new printing press. This leads me to believe that he used one of the then two presses in his business after he sold the paper. One article states that he did not give up his office at the paper after the sale but used it while managing the bookstore.

    A rereading of the tribute to him by his son shows me that at the time of the purchase of the land for “Bohemia” there was already a school on that property. This school also appears on the early Sandborn maps of Houston so I guess the house and grounds occupied the rest of that block. From this property E. H. was able to win several awards for flowers entered in the state fair when it was in Houston at a site on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou.

    Feel free to contact me if you would like to see my files on E. H. and E. B.




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