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Thursday, August 20, 2009

On the Cherokee Trail with W.M. Morrison,
Texas Bookseller


Here's an invoice from 1955, W.M. Morrison - Texas Books. Morrison (1914-1981) was a collector, bookseller, and Civil War historian. He was also a publisher of reprints and original works of Texas history. In 1963, Morrison published Texas Book Prices (updated in 1972). During his carer, he issued 340 catalogs, which have in themselves become collectible for their bibliographic and reference value.

More associated with Waco, he opened his first book shop in Houston in 1954. Herbert Fletcher (Anson Jones Press), whom I've blogged about, was a mentor to Morrison.

A year later, as indicated by this invoice, he sold an interesting book that's now part of my stock: Park Hill, by Carolyn Thomas Foreman (1948). Park Hill is a scarce title dealing with the town that became a publishing center of culture and historical research pertaining to Chief John Ross, the Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears, and the Oklahoma Territory. The book was sent to a customer in Oklahoma City in 1955 and somehow found its way back to Houston, where I found it more than 50 years after Morrison sold it.


Morrison included a note on the invoice asking the buyer know to contact him if he ever ran across a photo of Chief John Jolly, as he'd like to obtain a copy. John Jolly was a Cherokee Chief in Tennessee, known as Chief Oo-loo-te-ka. He may be better known for adopting Sam Houston as his son. Houston went to live with the Cherokee as a young man and Chief Oo-loo-te-ka adopted him as his son, naming him Co-lo-neh, or the Raven. Later, Houston acquired the much less flattering nickname of Oo-tse-tee Ar-dee-tah-skee, or "Big Drunk."

The link above for Chief Oo-loo-te-ka includes an engraving that apparently depicts Oo-le-te-ka and Sam Houston. As Oo-le-te-ka is reported to have died in 1838, no photos will exist for him.

This image may be the only one or one of only a handful that depict the chief. Turning to my copy of Engraved Prints of Texas 1554-1900, by Kelsey & Hutchison (Texas A&M University Press, 2005), I learn it's a wood engraving by J. Dallas that was one of several included in the biography, The Life of Sam Houston, by Lester C. Edwards (J.C. Derby, 1855).

One last item of interest on the invoice is Morrison's membership list in societies pertinent to his business. No less than a dozen are listed, including the A.B.A.A., The Manuscript Society, and the Texas State Historical Association, to name several. Like a good reference library, society memberships can be used to further one's knowledge in areas of interest. Morrison knew that early on in his career.

Without my reference books (Morrison's Texas Book Prices is in my collection), I could not have produced so quickly, if at all, the information I just presented about the wood engraving. And without adding Mr. Morrison's invoice to my bibliophemera collection, I would not have learned a few things about him, Chief John Jolly and other Cherokee history. All fine things for a bookseller's knowledge collection.

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