MERCER, Asa Shinn (1839-1917). The Banditti of the Plains or the Cattleman's Invasion of Wyoming in 1892. (The Crowning Infamy of the Ages). [Denver, Col.], 1894.
8o (235 x 157 mm). Advertisement leaf and seven blanks at front. Illustrations in text. In coated white paper printer's waste from a book on shorthand, probably to serve as endpapers, ALMOST ENTIRELY UNOPENED (some minor dampstaining, rear sheet with a few short repaired tears); brown quarter morocco folding case.
FIRST EDITION OF A BOOK WITH A "TEMPESTUOUS HISTORY" (Adams Herd). Mercer, the editor of a Cheyenne, Wyoming cattleman's newspaper, published this detailed but highly partisan account of the Johnson County Cattle War of 1892, in which small cattle ranchers and larger, established ranchmen of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) clashed over grazing rights. Mercer had come to Cheyenne from Seattle (having been the University of Washington's first President, and sole instructor) to edit the Northwestern Livestock Journal, the official publication of the WSGA which represented monied interests intent on controlling the cattle industry. As the events of the war unfolded, Mercer came to sympathize with the homesteaders and turned against the WSGA. Many copies of the book were reportedly destroyed by cattlemen and their descendants who felt they had been unfavorably depicted in the book. Mercer's exposé of the cattle industry nearly cost the author his life.
In The Rampaging Herd, Adams notes that the book was never actually published, but printed: "Immediately after it made its appearance in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the entire issue was impounded by a local court in the course of a libel suit and ordered to be destroyed. While in the custody of the court, a number of copies were stolen and smuggled to Denver, which city lay outside the court's jurisdiction. It is claimed that the books were unbound at the time and later bound in Denver" (Adams Herd 1474). Against these traditional conclusions, Reese notes that both of Mercer's children maintain that the work was printed in Denver, as did Fred Rosenstock. Reese also doubts the veracity of the many stories surrounding the book's destruction and suppression, though he admits that "undoubtedly copies were destroyed...and the Banditti is a very rare book in any case. There are two binding states, black pebbled cloth and glossy white wrappers. Mr. Rosenstock believes the latter to be the first state, but I do not think any priority of issue can be established. Indeed, copies have been seen with the glossy wrappers bound inside the black pebbled cloth, and given the nature of the book, it is probable all were done simultaneously" (Reese Six Score 79). Adams Herd 1474; Adams Six Guns 679; Dobie p. 111; Graff 2750; Howes M-522 ("b"); Smith 6735; Streeter IV:2385.