Lincoln, Nebraska: The University Publishing Company, 1921. 23x15.5cm: 302pp. First Edition. Blue cloth boards with gilt titling and illustrations to spine and front board. Contains over 50 black and white illustrations or photos, including a frontispiece of John Bratt with an intact tissue guard. Fervently used with bumping and fraying to corners and edges, splitting along the front joint, old tape reinforcing the front hinge, several small page tears (not affecting the type), rubbing to boards, and sporadic staining. Front board and spine label detached from text block. Contemporary bookplate belonging to Delya D. Bell on front pastedown. Several pieces of ephemeral items laid in. Charmingly Good.
This particular copy was lovingly used by author Harry E. Chrisman as, we suppose, research for his books. Chrisman, primarily known for writing about the American West, was born in the early 20th century on a ranch the county over from Bratt’s own in North Platte, Nebraska. The endpapers and text margins are filled with his many handwritten notes, marked pages, quotes, and questions and serves as an excellent example of his extensive research process. Inside is a handwritten quote by Chrisman stating, “John Bratt’s autobiography reminds me of the saying ‘When beggars are mounted they ride their horses to death.’ - H.E.C.” Within the book, one will find even more handwritten notations and markings, adding extra information, along with names and places to research further. Laid in is a newspaper article about Schyler Colfax, a pamphlet from the Denver Public Library stapled with hand-written notes listing several biographies, an artist card, and sheet advertising a Buffalo Bill exhibit. The most interesting of all is the typed correspondence to Chrisman (from R.C. Conroy) in response to his inquiries about Bratt’s Range. Included with the letter is a loose hand-drawn map of the land that Bratt “claimed in 1886, outline made by his cowboys years later, when he was at the height of operations with around 40,000 cattle.” The letter also references Buffalo Bill Cody’s ranch, North & Cody, purchased by Bratt in 1880.
John Bratt’s posthumously published autobiography is considered an important historical account of life as a cattle rancher in the American West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including personal encounters with Native Americans. He writes about his many interactions with the “Indians” throughout his time, making mention of raids and attacks, negotiations that occurred for sharing land, specific tribes they befriended like the Pawnee, and even adding a historical excerpt of Red Cloud’s life written by Albert Payson Turhane.