Head West, Young Man

This week of photographing books in Loyola’s Special Collections and Rare Books brought a title and a genre to mind that piqued my interest. Wah-to-Yah, and the Taos Trail; or Prairie Travel and Scalp Dances, with a Look at Los Rancheros from Muleback and the Rocky Mountain Campfire is by Lewis Hector Garrard. The genre according to Loyola libraries’ Pegasus site for the book is description-travel and the story the author tells is certainly one of being away from home and partaking in dangerous adventures.

a first edition!

a first edition!

It may helpful to know a little bit about the author.  According to the finding aid for the authors’s papers at Minnesota State University Mankato, Lewis Hector Garrard embarked on his voyage when he was seventeen years old and traveled through the Southern Rocky Mountains, which encompassed New Mexico and the state’s Taos areas. Following his trip, Lewis Garrard published Wah-to-Yah, and the Taos Trail in 1850 and later went on to medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Garrard lived out most of his days in Minnesota serving in various political offices and eventually passing away in 1887 in Lakewood, New York. This raises the question: what did this man have to contribute to Native American history and how common was this type of narrative at the time?

According to a summary on Amazon.comWah-to-Yah follows the adventures of a young man who traveled with the famous trader Céran St. Vrain on a caravan heading to Fort William. Mr. Garrard spends a good deal of time at the fort and later with a group of Cheyenne Indians before joining a band of volunteers to avenge the death of Governor Charles Bent of Taos. Throughout his work, Mr. Garrard talks about notable figures such as Kit Carson and John L. Hatcher during such an interesting time as the Taos Revolt and Mexican-American War. However, even with such an interesting narrative taking place, it is not hard to see why this title may have lost some of its popularity.

According to the Indiana University-Bloomington Libraries site, the author of the Encyclopedia of Exploration, 1800-1850: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to the History and Literature of Exploration, Travel, and Colonization between the years 1800 and 1850, Raymond John Howgego, stated that there may have been more travel narratives written between 1800-1850 than all preceding years. Travel literature is an interesting genre because it attempts to transport the reader to a place where they can visualize the landscape, experience the culture of a particular people or imagine the taste of a certain population’s cuisine. Personally, I feel as though this genre has been dwindling and I could not name one modern day travel novel.

This brings up one last and more direct question: Why would St. Ignatius College bother having a copy of Wah-to-Yah in their library? Some possible answers to why St. Ignatius may own a copy include: The readership during the 1870’s and onward had an interest in the travel genre. Someone may have donated or gifted the book from their own personal library. Perhaps, it was pure coincidence that the book ended up here at all. Regardless of what conclusion one might come to it certainly is food for thought about how the readership and interest of library goers chances over time. What do you think the next big trend will be?

Intrigued?  Read the full text of Wah-To-Yah for free on Google Books or Hathitrust.

Jim Naughton, JLPP Intern

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