Lot 18 of 96:
Rare account of crossing the plains in 1853  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$53,125
$8,000 - $12,000

Crossing the Plains in 1852: Narrative of a Trip from Iowa to "The Land of Gold," as Told in Letters Written During the Journey

Cooke, Lucy Rutledge

Modesto, California

Privately printed



94 pp. With 2 halftone plates from photographs. 19.2x13.5 cm (7½x5¼, original maroon wrappers stamped in gilt on front wrapper. First Edition. 

Very rare account of an overland journey during the Gold Rush, consisting of ten letters written in a "journalistic style" by Lucy Cooke to her sister, Mrs. Willis, while en route to California. Streeter states that "These long chatty letters to a sister left behind in Iowa, by a young married woman traveling west with her husband and baby and many in-laws, give one of the best pictures of the overland journey in the early fifties, and of life in Salt Lake City at that time, which I have seen." Cooke and her party left Kanesville, Iowa, on May 27, 1852, and were in Salt Lake City by July 8. After some eight months with the Mormons (where her landlord proposed that she forget her husband and be "sealed" with him), they proceeded on their way, and reached Carson Valley in June. The last letter is dated June 5, 1853. Over forty years later, Cooke described her entrance into California, relating that they were escorted over the Sierra by a Dr. Pingree, who was taking a pack train to Marysville, and arrived near Placerville sometime in August of 1853. The fragile and rather crudely produced book was "printed solely for the descendants of the author" in a very small number. The present copy is consigned by the great, great, great granddaughter of Lucy Rutledge Cooke, descended in the family through the author's son Frank Cooke and his son Holland Cooke. The consignor notes "Since Frank had purchased the Healdsburg Tribune in 1897, we can presume he had the resources to publish this book and distribute to his sons and daughters as a gift." Kurutz locates only three copies of the book, in the Bancroft Library, Yale, and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Only two copies seem to have appeared at auction in the last 40 years, the Streeter copy, which brought $650 in 1968, and a copy sold at PBA Galleries for $14,400 in 2004. Cowan p.839; Howes C737; Kurutz 156a; Mattes 1139; Mintz 104; Streeter Sale 3226.

Provenance Of Lucy Rutledge Cooke’s Book
Lucy Rutledge Cooke (1827-1914) traveled for a year with her husband and family, from Iowa to California, by covered wagon beginning in 1852. Her narrative letters sent to her sister during the journey are the foundation of her book, “Covered Wagon Days, Crossing the Plains in 1852.” Mrs. Cooke’s observations and impressions are fascinating, including her accounts of a winter stop over in Salt Lake City. She writes of Brigham Young and the fourth anniversary festivities of the Mormon arrival in the valley. With unswerthing optimism, she describes a challenging journey to the land of gold and opportunity.
Nearly 70 years after her successful arrival in California, the first copies of her book were lovingly published in 1923 by her son Frank Willis Cooke for his descendants. The essence of his beloved Mother and their Grandmother, was beautifully captured within the pages and then gifted to them. Undoubtedly, Frank Cooke’s career in the newspaper industry and the relationships that he built as owner of the Healdsburg Tribune helped bring this thoughtful homage to fruition.
Frank and his wife Viola Cooke raised a family of five children in California. This particular first edition copy was given to their oldest son, Holland “Harold” Cooke. Harold adventured his way to the Pacific Northwest as a teenager, first to Oregon and then to Washington where he married in 1921. Of all things, Harold’s wife was also named Lucy and she became Lucy Cooke, as well. Upon Harold’s death, his wife Lucy set aside this special book for their descendants. This copy has been preserved by Harold’s family in Washington State for nearly 100 years.

Lot Amendments

Wrappers with some wear and creasing to edges (which extend beyond text block), short tear at gutter of front wrapper, gilt lettering dull; very good.

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