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Western Americana

  • The Princeton Collections of Western Americana were born with the 1947 gift of the collection of imprints and manuscripts focused on overland narratives, the cattle trade, and the Rocky Mountain West gathered by Philip Ashton Rollins, Class of 1889.  The strengths in Princeton’s holdings on the West – the American Indian, the Rocky Mountain states, the Spanish Southwest, the Mormons, territorial imprints, photography, and the popular image of the West – have been especially pursued and made possible through the generous bequest of an endowment from J. Monroe Thorington, Class of 1915.

  • Location designators: WA, Western Americana, Rollins

    I. Rollins Collection.

        Location designator: Rollins

    Philip Ashton Rollins '89 Collection is the founding collection to which others have been and are being added. It has about 3,500 volumes. [For other WA collections, see below.] The gift of the collection was made in 1947 by Rollins and his wife, Beulah (Pack) Rollins. Rollins's field was mainly west of the Mississippi River, being richest in the Rocky Mountain states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Idaho). There is special material on cattle trade, which was the beginning of the collection. It includes one of the best collections of brand books. Rollins also specialized in Overland Narratives, especially Post-Civil War. Excellent on Gold Rush, and rich in records on encounters between whites and American Indians. Many autobiographies of American Indians. Indian newspapers, newsletters and periodicals have been added to the collection.

    A brief anecdote about Rollins is found in the memoirs of the antiquarian dealer, Charles P. Everitt. See his The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter: A Rare Bookman in Search of American History (Boston, 1951) p. 165-168.

    For a general history and description of the collection see: Alfred L. Bush, "The Princeton Collections of Western Americana" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXIII, 1 (Autumn, 1971) pp. 1-17 [ full text].

    Also see the Princeton University Library Chronicle IX, 4 (June, 1948), pp. 177-210 [full text] where four articles concerning the Rollins collection appear. Of the four articles in IX, one is concerned specifically with the holdings of the Rollins collection: Thomas W. Streeter, "The Rollins Collection of Western Americana" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle IX, 4 (June 1948) pp. 191-204 [full text] .

    Highlights of the collection include the following as well:

    The Peep O'Day. A Salt Lake Magazine of Science, Literature and Art. Princeton has a complete run of the first literary periodical of the Rocky Mountain West: vol.1 no.1 (October 20, 1864) to vol. 1 no. 6 (November 25, 1864).

    Also has the first New Mexico imprint: Lista de los ciudadanos que deberan componer los jurados de imprenta, formada por el ayuntamiento de esta capital. Santa Fe, 1834.

    II. Other Western Americana Collections

    The general Western Americana collection attempts to continue the collection begun by the Rollins volumes.


    1. J. Monroe Thorington '15 Western Americana Collection


    Canadian Rockies. Many rarities, including spectacular pieces from New Mexico. His gifts of Utah territorial prints, especially, were extraordinarily frequent and one of the principle reasons for Princeton's preeminence in that field.

    2. Scheide Collection: contains many early books on native American languages.

    3. J. Lionberger Davis '00 began in 1964 a series of gifts which have built a collection of territorial imprints from the Rocky Mountain states...dominated by Utah...first four imprints of the press in the Great Basin... paper validated by Brigham Young. A series of exchanges with the Utah libraries of duplicates has supplemented the Davis collection, and the result is one of the areas of comprehensive excellence in the Princeton Collections.

    Capstone added in 1968 when Davis, joined by William H. Scheide '36 and Donnelly Erdman '60, acquired at auction the only complete copy (preceded only by the paper currency) of The Second General Epistle by Brigham Young in 1849. Princeton now has a complete collection of the entire production of the press in Utah in its first year. Collection now numbers several hundred imprints.

    4. Amesse Collection books from Colorado: Texas and Colorado books.

    5. Thomas P. Baird '45 Collection of Western Americana: Nebraska

    6. David N. Pierce '67 Collection: Utah and Mormon imprints

    7. William Goldman (author of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) has given "a gathering of pious 19th century Mormon tracts in the memory of Butch Cassidy."

    8. Lasater Collection has frequently been added to in order to make the collections on Texas and Colorado especially strong.


    Also to be considered is the information in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXI, 2 (Winter, 1970) on pp. 148-152 [ full text]. These pages list in detail acquisitions for 1970 in the field of Western Americana, and discuss such acquisitions as the Amesse Colorado collection, volumes having to do with native American languages, 181 additions to the Thorington collection, 54 additional Utah territorial imprints.

    Levering Cartwright '26 donated his Death Valley collection along with funds which have enabled the Library to widen its focus of this gift to a comprehensive collection of the desert areas of California.

    See also Seeing the Way West: Artists on the Overland Trail, an informal exhibition catalogue by Alfred L. Bush. [(ExB) 0619.739 no. 56]

Research Tools for Printed Material (Books, Maps, Prints, etc.)