Apr 12, 2018 - Sale 2473

Sale 2473 - Lot 46

Price Realized: $ 20,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 7,000 - $ 10,000
THE "PONY EXPRESS BIBLE" (BIBLE IN ENGLISH.) The Holy Bible. 1278 pages. 18mo, contemporary calf, rubbed but sturdy, stamped in gilt on front board "Presented by Russell Majors & Waddell 1858"; minimal dampstaining on top edge, minimal foxing, a few gatherings coming loose, scattered notes in margins; "Minion" format as usual per the title page, 29th edition; long early ownership inscription on front free endpaper. New York: American Bible Society, 1858

Additional Details

The Russell, Majors & Waddell freight firm was founded in 1855. Partner Alexander Majors demanded a sobriety oath of his employees and ordered specially stamped Bibles for the use of his freight teams. He continued the distribution to his Pony Express riders when that service was launched in 1860. While this is generally called the Pony Express Bible, all known copies are stamped with an 1858 presentation date, two years before the official launch of the Pony Express, and few if any of the surviving copies can be traced to Pony Express riders. Other Pony Express Bibles have been found in various editions dated 1855 through 1858, but all with the same 1858 presentation text on the front board.
This copy bears a long and somewhat mysterious inscription by one of the firm's employees: "This book was presented to our company and was carried with us across the plains of Nebraska to Fort Laramie during the summer of 1859. Names of the persons in this company were Moses N. Tate, Wm S. Dodd, Marshall A. Dodd, Geo. Graves, Geo. Wilkerson, Frank Dorr, Harry E. Cole, P.C. Neher. By lot it fell to the lot of Geo. Wilkerson, of whom I obtained it at the breaking up of our company. P.C. Neher." We assume that these men were subcontractors for the firm, running a freight wagon on a section of the Oregon Trail. Brothers Marshall Dodd (1837-1912) and William Seymour Dodd (1835-1907) grew up in Indiana and went west to California. The inscriber may have been Philip C. Neher (1835-1898), the same age as the Dodd brothers, who spent most of his life as a doctor in upstate New York--the region where the consignor found this Bible in a country auction. The inscription demonstrates that a single Bible was issued to a group of riders for their shared use--and it also demonstrates that they valued the gift enough to draw lots for it when their joint service ended. The copy may not have been carried in a saddlebag on the Pony Express, but its documented use on the Oregon Trail makes it an unusually evocative artifact of the Old West.