Evolution of a State by Noah Smithwick

This is a post I originally made on the Texas History BooksFacebook Group

I have always heard it said that this is one of the best, if not the best first hand account of the settling of Texas ever put into book form.

I grew up with a 1st edition, 1900 copy of this book in our home. It had belonged to my grandfather, A.T. Lewis.

I knew it was a book that had to remain in our family. I grew up in Smithwick Texas, with the old Smithwick Mill on the Colorado River being on part of our family property. That being the old homestead of Francis Porter Lewis and Florence Stinnett Lewis, my great grandparents.

A few years ago, with the coming of the World Wide Web, I started searching for other copies of the book. I would find one occasionally and would rush to buy it if at all possible. Usually the 1900 1st additions from Gammel Book Company ran a few hundred dollars, rarely more than $500. The second printing, 1935 by Steck Publishing could be found for considerably less. Of course the 1968 facsimile copies were fairly common and reasonably priced.

After a few years most all of those 3 printings were becoming harder and harder to find. When they did hit the market, the very good quality 1st additions were bringing $1,200 to $1,500. That brought my collecting to a halt.

Several people said my quest for those books had been a factor in driving up the price. I was even referred to as the Hunt Brothers of Smithwick books, after their cornering of the silver market. That was somewhat of a stretch but humorous anyway.

There was some reasoning to my madness about collecting the books. I wanted to put a 1st addition copy in hands of each of my 5 sons and a 2nd or 3rd addition for each of my grandchildren, which stands at 11 with 1 great grandson on the way. (At this writing in June 13, 2021)

Until today I had never counted the number I had collected. There are 9 of the 1900 1st additions and I haven’t rounded up all the rest yet, but I think there are plenty to go around.

They all in great condition. The 2 that look slightly different each have their on story. The brown one on the bottom left was the one that belonged to my grandfather. The blue one just above it came from the Brooklyn New York Public Library. In it is written 5/9/1901.
Since the library was established in 1896, this book was most likely there from almost the beginning. Perhaps a different cover was used for lending purposes.

Sometime in the mid 1960’s my father was contacted by Steck Publishing in Austin. They wanted to borrow our copy of the original, to help verify the 1968 printing. Not exactly sure what that was all about but my dad took it to them and they returned it several months later.

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