Item #9757 The Cuban War. J. Laurens Nicholes.

The Cuban War

Atlanta: LaHatte Printing Co., 1897. A scarce - virtually unrecorded - firsthand account of the Cuban War of Independence by James Laurens Nicholes (1867-1953), an Atlanta cigar manufacturer operating as a self-described war correspondent. In the author’s note, Laurens claims that the book was partially compiled from his letters published as a special correspondent to the New York Times, although a search of the Times archives finds no letters or articles by him.

His account begins in early 1897 aboard the steamer Mascotte, which is boarded by Spanish officials searching for “insurrectionists.” Nicholes mentions last having been in Cuba in December 1896 (supported by his passport application issued November 13, 1896, and the source for his occupation as a cigar manufacturer) and laments on the “business lethargy” unlikely to change. After passing through customs he reports to secretary-general Fitzhugh Lee, the Confederate general, ex-Virginia governor, and nephew to Robert E. Lee, who Nicholes extols as one of the few U.S. officials opposed to the Spanish occupation. He remarks on the island’s smallpox epidemic, tours the slums with New York Journal journalist George Bryson, and details his surreptitious method for sending mail out of Cuba. Other chapters report on his clandestine tour of a Cuban military encampment, his visits to Casa de Ricogidas (the home of a prominent Cuban-American woman arrested by the Spanish) and the town of Guanabacoa, the atrocities committed under the command of Spanish general Valeriero Weyler, and the execution of a 16-year-old Cuban boy by Spanish firing squad. He concludes by inveighing against the U.S.’s support for Spain while once again praising the position of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee. One of the only sources that we could find referencing the book was the bibliography of a 1905 government publication by Gonzalo de Quesada titled Cuba (p. 367). Otherwise it’s virtually unrecorded.

The Cuban War was printed by a small Atlanta printer, LaHatte Printing Co., founded by Macon T. LaHatte in 1895. Incidentally, the printer was embroiled in a scandal in 1904 when two of its printers were arrested for counterfeiting $10 bills using the company’s printing equipment (see p. 15, Dickerman’s United States Treasury Counterfeit Detector and Banker’s & Merchants Journal, 1904). At some point Nicholes became involved in pest extermination and patented Nicholes ‘Over-Nite’ Rat Extermination System. He compiled his pest control findings in the 1948 book, Vandals in the Night, published by a Pasadena-based vanity press called Publications Press, which he “dedicated to humanity as a weapon of defense in the war of man vs. rats, enlightening the layman to the dangers of the RAT MENACE” (preface of Vandals). Unfortunately the book was panned by scientists and biologists, with one reviewer dismissing it as “packed with biological misconceptions and general misinformation” (review by Margery Mann in Journal of Mammology, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Aug. 1948), pgs. 304-305). Nicholes died five years later in Los Angeles at age 86.

Pictorial wrappers (5” x 6 ¾”), 63 p., five plates, including a photographic plate of the author. Foxing and wear to wrappers, rear wrapper nearly detached; old tape residue from crude mend. Not found by us in OCLC or in the auction record. Item #9757

Price: $1,250.00

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