The following book review appeared in the Wild West History Journal, Volume III, Number 4, August 2010.
The Paper Republic by James P. Bevill (Bright Sky Press, 2009) 352 pp., hardcover, (illustrated), $60.00.
Students of Texas history might think that there is little new to say on the subject. Historians, however, learned long ago never to say “never” on this subject. James P. Bevill has proven them wise with The Paper Republic, a large, lavishly illustrated volume that takes yet another look at his state’s history, from the coming of the Spaniards to its annexation by the United States and the ensuing war with Mexico.
All along the way, Bevill “shows us the money”; the coin and paper scrip used by the various masters of Texas, from early Spanish gold doubloons and pieces of eight through dubious promissory notes issued by the hard-pressed, fledgling Texas Republic. By hinging his historical account to these various forms of money Bevill opens a new window into the state’s history, particularly its revolution and relationship with the United States.
Money was always necessary: to pay soldiers, to build missions, to outfit armies, or to fund governments. It took many forms, ranging from hammered silver coins to hand-written notes. History scattered a varied assortment of coins and paper money throughout Texas for nearly a century and a half, and Bevill traces it all as he relates the state’s long, often violent history.
Although the author focuses on money, personalities populate the book throughout; many of them both interesting and obscure while others are familiar faces. For example, we get a crash course in the Bowie brothers’ lucrative slave trading scams that involved the pirate Jean Lafitte. But, we also meet the relatively obscure Branch T. Archer, a Revolutionary War veteran from Virginia who had once shot his own cousin in a duel and later chaired the first Texas Consultation during the revolution.
This is a beautiful, informative volume, filled with images of coins, paper money, historical documents, photographs and paintings from various periods of the state’s history, some of them rarely seen. It is both a valuable overview of Texas history and a guide to the money produced by its many rulers, bearing images as diverse as Spanish monarchs and Texian scouts. With these images, they left their mark and marked their time on the land.
The Paper Republic is the best new work on Texas history in some time; there is much to learn from it and much to enjoy.
Allen J. Wiener
Nice review. I understand The Paper Republic was named as the winner of an award for Best Specialized Book on U.S. Paper Money by the Numismatic Literary Guild at the ANA World's Fair of Money in Boston on August 12, 2010. The book was also given the Summerfield G. Robert's Award by the Sons of the Republic of Texas, as the book which "best portrays the spirit, character, strength and deeds of those who lived in the Republic of Texas". The award was presented on April 8, 2010 in Tyler, Texas. Congratulations!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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