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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 49, November 26, 2000, Article 7


Most U.S. bibliophiles know of Waterman Lilly Ormsby as the author of the rare 1852 work, "A Description of the Present System of Bank Note Engraving." But did you know his son was also an important writer? As a reporter for the New York Herald in 1858, Waterman Lilly Ormsby, Jr. "crossed the western states as the first through passenger in the Butterfield Overland Mail stage from east to west." The accounts are collected in a 1942 work (reprinted in 1955) published by The Huntington Library of San Marino, CA, titled "The Butterfield Overland Mail." The book's introduction includes some biographical information about both Ormsbys. One interesting passage:

"Twenty-four miles from our last station we came to the Maricopas Wells, situated in a large plain of alkali soil and coarse grass. There are, in all, six or eight wells, and the water is very good. We found a number of Indians there, and one of them had the audacity to ask me three bits (37 1/2 cents) for a small melon which he wished to sell. I showed him two three-cent pieces, and the look of insufferable contempt which he gave me would be worth a fortune to an actor in the right place. I am sure his melon would rot before he could get another chance to sell it." (p99)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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