Sketches of Death Valley Borax Deserts. Used Book.


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Sketches of Death Valley and Other Borax Deserts of the Pacific Coast. Scanned historic book, no illustrations


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Illustrated Sketches of Death Valley: and Other Borax Deserts of the Pacific Coast. Soft Cover

Facsimile (scan using character recognition software) of historic book with lots of typos

Death Valley Borax Desert.  This historic book may have numerous typos and missing text. Purchasers can usually download a free scanned copy of the original book (without typos) from the publisher.

  • Not indexed.
  • Not illustrated.
  • 1892 edition.

Great book with a great deal of Death Valley’s rich history of Borax production. This book tells us just how tough the state was. Very interesting read.

While this book centers around the fascinating history of California borax discovery, mining, and production. It is full of wonderful stories of the first desert explorers and settlement. This is a must have if you are a desert lover.



Fires were made from the scant fuel of the desert, the grease-brush. And supper was cooked and eaten with little or nothing to drink. And then all prepared for the most pitiful experience that comes to the traveler, the passing of a night in a dry camp. A camp without water, a camp in which the cattle bawl. The men toss about, and mothers with breaking hearts vainly strive to soothe the little ones wailing for want of drink.

Wretched as was that last camp, its sufferings were but the prelude to the terrors of the coming day.

With the first streak of light, the search for water and a pass into the snow-capped range in the west were sought for.

It was a hurried search from the first. A search that under the smiting rays of the sun quickly became feverish and at last delirious.

Abandoning camp and wagons in their frenzy, the party separated. And in groups spread out to the north and the south along the face of the Panamints. Walking over sand so hot that even the desert Arab, inured to its terrors, wraps his boots in sacks.

When obliged to cross it at mid-day. Over a marsh, covered with a crust through which the foot breaks to sink in corroding brine. Climbing up gulches where the black rocks seared their hands. And the stirring of the air was like a blast of flame.

Travelers in the heat

There were thirty souls in that party, of whom perhaps a dozen got beyond the Panamints. Of this number, a man named Towne, with his wife and one or two others, reached the Argus Range, and camped there while they killed a couple of oxen and dried the meat, saving one animal that Mrs. Towne might ride it.

Bones of men who had tried to follow them across the Slate Range, but were unable to do so, were afterward found by prospectors.

The Author John Randolph Spears

John R. Spears was born in 1850 in Van Wert, Ohio. Though an inveterate traveler, particularly out west, he ended up residing in Little Falls, New York. He wrote a great deal, particularly for the New York Sun, and his books include The Port of Missing Ships and Other Stories of the Sea (1896), The Story of Nee England Whalers (1908), and The Story of the American Merchant Marine (1910).

A great deal had been written about life in gold and silver mining camps, as well as the terrain surrounding them. However, Spears felt less attention had been paid to the desert, and wanted to depict the life in Death Valley, which he described as, “a gruesome story of a rugged country…a story, too, of apparent paradoxes and of wonders.”

Spears’ photographs in the original book offered a useful historical record of Death Valley, its people and animals, as they were in the 1890s.

1. August 2017, Westphalia Press

ISBN 9781458952318

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