The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 369
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did not make a quick exit from the business after the first dismal year.
One thing alone could have kept him and others going-profit.
This book is primarily business history, but not enough attention is
paid to the complicated business activities of the individuals and com-
panies trying to turn a profit over the road between San Antonio to El
Paso. I would guess that the author could not locate many business
records for the firms in this story. Given this limitation, he has done a
good job of producing a history from somewhat scant primary source
material. An explanation in the preface about his research problems
would have been valuable to show readers that an exhaustive search for
company records had been made.
From the author's footnotes the reader can determine that the book is
based on two principal sources: local newspapers and an Indian claim
case entitled George H. Giddings v. the United States, Kiowa, Comanche, and
Apache Indians. These resources, excellent in their own right, have
given Sharps Rifles and Spanish Mules some of the flavor of western his-
tory written several decades ago. Newspapers tended to be sensational
and often seemed only to print stories about Indian attacks against
stages. The Giddings claim case, a good representative of that genre of
legal action, was designed to present against the United States et al. the
largest possible bill for alleged Indian depredations. What this has
done to the history of the San Antonio-El Paso stage line is to make its
story read like a Saturday afternoon Western serial-one Indian assault
after another plagues the stages, and the book almost drips from all the
Here are some of the questions or problems that this reviewer be-
lieves the author should have answered (but didn't) in this book: Who
were the passengers? Where did they come from? What was their desti-
nation? What about the line's employees? How many were there? Was
the stage line an important feature of the West Texas economy? Did the
stage owners try to promote local economic activity to increase their
own profits? Just how profitable were these lines? Finally, and most im-
portant, why not write a history of the entire line-from San Antonio
After these questions and criticisms, the reader might think that I
disliked the book. Quite the contrary. Austerman knows how to tell a
story, and if his researching ability had been the equal of his writing
skills this book would have been a southwestern classic. As it stands,
Sharps Rifles and Spanish Mules represents a good starting point to begin
the scholarly exploration of staging across the Far Southwest.
The University of Toledo
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/425/: accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.