Letter of W. Re Kyan Bey, to Edwin De Leon, United States Consul in Egypt, on the Treatment and Use of the Dromedary

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BEY, W. Re Kyan. Letter of W. Re Kyan Bey, to Edwin De Leon, United States Consul in Egypt, on the Treatment and Use of the Dromedary. 35th Congress, First Session, Mis. Doc. No. 271. [Washington, 1858].

8vo., (9 1/8 x 5 ¾ inches). (Somewhat toned). Woodcut in-text illustrations throughout (occasional offsetting). Modern red cloth.

First edition. A scarce supporting document relating to the Texas Camel Experiment, issued for the Senate two years after the first camels came to Galveston. “In 1836 an army officer from Georgia, George Crosman, first touted the idea of importing camels to America. The animals were perfect for making the long, grueling treks then being mapped out across the country. Still, not much came of the idea until about 15 years later when, thanks to some publicists like the well-known diplomat and writer George Perkins Marsh, the ‘Camel Transportation Company’ was formed to operate a camel express between Texas and California and down to Panama, later to be called the ‘Dromedary Line.’ It wasn’t alone: there was also an American Camel Company. Both companies soon failed, but the idea had taken hold. Among its adherents was Jefferson Davis, the secretary of war under Franklin Pierce… The romance of camel-borne transportation took hold of the government’s imagination in the late 1850s. Beale imported more dromedaries to California in 1857, and in 1860 some three dozen Bactrian camels were brought from Mongolia by a German entrepreneur, Otto Esche, also to California. Davis’s successor, the Virginian John Floyd, was even more of a camel enthusiast, and he ordered a thousand camels to be bought and outfitted… Camels also had disadvantages. They were known, with justification, for terrible tempers. Horses were prone to panic around them — a fact that the camel lobby tried to spin, arguing that marauding Indians would be less likely to attack their caravans as a result. But this did little to persuade soldiers, who wanted little to do with them. This included the man in command of Texas and therefore of most of the camels, Gen. David Twiggs. Twiggs’ views were clear: ‘I prefer mules for packing’” (Kenneth Weisbrode, The New York Times, 2012).