Edited by R. Bruce Craig
University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) history department professor Bruce Craig has been named “Finalist” in Utah State University’s Mountain West Center’s Evan’s Handcart Award competition for his most recent book, Portrait of a Prospector: Edward Schieffelin’s Own Story (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017). Now in their 35th year, the Evans Biography Award, recognizes the best of research and writing in biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs that focus on the stories of people who have shaped the character of the American West.
Craig’s book does not fall comfortably in either the category of “biography” or “autobiography;” rather, the work is perhaps best described as a “constructed autobiography.”
The central figure in the first-person narrative is Edward Schieffelin—the discoverer of the famed Arizona Tombstone silver lode in 1877 and a towering figure who epitomized the American frontiersman of the 19th century American West. Schieffelin, however, never wrote an autobiography though he did leave behind a journal of his adventures in the American west. Also left for posterity were several oral history interviews conducted in the 1890s by famed historian Herbert Howe Bancroft.
Craig’s accomplishment was to marry the two types of primary resources documents into a cohesive narrative using only Scheiffelin’s own words. In essence Craig fashioned the autobiography that perhaps Schieffelin himself would have written had he lived long enough to do so. Craig then rounded out the book by crafting an introduction and conclusion and provided extensive explanatory footnotes.