- California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman
- Buffalo Bill series
- Afloat and Ashore
- The Cuban
- Buck Taylor series
- Merle Monte series
- Dick Doom series
- Jean LaFitte
- Girl Rough Riders
- Ingraham wrote a total of 600 hundred novels and 400 hundred novelettes
By Charlie Hill (SHS)
Prentiss Ingraham was born in Adams County, Mississippi, on December 28, 1843. The son of the Reverend Joseph Holt Ingraham, who was also an author, and Mary Brookes Ingraham, he was educated at St. Timothy’s Military Academy in Maryland, Jefferson College in Mississippi, and Mobile Medical College in Alabama. When the Civil War began, Ingraham left school to join the army of the Confederate States of America in April of 1961. While a soldier for the South, Ingraham was wounded and captured at Fort Hudson. He escaped only to be wounded for a second time at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864. During the war, he served in Withers’ Mississippi Regiment, and he attained the rank of lieutenant. He then became commander of scouts in Ross’s Brigade of the Texas cavalry (Lloyd 252).
When the war ended, Ingraham decided to live the life of a soldier of fortune. He served under Juarez in the Mexican rebels’ revolution against Maximillian. He also served in Crete against the Turks, in the Austrian army during the Austro-Prussian War, in Egypt with the Khedive’s army, as a colonel in the Cuban army, and as a captain in the Cuban navy. While fighting for the Cubans against Spain, he was captured and sentenced to death. Once again, however, he escaped his persecutors (Salmonson 1).
After his career as a soldier ended, Ingraham began his writing in 1870 while he was in London. At first he wrote satiric sketches of the British social scene. However, this endeavor did not succeed. He moved to New York City and married Rose Langley, who was also an author. In New York City, he began writing dime and half-dime novels. Then, in 1881, he went west (Lloyd 252). There, he met “Buffalo Bill” Cody, who hired Ingraham as an advance agent for the Wild West Show. Ingraham later wrote many novels on based on the life of Cody as well as a biography about him (Col. Prentiss… 1). Ingraham is perhaps most famous for this romanticized version of the life of “Buffalo Bill.”
In his later years, Ingraham lived in Maryland and Illinois. As a Confederate veteran, he was able to live out his days at Beauvoir Confederate Home in Biloxi, Mississippi. Prentiss Ingraham died there of Bright’s Disease on August 16, 1904 (Lloyd 252).
Throughout his career, Ingraham wrote a total of six hundred novels and four hundred novelettes. He was famous for being able to write so many words in such little time. He once wrote a seventy-thousand word novel in a week and even produced the manuscript of a thirty-five thousand word novel in twenty-four hours. However, this “speed of composition did not allow for niceties of plot, neither did it permit subtlety of character. Indians are invariably treacherous, foreigners foolish, beautiful women good.” Nevertheless, cowboys themselves began to act and dress the way they were described in Ingraham’s widespread novels. “Ingraham helped start what was to become the most powerful and characteristic of American myths,”according to Robertson (253-254). Known as the King of Dime Novels, Prentiss Ingraham is an author who will be forever remembered for the image he created of the American West.
- Dec 28, 1843– Born in Natchez, Mississippi
- April, 1961 – Joined army of Confederate States of America
- After war – Joined Juarez against Maximillion in Mexico. Also fought in Cuba, Crete, Austria, and Africa; wounded several times
- 1870 – London, started literary career
- 1881 – Moved west (America), wrote hundreds of novels for Beadle and Adams
- 1884 – Started traveling with Buffalo Bill Cody in Wild West Show
- 1891 – Wrote Buck Taylor, the Comanche Captive
- 1897 – 1902 – Lived in Easton, Maryland
- 1902 – 1904 – Lived in Chicago
- 1904 – Moved to Beauvoir Confederate Home (once the residence of Jefferson Davis) in Biloxi, Mississippi
- Died in August of Bright’s disease at the age of sixty
A Review of California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman
by Charlie Hill (SHS)
California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman by Col. Prentiss Ingraham is a dime novel, a very short novel, about the life of a young man who acts as if he is immortal. At first, many characters in the book think that Joe is a ghost or a “spook” because of his all black clothes and solid white horse. This behavior makes the reader curious because it is unclear who this ghost-like man is. Soon, however, Joe introduces himself to a group of people who are laying train tracks across the prairie. He guides them and saves them from Indians on many occasions. On one of these occasions, Joe steals the entire Indian war party’s horse herd and takes them to a fort in order to sell them to the army. There he makes the acquaintance of an officer with whom he becomes very good friends.
Every character in the book is either afraid of Joe or respects him for the great things he does. He is constantly leaving without saying good-bye, which puts much of the mystery into the novel. Throughout the entire book, Joe is saving somebody from Indians or capturing thieves. He is the stereotypical cowboy who saves the day and rides off into the sunset. However, the end of the story is surprising.
California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman is an interesting novel, but it lacks the twists that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Everybody in the story is a stereotypical type of character. The Indians are savages who have a thirst for blood, of course. Joe is the good guy who saves the day time after time. I did enjoy the book, but it does need a few more unpredictable moments. I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys western books or movies because it is easy to read, and it is interesting. I had to read the book online, however, as the only other place I could find the book was in a special collections section of the Mississippi State Library and it could not be checked out.
- You can read his great dime novel Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood and get more information about it here.
- Here is some interesting information about many of Ingraham’s exciting novels set in Illinois, including The Gentleman Crook in Chicago; or, Nick Norcross, the River Rat, Dick Doom’s Shadow Hunt, by Col[onel] Prentiss Ingraham. New York: Published Weekly by Beadle and Adams; No. 98 William Street, June 23, 1893. 16p. (Beadle’s Half Dime Library, No. 829)
- Stanford’s site about Dime Novels provides more author information in “Colonel Prentiss Ingraham and the World of Dime Novel Authors.”
- “California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman. Online.” Internet. 20 April, 2001. Available
HTTP://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/texts/ingraham2_toc.html. Get to it from here:
- “Col. Prentiss Ingraham: King of the Dime Novels.” Online. Internet. 28 March, 2001.
- “Ingraham, Prentiss.” Biography Online Database. 14 April, 2001. Available HTTP://www.biography.com.
- Robertson, Richard. Lives of Mississippi Authors 1817-1967. Ed. Lloyd, James B. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981: 252-267.
- Salmonson, Jessica Amanda. “The Pirate Novels of Col. Prentiss Ingraham.” Online. Internet. 19 April, 2001. AvailableHTTP://www.violetbooks.com/ingraham.html.