University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) history department professor Bruce Craig has been awarded the 2019 Mary Lee Spence Documentary Book Award presented by the Mining History Association for his most recent book, Portrait of a Prospector: Edward Schieffelin’s Own Story (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017).
The prize recognizes the editor of a work published during 2017-18 that “masterfully crafts background documentation, creates a flowing account from diverse sources.” The prize committee noted that Craig’s editorial efforts “superbly brought together the tale of prospector Edward Schieffelin.” Craig’s book placed second in Utah State University’s Mountain West Center’s prestigious Evan’s Handcart Award competition which 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 breaks with a long-held tradition in historical writing in that it 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. Craig then rounded out the book by crafting an introduction and conclusion and provided extensive explanatory footnotes which won him the Mary Lee Spence Documentary Book Award which carries a $500 (US) cash prize.
The book is available at amazon.ca and at Bookmark bookstore on Queen Street, Charlottetown.