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Lot #377
Alan Shepard

“MANY ARE MASSACRED BY THE INDIANS”: Schoolboy ALAN SHEPARD takes on The Last of the Mohicans

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“MANY ARE MASSACRED BY THE INDIANS”: Schoolboy ALAN SHEPARD takes on The Last of the Mohicans

Original handwritten school assignment, a book report on James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, comprising six handwritten pages in ink (on ruled 8 x 10.5 looseleaf), three full-page pencil drawings, and an inked cover page signed “Alan Shepard,” all stapled into booklet form, no date [early 1930s]. Shepard grew up in the small town of East Derry, New Hampshire, and attended the one-room schoolhouse there. The precocious youngster completed six grades in five years before attending high school at Pinkerton Academy in adjacent Derry. Shepard graduated from the Academy in 1940 and proceeded directly to the U.S. Naval Academy and to service in the Second World War. After the war, Shepard continued his education and training at the Navy Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland, the Naval War College, and thence to his history-making career at NASA. Shepard’s report on Cooper’s classic adventure tale evidently dates from his mid-elementary years in East Derry. Though his evidently rapid scholastic progress makes a precise date difficult, the penmanship and the quality of the writing suggest, perhaps, the work of an advanced fourth or fifth grader, placing the item in the period from approximately 1932 to 1934. Shepard begins the report with a biographical sketch, noting that “Although Cooper cannot rank with Hawthorne and Irving as a master of English prose, his books have won a deserved popularity by their description of natural scenery, by the romantic incidents on which they are founded, and by the author’s power of holding the attention.” He then devotes a full page to the topic of firearms, discussing their history and use in detail, obviously relishing this aspect of the story. On the subject of Indians in general, young Shepard observes at the outset that “The Indians were people that lived in the olden days before they were driven into small reservations by the white man.” Later he abandons any pretense of cultural sensitivity and bluntly concludes that “They believed in strange gods and worshipped many phases of nature which terryfied [sic] them. They were a rather dumb sort of person, but yet they had a keen sense of the woods and nature.” Shepard concludes with a summary of the book itself, concluding that Chinagcook [sic] was, indeed, the Last of the Mohicans. The text is supplemented by three full-page pencil drawings by Shepard (“Fort William Henry,” a comparison of old and new rifles, and “Indian Weapons”). Shepard has also helpfully provided some color illustrations clipped from a copy of National Geographic—which, alas, depict not Mohicans, but ancient Mayans. Accompanied by a letter of provenance from the daughter of the original owner, who was in the employ of the Shepard family for more than 35 years. Light soiling and wear to cover (a few tears and wrinkles; small loss to one blank corner) and expected mild toning to interior, otherwise fine condition. A one-of-a-kind relic of America’s first man in space! R&R COA.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title:
  • Dates: #331 - Ended March 12, 2008