THE FLYING COWS OF BILOXI. Benson Bidwell.
THE FLYING COWS OF BILOXI.

THE FLYING COWS OF BILOXI. Chicago: The Henneberry Press, 1907. Octavo, pp. [1-7] 8-44 [45-48: ads], illustrated with photographic frontispiece of author, one inserted plate with color illustration and 11 full-page black and white illustrations, original purple paper-covered boards, front panel lettered in gold with pictorial pastedown in orange, green and brown. First edition. "THE FLYING COWS OF BILOXI recounts how Benson Bidwell grafts 12-foot wings made from orange trees to cows so they can easily feed on the Spanish moss growing freely on trees in Biloxi, Mississippi. Bidwell’s successful experiment hinges on the "union of animal and vegetable substances." He plants the framework for his first set of wings in soil fertilized with blood so that the orange branches will sprout new leaves quickly "which would make them strong, elastic and light like a bird’s wings." After testing these wings by harnessing them to a cow using an elaborate system of pulleys and ropes, Bidwell makes the remarkable discovery that, overnight, the wings have grown into the muscles of the cow’s shoulders: "The blood I had used to fertilize the wings had found its affinity in the blood of the cow and a circulation had been established between the wings and the heart of the cow whose every beat sent its blood to the tips of the wings." Bidwell ends up producing a herd of flying cows whose calves are born with orange-tree wings that actually blossom and produce fruit that becomes a prime export to high-end department stores in Chicago. As scholar Douglas Anderson notes, FLYING COWS OF BILOXI acquired legendary status among genre collectors because noted bookmen, including Vincent Starrett, wrote about the book but could not find it. Sam Moskowitz's "A Collector’s Saga" (FANTASY COMMENTATOR, no. 45/46 (Winter 1993/1994), in fact, details his lengthy search to acquire a copy, which took many years. Self-published by Benson Bidwell, who refers to himself on the title page as "The Inventor of the Trolley Car and the Electric Fan," FLYING COWS OF BILOXI is a prime example of American crackpot science fiction and is a forerunner of the current flood of print-on-demand books covering every topic from alien overlord conspiracies to anti-vaccine screeds. Each advertisement in FLYING COWS OF BILOXI is for a ridiculous invention of the author's own design including Bidwell's Carbonic Gas Compressors "FOR MAKING ICE AND ALL REFRIGERATING PURPOSES, ALSO FOR USE ON CARS TO PREVENT MOTORS BURNING OUT." Likewise, the front pastedown contains a full-page ad for BENSON BIDWELL: INVENTOR OF THE TROLLEY CAR, ELECTRIC FAN AND COLD MOTOR: HISTORY OF EARLY STRUGGLES AND LATER SUCCESSES: WITH PERSONAL REMINISCENCES, LECTURES, ESSAYS AND LETTERS, a "Companion Book to 'Flying Cows of Biloxi'." The advertising blurb, no doubt written by Bidwell himself, states, "There is not a dull page from cover to cover of this 265-page book, and parts are of the most intense interest, holding the reader long against his will." Bidwell, in reality, invented nothing, and as Douglas Anderson notes, "Investors in his cold motor engine claimed that their money was used solely to fund the publication of his two books. In October 1908, [Benson and his son] were convicted of running a confidence game and sentenced to ten years in prison" (LESSER-KNOWN WRITERS, online). American insanity at its best." - Boyd White. Bleiler (1978), p. 23. Reginald 01245. Purple boards just a bit faded at edges, a very good copy. (#167023).

Price: $350.00

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