IngrahamThe Pirate Novels
of Col. Prentiss Ingraham

Jessica Amanda Salmonson


Colonel Prentiss Ingraham was born in 1843 in Natchez, Mississippi, & died in 1904, of Bright's disease. He wrote dime novels of the Cuban War (with which he had personal experience) and tales of the wild west such as about California Joe, the pony express, & especially Buffalo Bill Cody of Wild West Show fame. Prentiss's friendship with Frederick William Cody began when Prentiss was a scout in the frontier west in Cody's employ. His lasting affection rendered him intent upon broadening the preposterous Cody mythology through a great many novels having such titles as Buffalo Bill's Spy-Shadower; or, The Masked Men of Grand Canyon (Beadle's New York Dime Library No 777, 1892). Many of his Buffalo Bill stories were reprinted throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century.

He was a Confederate veteran & later a soldier of fortune, fighting under Juarez in Mexico against Maximilian and the French; for Austria under General Hoffman in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 at the Battle of Sadowa; on Crete he fought Turks for Greece; in the army of the Khedive of Egypt; & as a ship's captain in the Cuban Revolution during which he was captured by the Spanish.

His knowledge of the frontier west, & of naval life in the Gulf of Mexico & the Carribean, made him peculiarly suited to writing fables of heroism & action such as rang with credibility for his Victorian audience. His works included not only the westerns that would seal his reputation forever, but also occasional tales of sea piracy under such titles as The Corsair Queen; or, The Gipsies of the Sea: A Romance {Beadle's Dime Library Volume 12 Number 155, October 12, 1881).

Colonel Ingraham began his writing career in the later 1870s & was very active throughout the 1880s & 1890s when he composed no less than 200 novels for Beadle & Adams. Purportedly he could write 35,000 words in an uninterupted day & night, the fountain pen never leaving his hand.

IngrahamIn the 1930s the Arthur Westbrook Company of Cleveland, Ohio, began reprinting dime novels in full color illustrated wraps, although by then the price ran 15 on the newstand. Though they would issue primarily westerns & mysteries, they also included a set of five pirate novels all by Col. Ingraham.

This pirate series was launched with The Brand of the Red Anchor (1930) with in aggressively action-illustrated wraps, advertising itself thus: "With the ring of cutlass & the howls of prisoners' cries under the whip comes this fascinating story of the priate ships of the early nineteenth century. All the romance, glamor, & blood of these fearless men are brought to you in a vivid picture of their adventures. If you love the sea or want two-fisted action with a goodly portion of romance, you will enjoy this story." The story itself begins with a scene of battle & these opening words "A pirate schooner, black & sinister..." leaving no doubts as to what one might expect.

This thrilling tale was quickly followed up by Montezuma, the Merceless (1930). It's advertisment runs, "A story of vengeance. The scene weaves back & forth between the New Orleans of a century ago & an ancient fortress in Vera Cruz, where the hero is entombed. After years of toil he escapes, and --, but read it yourself. Freighted with color, sea fights, actions, pirates, hidden treasure, & romance, this fast-moving story will grip your heart to the final exclamation point!" The cover is one of the most captivating of the set, with a grim pirate leaping to the deck with upraised sword.

Pirate Story Series #3 is likewise blessed with a thrilling cover, this time of dagger-armed fighters locked in a deadly embrace on an island beach. It is signed only "C.H." This illustrator also did #5 in the series; the rest are by other hands. The introductory advertisment for Freelance the Buccaneer (1931) runs: "This volume is a dramatic & highly colorful picture of buccaneering on the Gulf of Mexico during the early part of the last century.

Ingraham"It is the story of a man who loved & fought throughout his entire life, a tale whose scene rushes from a scaffold on a Louisiana plantation to the Sahara Desert, where Freelance is held captive by the pirates of the Barbary Coast. Escape -- & a hundred fights, with blood from the world's merchant sailors staining his decks!

"Treachery in Mexico, love in picturesque old New Orleans, the strange appearance of the mystgerious nun, & -- gold, rare gems, beautiful jewels torn form fair women, that stagger the imagination! You must read this book to enjoy its spectacular story in full!"

LaFitte, the Pirate of the Gulf (1931) is the fourth in the series & the first for which a naming signature is provided for an artist, B. Parks. Parks did not do the others since the style is much more realistic than the rest & color choices uniquely pastel. The longest introductory ad for any in this series promises a tale: "In which we step aboard the ship of one of the most famous & spectacular pirates in history. LaFitte! -- His name will ever stand for all that is brilliant & daring!

"Side by side with him in this fascinating book we join a raiding party of buccaneer cutthroats who are about to plunder the treasure cellars of a rich Spanish planter in Jamaica. A treacherous nephew leads the pirates below...they are discovered...a pistol & cutlass fight follows...LaFitte seizes a beautiful senorita & uses her for a human shield in a thrilling, fighting escape to his ship...he sails away with her in his cabin.

"Then ensues a chase by a French cruiser captained by her lover. Battles with men-o-war, seizure of innocent merchant ships, mutinies among the crew, life in the Louisiana stronghold of the pirates, & finally LaFitte's part in helping the United States in the War of 1812, make this latest historical tale by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham one of the finest rip-roaring, fast-action pirate stories of the decade!

Long time genre book collector Victor A. Berch wrote to me about Col. Ingraham's pirate novels, speculating, "I think some of them may have been rewrites or embellishments of his father's stories. His daddy was Joseph Holt Ingraham, a rather prolific author of the mid-nineteenth century." I'd had no knowledge of this, though I knew of the elder & Reverand Ingraham as the author of such books as The Prince of the House of David; or, Three Years in the Holy City (Pudney & Russell, 1855) which was the first of a trilogy of Roman historicals, & a promising-sounding long-term wantlist item, The Spectre Steamer, & Other Tales (Boston: United States Publishing Company, 1846). But I was surprised upon investigation to find reference to Lafitte: The Pirate of the Gulf (New York: Harper Brothers, 1836) by the Joseph Holt Ingraham! I could not find any titles that resembled the other books in the series, but one wonders how many revisions might be found in Col. Ingraham's extensive output if they could be collated with Rev. Ingraham's adventure book for the preceding generation.

Ingraham"Clap on your sabre, & forget today's dull world under the flying skull-&-crossbones, with that mad hero of a hundred years ago, LaFitte, the terror of the Gulf!"

The fifth & last in the Pirate Series is a sequel to the fourth, LaFitte's Lieutenant (1931), with a pictorial cover by the same illustrator who did #3. A close look at the ship in the background shows the classic skull-&-crossbones leering from a blood-crimson flag. "In this thrilling sequel to 'LaFitte, A Pirate of the Gulf,' Col. Ingraham narrates the story of the boy whom LaFitte rescued from the sea & made his lieutenant. We follow this intense tale through a weird meeting with a witch, then the battle of New Orleans in the war with England, the capture of a nun, a pirate battle of the Moro Castle at Havana, the revelation of the hero's true identity, & a heart-tingling close which ends with a chase by bloodhounds.

"These are but a few of the gripping episodes in a fast-moving story, which it should be remembered, is a complete book in itself. If you love speed, action, & real American drama, you will not miss reading this latest work by the celebrated author, Col. Prentiss Ingraham."

The fifth in the series is the only one to recap the set with an ad on the back which is sufficiently fun to quote in full:

The Famous Pirate Story Series

Clap on your sabre -- forget today's dull world & sail under the flying skull & crossbones for a realistic taste of the fascinating life of the 19th century Pirates of the Sea. Live with these daring fellows whose experiences will thrill the most jaded appetite. Sea fights -- Mutiny -- Mad men -- Gold -- Blood -- Love -- all in concentrated form. Here is reading that will entertain you.

IngrahamNo. 1 -- "The Brand of the Red Anchor"
With the ring of cutlass & the howls of prisoners' cries under the whip comes this rip-roaring story of startling adventure. Action to the last page.

No. 2 -- "Montezuma, the Merciless"
Driven to merciless vengeance by awful & undeserved punishment, Montezuma rises to crush his enemies in terrible fashion. An astounding tale with plenty of thrills.

No. 3 -- "Freelance, the Buccaneer"
He lived to fight -- & love. A romantic old rascall whose experiences will satisfy the imagination of even the most thrill-seeking of readers. Do not miss this book.

No. 4 -- "LaFitte, Pirate of the Gulf"
LaFitte -- a name to be remembered -- a man who left behind him a record of more daring deeds & greater leadershp than any of his contemporary sea devils. Oh what a fellow he was!

No. 5 -- "LaFitte's Lieutenant"
LaFitte again -- & his dashing young companion. You will never tire of reading about this spectacular hero of 100 years ago.

All of these famous books are for sale by new dealers throughout the world. Your dealer will secure any title -- or the publisher will forward postpaid any one book upon receipt of 20 in stamps or money. The Arthur Westbrook Company, Publishers, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

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