About H.P.N. Gammel
Hans Peter Mareus Neilsen Gammel was born September 24,
1854 in Grenna, Denmark, a son of poor farmers. He rose to become a famous
bookseller, publisher and collector of
Texana in Austin, Tx. The Laws of Texas is his mark on Texas history.
Hans married Anna Marie Andersen in Denmark when he was
16. Looking for a better life, he followed his sister to the United States
"to dig some gold and send for the family."
Gammel and his brother Niels traveled through the western
U.S. peddling jewelry and trinkets, looking for a stake in a gold mine.
Gammel mentioned later, "What we did and how is a dead letter. I
never killed anybody and never robbed anybody and I hardly ever carried
a gun." And he did send for the family; they eventually caught up
with him in Austin.
Gammel rented a little place at Hickory (8th) Street and Congress Avenue for 10$ a month, and he set up a stand there to make
what little money he could selling what he could. He sold writing paper,
bits of jewelry, lemonade, and books. At a time in his life when he needed
money to support his family, the Texas Capitol burned to the ground.
"Sparks ignited the interior section of the building
and burned unobserved
for some hours in the morning of Wednesday, November
9, 1881; and when discovered around noon, flames spread so fast that,
according to witnesses, within two hours there was nothing left but bare
In order to earn a little extra money to help support
his growing family, Gammel took the contract to haul away the debris.
"But everything brought out was more or less
damaged by breakage, the rain or the wind. There was nothing left
but the debris. This had to be hauled away. I got permission from
the authorities to do this job. It meant extra money!
That night I lay awake thinking of what I would do
with all the rubble. I did not have much knowledge - especially about
law books - but the beginning of my love of books had become rooted,
and the fact of knowing that all the knowledge and records in those
papers would be lost preyed upn my mind. I wondered if any of them
could be salvaged.
The next morning I put on my hip boots, armed myself
with a pick and shovel, and waded and worked in the slush for days
hauling all the rubble -wagonloads of it - to my little house on 8th
Street. Mrs. Gammel was not happy about it but she helped me to dry
out anything that was not burned to a crisp. We used up all the clothes
lines in the yard and strung rope between the trees and on the porches.
Then I sorted the papers out the best I could and stacked them in
bundles - for why I did not know. I just knew they should not be destroyed."
Seventeen years later, Hans Gammel created The Laws of
Texas from those clothes lines full of damaged documents.
Dorothy G. B. & McCallum, F. T. (1985). H. P. N.
Gammel, Texas Bookman. Waco: Texian Press.
Images courtesy of Austin
History Center at the Austin
Public Library, PICA 16816 & PICA H.P.N. Gammel.
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