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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 ofH.P.N. Gammel , courtesy Austin History Center 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 Texas Capitol burns down, courtesy Austin History Center, PICA 16816 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 walls. "

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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