Gift of rare manuscript celebrates opening
of George W. Bush Presidential Center

SMU celebrates opening of the Bush Presidential Center with donation of journal by early American explorer.

Maley Journal sketch

DALLAS (SMU) – A previously unknown journal by American explorer John Maley was presented to SMU’s DeGolyer Library today by the SMU Board of Trustees to celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Maley Journal
From the John Maley Journal
The journal represents the four millionth volume at the SMU libraries. SMU is commemorating the Year of the Library, the 100th anniversary of the 1913 creation of University’s first library, the hiring of the first librarian and the acquisition of its first book.  SMU is midway into its Second Century Celebration, celebrating the centennial of its founding in 1911 and its opening in 1915.

In the 188-page handwritten journal, John Maley recounts his 1808-1812 travels through present-day Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. Often traveling alone, he wrote of prairie fires, snakebites, robbers and an encounter with a panther. But in addition to his adventures, Maley carefully describes agriculture, mines and mineral deposits, trading opportunities and the inhabitants of settlers’ villages and Native American camps.

“The presentation of this eye-witness account of the Western territory is a reflection of  President and Mrs. Bush’s connection to the Southwest, Mrs. Bush’s commitment to libraries and literacy and the important role they have played in the history of the United States,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “SMU welcomes the opportunity to open its pages to scholars and new historical insight.”

Historians have long been aware of the second half of Maley’s journal, which has been housed at Yale University since 1824 and includes an account of Maley’s trip up North Texas’ Red River. The existence of the first half of the journal was unknown until it was acquired by a Philadelphia rare book dealer.

“Early printed sources from this period are rare,” says Russell Martin, director of DeGolyer Library. “Manuscripts on the market today are almost unheard of, most of them having long been ensconced in institutions. To obtain such a document at this point in time is extraordinary.”

The acquisition of the Maley manuscript is a fitting way to honor former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, says Caren Prothro, chair of SMU’s Board of Trustees. “The presentation of the manuscript encourages a greater understanding and appreciation of American history and pays tribute to President Bush’s alma mater, Yale University. It also expresses our esteem and affection for fellow trustee and SMU alumna, Laura Bush.”

Maley Journal
Cover of the John Maley Journal
Maley explored new territories in the Mississippi Valley opened just a few years before to American settlement by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. A contemporary of explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Zebulon Pike, Maley may offer new insight to the tensions leading to the War of 1812, says historian Andrew Graybill, director of SMU’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“The area between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was coveted by numerous groups between 1700 and 1815, including the English, Americans, French, Spanish and a host of Native American peoples,” Graybill says. “Maley’s extensive exploration of this region and beyond sheds considerable light on many of the most important aspects of the area. He was wandering through this landscape during the lead-up to the conflict that culminated in the War of 1812.”

The journal is ripe for scholarly insight and combining it with the other half of the manuscript at Yale offers a new perspective on early settlement in the Trans-Mississippi West, Martin says. The new document adds to DeGolyer Library’s already strong holdings in Western Americana, Martin says.

The Maley manuscript has been digitized and will be available to scholars worldwide at


SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.


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Nancy George
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