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Future legal historian born in Denmark


On this day in 1854, Hans P. N. Gammel was born in Denmark. As a young man he immigrated to America, arriving in Galveston in 1877 and walking the rest of the way to Austin. There he built a shelf between two chinaberry trees, at Eighth Street and Congress Avenue, where he bought books for five cents and sold them for ten cents, reading and learning from them in the meantime. Though he had little knowledge of English when he sailed to America, Gammel's ten-cent business became the basis for one of the first bookstores west of the Mississippi to carry a large assortment of miscellaneous literature, law books, and Texana. Gammel became a publisher of important works by John C. Duval, C. W. Raines, and Noah Smithwick, among others. His most important accomplishment, however, resulted from the 1881 fire that destroyed the old Capitol in Austin. From the debris scattered on the Capitol grounds, young Gammel gathered wet papers and charred documents, loaded them in a wagon, and took them to his home. He and his wife gradually dried the pages on clotheslines and stored them with their belongings. Years later he sorted and edited the crinkled papers, then published them beginning in 1898 as the famous first ten volumes of Gammel's Laws of Texas, 1822-1897. This work won immediate acclaim, and with the addition of other volumes in later years the set came to be a basic item in law libraries across the state.

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