While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Dorothy Gammel Bohlender

GAMMEL, KARL HANS PETER MARIUS NEILSEN (1854–1931). H. P. N. Gammel, early Texas bookseller, collector of Texana, and compiler and publisher of Gammel's Laws of Texas, was born to Neils (Niels) Hansen and Mittie Marie (Brugger) Gammel at Grenå, Denmark, on September 24, 1854. As a young man he immigrated to America, first to Chicago in 1874, then to "gold fields in the West," before arriving in Galveston, Texas, in 1877 and walking the rest of the way to Austin. There for a time he and his brother Neils sold trinkets; when Neils left town, Hans 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. At its peak, its collection was one of the largest of this type in the state. When Gammel became a publisher, his first title was John C. Duval's Early Times in Texas (1892). Other notable titles were C. W. Raines's Bibliography of Texas (1896), Noah Smithwick's Evolution of a State (1900), and a reprint in 1906 of Journal of the Continental Convention of the State of Texas (1875).

Gammel's most important accomplishment and the chief basis for his widespread recognition was the result of an early experience. He was still a newcomer to Texas when, in 1881, the old Capitol in Austin burned. 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.

Gammel was a Mason, a Knight of Pythias, and a Woodman of the World; he was a Lutheran when he arrived in America, but he and his second wife attended the Presbyterian church. As a young man in Denmark Gammel was married to Anna Marie Andersen, and one daughter was born to them there. After Anna's death from typhoid in late 1888, Hans married Swedish-born Josephine Matilda Ledel, who bore him eight children. His youngest, Dorothea, remained with him at their home until his death, and in his late years she assisted him in cataloging the extensive private library of Texana for which he had been widely recognized. Gammel died on February 11, 1931, in Austin.

Dorothy Gammel Bohlender and Frances Tarlton McCallum, H. P. N. Gammel, Texas Bookman (Waco: Texian Press, 1985). John L. Davis, The Danish Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1979).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Dorothy Gammel Bohlender, "GAMMEL, KARL HANS PETER MARIUS NEILSEN," accessed August 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga13.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...