To the surprise of his family and friends, Ford wrote his first novel in 1894. The novel, shown here, is entitled The Honorable Peter Stirling and What People Thought of Him. 18th ed. New York: H. Holt, 1896.
Composing the majority of this work at his sister Rosalie Barr's home, Stoney Wolde Farm in Turners, New York, Ford hoped to enter yet another facet of the publishing world-fiction. The novel chronicled the rise and progress of an ideal statesman, who resists the intrigues and corruption of American politics, while fighting for honor, sympathy for all classes, and the "American Ideal." Ford had trouble finding a publisher initially and watched for several months as the book languished on the shelves. Suddenly, however, the book became a best-seller, being bought out as fast as copies could be printed. The reason for this new interest was based on the rumor that the protagonist, Peter Sterling, was based on President Grover Cleveland. Although Ford vehemently denied this hearsay, he relished his rapid ascension to literary notability. As for the novel itself, in the first 25 years of the book's publication 53 editions were released and, as late as 1945, the book went into its 76th edition. Even though the book had remarkable sales, many critics noted the lack of symmetry, style, and realistic characters. One of them, Henry James, is reported as saying that the enormous sales success of Peter Stirling keeps one from saying more than that the work is both formless and tasteless.
"The Great K. & A. Train-Robbery."
Ford inscribed the front free endpaper: "Emily - a cheap expression of a dear attachment. PLF."
This Western tale, published in part-publication and book-form, recounts the exploits of Dick Gordon, the ex-football player from Yale who, as superintendent of the Kansas and Arizona Railroad, prevents one of the most bizarre holdups in train robbery literature. The sales of this story were moderate and, once again, the critics attacked Ford's lack of artistry.
While working as an editor, bibliographer, and novelist, Ford decided to try his hand at yet one more genre-biography. It was his intent to present familiar and revered historical figures as men, not heroes or demigods. Rather than taking a chronological approach, Ford analyzed twelve aspects of each figure's career, and where ever possible, he used direct quotes to allow the subjects to speak for themselves. Shown here isThe True George Washington. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1896. Inscribed by Ford to Rosalie Barr. Ford was applauded by scholars for his thoroughness and his ability to present Washington as an actual human being.
The Many-sided Franklin.
Although this biography was well-received, it was quickly superseded by later works.
Enjoying his successes of 1896, Ford spent the next seven years proving his talent as a bookman, by publishing in all fields. Shown here is The New-England Primer: A History of Its Origin and Development, with a Reprint of the Unique Copy of the Earliest Known Edition and Many Facsimile Illustrations and Reproductions. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1897. (#61 of 425) Inscribed by Ford to Rosalie Barr, September 17, 1897. This edition contains a complete reproduction of the earliest known copy of the Primer, the 1727 edition at the Lenox Library. Ford also included a series of appendices: reprintings of The New England Tutor, John Rogers's "Exhortation," and one of Cotton Mather's works on catechizing.