The Henry Madden Library at Fresno State will feature a full-gallery exhibition of rare books from the Thomas J. Ebert American Frontier Collection starting Friday, Jan. 17 in the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery.

Ebert, a Fresno State retiree, spent a lifetime traveling in the West and collecting books related to the American frontier. Since 1993 he donated almost 2,000 titles, valued at approximately $60,000 dollars, to the Madden Library. The collection will be on display through February.

The exhibition kicks off with a private reception honoring Ebert at 6 p.m. Jan. 17.

The books, from university presses, western historical societies, museums and specialty presses, comprise one of the largest American frontier collections in California, including many titles not found anywhere else in the California State University system.

Ebert served as a reference and documents librarian in the Madden Library from 1970-1996, and then as associate vice president for academic personnel until his retirement in 2005.

“I am not a graduate of Fresno State, but this university allowed me to have an extraordinarily successful career during my 35 years of employment,” Ebert said. “I feel it is important that I give back to Fresno State for allowing me this success.”

One focus of the collection is the history of the United States Army in the West. Biographies profile generals George Custer, George Crook and Nelson Miles, as well as lesser known figures like Wesley Merritt and Ranald Mackenzie.

Some books study the cavalry and infantry units staffed by African-Americans known as “Buffalo Soldiers.” Other books explore the histories of western forts and military equipment and tactics.

Other titles deal with the struggles of Native Americans to retain their culture and identity. The collection includes biographies of Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Victorio, Geronimo and Cochise.

Ebert, who holds a master’s degree in history from State University New York, Albany, said his collection demonstrates the west was not the Anglo-Protestant myth created by Hollywood. It was a mosaic of groups including Native Americans, ex-slaves, Chinese settlers, German-speaking Mennonites, Scandinavians, Hispanics, Basque sheepherders and missionaries of all faiths.

The American Frontier Collection exhibition will be open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. Parking is free on weekends.

For more information, contact Susan Christensen at 559.278.5792 or

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