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Ten years and 2,062 pages after he began the text, Dr. John E. Stealey III published his third book, "Porte Crayon's Mexico: David Hunter Strother's Diaries in the Early Porfirian Era, 1879-1885." Dr. Stealey, a Distinguished Professor of History, had been familiar with Strother, a West Virginia native, through teaching a course on the Lower Shenandoah Valley. It wasn't until his friend Dr. Cecil Eby '50--who had built his academic career on Strother--and Strother's great-granddaughter Sara Strother King approached Stealey that he considered working on the diaries.

After further researching Strother and his Mexican diaries, the Shepherd professor decided to pursue the work. "I was fascinated by them," said Stealey, who found Strother to be a remarkable person with diverse talents. Strother was an artist, writer, and U.S. Consul General to Mexico City. Stealey related to and liked the subject of his publication project--an important detail as Dr. Stealey began the long process of introducing, explaining, and editing the Mexican diaries of David Hunter Strother, also known by his pen name Porte Crayon.

Dr. Stealey began his work on "Porte Crayon's Mexico" in 1995 and spent the next 10 years reading, translating, and editing the numerous volumes written by Strother while he worked for the U.S. government in Mexico. Dr. Stealey also spent time reading Strother's correspondence with the State Department, identifying key characters within the journals, and reading letters donated by the Strother family who helped with the cost of research as well. The professor even spent two summers at the Library of Congress reading other travel accounts.

Through his research, Dr. Stealey discovered that Strother's volumes were the best accounts of early Mexico. In his writings, the U.S. consul provided observations of Mexican society, life, and politics as he continued his work in Mexico City. Strother's ability to easily master other languages allowed him to make contacts and have experiences that encompassed all classes of Mexican society, giving him the opportunity to make observations beyond politics and economics. He was able to explore and make notes about the land, the people, individual lives, and historical events that were unfolding before him.

By organizing these texts filled with anecdotes, characterizations of key figures of the time, and observations concerning Mexico's modernization process, Dr. Stealey created the first primary-source material on the subject. But for Stealey, the 2,062 page volume is the "culmination of all we try to achieve as scholars." It is proof of achievement, according the Shepherd professor. And while he feels that publishing is part of being a scholar, Stealey also pursued the work because if he hadn't, then the information wouldn't be there for others to explore and learn from. He feels that the book is not only a source for readers to learn about Mexican society, life, politics, and relations with the United States during the Early Porfirian Era, but that it also serves as a source of inspiration for people as to what one can achieve intellectually.

Bethany Davidson

Dr. John E. Stealey III

Dr. Stealey with his Irish Draught, "Tazewell"

"Porte Crayon's Mexico: David Hunter Strother's Diaries in the Early Porfirian Era, 1879-1885" is available at


John Stealey awarded title of Distinguished Professor of History

Foundation makes cash award to distinguished professor

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