A Romance of

Ambition, Love and War

Being the tale of a Vice-President, a Major-General

and three brilliant and beautiful women.

Thurland & Thurland

Chicago 1903


Ragnar Redbeard's Might is Right ends thus: "Book II will be issued when circumstances demand it." The 1903 novel Rival Caesars—A Romance of Ambition, Love and War, is that book.

Rival Caesars is more than just a romantic novel starring Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, it was cleverly put together as a recruiting tool for Arthur Desmond and his revolutionary dreams. From Rival Caesars itroductory notes; "Therefore the readers of this book are expected to think between the lines. Nay, they are commanded so to do." Readers were invited to correspond with the author...

To find out more YOU should pick up the new 2020 UA edition of Rival Caesars here.

The Thurland & Thurland 1903 publication Rival Caesars by Desmond Dilg were a collaboration between Arthur Desmond (1859-1929), who wrote the infamous Might is Right under his nom de guerre Ragnar Redbeard, and William H. Dilg (1867-1927), hence the pseudonym "Desmond Dilg" on the cover.

Both Desmond and Dilg had a finger in the advertizing business, and both men shared the love for the Krag-Jorgensen rifle. To read more on that you would have to scroll down the page.

Read about Arthur Desmond and his Krag-Jorgenson rifle in: The House of Gowrie and Thurland & Thurland: The Devil's Book Agents


Rival Caesars

A Romance of


Ragnar Redbeard Archive & Publisher

2022 DON'T TREAD ON ME Edition

Rival Caesars

Don't Tread on Me T-shirt (click the pic)

Reviews and critique on Rival Caesars in the press:

In Arkansas Democrat, 25 October 1903.



Literary Gossip

RIVAL CAESARS, by Desmond Dilg.


In this day of the biographical romance to character however sacred to history is immune from the attacks of the romancist. Aaron Burr has had somewhat of a run since Pidgin’s “Blennerhassett,” but no writer has made a more vigorous life-story with him in the center than Desmond Dilg, author of the “Rival Caesars,” which he styles “a romance of ambition, love and war,” being the tale of a vice-president, a major general and three beautiful women. It purports to give succinctly the story of Burr and Hamilton, “the rival Caesars,” from before the inception of the Revolution, through all the changing fortunes of war and subsequent struggles for supremacy in affairs of state, to the obsequies of the Caesar who fell by the other’s hand on the banks of the tragic Weehawken.

To the careful reader, however, the tantalizing difficulty is presented of being able differentiate intelligently between the pure fiction and the truly historic. Much of the inner workings of those who molded the plastic nation is alleged to have come from Burr’s private papers and journals, found “by an American scout among the secret archives of a plundered monastery on the island of Cuba.”

The author, or compiler, if he will, tells us that many romances are written “to relate the true things that nobody believes.” And so let that pass.

There is one painful fault in the book, not in the author but in the publisher, who is advised to employ a proof-reader that the pleasure of a delightful romance may not be rudely assailed by glaring mechanical errors.

There is considerable of the mystic and the clap-trap in the origin and operation of the Iron Cross, a secret society, with a blood pact, ante-Revolutionary aristocrats who were banded together to free the colonies from the hated bonds of England. The Iron Ring, the Three Amens, the Flaming Sword, and other mystic emblems are dwelt upon to an extent of the uninitiated would not have suspected of the fathers of the Declaration and the Constitution. But if that were necessary to their patriotic adhesion, we must let that pass, too, with a vote of thanks to the author for giving us an insight into a chapter of our early history upon which Ridpath is most indefensibly silent. It is this blood pact between Burr and Hamilton sworn enemies and rivals, and yet brothers of the blood, that brings them at last to Weehawken. Mr. Dilg constitutes himself the particular champion of Burr, whom he makes a noble but much-abused and much-misunderstood man. He paints Hamilton a man of vaunting ambition, but of a very lovable and non-commendable character.

Their bitter rivalry throughout the many years of their public career is followed with a masterful touch that exhibits familiarity with the subject whatever may be the basis of knowledge. We are allowed to peep behind the idols our patriotism has raised and see lead bare the mean ambitions, the base intrigues, and the almost criminal weaknesses of the patriot fathers—faults which even Jefferson is not spared. Rivals in love, the holy passion is given a much more salient post in national affairs than the cold, matter-of-fact historians will accord the gentle god.

Betsy Schuyler, Mrs. Provost and Margaret Moncrief are the three women about whom the sentiment turns, but there are others, for these two Caesars were not at all sparing in their loves. One is forced to become a bit lachrymose in the progress of the little romance of Burr and Margaret, but the very unconventional and not at all romantic denouement is one of the strong proofs of the truthfulness of the story. Hamilton is sufficiently ardent as a lover, but he is so untrue even to himself in his loves that one cannot admire him greatly in that capacity.

It is in the historic thread that the thoughtful reader will be most intensely interested, for the writer has the art of concentrating the careers of whole lives into a few hundred pages told in a most attractive manner. For instance, who knows that the following sentence was passed upon Alexander Hamilton by the Great Ing:

“Extinction is thy portion. Die thou or justice must. We proclaim against thee the Heavy Hand. We pronounce thy doom. Thus is it willed. At High Noon within twenty days and twenty-one hours the Iron Cross demands thy soul. Depart on the Sign of Zoam.”

From this Hamilton appealed to “trial by combat” with him whose rivalry who brought upon him the sentence and the world knows who fell. Rapidly passes the historic panorama, and as the book says, “the days and the years rolled on and other things befell.”

Ragnar Redbeard Rival Caesars By Desmond Dilg Thurland & Thurland 1903

TOP: The original RIVAL CAESARS, Thurland & Thurland 1903 edition by Desmond Dilg. (illust. by Walter J. Enright)

BOTTOM: Rival Caesars: A Romance of Ambition, Love and War, Underworld Amusement 2020 edition which you can buy here

In Nashville Banner, Tennessee, 4 July 1903.



Some New Books

“Rival Caesars.”

The story with this title is a new Burr Hamilton romance by Mr. Desmond Dilg, a Chicago author. There has been of recent years that might be called a Burr renaissance manifested in both history and romance. A new biography of Burr is announced that presents his character and deeds in a light entirely different from the commonly accepted view, and Mr. Charles Felton Pidgeon has exploited him as the hero of some rather clinquant novels that have found favor with a large class of readers. On the other hand, Mrs. Gertrude Atherton, in excellent style and historical insight, has written much of Alexander Hamilton, and a new interest in both these brilliant men, political antagonists and personal foes in the early history of the country, has been in a marked degree revived.

The volume under review is in some respects a faithful historical record. It goes very minutely into life in New York City in the revolutionary period and many people who were identified with these times and who come in some measure into the lives of Burr and Hamilton are introduced, but most of the story is pure fancy.

The author says in an introductory note; “From original documents preserved from utter destruction in a very remarkable manner this book has been written. The discovery of these documents (withered and tattered and mouldy with age and damp) is in itself a strange and tragic story. Someday it shall be related.”

This mysterious document, it is elsewhere stated, makes the revelation that Theodosia Alston, Aaron Burr’s daughter, did not perish by shipwreck, as is generally supposed, but lived many years afterwards in Cuba. There has of recent years been new documentary evidence brought to light from Spanish sources touching on the alleged conspiracy for which Burr was tried at Richmond, but the ancient papers which this Chicago romanticist mentions are, of course, imaginary. With their aid, however, he has managed to weave an interesting, though necessarily fanciful, story, in which Burr and Hamilton are the principal characters, the latter showing to the best advantage.

The story begins in the colonial days, when Burr and Hamilton were both young men in New York and continue until after the fatal duel. It is supposed that both the “Rival Caesars” were members of a secret organization known as “The Iron Cross,” and in this way, as well as in some other respects, the story is given suggestion of the weird and occult. It is rather a long story of over 300 pages, but the reader will find therein much both to instruct and interest. (Thurland & Thurland, Chicago, $1.50.)

The Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton duel.

In The Phillipsburg Dispatch, 3 July 1903.

In a romance entitled “The Rival Caesars,” the memory of Aaron Burr has been vindicated. He is depicted as a misunderstood genius, brimming with pure patriotism and unselfish devotion to his fellowman. This is nearly the limit, but other novelists who would like to outdo Mr. Desmond Dilg, who wrote the book, need not quite despair. Judas Iscariot still remains, upon whom they can try their powers, and after him his satanic majesty. Of course, Marie Corelli’s “Sorrows” will be recalled. But Marie’s sorrows are so numerous that they really do not count. What is called for is a modern novel, providing beyond demur that Judas was a perfect gentleman, and the hiatus of Satan an error of the head rather than of the heart. —Denver Times.

Rival Caesars Burr and Hamilton famous duel pistols

Two very famous duel pistols used by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Monday Morning, June 29, 1903.


Burr-Hamilton Antagonism Retold in New Form


IN THESE days it seems very singular that so many budding writers have pitched on Hamilton and Burr as objects for discussion in history, fiction or a combination of both. We have had so many books of this kind before us that it is rather refreshing to find one that seems to be outside the category of either history or fiction and to belong to the realm of fantasy with a little history attached. We have not the slightest understanding of the basis of the new book on Burr and Hamilton, which is called “Rival Caesars,” and is written by Desmond Dilg and published by Thurland & Thurland, of Chicago.

The author of this book tries to convince the uninitiated that he is going to tell some tremendous secrets, and he has essayed this with no little art to deceive the unwary. As a matter of fact, he has written a story which he must either substantiate or make himself ridiculous forever. The principal Incidents in the book (omitting those which are historically familiar) never occurred, or else the author has information that is denied the rest of the world. He offers in a foot note to convince doubters, and we trust that this will lead to something useful.

In truth, the whole of this book, like others of its sort lately, has been to discredit Hamilton and make Burr the real hero of the time when they were rivals. In many instances we have set forth our opinion that Burr was not nearly so black a man as painted, and that Hamilton’s acknowledged weaknesses in morals and temperament kept him from accomplishing the things which might have been within his grasp; but we have read with interest thousands of dreary pages without yet having been shown why this theory of Burr should be maintained on any ground of actual accomplishment. Hamilton is in many respects the father of the present system of government. No matter whether or not morally he was one of the worst men that ever lived (which we do not believe), it is beyond all question that he is the one to whom we owe our financial system, and that in the early years of this constitutional government he was the one who steered the ship in such a way that it reached smooth water. Until the detractors of Hamilton or the eulogists of Burr can make some statement that will disprove the fundamental facts of our early history, we shall feel disposed to look on our novelists who exalt Burr simply as romancers who know nothing of history or are willing to pervert it to make a slight diversion.

“Rival Caesars” will get no place in literature until it is justified, and the hidden suggestions seem to mean that the author wants to be dared to tell what he has concealed. We do not dare anyone, but if Mr. Dilg, who has more intelligence than some of his depictions of characters, would indicate, will kindly come up to the mark and make good we will give him credit.

As a matter of fact, he cannot prove what he claims and he is putting up a literary bluff on the country that will not be successful, and which even for advertising purposes may have its drawback. Most novelists would probably be hoeing corn to-day at a York shilling per day if it were not for the wonderful achievements of Alexander Hamilton. None have shone as apologists for Burr, nor have any explained whereby any man in this country has been made better, happier or richer by the career of Burr. We must give Mr. Dilg some credit for his cleverness, but not for his narrative. He is much smarter and abler than he wants his intelligent readers to believe, and by attempting to throw an immense cloud of dust he has simply foiled his plans. Nevertheless, he shows ability to do a much better piece of work in a cause worth championing.

What is the matter with authors in these days, that they look on Aaron Burr as a martyr? He played his part, and while at one time it was brilliant, it suddenly became clouded, and we rather think that it was his own fault. At any rate none of the many recent books have succeeded in convincing anyone that he is a man to be placed in the neighborhood of Hamilton, let alone be placed above him.

In The Pittsburg Press, 27 June 1903.

Rival Caesars

Is the title of a very fine novel, a romance of ambition, love and war, by Desmond Dilg. The characters are well drawn, the story is thrillingly interesting and entertaining. Published by Thurland & Thurland, Chicago. Sold by J. R. Weldin & Co., Pittsburg.

In Detroit Free Press, 22 June 1903.

Aaron Burr seems to be getting a good deal of attention these days. He was much more prominent figure in “Blennerhassett” than Blennerhassett himself, and the appearance of that novel provoked a couple of monographs on Burr. Now comes two other novels which glorify the brilliant politician and adventurer, “Rival Caesars,” by Desmond Dilg, the Caesars being Burr and Hamilton, and “The Stirrup Cup,” a tale telling of the early life of Burr and his wooing of the Widow Prevost.

In Chicago Tribune, 4 June 1903.


Dilg’s “Rival Caesars.”

Desmond Dilg of this city has written a romance around the Burr-Hamilton imbroglio. This has been a favorite theme with novelists lately, but none of them has treated the matter exactly as has Mr. Dilg. According to him, both these men and many other prominent characters of the early days were members of a secret order—the Iron Cross—and the death of Hamilton was a sentence of which Burr was really the executor. Many famous men are brought into the story, which contains many stirring scenes. While not making out Burr an actual hero, the tale is by no means favorable to Hamilton, who is painted in dark colors. The book is called “Rival Caesars,” and it is published by Thurland & Thurland, Chicago.

In The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), 1 June 1903.

Books Received.

“Rival Caesars,” a romance by Desmond Dilg, with frontispiece. (Chicago: Thurland & Thurland.)


Come all ye men of valor,

Who wish to change your lot;

Who've pluck enough to venture-

Beyond your native spot.

And come ye dashing gallants,

With Colonel Burr we'll go,

To fight for gold and glory,

On the plains of Mexico.

There's mines of gold and silver

And lands and flocks to share,

And maids with swelling bosoms,

And health blows always there.

Leave your dull tasks unfinished,

Put fortune to the test—

Wealth waits for men to win it

Out on the Boundless West.

And leave behind the village

(Where things are going slow)

Join Colonel Burr, and conquer

The Plains of Mexico.

—Old Song, 1806. 

William H. Dilg (1867-1927)

—William H. Dilg, formerly of this city, is organizing a company of rough riders in Chicago. He proposes to imitate the guerrilla chieftains of old. Two wealthy men will equip the regiment, which will be formed within a couple of weeks. Each man is to be armed with a Krag-Jorgensen rifle and the regiment will be presented with four Maxim guns. The Dons will be elbowed right off the island of Cuba if Dilg does half that is promised.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) May 20, 1898.


Co-authored Rival Caesars with Arthur Desmond as "Desmond Dilg." Thurland & Thurland 1903.

Mr. Dilg were once a manager for the Anhauser Bush Brewery.

Owner of W. H. Dilg Adverising Agency.

Author of "Taxpayers and personal liberty league of america." On prohibition. 1909

Williamson H. Dilg (1867-1927) was one of the 54 founders of the Izaak Walton League and served as the organization's first national president.

Dilg wrote articles for "Outdoor America. Defenders of the Woods, Waters and Wild Life," and the book "Tragic Fishing Moments," which, if you're lucky could be found here.

Dilg even managed to divorce the same woman twice...

Read more on Will H. Dilg here.


For the return of a watch and fob lost last week at “The Stoddard.” La Crosse, Wis., during the Northwestern Sangerfest. This is an heirloom and of no value to anyone but the owner. Description: Gold hunting case, engraved inside Fred B. Smith-D. P. Smith, 1904. Number of case, 19,391. Address W. H. Dilg Advertising Agency, 12 State-st., Chicago, Ill.

In the Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1908.

Ragnar Redbeard archive copy of Rival Caesars with signed inscription "To Mr. V. L. Price with compliments of the author Will H. Dilg." Dated 6/15/03.

Mr. V. L. Price was the son of Vincent Clarence Price M.D., king of Baking Powder and flavoring extracts.

For all cinephiles out there, Mr. Vincent Leonard Price, Sr. (1871-1948) was the father of actor and horror legend Vincent leonard Price, Jr. (1911-1993)

Dr. Price, who made Dr. Price’s Cream Baking Powder and Dr. Prince’s Delicious Flavouring Extracts famous, has, in connection with a number of other millionaires, identified himself with Tryabita Food Co. which will hereafter be known as Dr. Price’s Cereal Food Co. Dr. Price proposes at once to begin a vigorous campaign in the interests of the Tryabita Food Co. People who have followed Dr. Price’s wonderful career in the past will have no doubt in their minds as to the successful outcome of this new venture of the doctor’s.

The advertising of the Tryabita Food Co. will be handled by the W. H. Dilg Agency, 163 and 165 Washington street, Chicago, Ill. The Dilg Agency is known among newspapermen as one of the hustling and aggressive agencies in the United States, and this fact in itself will go, no doubt, a long way towards assuring the success of the Tryabita Food Co. in the future.

Detroit Free Press, 6 January, 1903.

*"Dr. Price and son V. L., organized the Pan Confection Company, their third departure in industrial fields, which later was consolidated into the National Candy Company."

*From "Chicago: Its History and Its Builders, a Century of Marvelous Growth, Volume 5," by Josiah Seymour Currey.

In Chicago, in 1904, Arthur Desmond worked as store manager for the Ser-vis Ice Cream and Candy Company.