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Landscapes of Promise

The Oregon Story, 1800-1940

by William G. Robbins

Publication Year: 1997

Published by: University of Washington Press

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Foreword: Dreams of Plenty

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pp. xi-xiv

Oregon has long been one of the most resonant national icons of the United States. Known as a land of journey's ending since at least 1805, when Lewis and Clark first set eyes on the Pacific Ocean after their long march across the continent, the Oregon country seemed a kind of lush oasis on the far side of the Rocky Mountains for nineteenth-century...

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pp. xv-xvii

This book had its beginnings during my four-year hitch with the U.S. Navy. Through the mist and fog of an early October morning in 1955, I hitchhiked north on U.S. Highway 101 and crossed the border into Oregon, courtesy of a friendly, shirt-sleeved log-truck operator who preferred driving with both windows open. I was filled with fuzzy notions about tall timber and rivers...

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Prologue: The Essence of Place

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pp. 3-20

More than we ever believe," the writer Raymond Williams observed, "we understand life from where we are." 2 We draw upon the actual, the real, and the symbolic from our immediate social experience and weave them into a pattern of larger stories. I begin by citing Williams in order to argue that our perceptions of human cultures, of time and place...

I. The Early Historic Period, 1800-1850

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The Native Ecological Context

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pp. 23-49

The early fall weather was warm and even more so during the midafternoon as the stonemason's son proceeded southward through a gently rolling landscape interspersed with "beautiful solitary oaks and pines." It would all "have a fine effect," the traveler wrote in his journal, except for "being ... burned and not a single blade of grass except on the margins of the...

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The Great Divide

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pp. 50-78

When the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition floated into the Columbia River near the end of their epic journey in the fall of 1805, they entered the great waterway at a critical season in the subsistence cycle of the people who lived along its banks. As they coursed downstream from the mouth of the Snake River during the next...

II. Settler Occupation and the Advent of Industrialism, 1850-1890

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Prescripting the Landscape

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pp. 81-109

For the last millennium and more, agricultural practices have wrought revolutionary changes to global ecosystems. For North America, in both the intentional and accidental introduction of exotic plant and animal species, agriculturalists both subsistence and commercial unquestionably were in the vanguard of ecological change.2 In addition to their disease pools, westering Euro-Americans...

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Technology and Abundance

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pp. 110-141

Railroads provided a technical means for mastering nature, for overcoming the seeming inefficiencies of a natural world whose physical obstacles blocked the ambitions of those who wanted to link nature's wealth with urban processing and manufacturing centers. The ribbons of steel that increasingly transected western North America following the Civil War provided the critical...

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Into the Hinterland

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pp. 142-175

As the 1860s drew to a close, great changes were in the offing for the country east of the Cascade Mountains. A series of gold strikes provided the immediate catalyst, causing an inrush of people to the interior region in search of the seemingly ubiquitous "dust." Beginning in the early 1860s, prospectors found gold on several tributaries of the Snake River, along the...

III. Extending the Industrial Infrastructure, 1890-1940

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Nature's Industries and the Rhetoric of Industrialism

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pp. 179-204

In conventional literature, material conditions in the late-nineteenth-century West offered up a landscape filled with promise and opportunity, a story line whose direction and focus was imbued with the notion of progress.2 The Oregon country in particular, according to its boosters, was a land abounding in potential, a place where nature's wealth...

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Industrializing the Woodlands

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pp. 205-237

The immense trees growing to the water's edge, some of them 500 years of age and 300 or more feet in height, impressed the earliest Europeans who traveled along America's northwest coast. John Ledyard of the British Royal Marines, a member of Captain James Cook's voyage into North Pacific waters in 1778, reported that the crew outfitted the ship with a new mizzenmast and...

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Engineering Nature

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pp. 238-266

Men are born, not made," William Bittle Wells wrote in the Pacific Monthly in March 1905. "The qualities of manhood are inherent. A man masters his environment because there is stuff in him to do it, and it must come out." The achievement of manhood, of progress, he argued, required unending struggle against delay and discouragement...

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Toward Systemic Change

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pp. 267-295

The Oregon country was becoming an increasingly complicated place as the twentieth century advanced. The emergence of a truly global economy had vastly accelerated the scope and pace of intercontinental and interregional associations and exchanges. Market articulations and the intrusions of the industrial world were rapidly integrating this once remote corner...

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Epilogue: One Moment in Time

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pp. 296-310

As the United States posed on the brink of a climactic two-ocean war in 1940, the Depression-born Oregon Writers' Project completed its contribution, Oregon: End of the Trail, to the American Guide Series. A land with a greater variety of climate, scenery, and vegetation than all the other states, the Guide proclaimed, Oregon was "still the most unspoiled and most...


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pp. 311-353


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pp. 355-376


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pp. 377-392

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989693
E-ISBN-10: 0295989696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295979014
Print-ISBN-10: 0295979011

Publication Year: 1997