Global West, American Frontier
Travel, Empire, and Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to the Great Depression
Publication Year: 2013
This thoughtful examination of a century of travel writing about the American West overturns a variety of popular and academic stereotypes. Looking at both European and American travelers’ accounts of the West, from de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America to William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, David Wrobel offers a counter narrative to the nation’s romantic entanglement with its western past and suggests the importance of some long-overlooked authors, lively and perceptive witnesses to our history who deserve new attention.
Prior to the professionalization of academic disciplines, the reading public gained much of its knowledge about the world from travel writing. Travel writers found a wide and respectful audience for their reports on history, geography, and the natural world, in addition to reporting on aboriginal cultures before the advent of anthropology as a discipline. Although in recent decades western historians have paid little attention to travel writing, Wrobel demonstrates that this genre in fact offers an important and rich understanding of the American West—one that extends and complicates a simple reading of the West that promotes the notions of Manifest Destiny or American exceptionalism.
Wrobel finds counterpoints to the mythic West of the nineteenth century in such varied accounts as George Catlin’s Adventures of the Ojibbeway and Ioway Indians in England, France, and Belgium (1852), Richard Francis Burton’s The City of the Saints (1861), and Mark Twain’s Following the Equator (1897), reminders of the messy and contradictory world that people navigated in the past much as they do in the present. His book is a testament to the instructive ways in which the best travel writers have represented the West.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Chapter Three: “No, Adventure Is Not Dead”: Frontier Journeys ...
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Figure 2: Poster, The 14 Ioway Indians and Their Interpreter 35Figure 3: Blistered Feet Addressing an Audience in the Egyptian Figure 7: Sketch, Punishing “the Mohammaden” (artist unknown) 42 Figure 11: Portrait of Richard Francis Burton in Arab dress 53 Figure 17: Isabella Bird among the lava beds at Long’s Peak 64...
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In November 2003 I delivered the Calvin Horn Lecture (formerly “lec-tures”) in Western American History and Culture at the University of New Mexico (UNM). While grateful to have received that invitation, I was at the time more than a little relieved to learn that the format had changed sometime around the turn of the last century from four lectures to just a sin-gle one; I flippantly threatened to deliver a single four-hour lecture. Global West, American Frontier is a departure from the traditional four-essay struc-...
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From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that—Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass, [He] kept his scalp in a little box, showed it to visitors with pride, andrather enjoyed being probably the only person in the world who could...
Part OneTHE GLOBAL WESTOF THENINETEENTH CENTURY
Chapter OneEXCEPTIONALISM AND GLOBALISM
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...[T]he march of civilization is everywhere, as it is in America, a war of exter-You shave my head in a severe winter, and then sell me a warm cap. Of course, the cap keeps my head warm, and I need it from time to time; but I do not see any reason why I ought to be obliged to you for it—the cap only keeps my head as warm as my hair would have done; but why did you not leave it to me?—...
Chapter TwoTHE WORLD IN THE WEST,THE WEST IN THE WORLD
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If they were swept away to morrow not a trace of them except their metal work would be . . . found. Civilized as they are they don’t leave any more impress on —Isabella Bird on the Malay Peninsula, The Golden Chersonese (1883)There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man’s When measured against the writings of many other nineteenth-century global travelers, Friedrich Gerstäcker’s and George Catlin’s accounts seem rather enlightened in their empathy for ...
Part TwoTHE AMERICAN FRONTIEROF THETWENTIETH CENTURY
Chapter Three“NO, ADVENTURE IS NOT DEAD
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Notions like the closing frontier—and with it the passing of the “real,” “authentic,” old, Wild West—the death of regionalism, the end of “real” travel, and the loss of uncharted space, are all connected. Twentieth-century travel writers, in searching for the last supposed remaining...
Chapter FourTHE END OF THE WEST?
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As the twentieth century dawned and the automotive age began, the American transcontinental motor journey constituted a challenge and an adventure for drivers. Horatio Alger Nelson made the first successful trip across the continent, from San Francisco to New York City, with his mechanic, Sewall K. Crocker, in a Winton touring car in...
Chapter FiveREDISCOVERING THE WEST
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As far as the eye could see there was not a tree, or a blade of grass, or a fence, or a field; not a flower or a stalk of corn, or a dog or a cow, or a human being—nothing at all but gray raw earth and a few far houses and barns, sticking up Here in this Western American wilderness, the new man, the man of the future, has done something, and what he has done takes your breath away. . . . ...
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I could see Denver looking ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I In 1937, Canadian writer Stephen Leacock declared: “All travel writing and travel pictures in books are worn out and belong to a past age. It is no longer possible to tell anyone anything new about anywhere.” 1 Two years later, Journey to a War, Christopher Isherwood’s and W. H. Auden’s account of their 1938 visit to China during its war with Japan, was published.2 ...
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...1. John White, Sketches from America: Part I.—Canada; Part II.—A Pic-nic to the Rocky Mountains; Part III.—The Irish in America (London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1870), 230. The work is now available in a British Library Historical Print Edition, 2011. White used “lions” as a synonym for attractions; the four massive lion statues that grace London’s Trafalgar Square, the work of sculptor ...
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Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana, Newberry Library, Chicago.Raymond and Whitcomb First Person Travel Accounts, Henry E. Huntington Library, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale Carey Bliss Collection (transcontinental automotive travel narratives) (HEH).Abbey, Edward. The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West. New ...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Calvin P. Horn Lectures in Western History and Culture