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264Southwestern Historical QuarterlyOctober Stagecoaches across theAmerican West, 1850 to 1920. ByJohn A. Sells. (Blaine, Wash.: Hancock House Publishers, 2008. Pp. 336. Illustrations, color plates, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN g78o8883g6o5i, $44^5, paper.) More than a century after Americans switched to other modes of transportation , the stagecoach persists as a potent symbol of the Old West and the continuing fascination widi that chapter ofour national story. Thanks largely to coundess Western paintings, books, and movies (most notably Stagecoach,John Ford's 1939 classic) the stagecoach has been etched into the public memory as an icon ofthat bygone era. Today, Western frontier history remains undiminished in its popularity . In die Lone Star State, for example, highway billboards promoting Frontier Texas, a tourist destination in Abilene, Texas, tempt prospective visitors with die opportunity to climb aboard a "real" stagecoach. In Stagecoa^s Across theAmerican West, authorJohn A. Sells taps into diis enduring and popular public memory with his overview of Western stagecoach lines from 1850 to 1920. Sells argues diat this horse and mule-drawn transportation network played a major role in America's "remarkable development" during diis era (9). In his general history, Sells discusses many of die region's major stage lines and dieir operators, including Wells Fargo, John Butterfield, and Ben HoIladay . Visually, this book is very attractive and the publisher has done a fine job of reproducing the various images, including atmospheric period photographs from archives in Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. The tasteful cover artwork, imaginative chapter headings, and high-quality paper stock used tiiroughout attest to this publication's solid production values. Readers ofTexas history will focus on the two chapters detailing the Overland Mail Company's and the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line's operations in the Lone Star State. The narrative is based almost entirely on secondary sources and well-read stagecoach enthusiasts will find litde new information regarding Texas in this study. Footnotes are sparsely employed and one desires more information regarding the author's sources. More importandy, this work contains numerous and significant errors of fact and those citing it would be well advised to corroborate the information presented with other sources. For example, in his chapter on the Overland Mail Company, Sells appears unfamiliar with die Butterfield route dirough Texas and the local geography. Contrary to the storyline, the Butterfield Road did not go through Graham, Breckenridge, Abilene, San Angelo, Imperial , or Barstow. Referring to Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River, Sells calls it "Horses Head Crossing" on one page, while on die following page he calls it "Head of the Horse" (38~3g). In addition, Sells says that a stroke forcedJohn Butterfield from the presidency of die Overland Mail Company in i860. W. TurrentineJackson, in a ig66 California Historical Society (Quarterly article, presents company records showing that considerable cost overruns and mounting debt caused Butterfield's removal. Moreover , "less inclement weadier and . . . poor service by other carriers" were not U.S. Postmaster General Aaron Brown's overriding concerns in selecting a soudiern overland route through Texas (32). Brown was from the South, and he, along widi Jefferson Davis and other southerners, was banking that die transcontinental mail 20ogBook Reviews265 service would boost the fortunes of their region and pave the way for a southern transcontinental railroad. Elsewhere, in his discussion of Henry Skillman's mail operations in Texas during the early 1850s, Sells says that "Negro soldiers" provided protection for Skillman's mail line (131-132). Buffalo soldiers were not detailed to the Texas frontier until after the Civil War. The above arejust a few of die many errors that diminish diis overview's odierwise commendable assets. Sells, a Colorado native now retired from the financial services industry, clearly has a strong affinity for his subject matter. Readers will find much of the book informative and many of the stories engaging. This work provides an illustrative example, however, of why copyeditors at every publishing house are wordi their weight in gold. Texas Christian UniversityGlen Sample Ely Texas Devils: Rangen and Regulars on tL· Lower Rio Grande, 1846—1861. By Michael L. Collins. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. Pp. 328. Illustrations , notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9780806139395, $26...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 264-265
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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