Friday, August 31, 2012

Correspondence

One of my cousins up north has recently been transcribing some letters written by my great-grandfather, and some other members of the family. These letters all fall in the period of the early 20th Century.

It's really been revealing.  Not only in lost family history, and not only in making these relatives, who I never met, and who had passed on long before my time, very real and human, but also in pointing out the extent to which corresopndence has become a lost art.  It's really been amazing.

 Public letter writer, Mexico.  The equivalent of the internet cafe in its day.

Generally, people in the past simply wrote a lot more than they do now.  And the time, effort, and thought that went into hand written letters is really amazing.  These letters, not more than four pages or so, are beautifully written.  But this certainly wasn't unique to them.  My mother was a great correspondent, and constantly was writing letters.  At some point in time, so long ago that I don't know when it was, she went from handwriting letters to typing them, and indeed I recently ran across a typed journal that she was doing while in college, so obviously she went to typing quite early.  She went from the typewriter to the computer, and then in her later years back to handwriting, but all along she wrote letters constantly.

My father wrote to fewer people, but he too wrote a fair amount. When I was a college student I always looked forward to the handwritten letters from my father.  I wrote letters in that time frame as well.  After my father died, I found a handwritten and very interesting letter his father had written him when he was first in college.  Again, my father's letters, and his father's letter, were very well written.

Well written letters even extended to commercial life, at one time.  For example, I've seen letters written by lawyers in cases, who were adversaries in their representation, that were not only well written, but they were even amusing and a bit chatty.  Clearly the correspondents, even though working at the time, took the time to make their letters interesting and amusing.  Something that still happens a bit, as  lot of commercial correspondence continues on (although email has made its intrusion here as well), but not to that same extent as it once did.

Now, it seems, letter writing is all but dead, replaced by the much more abbreviated form of modern correspondence, the email.  Emails just are the same.  I'm not sure why, but perhaps its because of their instantaneous nature.  You get them immediately upon their being sent, which means that you can reply instantly, or nearly so.  This was not true, of course, of mailed correspondence, which took days to arrive, and to which no immediate reply was expected.  So, emails are shorter, terser, etc.

Similar to this, I suppose, is the diary or journal.  I've known a few people who kept diaries, but I never have.  They were once quite common, and it's surprising to realize how many well known people kept diaries in the past.  Winston Churchill, for example, made diary entries darned near every day of his adult life, it seems.  Some books by people great and small have simply been published diaries, with I suppose the most famous being The Diary of Anne Frank.  I suspect that diaries have passed by the wayside, like mailed correspondence.  Indeed, if anyone who happens to read this entry keeps a diary, I'd be curious in their noting that in the comments.

I've seen it claimed that the diary, like the written letter, has been replaced by an electronic equivalent, that being the blog and/or the "tweet". Well, this is a blog, but it isn't a diary, and because these are open to the world, they aren't at all the same as a diary.  People simply don't write the same thing they might if writing only for themselves, or if figuring that anyone who might read the entries will not do so for years, or even decades, after they were written.  Tweets are even less analogous as they are, in my opinion, semi-bizarre streams of consciousness.  I can't even begin to fathom why people actually write them.

Anyhow, love or hate the electronic era, one thing that has been a casualty of it has been the written letter, and I suspect that the daily diary entry is mortally wounded if not already dead.  Its a shame too, as so many people, in all stations of life, wrote so well and insightfully, and now that is lost.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Boom

The Casper Star Tribune has an article in today's paper about the dedication of the dedication of a historic byway near the old Salt Creek oilfield in Natrona County.  Apparently two more such byways are in the works, one near Green River, and another near Sheridan, under the legislature's recently approved Historic Mine Trail and Byway Program.  In reading the article, what struck me as really remarkable was the impact the Salt Creek field had on the county and the town, in terms of population.
 Casper in 1893, from Wyoming Tales and Trails.

The Salt Creek field was, apparently, first exploited in 1908.  I'd actually thought it somewhat earlier, as there was oil exploration in the county prior to that time.  I've seen, for example, articles in the Natrona County Tribune concerning oil finds dating all the way back to the early 1890s.  Indeed, quite a  few such articles ran in that paper at that time.  However, as noted in a recent book on the history of Natrona County, it wasn't a truly economic resource at the time, as transportation costs were simply too expensive.  By the early 1900s, however, with rail lines fairly well developed, that apparently had changed.
 Casper in 1903, from Wyoming Tales and Trails.  Of interest to locals, this depicts the town as being exclusively on the south side of the North Platte River, which was undoubtedly correct, and mostly north of the railroad.

Anyhow, the Salt Creek field apparently had its first oil find in 1908.  Prior to that find, the Tribune states, the oil production for the county was a surprisingly low 50 barrels a day.  According to the article in today's Tribune, the population of Casper was about 2,000 people at the time.  The oil strike changes all of that.  The boom hit, the paper relates, in 1912, and the paper ran its story out through 1914, although in my view it would have made more sense to run it out through 1919.  Anyhow, the paper cites oil production in the country as climbing to 100,000 barrels a day in the 1912 to 1914 time frame, and the population of the county as having rising from the 2,000 above noted up to 20,000 by 1914, a stunning climb.  It should be noted, for what its worth, that another source claims the population of the county was 1,000 persons in 1906, which doesn't preclude the population of Casper being 2,000 by 1908.  That source also claims that the population of the county was about 25,000 by 1924, which might also be consistent with Casper's being 20,000 in 1914, given the ongoing boom, and the post World War One economic collapse. 
Downtown Casper in 1907, the year prior to the year the Star Tribune claims as the start of the boom.  From Wyoming Tales and Trails.  Note the very heavy presence of early overhead wire lines.

Nobody was native to Casper at that time, of course, but it must have basically converted the town from a very small ranching hub, albeit one that had extractive industry dreams from the start, into what was a regional oil and agricultural hub, but one with its eyes on oil.

What this must have meant in terms of living in the area is almost unimaginable.  Even today, areas that experience booms have quite a bit of difficulty adjusting to them. This has been the case, for example, in western North Dakota, which s undergoing a boom right now.  But in the era we're talking about, transportation was relatively primitive, social services virtually non existent, and the area still largely a frontier, even if the U.S. Census had proclaimed the frontier closed.
 Casper in 1912, from Wyoming Tales and Trails.  Some of the buildings depicted here are still there, notably the Wyoming National Bank Building, later the Tribune Building, which is only barely visible.  The church depicted in the foreground was an Episcopal Church which was subsequently torn down when the new St. Mark's Episcopal Church was built in 1924.  Many downtown Casper Churches were built in the late teens and early 1920s.

Some of the impact of that boom is fairly easy to find by reading histories of the locality, or biographies of Wyoming figures, from that time.  Money was being made hand over fist due to oil, and at the same time, partially due to national economic conditions, and partially due to World War One, the agricultural sector, which had dominated the region prior to oil, was booming itself.  We were in one of our full employment eras, with agriculture and mineral exploration doing very well.  People moved in and made fortunes.  Indeed, some of what we regard as "early" Wyoming figures that created economic dynasties in that era did so in this era.  While their industry cannot be begrudged, it can't help but be noted that they were coming in during a period in which the economic winds were blowing so favorably that their industry and enterprise found unnaturally favorable conditions to an extent. 
 Casper in the 1920s, from Wyoming Tales and Trails.  While quite a few of these buildings are no longer present, a large number of them are.  By this time, in spite of later changes, Casper had basically taken on a form that is presently recognizable.

Well, of course, it all slowed up after World War One.  The huge demand for oil, horses, and wool that had caused the boom dried up, as the U.S. economy slowed, and the nations of the industrial world stopped tearing themselves apart in Europe.  But the region was forever impacted, indeed forever changed.

As a side note to all of this, my wife's family, which was in the county already at this time, participated in the Salt Creek story, in that one of them was a freighter at that time.  That is, he operated his own freight wagons as a teamster, using large mule teams for that enterprise.  He hauled oilfield supplies and equipment to the Salt Creek field.

Holscher's Hub: Drought Forces Ranchers Into Difficult Decisions :...

Holscher's Hub: Drought Forces Ranchers Into Difficult Decisions :...: Drought Forces Ranchers Into Difficult Decisions : NPR On a related note, the local news reported last night that Wyoming's hay crop is at its worse since 1934, due to the drought.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Timeline | Union Pacific 150th Anniversary | UP150.com

Timeline | Union Pacific 150th Anniversary | UP150.com

Lawyer v. Barrister, Solicitor & Notary

On rare occasion, when a friend addresses me and wishes to do so in a somewhat joking fashion, they'll use the term "Barrister", basically thinking it a fancy term for lawyer.  It really isn't, or isn't completely, as a barrister is a type of lawyer in the English system.  It's interesting, however, that the term is so widely recognized, if inaccurately, in the US.

It's also interesting that in this age of increasing certification, which is also an age in which there is concern about the future of legal practice in professional organizations, that this reflects an early division between the practice of law in the United States and that in the United Kingdom.  Except for Louisiana, the US uses English Common Law but we've largely, if not completely, done away with much of the high degree of separation in legal fields that England's legal system featured, and still somewhat does.  This probably reflects the pioneer nature of the country early on, as the high degree of separation, both in terms of members of the general occupation of "lawyer" and in terms of specialized courts themselves, just didn't work well in an era when most lawyers and most judges had to "ride a circuit" in connection with their occupations.  Indeed, the ongoing use of the term "Circuit Court" or "judicial circuit" reflects this early horse powered era. The use of the term "circuit" was meant to be literal.  Court's were not occupied year around by any means, but only periodically, with the lawyers and the jurists arriving at an appointed date, after riding in and taking up all the local lodging.

 Morrill County Courthouse, Bridgeport Nebraska.  A typical circuit courthouse.

Under the English system, lawyers fall into two groups, barristers and solicitors.  Solicitors are lawyers who work on wills, contracts, and the like.  They are not allowed, however, to appear in court.  Barristers are lawyers who argue cases in court.  Interestingly, at least under the traditional system, which I understand to have somewhat decayed in recent years, barristers are not allowed to form law firms, while solicitors are.  Solicitors firms are not allowed to hire barristers to work in their firms, but when they have a case for court, they may associate with a barrister.  Interestingly, the term "Solicitor", rather than barrister is actually used in the American system, but not in regards to special licensure.  Rather, the term is retained by certain governmental agencies that have specialized legal duties.  So, for example, the legal office of the Department of the Interior is the Solicitor's Office, not the Attorney's Office, reflecting the fact that the attorneys' in that office have a largely advisory role. 

At least, anyhow, this is how it worked up until relatively recently.

 British Solicitor and politician, the Right Honorable Frederick Edwin Smith, First Earl of Birkinhead.  Smith was a very well known solicitor, who did act as an advocate.

This system largely does not exist in North America, with the interesting exception of Quebec.  Quebec, which might retain some influence of pre Napoleonic French law, retains a position which is analogous to solicitor, that being Notary.  This type of Notary is a Civil Law Notary, not a Public Notary.  Civil Law Notaries are a type of lawyer that only does contractual and estate drafting work.  They are much like solicitors.  

Also of some interest, perhaps, Australia, which we sometimes think of as being similar to the American West in some ways, did retain the English system, although I don't know if they still do.  The lawyer who famously was assigned by the English Army to defend, in their court-martial, Harry Morant and his fellows, was a Town and Country Solicitor serving as an Australian officer during the Boer War.  While by all accounts he gave a good and very spirited defense, he would have had no court time back in Australia at all.

Well, I don't know that this entry has any particular point, other than to discuss the terms that sometimes come up, and what they meant, but I will note that it is an interesting aspect of our current world that we find ourselves in the age of certified specialization, but this has not really re-entered the legal world, and I doubt very much it will.  There are many occupations that now require certification or licenses that once did not.  Indeed, when I graduated with a geology degree there was no such thing as a Professional Geologist with state certification, but now there is.  American legal practice has sort of gone in the opposite direction, however, starting off being  based on a system in which the term "lawyer" applied generally to two separate types of lawyers, one of which was "called to the bar", and the other which was not.  We never used that system, in so far as I know, and apparently there's been some retreat from it in the UK.  This isn't to urge the creation of such a system here by any means.  It merely notes the uniqueness of this particular set of developments.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Economy Exacerbates College Students' Stress : NPR

NPR recently ran an interesting interview of the current studies of American college students.  It's somewhat inaccurately titled  Economy Exacerbates College Students' Stress : NPR but it really deals with current students, what they're studying and their views towards their studies.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-JukLVw4UGGI/T09-Fg5KEWI/AAAAAAAAC58/n1hmI6WctqQ/s1600/2-28-2012_017.JPG
View from the classroom of the S.H. Knight Building at the University of Wyoming, in the mid 1980s.

I found the interview to be pretty interesting, and it's another NPR Talk of the Nation broadcast that sort of roughly fits into the topics addressed here.  What the speaker maintains is that, due to the current economic situation, the current crop of college students had determined to major in fields of study that appear likely to have direct application to employment when they get out. That is, rather than study something that may be closer to their heart, they're majoring in fields that appear likely to be convertible into post graduation employment.

In terms of long term trends, which we try to track here, this is an interesting one, although I frankly wonder if the trend noted in the newstory  is somewhat exaggerated by their observations as it seems to me that university as a vocational training ground has been far more common than supposed.  What I think is accurate, although also somewhat exaggerated in the story, is that a college degree in general had more value in decades past. That is, as noted earlier here, any college degree tended to translate into white collar employment at one time.  Liberal Arts degrees, for example, at one time did open the door to office employment. This is certainly no longer true to the same extent. Now, with college degrees in general being much, much, more common than they once were, employers are going to take into account the nature of the degree itself. Therefore degrees that are real degrees, but with low relatedness to a field of employment, aren't going to mean very much to an employer.  A business employer probably wants some sort of closely related degree to be reflected for an applicant so, for example, a BA in History probably doesn't mean all that much to somebody seeking to fill an entry level managerial office position.  Or at least it won't if that same employer can choose somebody with a business degree, or something similiar.

The story also notes that the current crop of college students are attempting to tailor their studies to fields with readily available jobs. That seems to reflect my own college experience, however, of over 20 years ago, so I don't know how recent of trend that really is.  Perhaps that just reflects what people do when there's a shortage of jobs, which there was, locally, at that time.  Perhaps that also reflects the fact that I went to a state college that had its origin as a land grant college.  Land grant colleges had a vocational origin in and of themselves and were not originally seeking to compete with the big liberal arts colleges.  Now, of course, any university has expanded from that original purpose, but it probably still reflects itself to some degree in the programs at any one school. The University of Wyoming, for example, had really strong geology and petroleum engineering programs when I was there in the 1980s, and this had been the case for decades.  I'd suspect that this remains the case now.  The Agriculture Department at UW was excellent, and likely remains so.  This all reflects the nature of the regional economy, and the origins of the schools. It probably also reflects what people are taking in terms of courses, however. with the two sides of that coin supporting each other.

On a perhaps somewhat related note, in terms of long term trends, if this newstory is correct it cuts against a common recent observation that the newest generation entering the workforce has had low employer loyalty and high expectations.  This has been a very common observation by many in recent years, with there being many observations that new college educated employees expect high wages, good benefits, and not to have to work too many hours. The ABA Journal and Blogs had a lot of observations of that type a few years ago, frequently noting that new law school grads rapidly left their initial employers, or even the field of law entirely, with little angst.  There was even a muted degree of distress over the observation.  And this observation wasn't unique to the field of law.   Now, however, we seem to see the opposite being the case, with the very newest college educated work applicants simply hoping to get a job in general and, therefore, with a heightened emphasis on having marketable skills.  So perhaps things were more tied to economic conditions, as opposed to cultural ones, than people supposed.

UP: Steam

UP: Steam

Friday, August 24, 2012

Books That Shaped America

The Library of Congress has put together this recent list of books it feels have shaped the United States.  Comments?


"Books That Shaped America"

  • Benjamin Franklin, "Experiments and Observations on Electricity" (1751)
    In 1751, Peter Collinson, president of the Royal Society, arranged for the publication of a series of letters from Benjamin Franklin, written between 1747 and 1750, describing his experiments with electricity. Through the publication of these experiments, Franklin became the first American to gain an international reputation for his scientific work. In 1753 he received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society for his contributions.
  • Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard Improved" (1758) and "The Way to Wealth"
    As a writer, Benjamin Franklin was best known for the wit and wisdom he shared with the readers of his popular almanac, "Poor Richard," under the pseudonym "Richard Saunders." In 1758, Franklin created a clever preface that repeated a number of his maxims, framed as an event in which Father Abraham advises that those seeking prosperity and virtue should diligently practice frugality, honesty and industry. It was reprinted as "Father Abraham’s Speech" and "The Way to Wealth."
  • Thomas Paine, "Common Sense" (1776)
    Published anonymously in Philadelphia in January 1776, "Common Sense" appeared at a time when both separation from Great Britain and reconciliation were being considered. Through simple rational arguments, Thomas Paine focused blame for Colonial America’s troubles on the British king and pointed out the advantages of independence. This popular pamphlet had more than a half-million copies in 25 editions appearing throughout the Colonies within its first year of printing.
  • Noah Webster, "A Grammatical Institute of the English Language" (1783)
    Believing that a distinctive American language was essential to creating cultural independence for the new nation, Noah Webster sought to standardize rules for spelling and pronunciation. His "Grammatical Institute" became the popular "blue-backed speller" used to teach a century of American children how to spell and pronounce words. Its royalties provided Webster with the economic independence to develop his American dictionary.
  • "The Federalist" (1787)
    Now considered to be the most significant American contribution to political thought, "The Federalist" essays supporting the ratification of the new Constitution first appeared in New York newspapers under the pseudonym "Publius." Although it was widely known that the 85 essays were the work of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, the initial curious speculation about authorship of specific essays gradually developed into heated controversy. Hamilton left an authorship list with his lawyer before his fatal duel. In his copy, Madison identified the author of each essay with their initials. Thomas Jefferson penned a similar authorship list in his copy. None of these attributions exactly match, and the authorship of several essays is still being debated by scholars.
  • "A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible" (1788)
    Hieroglyphic Bibles were popular in the late 18th century as an effective and entertaining way to teach children biblical passages. Isaiah Thomas, the printer of this 1788 edition, is widely acclaimed as America’s first enlightened printer of children’s books and is often compared to John Newbery of London, with whom he shared the motto "Instruction with delight."
  • Christopher Colles, "A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America" (1789)
    Irish-born engineer and surveyor Christopher Colles produced what is considered the first road map or guidebook of the United States. It uses a format familiar to modern travelers with each plate consisting of two to three strip maps arranged side by side, covering approximately 12 miles. Colles began this work in 1789 but ended the project in 1792 because few people purchased subscriptions. But he compiled an atlas covering approximately 1,000 miles from Albany, N.Y., to Williamsburg, Va.
  • Benjamin Franklin, "The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D." (1793)
    Benjamin Franklin was 65 when he wrote the first part of his autobiography, which focused on his early life to 1730. During the 1780s he added three briefer parts that advanced his story to his 50th year (1756) and revised the first part. The first book-length edition was published in Paris in 1791. The first English edition, a retranslation of this French edition, was published in London in 1793. Franklin’s autobiography still is considered one of the most influential memoirs in American literature.
  • Amelia Simmons, "American Cookery" (1796)
    This cornerstone in American cookery is the first cookbook of American authorship to be printed in the United States. Numerous recipes adapting traditional dishes by substituting native American ingredients, such as corn, squash and pumpkin, are printed here for the first time. Simmons’ "Pompkin Pudding," baked in a crust, is the basis for the classic American pumpkin pie. Recipes for cake-like gingerbread are the first known to recommend the use of pearl ash, the forerunner of baking powder.
  • "New England Primer" (1803)
    Learning the alphabet went hand in hand with learning Calvinist principles in early America. The phrase "in Adam’s fall, we sinned all," taught children the first letter of the alphabet and the concept of original sin at the same time. More than 6 million copies in 450 editions of the "New England Primer" were printed between 1681 and 1830 and were a part of nearly every child’s life.
  • Meriwether Lewis, "History of the Expedition Under the Command of the Captains Lewis and Clark" (1814)
    After Meriwether Lewis’s death in September 1809, William Clark engaged Nicholas Biddle to edit the expedition papers. Using the captains’ original journals and those of Sergeants Gass and Ordway, Biddle completed a narrative by July 1811. After delays with the publisher, a two-volume edition of the Corps of Discovery’s travels across the continent was finally available to the public in 1814. More than 20 editions appeared during the 19th century, including German, Dutch and several British editions.
  • Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1820)
    One of the first works of fiction by an American author to become popular outside the United States, Washington Irving’s "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was first published as part of "The Sketchbook" in 1820. Irving’s vivid imagery involving the wild supernatural pursuit by the Headless Horseman has sustained interest in this popular folktale through many printed editions, as well as film, stage and musical adaptations.
  • William Holmes McGuffey, "McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer" (1836)
    William Holmes McGuffey was hired in the 1830s by Truman and Smith, a Cincinnati publishing firm, to write schoolbooks appropriate for children in the expanding nation. His eclectic readers were graded, meaning a student started with the primer and, as his reading abilities improved, moved from the first through the sixth reader. Religious instruction is not included, but a strong moral code is encouraged with stories in which hard work and virtue are rewarded and misdeeds and sloth are punished.
  • Samuel Goodrich, "Peter Parley’s Universal History" (1837)
    Samuel Goodrich, using the pseudonym Peter Parley, wrote children’s books with an informal and friendly style as he introduced his young readers to faraway people and places. Goodrich believed that fairy tales and fantasy were not useful and possibly dangerous to children. He entertained them instead with engaging tales from history and geography. His low regard for fiction is ironic in that his accounts of other places and cultures were often misleading and stereotypical, if not completely incorrect.
  • Frederick Douglass, "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" (1845)
    Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography is one of the best-written and most widely read slave narratives. It was boldly published less than seven years after Douglass had escaped and before his freedom was purchased. Prefaced by statements of support from his abolitionist friends, William Garrison and Wendell Phillips, Douglass’s book relates his experiences growing up a slave in Maryland and describes the strategies he used to learn to read and write. More than just a personal story of courage, Douglass’s account became a strong testament for the need to abolish slavery.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Scarlet Letter" (1850)
    "The Scarlet Letter" was the first important novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the leading authors of 19th-century romanticism in American literature. Like many of his works, the novel is set in Puritan New England and examines guilt, sin and evil as inherent human traits. The main character, Hester Prynne, is condemned to wear a scarlet "A" (for adultery) on her chest because of an affair that resulted in an illegitimate child. Meanwhile, her child’s father, a Puritan pastor who has kept their affair secret, holds a high place in the community.
  • Herman Melville, "Moby-Dick"; or, "The Whale" (1851)
    Herman Melville’s tale of the Great White Whale and the crazed Captain Ahab who declares he will chase him "round perdition’s flames before I give him up" has become an American myth. Even people who have never read Moby-Dick know the basic plot, and references to it are common in other works of American literature and in popular culture, such as the Star Trek film "The Wrath of Khan" (1982).
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" (1852)
    With the intention of awakening sympathy for oppressed slaves and encouraging Northerners to disobey the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing her vivid sketches of slave sufferings and family separations. The first version of "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" appeared serially between June 1851 and April 1852 in the National Era, an antislavery paper published in Washington, D.C. The first book edition appeared in March 1852 and sold more than 300,000 copies in the first year. This novel was extremely influential in fueling antislavery sentiment during the decade preceding the Civil War.
  • Henry David Thoreau, "Walden;" or, "Life in the Woods" (1854)
    While living in solitude in a cabin on Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., Henry David Thoreau wrote his most famous work, "Walden," a paean to the idea that it is foolish to spend a lifetime seeking material wealth. In his words, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Thoreau’s love of nature and his advocacy of a simple life have had a large influence on modern conservation and environmentalist movements.
  • Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass" (1855)
    The publication of the first slim edition of Walt Whitman’s "Leaves of Grass" in 1855 was the debut of a masterpiece that shifted the course of American literary history. Refreshing and bold in both theme and style, the book underwent many revisions during Whitman’s lifetime. Over almost 40 years Whitman produced multiple editions of "Leaves of Grass," shaping the book into an ever-transforming kaleidoscope of poems. By his death in 1892, "Leaves" was a thick compendium that represented Whitman’s vision of America over nearly the entire last half of the 19th century. Among the collection’s best-known poems are "I Sing the Body Electric," "Song of Myself," and "O Captain! My Captain!," a metaphorical tribute to the slain Abraham Lincoln.
  • Louisa May Alcott, "Little Women," or, "Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy" (1868)
    This first edition of Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women" was published in 1868 when Louisa was 35 years old. Based on her own experiences growing up as a young woman with three sisters, and illustrated by her youngest sister, May, the novel was an instant success, selling more than 2,000 copies immediately. Several sequels were published, including "Little Men" (1871) and "Jo’s Boys" (1886). Although "Little Women" is set in a very particular place and time in American history, the characters and their relationships have touched generations of readers and still are beloved.
  • Horatio Alger Jr., "Mark, the Match Boy" (1869)
    The formulaic juvenile novels of Horatio Alger Jr., are best remembered for the "rags-to-riches" theme they championed. In these stories, poor city boys rose in social status by working hard and being honest. Alger preached respectability and integrity, while disdaining the idle rich and the growing chasm between the poor and the affluent. In fact, the villains in Alger’s stories were almost always rich bankers, lawyers or country squires.
  • Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, "The American Woman’s Home" (1869)
    This classic domestic guide by sisters Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe is dedicated to "the women of America, in whose hands rest the real destinies of the Republic." It includes chapters on healthful cookery, home decoration, exercise, cleanliness, good air ventilation and heat, etiquette, sewing, gardening and care of children, the sick, the aged and domestic animals. Intended to elevate the "woman’s sphere" of household management to a respectable profession based on scientific principles, it became the standard domestic handbook.
  • Mark Twain, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884)
    Novelist Ernest Hemingway famously said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since." During their trip down the Mississippi on a raft, Twain depicts in a satirical and humorous way Huck and Jim’s encounters with hypocrisy, racism, violence and other evils of American society. His use in serious literature of a lively, simple American language full of dialect and colloquial expressions paved the way for many later writers, including Hemingway and William Faulkner.
  • Emily Dickinson, "Poems" (1890)
    Very few of the nearly 1,800 poems that Emily Dickinson wrote were published during her lifetime and, even then, they were heavily edited to conform to the poetic conventions of their time. A complete edition of her unedited work was not published until 1955. Her idiosyncratic structure and rhyming schemes have inspired later poets.
  • Jacob Riis, "How the Other Half Lives" (1890)
    An early example of photojournalism as vehicle for social change, Riis’s book demonstrated to the middle and upper classes of New York City the slum-like conditions of the tenements of the Lower East Side. Following the book’s publication (and the resulting public uproar), proper sewers, plumbing and trash collection eventually came to the Lower East Side.
  • Stephen Crane, "The Red Badge of Courage" (1895)
    One of the most influential works in American literature, Stephen Crane’s "The Red Badge of Courage" has been called the greatest novel about the American Civil War. The tale of a young recruit in the Civil War who learns the cruelty of war made Crane an international success. The work is notable for its vivid depiction of the internal conflict of its main character – most war novels until that time focused more on the battles than on their characters.
  • L. Frank Baum, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (1900)
    "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," published in 1900, is the first fantasy written by an American to enjoy an immediate success upon publication. So powerful was its effect on the American imagination, so evocative its use of the forces of nature in its plots, so charming its invitation to children of all ages to look for the element of wonder in the world around them that author L. Frank Baum was forced by demand to create book after book about Dorothy and her friends – including the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion and Glinda the Good Witch.
  • Sarah H. Bradford, "Harriet, the Moses of Her People" (1901)
    Harriet Tubman is celebrated for her courage and skill in guiding many escaping slave parties northward along the Underground Railroad to freedom. She also served as a scout and a nurse during the Civil War. In order to raise funds for Tubman’s support in 1869 and again in 1886, Sarah Hopkins Bradford published accounts of Tubman’s experiences as a young slave and her daring efforts to rescue family and friends from slavery.
  • Jack London, "The Call of the Wild" (1903)
    Jack London’s experiences during the Klondike gold rush in the Yukon were the inspiration for "The Call of the Wild." He saw the way dogsled teams behaved and how their owners treated (and mistreated) them. In the book, the dog Buck’s comfortable life is upended when gold is discovered in the Klondike. From then on, survival of the fittest becomes Buck’s mantra as he learns to confront and survive the harsh realities of his new life as a sled dog.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Souls of Black Folk" (1903)
    "Few books make history and fewer still become foundational texts for the movements and struggles of an entire people. The ‘Souls of Black Folk’ occupies this rare position," said Du Bois biographer Manning Marable. Du Bois’s work was so influential that it is impossible to consider the civil rights movement’s roots without first looking to this groundbreaking work.
  • Ida Tarbell, "The History of Standard Oil" (1904)
    Journalist Ida Tarbell wrote her exposé of the monopolistic practices of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company as a serialized work in McClure’s Magazine. The breakup of Standard Oil in 1911 into 34 "baby Standards" can be attributed in large part to Tarbell’s masterly muckraking.
  • Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle" (1906)
    An early example of investigative journalism, this graphic exposé of the Chicago meat-packing industry presented as a novel was one of the first works of fiction to lead directly to national legislation. The federal meat-inspection law and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 established the agency that eventually became the Food and Drug Administration in 1930.
  • Henry Adams, "The Education of Henry Adams" (1907)
    The dawn of the 20th century and the changes it brought are the subjects of Henry Adams’ "education." Adams lived through the Civil War and died just before World War I. During that time, he witnessed cataclysmic transformations in technology, society and politics. Adams believed that his traditional education left him ill-prepared for these changes and that his life experiences provided a better education. One survey called it the greatest nonfiction English-language book of the last century.
  • William James, "Pragmatism" (1907)
    "Pragmatism" was America’s first major contribution to philosophy, and it is an ideal rooted in the American ethos of no-nonsense solutions to real problems. Although James did not originate the idea, he popularized the philosophy through his voluminous writings.
  • Zane Grey, "Riders of the Purple Sage" (1912)
    "Riders of the Purple Sage," Zane Grey’s best-known novel, was originally published in 1912. The Western genre had just evolved from the popular dime novels and penny dreadfuls of the late 19th century. This story of a gun-slinging avenger who saves a young and beautiful woman from marrying against her will played a significant role in shaping the formula of the popular Western genre begun by Owen Wister in "The Virginian" (1904).
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, "Tarzan of the Apes" (1914)
    "Tarzan of the Apes" is the first in a series of books about the popular man who was raised by and lived among the apes. With its universal themes of honesty, heroism and bravery, the series has never lost popularity. Countless Tarzan adaptations have been filmed for television and the silver screen, including an animated version currently in production.
  • Margaret Sanger, "Family Limitation" (1914)
    While working as a nurse in the New York slums, Margaret Sanger witnessed the plight of poor women suffering from frequent pregnancies and self-induced abortion. Believing that these women had the right to control their reproductive health, Sanger published this pamphlet that simply explained how to prevent pregnancy. Distribution through the mails was blocked by enforcement of the Comstock Law, which banned mailing of materials judged to be obscene. However, several hundred thousand copies were distributed through the first family-planning and birth control clinic Sanger established in Brooklyn in 1916 and by networks of active women at rallies and political meetings.
  • William Carlos Williams, "Spring and All" (1923)
    A practicing physician for more than 40 years, William Carlos Williams became an experimenter, innovator and revolutionary figure in American poetry. In reaction against the rigid, rhyming format of 19th-century poets, Williams, his friend Ezra Pound and other early-20th-century poets formed the core of what became known as the "Imagist" movement. Their poetry focused on verbal pictures and moments of revealed truth, rather than a structure of consecutive events or thoughts and was expressed in free verse rather than rhyme.
  • Robert Frost, "New Hampshire" (1923)
    Frost received his first of four Pulitzer Prizes for this anthology, which contains some of his most famous poems, including "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "Fire and Ice." One of the best-known American poets of his time, Frost became principally associated with the life and landscape of New England. Although he employed traditional verse forms and metrics and remained aloof from the poetic movements and fashions of his day, poems featured language as it is actually spoken as well as psychological complexity and layers of ambiguity and irony.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Great Gatsby" (1925)
    F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the major American writers of the 20th century, is a figure whose life and works embody powerful myths about the American Dream of success. "The Great Gatsby," considered by many to be Fitzgerald’s finest work and the book for which he is best known, is a portrait of the Jazz Age (1920s) in all its decadence and excess. Exploring the themes of class, wealth and social status, Fitzgerald takes a cynical look at the pursuit of wealth among a group of people for whom pleasure is the chief goal. "The Great Gatsby" captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned a permanent place in American mythology.
  • Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues" (1925)
    Langston Hughes was one of the greatest poets of the Harlem Renaissance, a literary and intellectual flowering that fostered a new black cultural identity in the 1920s and 1930s. His poem "The Weary Blues," also the title of this poetry collection, won first prize in a contest held by Opportunity magazine. After the awards ceremony, the writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten approached Hughes about putting together a book of verse and got him a contract with his own publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. Van Vechten contributed an essay, "Introducing Langston Hughes," to the volume. The book laid the foundation for Hughes’s literary career, and several poems remain popular with his admirers.
  • William Faulkner, "The Sound and the Fury" (1929)
    "The Sound and the Fury," William Faulkner’s fourth novel, was his own favorite, and many critics believe it is his masterpiece. Set in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, Miss., as are most of Faulkner’s novels, "The Sound and the Fury" uses the American South as a metaphor for a civilization in decline. Depicting the post-Civil War decline of the once-aristocratic Compson family, the novel is divided into four parts, each told by a different narrator. Much of the novel is told in a stream-of-consciousness style, in which a character’s thoughts are conveyed in a manner roughly equivalent to the way human minds actually work. Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 and France’s Legion of Honor in 1951.
  • Dashiell Hammett, "Red Harvest" (1929)
    Dashiell Hammett’s first novel introduced a wide audience to the so-called "hard-boiled" detective thriller with its depiction of crime and violence without any hint of sentimentality. The creator of classics such as "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man," shocked readers with such dialogue as "We bumped over dead Hank O’Meara’s legs and headed for home."
  • Irma Rombauer, "Joy of Cooking" (1931)
    Until Irma Rombauer published "Joy of Cooking," most American cookbooks were little more than a series of paragraphs that incorporated ingredient amounts (if they were provided at all) with some vague advice about how to put them all together to achieve the desired results. Rombauer changed all that by beginning her recipes with ingredient lists and offering precise directions along with her own personal and friendly anecdotes. A modest success initially, the book went on to sell nearly 18 million copies in its various editions.
  • Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind" (1936)
    The most popular romance novel of all time was the basis for the most popular movie of all time (in today’s dollars). Margaret Mitchell’s book, set in the South during the Civil War, won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and it remains popular, despite charges that its author had a blind eye regarding the horrors of slavery.
  • Dale Carnegie, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (1936)
    The progenitor of all self-help books, Dale Carnegie’s volume has sold 15 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages. "How to Win Friends and Influence People" has also spawned hundreds of other books, many of them imitators, written to advise on everything from improving one’s relationships to beefing up one’s bank account. Carnegie acknowledged that he was inspired by Benjamin Franklin, a young man who proclaimed that "God helps them that helped themselves" as a way to get ahead in life.
  • Zora Neale Hurston, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (1937)
    Although it was published in 1937, it was not until the 1970s that "Their Eyes Were Watching God" became regarded as a masterwork. It had initially been rejected by African American critics as facile and simplistic, in part because its characters spoke in dialect. Alice Walker’s 1975 Ms. magazine essay, "Looking for Zora," led to a critical reevaluation of the book, which is now considered to have paved the way for younger black writers such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison.
  • Federal Writers’ Project, "Idaho: A Guide in Word and Pictures" (1937)
    "Idaho" was the first in the popular American Guide Series of the Federal Writers’ Project, which ended in 1943. The project employed more than 6,000 writers and was one of the many programs of the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era federal government employment program. These travel guides cover the lower 48 states plus the Alaska Territory, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Each volume details a state’s history, geography and culture and includes photographs, maps and drawings.
  • Thornton Wilder, "Our Town: A Play" (1938)
    Winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize, "Our Town" is among the most-performed plays of the 20th century. Those who see it relate immediately to its universal themes of the importance of everyday occurrences, relationships among friends and family and an appreciation of the brevity of life.
  • "Alcoholics Anonymous" (1939)
    The famous 12-step program for stopping an addiction has sold more than 30 million copies. Millions of men and women worldwide have turned to the program co-founded by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith to recover from alcoholism. The "Big Book," as it is known, spawned similar programs for other forms of addiction.
  • John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939)
    Few novels can claim that their message led to actual legislation, but "The Grapes of Wrath" did just that. Its story of the travails of Oklahoma migrants during the Great Depression ignited a movement in Congress to pass laws benefiting farmworkers. When Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962, the committee specifically cited this novel as one of the main reasons for the award.
  • Ernest Hemingway, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1940)
    Ernest Hemingway’s novel about the horrors of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) depicts war not as glorious but disillusioning. Hemingway used his experiences as a reporter during the war as the background for his best-selling novel, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and became a literary triumph. Based on his achievement in this and other noted works, he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
  • Richard Wright, "Native Son" (1940)
    Among the first widely successful novels by an African American, "Native Son" boldly described a racist society that was unfamiliar to most Americans. As literary critic Irving Howe said in his 1963 essay "Black Boys and Native Sons," "The day ‘Native Son’ appeared, American culture was changed forever. No matter how much qualifying the book might later need, it made impossible a repetition of the old lies."
  • Betty Smith, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1943)
    "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is the account of a girl growing up in the tenements of turn-of-the-20th-century Brooklyn. An early socially conscious novel, the book examines poverty, alcoholism, gender roles, loss of innocence and the struggle to live the American Dream in an inner city neighborhood of Irish American immigrants. The book was enormously popular and became a film directed by Elia Kazan.
  • Benjamin A. Botkin, "A Treasury of American Folklore" (1944)
    Benjamin Botkin headed the Library of Congress’s Archive of American Folksong (now the American Folklife Center) between 1943 and 1945 and previously served as national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project (1938–39), a program of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Depression. Botkin was one of the New Deal folklorists who persuasively argued that folklore was relevant in the present and that it was not something that should be studied merely for its historical value. This book features illustrations by Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s foremost realist painters.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, "A Street in Bronzeville" (1945)
    "A Street in Bronzeville" was Brooks’s first book of poetry. It details, in stark terms, the oppression of blacks in a Chicago neighborhood. Critics hailed the book, and in 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was also appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in 1985.
  • Benjamin Spock, "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" (1946)
    Dr. Spock’s guidebook turned common wisdom about child-rearing on its head. Spock argued that babies did not have to be on a rigid schedule, that children should be treated with a great deal of affection, and that parents should use their own common sense when making child-rearing decisions. Millions of parents worldwide have followed his advice.
  • Eugene O’Neill, "The Iceman Cometh" (1946)
    Nobel Prize winner Eugene O’Neill’s play about anarchism, socialism and pipe dreams is one of his most-admired but least-performed works, probably because of its more than four-and-a-half-hour running time. Set in 1912 in the seedy Last Chance Saloon in New York City, the play depicts the bar’s drunk and delusional patrons bickering while awaiting the arrival of Hickey, a traveling salesman whose visits are the highlight of their hopeless lives. However, Hickey’s arrival throws them into turmoil when he arrives sober, wanting them to face their delusions.
  • Margaret Wise Brown, "Goodnight Moon" (1947)
    This bedtime story has been a favorite of young people for generations, beloved as much for its rhyming story as for its carefully detailed illustrations by Clement Hurd. Millions have read it (and had it read to them). "Goodnight Moon" has been referred to as the perfect bedtime book.
  • Tennessee Williams, "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1947)
    A landmark work, which won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, "A Streetcar Named Desire" thrilled and shocked audiences with its melodramatic look at a clash of cultures. These cultures are embodied in the two main characters – Blanche DuBois, a fading Southern belle whose genteel pretensions thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur, and Stanley Kowalski, a representative of the industrial, urban working class. Marlon Brando’s portrayal of the brutish and sensual Stanley in both the original stage production and the film adaptation has become an icon of American culture.
  • Alfred C. Kinsey, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" (1948)
    Alfred Kinsey created a firestorm when he published this volume on men in 1948 and a companion on women five years later. No one had ever reported on such taboo subjects before and no one had used scientific data in such detail to challenge the prevailing notions of sexual behavior. Kinsey’s openness regarding human sexuality was a harbinger of the 1960s sexual revolution in America.
  • J.D. Salinger, "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951)
    Since his debut in 1951 as the narrator of "The Catcher in the Rye," 16-year-old Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with adolescent alienation and angst. The influential story concerns three days after Holden has been expelled from prep school. Confused and disillusioned, he wanders New York City searching for truth and rails against the phoniness of the adult world. Holden is the first great American antihero, and his attitudes influenced the Beat generation of the 1950s as well as the hippies of the 1960s. "The Catcher in the Rye" is one of the most translated, taught and reprinted books and has sold some 65 million copies.
  • Ralph Ellison, "Invisible Man" (1952)
    Ralph Ellison’s "Invisible Man" is told by an unnamed narrator who views himself as someone many in society do not see, much less pay attention to. Ellison addresses what it means to be an African-American in a world hostile to the rights of a minority, on the cusp of the emerging civil rights movement that was to change society irrevocably.
  • E.B. White, "Charlotte’s Web" (1952)
    According to Publishers Weekly, "Charlotte’s Web" is the best-selling paperback for children of all time. One reason may be that, although it was written for children, reading it is just as enjoyable for adults. The book is especially notable for the way it treats death as a natural and inevitable part of life in a way that is palatable for young people.
  • Ray Bradbury, "Fahrenheit 451" (1953)
    "Fahrenheit 451" is Ray Bradbury’s disturbing vision of a future United States in which books are outlawed and burned. Even though interpretations of the novel have primarily focused on the historical role of book-burning as a means of censorship, Bradbury has said that the novel is about how television reduces knowledge to factoids and destroys interest in reading. The book inspired a 1966 film by Francois Truffaut and a subsequent BBC symphony. Its name comes from the minimum temperature at which paper catches fire by spontaneous combustion.
  • Allen Ginsberg, "Howl" (1956)
    Allen Ginsberg’s poem "Howl" (first published as the title poem of a collection) established him as an important poet and the voice of the Beat Generation of the 1950s. Because of the boldness of the poem’s language and subject matter, it became the subject of an obscenity trial in San Francisco in which it was exonerated after witnesses testified to its redeeming social value. Ginsberg’s work had great influence on later generations of poets and on the youth culture of the 1960s.
  • Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged" (1957)
    Although mainstream critics reacted poorly to "Atlas Shrugged," it was a popular success. Set in what novelist and philosopher Rand called "the day after tomorrow," the book depicts a United States caught up in a crisis caused by a corrupt establishment of government regulators and business interests. The book’s negative view of government and its support of unimpeded capitalism as the highest moral objective have influenced libertarians and those who advocate a smaller government.
  • Dr. Seuss, "The Cat in the Hat" (1957)
    Theodore Seuss Geisel was removed as editor of the campus humor magazine while a student at Dartmouth College after too much reveling with fellow students. In spite of this Prohibition-era setback to his writing career, he continued to contribute to the magazine pseudonymously, signing his work "Seuss." This is the first known use of his pseudonym, which became famous in children’s literature when it evolved into "Dr. Seuss." "The Cat in the Hat" is considered the most important book of his career. More than 200 million Dr. Seuss books have been sold around the world.
  • Jack Kerouac, "On the Road" (1957)
    The defining novel of the 1950s Beat Generation (which Kerouac named), "On the Road" is a semiautobiographical tale of a bohemian cross-country adventure, narrated by character Sal Paradise. Kerouac’s odyssey has influenced artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Hunter S. Thompson and films such as "Easy Rider." "On the Road" has achieved a mythic status in part because it portrays the restless energy and desire for freedom that makes people take off to see the world.
  • Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1960)
    This 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner was an immediate critical and financial success for its author, with more than 30 million copies in print to date. Harper Lee created one of the most enduring and heroic characters in all of American literature in Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer who defended a wrongly accused black man. The book’s importance was recognized by the 1961 Washington Post reviewer: "A hundred pounds of sermons on tolerance, or an equal measure of invective deploring the lack of it, will weigh far less in the scale of enlightenment than a mere 18 ounces of new fiction bearing the title ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’"
  • Joseph Heller, "Catch-22" (1961)
    Joseph’s Heller’s "Catch-22," an irreverent World War II novel and a satiric treatment of military bureaucracy, has had such a penetrating effect that its title has become synonymous with "no-win situation." Heller’s novel is a black comedy, filled with orders from above that make no sense and a main character, Yossarian, who just wants to stay alive. He pleads insanity but is caught in the famous catch: "Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy." The novel became a cult classic for its biting indictment of war.
  • Robert A. Heinlein, "Stranger in a Strange Land" (1961)
    The first science fiction novel to become a bestseller, "Stranger in a Strange Land" is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised on Mars by Martians (his parents were on the first expedition to Mars and he was orphaned when the crew perished) who returns to Earth about 20 years later. Smith has psychic powers but complete ignorance of human mores. The book is considered a classic in its genre.
  • Ezra Jack Keats, "The Snowy Day" (1962)
    Ezra Jack Keats’s "The Snowy Day" was the first full-color picture book with an African-American as the main character. The book changed the field of children’s literature forever, and Keats was recognized by winning the 1963 Caldecott Medal (the most prestigious American award for children’s books) for his landmark effort.
  • Maurice Sendak, "Where the Wild Things Are" (1963)
    "It is my involvement with this inescapable fact of childhood – the awful vulnerability of children and their struggle to make themselves King of All Wild Things – that gives my work whatever truth and passion it may have," Maurice Sendak said in his Caldecott Medal acceptance speech on June 30, 1964. Sendak called Max, the hero of "Where the Wild Things Are," his "bravest and therefore my dearest creation." Max, who is sent to his room with nothing to eat, sails to where the wild things are and becomes their king.
  • James Baldwin, "The Fire Next Time" (1963)
    One of the most important books ever published on race relations, Baldwin’s two-essay work comprises a letter written to his nephew on the role of race in United States history and a discussion of how religion and race influence each other. Baldwin’s angry prose is balanced by his overall belief that love and understanding can overcome strife.
  • Betty Friedan, "The Feminine Mystique" (1963)
    By debunking the "feminine mystique" that middle-class women were happy and fulfilled as housewives and mothers, Betty Friedan inspired the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Friedan advocates that women need meaningful work and encourages them to avoid the trap of the "feminine mystique" by pursuing education and careers. By 2000 this touchstone of the women’s movement had sold 3 million copies and was translated into several languages.
  • Malcolm X and Alex Haley, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (1965)
    When "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (born Malcolm Little) was published, The New York Times called it a "brilliant, painful, important book," and it has become a classic American autobiography. Written in collaboration with Alex Haley (author of "Roots"), the book expressed for many African-Americans what the mainstream civil rights movement did not: their anger and frustration with the intractability of racial injustice.
  • Ralph Nader, "Unsafe at Any Speed" (1965)
    Nader’s book was a landmark in the field of auto safety and made him a household name. It detailed how automakers resisted putting safety features, such as seat belts, in their cars and resulted in the federal government’s taking a lead role in the area of auto safety.
  • Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring" (1962)
    A marine biologist and writer, Rachel Carson is considered a founder of the contemporary environmental protection movement. She drew attention to the adverse effects of pesticides, especially that of DDT on bird populations, in her book "Silent Spring," a 1963 National Book Association Nonfiction Finalist. At a time when technological solutions were the norm, she pointed out that man-made poisons introduced into natural systems can harm not only nature, but also humans. Her book met with great success and because of heightened public awareness, DDT was banned.
  • Truman Capote, "In Cold Blood" (1966)
    A 300-word article in The New York Times about a murder led Truman Capote to travel with his childhood friend Harper Lee to Holcomb, Kan., to research his nonfiction novel, which is considered one of the greatest true-crime books ever written. Capote said the novel was an attempt to establish a serious new literary form, the "nonfiction novel," a narrative form that employed all the techniques of fictional art but was nevertheless entirely factual. The book was an instant success and was made into a film.
  • James D. Watson, "The Double Helix" (1968)
    James D. Watson’s personal account of the discovery of DNA changed the way Americans regarded the genre of the scientific memoir and set a new standard for first-person accounts. Dealing with personalities, controversies and conflicts, the book also changed the way the public thought about how science and scientists work, showing that scientific enterprise can at times be a messy and cutthroat business.
  • Dee Brown, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (1970)
    Until librarian Dee Brown wrote his history of Native Americans in the West, few Americans knew the details of the unjust treatment of Indians. Brown scoured both well-known and little-known sources for his documentary on the massacres, broken promises and other atrocities suffered by Indians. The book has never gone out of print and has sold more than 4 million copies.
  • Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, "Our Bodies, Ourselves" (1971)
    In the early 1970s a dozen Boston feminists collaborated in this groundbreaking publication that presented accurate information on women’s health and sexuality based on their own experiences. Advocating improved doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, "Our Bodies, Ourselves" explored ways for women to take charge of their own health issues and to work for political and cultural change that would ameliorate women’s lives.
  • Carl Sagan, "Cosmos" (1980)
    Carl Sagan’s classic, bestselling science book accompanied his avidly followed television series, "Cosmos." In an accessible way, Sagan covered a broad range of scientific topics and made the history and excitement of science understandable and enjoyable for Americans and then for an international audience. The book offers a glimpse of Sagan’s personal vision of what it means to be human.
  • Toni Morrison, "Beloved" (1987)
    Toni Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her post-Civil War novel based on the true story of an escaped slave and the tragic consequences when a posse comes to reclaim her. The author won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, and in 2006 The New York Times named "Beloved" "the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years."
  • Randy Shilts, "And the Band Played On" (1987)
    "And the Band Played On" is the story of how the AIDS epidemic spread and how the government’s initial indifference to the disease allowed its spread and gave urgency to devoting government resources to fighting the virus. Shilts’s investigation has been compared to other works that led to increased efforts toward public safety, such as Upton Sinclair’s "The Jungle."
  • César Chávez, "The Words of César Chávez" (2002)
    César Chávez, founder of the United Farm Workers, was as impassioned as he was undeterred in his quest for better working conditions for farm workers. He was a natural communicator whose speeches and writings led to many improvements in wages and working conditions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Republicans, Democrats, Populists, Progressives and a one party state. The evolution of parties in Wyoming

I'll start off here by noting that this isn't a commentary on any political party, or any candidate, but rather an observation on an item of history, and a trend.

On Monday the local newspaper, The Casper Star Tribune, runs articles from its predecessor papers which look back on the news of former eras.  This past Monday, this being the political season, the paper ran a couple of old articles noting the fortunes of the Socialist Party and the Progressive Part, in the second decade of the 20th Century.  In both instances the newspaper heartily endorsed what it thought was the growing popularity of those parties.  While not adopting the platform of either, it noted with approval some of the concerns that those parties featured in their platforms, and noted with approval that the parties were growing in size.

On the same day, in the editorial section, the paper joined in with Chris Henrichsen in criticizing the current leadership of the present Wyoming Democratic Party.  Henrichsen, who is competing with Cynthia Lummis in what is for him a doomed effort to obtain the position of Congressman from Wyoming, complained recently, in a Tweet (and as I don't Tweet, or even look at Tweets, people who are interested in that Tweet will have to look for it elsewhere) that the local Democratic Party needed new leadership.  The reason for his complaint was that he recently was present at a Democratic fundraiser in Jackson Wyoming, which was apparently held to raise money for Montana Democratic Senator John Testor.  Testor is apparently in a tight race this year, and so the Wyoming Democrats determined to help him out with a fundraiser in Teton County, which of course is not only near Montana, but which is likely to draw more Democrats, and more importantly more Democrats with more surplus money, than other Wyoming counties.  The basis of Henrichsen's complaining Tweet was that he wasn't allowed to speak at the fundraiser even though he was there and he's actually a Wyoming candidate.  The Tribune agreed with him.  I have to say, that I agree with him and the Tribune.

The Tribune, and Henrichsen, went on to complain that the Democratic leadership in the state was anemic and effectively doing nothing for local candidates.  I'll leave that issue to the Democrats, but in keeping with the theme of this blog noting long-term changes, here's a truly remarkable one here in the state.  Wyoming effectively is a one party state at present.  But it hasn't always been by any means.  That would likely be a huge surprise to most Wyomingites who were born post 1980 or so.

Prior to 1980, more or less, Wyoming had a fairly active, if in the minority, Democratic Party.  And of course the party was significant enough recently that it was still able to elect a Governor, that being Dave Freudenthal.  Freudenthal, however, was an exception even in his own time in being alone in the Executive branch as a Democrat and he fairly frequently made it known that he was independent of the national party.  The last Wyoming Governor who could count on there being a few other Democrats around was Mike Sullivan, who is now several governors back.  Sullivan went on to serve in the Clinton Administration as the US Ambassador to Ireland.  Within the last 15 years or so the party has all but died in terms of a legislative presence. This year there are quite a few seats they are not even running a candidate for and the primary election is the real race for many seats, as there are multiple Republicans running for the same seat in the primary but the winner will face no real opposition in the general election, if any opposition at all.

But this wasn't always the case.

The Republican Party has always been the majority party in Wyoming. This is true going all the way back to statehood.  In part, that's true due a historical accident.  Wyoming became a state in 1890, and given that it was on the northern plains, and given that the Civil War had occurred only 25 years prior to that, it would have been almost impossible for the state to have started off with a Democratic majority.  Outside of the South, the Republican Party dominated in most regions following the Civil War, and that continued on for several decades.  The party, however, was not a completely unified party, and it had not been anywhere in the US since about 1864.  From about 1864 up through 1919, the party was divided internally between a "liberal" wing (in modern parlance) and a more "conservative" wing.  This reflected itself in different ways over time, but the point is that the GOP wasn't really a conservative party so in some ways looking back to that era isn't particularly instructive. The Democratic Party, from some point way before the Civil War, up until the election of Woodrow Wilson, was a "conservative" party, however.  So there to, a person cannot look at the Democrats of 1890, or 1900, and really compare them to the Democrats of 1990, or 2000.  It just wouldn't make sense.  And it is not the point of this post to actually discuss modern politics anyway.
 Republican Francis E. Warren, Wyoming's first state Governor.

What is revealing, however, is that the state had a real Democratic party in 1890, and thereafter for many, many decades.  Staring in the 1890s, moreover, the State actually had a Populist Party.  The Populist were a serious third party that reflected the values of the Progressive Movement, a major "liberal" movement of the era which had an enormous impact on 20th Century politics after it evolved into the Progressives.

 John E. Osborne, Wyoming's first Democratic Governor, who served from 1893 to 1895. The scandal of Republican Governor Amos Barber's association with the Johnson County Invasion was a factor in his election.

Populism was relatively small here, but the Progressive movement was not.  The Progressive Party took the values of Populism, as well as a host of other well developed "liberal" concepts, some of which would be quite radical even today, and succeeded from the Republican Party, where they were struggling from control. The motivating factor in that, and the creation of the party, was Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 decision to run for President against William Howard Taft, the incumbent.  Taft took the GOP nomination, and the Progressives bolted, forming their own party.  That rift really gave rise to the the proto-Republican Party we have today, although not really in a purely recognizable form. Oddly enough, it also gave rise to the modern Democratic Party we can recognize somewhat, as the Democratic Party, sensing an opportunity, also adopted Progressive values that year.  Outside the South, that converted the Democrats into a "liberal" party.

In Wyoming the Progressive Party, lead as it was by Theodore Roosevelt, was a popular party, and at that time left leaning parties were gaining some significant Wyoming interest in any event.  Joseph M. Carey, a very significant Wyoming politician who was serving as Governor at the time was one of the founding figures of the Progressive Party, so, while Theodore Roosevelt never became the Progressive Party President, Joseph M. Carey was a Progressive Party Governor.  It would surprise most Wyomingites today that Wyoming actually had a third party Governor at one time.  It might be even more surprising for some to learn that when Carey went out, in 1915, a Democrat, John B. Kendrick came in.
 John M. Carey, left, 1912.

As surprising as those things might be, the articles noted by the Tribune on Monday, falling in around 1912, would be even more surprising.  As noted, the Socialist were gaining adherents. They'd remain on some Wyoming ballots until at least World War Two. During one Presidential election of the 1930s the Socialist candidate would actually outpoll the Republican and the Democratic candidates in Sweetwater County, reflecting the views of the heavily unionized mine workers there at that time.

 John B. Kendrick, Wyoming's second Democratic Governor, following Republican, then Progressive, Joseph M. Carey.  He resigned when he was elected to the United State Senate in 1916. 

Since World War Two this has all changed, of course, as it has in most of the country for that matter. The Democrats remained a serious contender for decades after the war, and the state sent some Democrats to Washington, such as Lester Hunt, Gale McGee and Teno Roncolio.  Those days, however appear to be all but over, at least in the current era, reflecting a serious decline in Democratic fortunes in the state in the 1990s.  The Star Tribunes article urging a change in the leadership of the Democratic Party has some good points, but at present Democratic fortunes here are so low that perhaps it matters very little what the Democrats currently do.  Indeed, perhaps reflecting their lack of ability to field candidates, the are some small local third parties for the first time in eons and, more significantly, there appear to be some internal rifts in the Republican Party.

At any rate, the point of all of this is not to endorse one party over another, or to even analyze their current fortunes in the state. I'm not even suggesting anything regarding the current election, or any of the candidates running from any party.  Rather, in keeping with the focus of the blog, the point is to look at the state in the past and track some changes.  Here is an enormous one.  Wyoming today is effectively a one party state, with the real contest in many elections being the primary election.  This wasn't always the case.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Today In Wyoming's History: August 9

A fashion trend noted on today's Today in Wyoming's History site:

Today In Wyoming's History: August 9: 1895  According to my Wyoming History Calendar, "New Woman" appeared on the streets of Thermopolis wearing "bifurcated skirts".  Bifurcated skirts were suitable for riding, and  seem to have made their appearance about this time.  I'm not really sure from this entry, however, if a Thermopolis newspaper was noting the arrival of the "New Woman" as a type in Thermopolis, or if they were actually noting a singular new woman.  Attribution:  Wyoming State Historical Society.

For whatever reason, women seem to have been plagued for much of history with impractical clothing to some degree.  Because of that, there's always also been a counter trend trying to address it, or in some instances women have just resorted to men's clothing.  This item addresses skirts, which were closely associated, in this instance, with riding styles. That is, a bifurcated skirt was suitable for riding a man's saddle.

Post World War One, it seems, women's clothing has evolved, generally, towards being more practical, and today it's generally equally practical as men's, if there's any difference at all.  On the flipside, as fewer and fewer men have had job's requiring practical clothing, men's clothing has evolved into being more "fashion" than at least in other recent eras.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Holscher's Hub: Lost Cabin, Wyoming

Yesterday, we were wondering around and took some photographs of: Lost Cabin

I'd never been to Lost Cabin before, even though I've lived in the county  my whole life for the most part.  Very interesting little town, pretty much abandoned now.

I guess this fits into the theme of this page in a fairly significant way.  J. B. Okie, the founder of the town, wasn't a poor man to start with, but he became a very rich man due to sheep and businesses that he created that were in some ways connected with agriculture.  There are several instances I'm aware of where young men from wealthy families (or poor ones) came West, worked as cowhands initially, and then went on to build huge economic enterprises out of it, becoming very wealthy in the process.  Even starting with similar financial advantages today, a person could simply not do this now.

And this certainly shows the the economic importance of sheep in the pre synthetic era.  Okie converted an initial investment from his mother, which allowed him to buy a band of sheep, into a fortune, building this town, and the mansion depicted below.  And he wasn't unique in this fashion, although this story isn't common either.  One very large house in Casper was built in a similar fashion by an Irish immigrant who rose from sheepherder to Governor.

Big Horn Sheep Company bunk house.
One of the nicest bunkhouses I've ever seen.

 Big Horn Sheep Company headquarters.

 I can't imagine a modern ranch company having a headquarters anything like this.  Most ranch headquarters now are simply the ranchers house.

 J. B. Okie mansion.

This was Okie's private residence.  This is the only example of an out in the prairie ranch house of this type I've ever actually seen.  There were a few more in the region, I know, but in reality ranching mansions are exceedingly rare.  It's telling, fwiw, that the two significant examples of early 20th Century mansions, in Natrona County, which are attributable to ranchers are both attributable to sheepmen, not cattlemen, contrary to the widespread view of how things worked.

 Big Horn Sheep Company headquarters.










As noted in the original blog entry, all of these photographs are from the town of Lost Cabin.  Lost Cabin was a company town, with that company being the enormous Big Horn Sheep Company.  The company, founded by J. B. Okie, the son of a prominent Washington D. C. physician, owned vast numbers of sheep as well as a small chain of stores located in small Wyoming towns.

Okie was a financial wizard, making and losing fortunes over time but generally coming out ahead, but perhaps his life is a cautionary tale as his personal life was turbulent.  He was sued by his mother over her being bought out of this company. She was a Washington D. C. real estate businesswoman who, as noted had provided the seed money for the company and who had an ownership interest in it for many years.  The fact that Okie was funded is not insignificant in and of itself, as the initial investment did allow Okie to get a running start, although the investment was a loan, not a gift.  And Okie was married three times.  He died rather tragically when he fell into a pond near Lost Cabin during the winter, while duck hunting.

Today the Okie mansion belongs to Phillips Conoco Petroleum, which has a major gas plant in the near vicinity.  The town, however, is a shadow of its original self.

Somewhat related to this story, is that of the railhead at Lysite, which is featured on our companion Railhad Blog here:  Railhead: Lysite Wyoming:

One additional item of interest here  is that the railhead photos show a structure built in 1919.  Okie's sheep and store empire rose with the fortunes of the sheep industry, and were always based on it, but his era included the early petroleum era in the region. The 1919 structure was undoubtedly devoted to his sheep enterprise, but today Lysite is thought of as the location of a gas plant.  Sort of interesting example of change over time.  Sheep are now much less common than they once were in Wyoming, with natural gas being more present than ever.  Even perhaps the common associations with the Okie name show this.  Okie Draw is a major older oil field in the area.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What is this airplane?


A photo of my mother mysteriously posing with an airplane.  No idea why, and no idea what the airplane is.

Anyone know what this airplane is?