Picks and Pans Review: The West: An Illustrated History
When Buffalo Bill opened his first Wild West Show in 1883, the frontier West was disappearing. A seemingly empty, impenetrable wilderness had become dotted with settlements, the buffalo were nearly gone, and the Indians had been consigned to reservations. What was once an awesome landscape had been reduced to a source of entertainment.
This hefty companion volume to Ken Burns's eight-part PBS series (airing this week) examines the transformation of the frontier that began in 1527 with the arrival of conquistadors aiming to expand the Spanish empire.
Ward, author of the substantive histories The Civil War and Baseball, deftly mixes archival photographs (among them well-preserved daguerreotypes) with the words (culled from private letters and diaries) of the ordinary men and women who witnessed the events. People like William Swain, a 27-year-old New Yorker who crossed the continent to try his luck in California's gold fields, and Red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota tribe, who complained bitterly and eloquently to President Ulysses S. Grant about the hardships his people faced at the hands of new settlers. "We are melting like snow on the hillside," he said, "while you are growing like spring grass."
This is a vivid account of the American experience, filled with stories of the greed, folly, courage, ambition and hope that still fuel the dreams of this nation. (Little, Brown, $60)
On Newsstands Now
- Brad's Devotion: The Inside Story
- Oklahoma Tornado: Heroic Rescues
- Michael Douglas on Catherine's Health
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine