Named “Best Book of 2017” by the Wild West History Association Cutting through 160 years of mythmaking, best-selling historian Michael Wallis presents the ultimate cautionary tale of America’s westward expansion. "WESTWARD HO! FOR OREGON AND CALIFORNIA!" In the eerily warm spring of 1846, George Donner placed this advertisement in a local newspaper as he and a restless caravan prepared for what they hoped would be the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. But in eagerly pursuing what would a century later become known as the "American dream," this optimistic-yet-motley crew of emigrants was met with a chilling nightmare; in the following months, their jingoistic excitement would be replaced by desperate cries for help that would fall silent in the deadly snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada. We know these early pioneers as the Donner Party, a name that has elicited horror since the late 1840s. Now, celebrated historian Michael Wallis—beloved for his myth-busting portraits of legendary American figures—continues his life’s work of parsing fact from fiction to tell the true story of one of the most embroidered sagas in Western history. Wallis begins the story in 1846, a momentous "year of decision" for the nation, when incredible territorial strides were being made in Texas, New Mexico, and California. Against this dramatic backdrop, an unlikely band of travelers appeared, stratified in age, wealth, education and ethnicity. At the forefront were the Donners: brothers George and Jacob, true sons of the soil determined to tame the wild land of California; and the Reeds, headed by adventurous, business-savvy patriarch James. In total, the Donner-Reed group would reach eighty-seven men, women, and children, and though personal motives varied—bachelors thirsting for adventure, parents wanting greater futures for their children—everyone was linked by the same unwavering belief that California was theirs for the taking. Skeptical of previous accounts of how the group ended up in peril, Wallis has spent years retracing its ill-fated journey, uncovering hundreds of new documents that illuminate how a combination of greed, backbiting, and recklessness led the group to become hopelessly snowbound at the infamous Donner Pass in present-day California. Climaxing with the grim stories of how the party’s paltry rations soon gave way to unimaginable hunger, Wallis not only details the cannibalism that has in perpetuity haunted their legacy but also the heroic rescue parties that managed to reach the stranded, only to discover that just forty-eight had survived the ordeal. An unflinching and historically invaluable account of the darkest side of Manifest Destiny, The Best Land Under Heaven offers a brilliant, revisionist examination of one of America's most calamitous and sensationalized catastrophes.
“A book so gripping it can scarcely be put down. . . . Superb.”— New York Times Book Review "WESTWARD HO! FOR OREGON AND CALIFORNIA!" In the eerily warm spring of 1846, George Donner placed this advertisement in a local newspaper as he and a restless caravan prepared for what they hoped would be the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. But in eagerly pursuing what would a century later become known as the "American dream," this optimistic-yet-motley crew of emigrants was met with a chilling nightmare; in the following months, their jingoistic excitement would be replaced by desperate cries for help that would fall silent in the deadly snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada. We know these early pioneers as the Donner Party, a name that has elicited horror since the late 1840s. With The Best Land Under Heaven, Wallis has penned what critics agree is “destined to become the standard account” (Washington Post) of the notorious saga. Cutting through 160 years of myth-making, the “expert storyteller” (True West) compellingly recounts how the unlikely band of early pioneers met their fate. Interweaving information from hundreds of newly uncovered documents, Wallis illuminates how a combination of greed and recklessness led to one of America’s most calamitous and sensationalized catastrophes. The result is a “fascinating, horrifying, and inspiring” (Oklahoman) examination of the darkest side of Manifest Destiny.
From the award-winning author of Eliza Waite comes a gripping tale of adventure and survival based on the true story of the ill-fated Donner Party on their 2,200-mile trek on the Oregon–California Trail from 1846 to ’47. Nineteen-year-old Ada Weeks confronts danger and calamity along the hazard-filled journey to California. After a fateful decision that delays the overlanders more than a month, she—along with eighty-one other members of the Donner Party—finds herself stranded at Truckee Lake on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, stuck there for the entirety of a despairing, blizzard-filled winter. Forced to eat shoe leather and blankets to survive, will Ada be able to battle the elements—and her own demons—as she envisions a new life in California? Researched with impeccable detail and filled with imagery as wide as the western prairie, Answer Creek blends history and hearsay in an unforgettable story of challenging the limits of human endurance and experiencing the triumphant power of love.
An authoritative overview of the concepts and applications of biological demography This book provides a comprehensive introduction to biodemography, an exciting interdisciplinary field that unites the natural science of biology with the social science of human demography. Biodemography is an essential resource for demographers, epidemiologists, gerontologists, and health professionals as well as ecologists, population biologists, entomologists, and conservation biologists. This accessible and innovative book is also ideal for the classroom. James Carey and Deborah Roach cover everything from baseline demographic concepts to biodemographic applications, and present models and equations in discrete rather than continuous form to enhance mathematical accessibility. They use a wealth of real-world examples that draw from data sets on both human and nonhuman species and offer an interdisciplinary approach to demography like no other, with topics ranging from kinship theory and family demography to reliability engineering, tort law, and demographic disasters such as the Titanic and the destruction of Napoleon's Grande Armée. Provides the first synthesis of demography and biology Covers baseline demographic models and concepts such as Lexis diagrams, mortality, fecundity, and population theory Features in-depth discussions of biodemographic applications like harvesting theory and mark-recapture Draws from data sets on species ranging from fruit flies and plants to elephants and humans Uses a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to demography, bringing together a diverse range of concepts, models, and applications Includes informative "biodemographic shorts," appendixes on data visualization and management, and more than 150 illustrations of models and equations
Spanning myth, history, and contemporary culture, a terrifying and illuminating excavation of the meaning of cannibalism. Every culture has monsters that eat us, and every culture repels in horror when we eat ourselves. From Grendel to medieval Scottish cannibal Sawney Bean, and from the Ghuls of ancient Persia to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, tales of being consumed are both universal and universally terrifying. In this book, Kevin J. Wetmore Jr. explores the full range of monsters that eat the dead: ghouls, cannibals, wendigos, and other beings that feast on human flesh. Moving from myth through history to contemporary popular culture, Wetmore considers everything from ancient Greek myths of feeding humans to the gods, through sky burial in Tibet and Zoroastrianism, to actual cases of cannibalism in modern societies. By examining these seemingly inhuman acts, Eaters of the Dead reveals that those who consume corpses can teach us a great deal about human nature—and our deepest human fears.
Russell Cobb’s The Great Oklahoma Swindle is a rousing and incisive examination of the regional culture and history of “Flyover Country” that demystifies the political conditions of the American Heartland.
He endured every parent’s worst nightmare. When writer-comedian Barry Friedman’s son died from a drug overdose one Friday morning, Barry was devastated—but not surprised. Paul’s death had been in dress rehearsal for years. The world alternately froze and galloped after Paul was found face-down in his room. Barry had to find a way to continue, to reject magical thinking and forge a meaningful path for the future. During the following four days, Barry dealt not only with his crushing grief but also incidents ranging from the ridiculous to the profound. What follows is not a eulogy but an elegy for the son he loved but knew he would lose. Barry writes with passion and pain about how to survive the worst life has to offer--and go on living. "It's a wonderful book. This is a haunting, achingly honest account of an experience every parent fears more than any other--the death of a child. Barry Friedman is a superb writer; this compelling, compulsively readable book will stay with you long after you finish it." --Dave Barry, Pulitzer-Prize winning writer "Told in sharp shards and jagged pieces that create a riveting and inevitable narrative flow, Four Days and a Year Later is brief, powerful, despairing, and yet ultimately, a hopeful expression of what it means to be human." --William Martin, NYTimes-bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter
Even among iconic frontiersmen like John C. Frémont, Kit Carson, and Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger stands out. A mountain man of the American West, straddling the fur trade era and the age of exploration, he lived the life legends are made of. His adventures are fit for remaking into the tall tales Bridger himself liked to tell. Here, in a biography that finally gives this outsize character his due, Jerry Enzler takes this frontiersman’s full measure for the first time—and tells a story that would do Jim Bridger proud. Born in 1804 and orphaned at thirteen, Bridger made his first western foray in 1822, traveling up the Missouri River with Mike Fink and a hundred enterprising young men to trap beaver. At twenty he “discovered” the Great Salt Lake. At twenty-one he was the first to paddle the Bighorn River’s Bad Pass. At twenty-two he explored the wonders of Yellowstone. In the following years, he led trapping brigades into Blackfeet territory; guided expeditions of Smithsonian scientists, topographical engineers, and army leaders; and, though he could neither read nor write, mapped the tribal boundaries for the Great Indian Treaty of 1851. Enzler charts Bridger’s path from the fort he built on the Oregon Trail to the route he blazed for Montana gold miners to avert war with Red Cloud and his Lakota coalition. Along the way he married into the Flathead, Ute, and Shoshone tribes and produced seven children. Tapping sources uncovered in the six decades since the last documented Bridger biography, Enzler’s book fully conveys the drama and details of the larger-than-life history of the “King of the Mountain Men.” This is the definitive story of an extraordinary life.
From the paving of the Los Angeles River in 1938 and the creation of the G.I. Bill in 1944, to the construction of the Interstate Highway System during the late 1950s and the brownstoning movement of the 1970s, throughout the mid-20th-century the United States saw a wave of changes that had an enduring impact on the development of urban spaces. Focusing on the relationship between processes of demolition and restoration as they have shaped the modern built environment, and the processes by which memory is constructed, hidden, or remade in the literary text, this book explores the ways in which history becomes entangled with the urban space in which it plays out. Alice Levick takes stock of this history, both in the form of its externalised, concretised manifestation and its more symbolic representation, as depicted in the mid-20th-century work of a selection of American writers. Calling upon access to archival material and interviews with New York academics, authors, local historians and urban planners, this book locates Freud's 'Uncanny' in the cracks between the absent and present, invisible and visible, memory and history as they are presented in city narratives, demonstrating both the passage of time and the imposition of 20th-century modernism. With reference to the works of D. J. Waldie, Joan Didion, Hisaye Yamamoto, Raymond Chandler, Marshall Berman, Gil Cuadros, Paule Marshall, L. J. Davis, and Paula Fox, Memory and the Built Environment in 20th-Century American Literature unpacks how time becomes visible in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Lakewood, and New York in the decades just before and after the Second World War, questioning how these spaces provide access to the past, in both narrative and spatial forms, and how, at times, this access is blocked.
If you believe in ghosts, you're in good company. Haunted Histories brings America's most ghostly locales to life, illuminating their role in shaping America's history and detailing how they became the nation's most feared places. Haunted Histories takes readers on a state-by-state journey across the United States, exploring the nation's most feared places. Along the way, the text introduces readers to new ghostly tales and takes a fresh look at familiar stories and locations, with an eye to history. From well-known spooky spots like Salem, Massachusetts, to such lesser-known ones as the Shanghai Tunnels of Portland, Oregon, where spirits are supposedly trapped, readers will discover not only where America's most haunted places are but also why they are said to be haunted. The ghosts of the doomed Donner Party allow readers to experience the arduous and often deadly journey of America's westward wagon trains, while different kinds of "spirits" haunting old distilleries allow readers to discover how whiskey almost derailed the new American nation before it was born. This book can be studied for academic purposes as a historical reference, used as a source for classroom assignments, or simply read for the pleasure of a great story. Combines entertaining ghost stories with the history that inspired them, resulting in a highly readable and informative reference text for both students and adults Serves as a well-researched and useful resource for teachers seeking to supplement their curriculum or develop class projects Brings lesser-known stories to the forefront in lively sidebars Brings ghost stories to life in photos of haunted locales Helps readers to find specific information in cross-reference guides Provides information for site visits, along with video references, in a "Ghost Tour Road Trips" section
Following the Civil War, large corporations emerged in the United States and became intent on maximizing their power and profits at all costs. Political corruption permeated American society as those corporate entities grew and spread across the country, leaving bribery and exploitation in their wake. This alliance between corporate America and the political class came to a screeching halt during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, when the U.S. workers in the railroad, mining, canal, and manufacturing industries called a general strike against monopoly capitalism and brought the country to an economic standstill. In The St. Louis Commune of 1877 Mark Kruger tells the riveting story of how workers assumed political control in St. Louis, Missouri. Kruger examines the roots of the St. Louis Commune--focusing on the 1848 German revolution, the Paris Commune, and the First International. Not only was 1877 the first instance of a general strike in U.S. history; it was also the first time workers took control of a major American city and the first time a city was ruled by a communist party.