After reading Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth Century American West by Hal Rothman, I do not know at what level the tourism industry of the West (or probably any area for that matter) hurts or helps the area. The effort to change the area to make it more sellable to new visitors drastically changes the area and impacts the lives of the locals who were there first. The question still remains if it is better for a local area to change with the time and welcome the tourists and money or to not welcome the change and risk the possibility of falling into economic recession due to no new funding for the community? Living in Northern Virginia for over 25 years now, my family and I witnessed this same conflict when Walt Disney World wanted to build a new park “Disney’s America” near Manassas VA in the late 1990s. The prospect of jobs for many in the region clashed with the impact of such a large amount of visitors and construction that must happen to create a new Disney World. Neighbors were against neighbors and many protested (including my mother and I) against such a crazy park which would whitewash the complex history of America. I am sure there would not have been a slave trading post or a Native shopping district at a local fort, which would have shown the real America to international tourists.
I wonder of Rothman’s take of the recent economic bust of many areas like Las Vegas and his take on the economic impact to the communities. Or how places like Vail and Aspen had to change to welcome the Hollywood stars or other rich clientele and the Annual Colorado Film Festival which mixes fashion and movies. Rothman mentions with more money and economic stability more people are vacationing, but traveling far to vacation still costs lots of money for travel. Shenandoah National Park on the East Coast was established mostly for East Coasters to be able to take a day trip to leave the crazy city life of Washington DC or New York City, a day drive and a few day stay. The travel out west for many East Coasters still requires more than a few days and more money than a car ride for a day. Many places out West still require more travel after an airplane touchdown, increasing the cost of vacation. People in various professions (including mine) cannot afford to miss a few days of work to go on vacation as the job does not offer vacation leave, or make enough money to afford fancy hotel and travel.
Rothman noted that these impacts were usually bad, as it increased property prices and made it hard for the working people afford to live with richer people who vacationed in Lake Tahoe, Vail, Aspen or Santa Fe. The minimum wage of the area could not compete with the cost of living, so the workers would be forced to live on the outskirts of town or further away and commute every day. Some vacationers would be probably appalled if they had to share the same dinner table or hotel floor with the hotel help or maintenance staff.
Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek, is a great book as it exposes the sometimes conflict of oral histories clashing with written documentation, along with the interdisciplinary paths which must be walked to grasp past history. Kelman’s focus is the Sand Creek area in eastern Colorado, and the massacre which happened there in 1864, as US Army forces attacked a Native camp. Various kinds of information can be part of and twist memory: time passed, connection to event, location during event, and outside influences. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes did not want their history of the event or location to be misunderstood or overpowered by the US Army history, so they continued their decades long struggle to fully represent their history of the event.
Kelman’s review of the struggles of the National Park Service to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and all stories are told is a struggle that has happened at other parks. My classmate last semester worked at Manassas National Battlefield Park and she noted that there were no mentions of the Black soldiers of various Regimens which prepared camps and moved supplies. She has been working with them to now have the soldiers’ voices be heard to all visitors. The move towards having more voices heard throughout history is long and hard; conducting documentary research, oral history, and archaeology which takes time and money. Time and money are some things which some governments do not readily supply during the recent budget crises across America. With some actions like NAGPRA and other federal government laws, funding must happen to document history before it is gone by way of the bulldozer.
Kelman’s Chapter “The Smoking Gun” has a great section on archaeology, which is very informative and pivotal to many parks and other historic places across America. Many places of known history (if not well protected on personal land) are artifact hunted by many people so that they can have a shiny object on their shelves to show their friends. Archaeologists are scientists who scientifically and systematically note and record where artifacts are recovered; there is a lot of paperwork. The placement across the land and down into the ground can tell a lot about what happened in that area over time. I have been doing archaeology for over a decade and never in any of my jobs or finds have I done a cartwheel like some of the archaeologists did while testing the land on Sand Creek (pg. 129). As it was noted in the book the Bowen Family had many artifacts that they had recovered from their land over the years, but without the exact location upon the land it becomes just a box of broken rocks and metal. Many relic hunters go after the glory pieces that would look cool on a shelf, but the other smaller artifacts like the flakes which come from the making of the arrowheads and other personal artifacts tell a story of the daily lives and work areas of the peoples of the past.
Can all National Park sites or historic places have every voice heard? Does current history at parks make a good side and bad side? Much of US history is still very controversial to people and similar to the Natives in Kelman’s book, there is a lot of emotion when discussing and discovering history. Usually the people noting history in America is the people in power; the white rich people. Dedicated research, time and money will hopefully let us hear the voices of the past that have been silenced.
My focus in work and personal interest has been east coast colonial history so Pekka Hamalainen’s The Comanche Empire was very mind opening for me, as I did not know this complex history of the Comanches in the south and southwest. I do not know if most people are in the same boat as me but I would have found it slightly helpful if Hamalainen discussed more worldly events or major events in America and the events’ impact or not on the conflicts and reactions of the Comanches and Spanish (pg. 130). This information about world or east coast events would just be a way to tie in the events of the Comanches with other events, it would not need to be a compare and contrast. His book covers the empire of the Comanches from about 1750- 1870’s, and the conflicts and resolutions between Spanish, Mexico and European traders; but as the “Embrace” happened in 1786, there was little if no discussion of the end of the American Revolutionary War and those impacts on the borderlands between English settlers on the east coast (pg. 107). Perhaps there was no major influence or interaction of the Revolutionary War on these groups that were further south and west than the major battles, and that is why he didn’t discuss it.
Hamalainen’s Chapter 6 “Children of the Sun” was a very interesting chapter. Perhaps it is my anthropology background or the details in which he discusses the everyday life of the Comanches, but the information in this chapter definitely created more of an understanding and connection of living the everyday life of Comanches. The organization on the micro and macro levels assisted the Comanche empire to grow as large as it did over the years. Their constant threat of political, economic and inter-social conflicts had to be resolved and worked out thru all the divisions and groups to make sure that it all ran smoothly as a society (pg. 239). The breakdown of the social status of women and slaves (which they seemed to be almost the same), was mostly for labor only. The necessity of the men to hunt and feed the large community in turn created more work for the women as they had to then skin, clean and prepare the hides for sale, or for personal use. The known history of the Comanche as raiders was reiterated in this chapter as Hamalainen discussed the need for more working hands led to the need for more slaves (pg. 258). The personal look at everyday life for these groups brought forth the struggle of the people, living off the land, constantly in flux and surviving thru the worst of it to create the large Comanche empire.
The visuals throughout the book were very good and the maps definitely helped me understand the movement of the groups across the southwest and south mid-west. For me it might have been slightly more helpful if there was a map earlier in the first chapter to give more of a perspective of the movement of the Comanches as they began to expand across the plains. I began to flip thru the book looking for a map when I started reading, so that I could get more of a mental map while picking up the details in the text.
Richard White opens his book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America with a problem relating to the various groups building railroads across the west: various track sizes that do not match. That had to be confusing and frustrating when attempting trade or travel. (pg. 2). If that was a beginning problem of the railroads in the late 1800’s, many more problems are sure to follow. The main problem which White focuses on is the corrupt companies, corporate failures and mistakes of building railroads across Canada, Mexico and the US. I am really surprised that with so many problems that most of the railroad systems created in the late 1800s survived into what we know today. The intense competition and politics between the various western railroads complicated people’s lives and created reasons for bribery to many politicians.
There was a recent article on NPR which stated that there are many farmers with grain, corn and soybeans waiting for the train, but the trains are all tied up in oil productions further north into the Dakotas. This is a very similar situation to the production and need for transportation which White addresses in his book. White noted that many people moved out west where the railroad was built to begin a farm and use the modern transportation to move goods. Unfortunately, eventually the goods failed and the people moved away, creating an area which the railroad still moved through but did not create money as there were no good to take to market, in turn costing the railroad company money with no profit. Though during the late 1800s if more trains were needed they just built more, unlike today and the more complex routes of passenger and freight trains. Over the years many railroads have shifted their routes to move the most goods, but as this story states the railroads are needed further south for the grain and bean productions.
I enjoyed the more personal stories he told within the end of chapters sections in “A Railroad Life”. These small sections expanded on some ideas and gave more details to the overall story. Richard White makes a very interesting point on page 317, with his discussion about photographs and how it freezes time and doesn’t give the whole story. Historians need to remember that some photographs are staged and usually photographs do not include all the people of a specific story. The example relating to this book would be the famous picture of “The Last Spike” driven to connect the railroads in Utah. The historical picture from 1869 shows many of the workers and conductors celebrating, but is missing a large demographic of the other railroad workers…the Chinese.
(National Archives 594940)
A modern historian recently recreated the scene with some of the descendants of the Chinese railroad workers. This story can also be found on NPR.
The Montana Memory website is a great tool to learn about the history of Montana without having to travel across the country. Similar to the Library of Congress website one can download the images at various sizes, to save on your computer. The documents and photographs on the Montana Memory website contained a short description which had details of the item and date ranges, which was helpful. I felt that the initial zoom which each document or image opened as was a bit too zoomed in, but did show the quality of the scans (which were good and high). The full page books were also available on the public domain, as the description paragraph stated, and probably would have been an easier read through another service. The Montana Memory website would be a great starting point to figure these things out and expand on research. The educational section with the topics divided by subject as in “Montana Agriculture”, “Maps”, and “Native Americans” was great help to see how their collection was divided and being able to see what items were in each various subjects. The website stated that learning plans would soon be attached, creating a helpful resource for educators not only in Montana but also across the US.
I also searched for other states’ historical societies to look at their website. Oklahoma and Utah both had similar websites as Montana, containing images and documents, all scanned for access on the internet. I had some technical issues with the California historical society website has I could not get past the main pages…nothing would open. Could just be a glitch on my end.
The Digital Public Library of America was another cool website that I discovered thru Montana Memory. The DPLA had great images and documents from all over the US, and would be another great starting off point for research of all things historical. With the endless possibility of the internet, travel is not fully necessary to research far off places. Researchers must also keep in mind that not all information is on the web, and that local libraries might have research only books, which are too old and fragile to even be scanned. These rare books could be journals or county documents which would be very helpful in writing a full comprehensive history of an area. For large research papers, travels are probably still necessary.
Michael Bottoms’s An Aristocracy of Color was a very interesting read. I did not know all that information about California. I cannot believe that any government would tax people for coming in a country with an open immigration policy like US, and that they would charge the Chinese with a Foreign Labor Tax. The conflicting state of politics in California after the passing of Reconstruction was similar to the South, but a bit different due to the influence of other minorities. I would not have thought that the actions of one state would impact the entire Nations (pg. 207) I like how in the introduction he explained that he would not use [sic] in the primary sources throughout the book. I think that is a great idea as it gives more authenticity to these first-hand accounts and as he states for the “respect for the people whose lives and struggles are described”. (pg. 13) I wish more authors would do that.
The two readings from the journals had new information to me about the research of race and ethnic relations in the West. The articles were written about ten years apart, so I wonder what other work has been done over the years. In “Common Purposes: Worlds Apart” Katherine Benton-Cohen discussed the homesteader of the west. Dispelling the myth of the single lady as the homesteader of the West, Mrs. Benton-Cohen stated that it was a family affair, which required money and resources to proper. She also states that Mexican homesteaders were not treated as white in the communities. Mr. Bottoms states on page 26 that in California Mexicans were treated as white. Mr. Bottoms also does not discuss much in his book about the difference of gender relations in California.
Many people (including me) usually do associate the West with white maleness, but as Sherry Smith discussed in “A Memory Sweet to Soldiers: The Significance of Gender in the American West”, the west was multi-ethnic and multi-gender. I was still kind of confused by her discussion of manly men vs. masculine men and how it relates to the expansion of various peoples into the west. She also noted how women would dress like men, and it reminded me of Jane in the TV show Deadwood. Jane was not that womanly and attempted to act like a man to fit in to the society at the time. Ms. Smith’s writing and Mr. Bottoms’ both addressed the situation of race wars and how they might impact class conflicts. In An Aristocracy of Color the whites continued to enforce white supremacy by degrading and inflicting new laws on minorities. These new laws which was written to enforce on one group in turn also affected another group that was not white.
The Great American Jackalope: Myth, Legend, Make-believe?
A cross between a pygmy deer (now extinct) and a jackrabbit or a small antelope and a jackrabbit which can mimic cowboy’s voices has intrigued many for the past eighty years: the jackalope, a small furry animal with large horns and according to some is very aggressive. This animal is as fast as a jackrabbit, easily avoiding hunters. Haven’t ever seen one you say? Well you can join the long list. The jackalope is a name known from the West Coast to the Appalachian Mountains and beyond, but no (sober) first hand accounts exist. Evidence continues to mount that there is no evidence for this illusive furry animal. The lack of primary sources or first hand accounts do not bode well for the authenticity of this legend.
If you are up for an adventure you can stop by Douglas, Wyoming and get a hunting license for the jackalope, and stay alert on 31 June only between the hours of sun-up to sun-down as that is the only time allowed to hunt these small animals (Figures 3 and 4). But be careful as these jackalopes can elude hunters by mimicking human voices, throwing the hunter off track and safely hiding once again. Making similar foot markings to the jackrabbit, creates a problem in tracking evidence when trying to distinguish between a normal jackrabbit and a jackalope.
Douglas, Wyoming is known as the home of the jackalope, and sorry to break the bad news, it was created there in 1932 by taxidermist Douglas Herrick and his brother. He noticed a jackrabbit next to deer antlers on his shop floor and put them together creating the crazy creature. Selling them around Douglas, Wyoming for years the Herrick brothers created a legend which entertains Americans in movies, books, newspapers and on many walls as a stuffed mount. Currently there are children’s books and a short Disney Pixar film, “Boundin’” where the great American Jackalope assists a young sheep to bound higher when he is feeling down about being freshly sheered. The jackalope name has also been used in bars, shops and breweries across the West and to Tenessee and Australia.
Not as popular as another American legend such as Bigfoot, the jackalope has fascinated the public for over eighty years. Myths and legends which are created and then over time have a numerous following of folklore are noted as “boosterism” by Daniel Boorstin. The implementation for sales and promotions of products or ideas in America created a draw of visitors to particular places across America. Bigfoot has created a tourist draw in California and a jackalope across the West in states such as New Mexico, Wyoming, California, Colorado and the Dakotas. These small facts, interesting happenings or sighting in an area are peddled to the public to create more of an interest to a particular area. Local residents can booster the legends of a town, by convincingly and continually recognizing the truth of the legend which in turn impacts the attention and revenue from outside visitors. Creating folklore and legends usually creates a snowball effect of interest across America and sometimes internationally.
Other towns might have a tourist booster such as “a famous person slept here” or an outrageous roadside attraction. From the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine” to an outrageous sculpture on the side of the road, the interested public driving by will stop at the attraction and will usually buy something from the store, helping the local economy. A few hours to the west of Douglas, Wyoming there is a larger than life jackalope at a local gas station which the public can ride and take a picture with for a dollar. A long road trip through the state of Wyoming or other states, is broken up by these roadside attractions. Wall Drug in South Dakota, various antique metal lunchbox museums located across America and Foamhenge in Virginia, are just a few examples of these attempts at boosterism for local communities.
Research of primary sources for this legend, reveal no evidence found on the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers website, for newspapers across the country from 1836-1922. The jackalope was first noted in newspapers after its creation in 1934. Stretching the lengend across the United States to the East Coast, papers in New York carried stories of the jackalope beginning in 1950. The Kickerbocker News of Albany, New York contains a story of the jackalope in 1950. Many other websites note the ability of the jackalope to mimic the cowboys singing around the campfire at night in the old west. The “cowboys of the old west” brings into question the date ranges of the “old west” and lack of evidence in newspapers from the mid-1800’s into the twentieth century; creating still more questions than answers. The Douglas, Wyoming website notes the article “Legend of the Jackalope” is from the New York Times. Upon further search of the New York Times Newspaper, no evidence of that story is found. The obituary of Douglas Herrick was in the New York Times newspaper, but did not contain the full article presented on the Douglas, Wyoming website. Similar worded articles are in a few New York papers, as the story was picked up and copied by newsrooms. These papers continued the legend to readers in the east, but contained no images or first hand accounts of an encounter with the imagined animal.
The sources get more confusing when the Douglas, Wyoming website states that the first person to see a jackalope was in 1829 by a trapper named Roy Ball who was “at times only slightly sober”. In the New York Times article, Roy Ball owned the local hotel in Douglas, Wyoming in which the original jackalope was stolen in the mid-1950s. Other websites state John Colter, the first white person into the area which would become Wyoming, saw a jackalope. These conflicting and few firsthand accounts about the jackalope create a difficult timeline and narrative of folklore. Perchance because there has been no modern evidence (multiple eyewitness accounts, photographs or video) of the jackalope, this legend is not as popular as Bigfoot. For tourists heading out west seeing the giant jackalope sculpture in Douglas, Wyoming or at Wall Drug in South Dakota, or obtaining a jackalope hunting license is something fun to do in the open plains of the West. Some locals of these tourist areas talk and reassure the visitors of the existence of the jackalope, feeding the imagination of the public.
Perhaps Herrick created the creature to increase visitors to Douglas, Wyoming. When he created the jackalope in 1934, America was in the middle of the Great Depression, and so creating a cheap product to sell to tourists possibly boosted revenue within Wyoming. With the boom of automobile travel in the mid-1900s, more travelers would stop at shops along the route and purchase items to show to friends and relatives back home. Nowadays one does not even have to travel to the west to get your own wall mount of a jackalope, just check out Cabela’s sport shop online, and you can have your very own shipped to your house for around $150.
There is actual scientific evidence of growths on rabbits and other animals which is caused by the Shope papilloma virus. Similar to this type of virus in humans, large growth which resemble warts or horns grow when the virus has fully attacked the mammal (Figure 2). These growths could occur anywhere on the rabbit sometimes forming around their ears, causing what could be seen as antlers. Dr. Richard Shope of the Rockefeller University discovered this virus and its ability to grow warts or horns on rabbits in the 1930s. This scientific evidence revealed that people could have at any time seen rabbits with growths around their faces, but nothing in the form of large pointy antelope-like horns.
The question then remains: the great American jackalope a myth, legend or make-believe? The sources (or lack thereof) are pointing more towards make-believe animal, but a cute one none the less. A tourist destination for some and money maker for others could be the American way of boosting tourism to small towns across America. Maybe some people have seen jackrabbits with horn growths, but a mix of an antelope and a rabbit…probably not. An interesting, mythical, and fun animal to discuss with friends around the campfire on trips out West…definitely yes. As a Herrick bother stated “People get real mad if you tell them there’s no such thing as a jackalope. They take it very seriously. And why make people mad?”
Figure 4: Back of License from Douglas, WY
Dorson, Richard M., “Editor’s Comment: Rejoinder to “American Folklore vs. Folklore in America: A Fixed Fight?” Journal of the Folklore Institute Vol. 17 No. 1 (Jan-Apr 1980): 85-88. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814224
3 Richard M. Dorson, “Editor’s Comment: Rejoinder to “American Folklore vs. Folklore in America: A Fixed Fight?” Journal of the Folklore Institute Vol. 17 No. 1 (Jan-Apr 1980): 85-88. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814224
As William Robbins and William Cronon both discussed, the shaping and growth of areas in the West was not created only by the local economies and people but also by the demands of the resources in that area from across the globe. Robbins’ Colony and Empire attempted to create a general model to explain the material and historical change of a particular area and all the connected parts of the change (pg. xii). He stated that historians must look at the impacts of power and change from the small communities to the global market and how these influence and shape each other (pg. 7). He had interesting comparisons of Canada to US and US to Mexico relations in Chapter 2 and 3. Does the larger language difference between Spanish and English factor so much in the relations between US and Mexico? Due to the similarities of language between the majority of Canadians and Americans, are our relations less strained? Robbins questions if there are many interests in Canada which Americans have and the struggle which Canadians are faced as to not be Americans. In the second half of his book Robbins discussed the impact of capitalism, industry and the railroads throughout the West. With the expansion of the railroad further West due to the demand of resources (also discussed in Cronon’s book) towns were created and others were forgotten as populations shifted with the railroads. This is similar to more recent history with the changing of roadways (i.e. Route 66). Route 66 was once a busy route across the US, songs were sung of the beauty of the route, hotels and restaurants were erected along its route. But now with the popularity of airplanes and faster highways, which avoid towns, many of the area along Route 66 have now been shut down, only to attempt to regain popularity of a stop along “historic Route 66” and a flash to the past.
William Cronon’s extensive look at the interconnectedness of Chicago in Nature’s Metropolis was very informative. I knew some history of Chicago, but how Cronon explained the wide breadth of trade, commodities and population, and how these shaped the West was very interesting. Following the history of Chicago and the surrounding areas starting around 1830 to the turn of the 20th century, Cronon explained how the location of Chicago on a river and the lake assisted in the growth for trade. In Chapter 2 he discussed how making “improvements” to the land, in the form of railroad, canals and other large scale productions, created a way to increase the production of the commodities of grain and lumber. He also showcased how the effect of the various seasons upon the trades and goods impacted people across the entire US. The winter would hinder the lumber trade and also the grain and livestock movement to the customers on the east coast. He did an excellent job of the use of photographs, maps and charts to illustrate points throughout his book. Some history writers have struggled with the use of illustrations (see other books this semester), but his captions on the photos which explain what, where and when was just great.