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.
I really enjoyed Elliot West’s The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains. It contained great information about how interconnected life in the west was for the Natives and for emigrants to the area. Who would have thought that the pioneers moving west changed the ecology of grasses so much? Each micro-environment is so interconnected and people at the time seemed to not realize that a small change created large changes over time. He begins some of his discussions before the influx of the settlers in the 1800s, discussing the Native’s impact on the land due to war, migration and hunting. Natives moving from place to place and the battles between various groups created a connection between land, animals, families and stories; his main four essays of the book.
Not only did human actions change the environments but with environmental change, humans had to change too. With the influx of animals for feeding the new settlers all the way to California, the grasses were eaten faster than they could be replenished. West stated that there was thousands of horses tied together moving thru the area to the west coast, and the line of them was over 80 miles long (pg. 33). Eighty miles!!!! That is the distance from here to Richmond VA. This many horses would definitely have an impact on the lands. Probably the people leading the horses to the west were not worried about their impact on the land for others in the next caravan.
His look at the endless cycle of need and demand from the Whites to the Natives for the buffalo hides, and how the hunting and production of robes impacted both sexes and many generations, was quite interesting. The dwindling resources of food and clothing for the Natives made them have to trade with the new settlers at forts or other places, inturn forcing them to kill more animals to trade. West’s discussion of the new diseases by new animals to the area, I find relates to the current situation around Yellowstone National Park and the buffalo going out of the park boundaries and getting local cows sick with diseases. West definitely covers more of the history of women in the Natives and Whites unlike some of the other books we read this semester.
I totally thought that when settlers moved to the West they left all their family behind, but West states that many family members usually moved together, creating a new community. The support of the kin and the community helped new settlers survive and deal with the stresses of the West. His discussion on pages 116-121 about white/ Native marriages was very informative. I never thought about the impact to the community in the various ways of Native man/white woman or white man/ Native woman. To increase the population of a tribe the Native men wanted white women so that they could stay in the same community and build the community back after the disease and death killed others.
I definitely made note of all the books he listed in the last chapter of historical fiction, essays, narratives and memoirs… lots of summer reading to do!!!