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Kansas History - Autumn 2012

Kansas History, Autumn 2012 (Vol. 35, No. 3)

Antonio de la Cova, “Samuel J. Kookogey: ‘Fearless Vindicator of the Rights of the South.’”

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Samuel J. Kookogey was a Georgia slave owner and Freemason who helped organize a failed Cuba filibuster expedition in 1851, an act that led to his arrest by order of President Millard Fillmore. The passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act prompted his migration to Kansas as a proslavery, bachelor settler in 1855. Kookogey, a grandson of Quakers, personified the antithesis of the “Border Ruffian,” however, and acted as conciliator during violent sectional confrontations while upholding Southern rights through public service and the electoral process. The Georgia Democrat was defeated in a bid for the Kansas legislature in 1856 but the following year was elected to the proslavery Lecompton Constitutional Convention. During his seven years in Kansas, Kookogey worked as a trading post clerk, surveyor, land speculator, farmer, constable, justice of the peace, and election judge, and married a financially secure teenage widow with whom he had a son before succumbing to an early death.

Charles Delgadillo, “‘A Pretty Weedy Flower’: William Allen White, Midwestern Liberalism, and the 1920s Culture War.”

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Midwesterners helped to advance reform during the Progressive Era by collaborating with their counterparts in the urban East, but the 1920s culture war stifled reform by disrupting this alliance. Midwestern reformers were in a particularly peculiar position, since the same cultural ideals that fueled their reform spirit helped to drive the decade’s culture war. The celebrated editor of the Emporia Gazette, William Allen White, embodied this dilemma. To White, the Midwest’s community values constituted the foundations of both liberalism and democracy in America. These values motivated White to run for governor against the Ku Klux Klan in 1924, and they spurred him to fight as a culture warrior defending rural civilization against the threat of urban America as part of Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign in 1928. Not even an exemplary midwestern liberal such as White was able to resist the cross-currents of the culture war, and this article highlights the difficult task reformers faced in advancing their cause during the 1920s.

David Delbert Kruger, “Earl Corder Sams: The Role of Kansas in the Rise of J. C. Penney.”

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Simpson, Kansas, native Earl Corder Sams (1884–1950) may have been as close to a retail prodigy as anyone in American history. As a child he entertained his Mitchell County schoolmates with his own imaginary store, and as a teenager he managed a real store in Simpson. Six years later entrepreneur James Cash Penney drew him away from Kansas, enticing him with the immense potential for growth at his tiny Golden Rule mercantile establishment in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Over the next forty-three years Earl Corder Sams’s ideas and efforts played a crucial role in defining America’s first nationwide department store chain, as Penney’s Golden Rule stores were transformed into the J. C. Penney Company out of New York City. Through his work at the company, Sams shaped the American retail scene throughout the twentieth century. The J. C. Penney chain grew from 127 to more than 1,600 department stores nationwide between 1917 and 1950, including stores in eighty Kansas towns, with a total sales increase of more than 10,000 percent.


The Character of Meriwether Lewis: Explorer in the Wilderness
by Clay S. Jenkinson
xxx + 456 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Washburn, N.Dak.: Dakota Institute Press, 2011, cloth $29.95, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Jeff Bremer, assistant professor of history, Iowa State University, Ames.

Deep Trails in the Old West: A Frontier Memoir
by Frank Clifford, edited by Frederick Nolan
xviii + 315 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, cloth $29.95.

A Generation at War: The Civil War Era in a Northern Community
by Nichole Etcheson
xii + 371 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by John Sacher, associate professor of history, University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Abraham Lincoln and White America
by Brian R. Dirck
xiii + 213 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 2012, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Brent M. S. Campney, assistant professor of history, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg.

Broughton, Kansas: Portrait of a Lost Town: 1869–1966
by M. J. Morgan and students in the history classes at Kansas State University
ix + 201 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Manhattan, Kans.: Chapman Center for Rural Studies, 2012, cloth $20.00.
Reviewed by Jay Price, associate professor and director, Public History Program, Wichita State University, Kansas.

Toward a More Perfect Union: The Settlement of Union Township, Clay County, Kansas
by James R. Beck
ii + 291 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Press, 2012, paper $18.95.
Reviewed by Tonia M. Compton, assistant professor of history, Columbia College, Missouri.

The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resources
by Donald L. Fixico
xix + 278 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2012, paper $26.95.
Reviewed by John H. Monnett, professor of history, Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado.

Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America’s Heartland
by Robert Wuthnow
xiii + 370 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by Bruce R. Kahler, professor of history, Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas.

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism
by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson
ix + 245 pages, notes, index.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, cloth $24.95.
Reviewed by Gregory L. Schneider, professor of history, Emporia State University, Kansas.>

The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party
by Michael Bowen
ix + 254 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by Brent Cebul, PhD candidate, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Gunfight at the Eco-Corral: Western Cinema and the Environment
by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann
v + 260 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, paper $24.95.
Reviewed by Laura Kolar, Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.

Remembering Roadside America: Preserving the Recent Past as Landscape and Place
by John A. Jackle and Keith A. Sculle
xxiv + 284 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2011, paper $29.95.
Reviewed by Sarah J. Martin, National Register coordinator, Kansas Historical Society, Topeka.


Noodlers in Missouri: Fishing for Identity in a Rural Subculture. By Mary Grigsby. (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2012, x + 164 pages, paper $30.00, eBook $23.99.)

Anyone who grew up fishing the rivers and lakes of eastern Kansas or Missouri for catfish has no doubt heard stories of noodlers, fishermen who “use their hands and feet to search underwater” for those huge flathead catfish resting in holes, submerged logs, or under rocks (p. 1). Since the practice has been mostly illegal in Missouri since 1919, noodlers actually constitute a subculture of lawbreakers, some of whom organized “Noodlers Anonymous” in 2000, not in an effort to give up the practice, but to advocate for legalization. Dr. Mary Grigsby, an associate professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri, offers here a fascinating, well-written study based on her interviews with “twenty men and ten women” who “used noodling in various ways to reinforce gender roles, to construct a sense of their place in the world as a type of people, and to provide a sense of dignity and meaning to their lives as hardworking rural people” (p. 7).

Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants: Turners and Forty-Eighters. By Frank Baron. (Lawrence, Kans.: The Society for German-American Studies, Yearbook of German-American Studies supplement 4, 2012, vi + 254 pages, cloth $20.00.)

As demonstrated in this impressively researched study, German immigrants to America were instrumental in the tumultuous political events that rocked and revolutionized America at midcentury. This is especially true of those associated with the Turner benevolent society and the so-called Forty-Eighters, former participants in the revolutionary movements of central Europe in the late 1840s. “German-Americans articulated effective opposition to policies that ran counter to their vital interests” in Kansas and the nation, writes University of Kansas Professor Frank Baron, and despite nativist efforts to marginalize them, they played a conspicuous role in Bleeding Kansas and in the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (p. 159). “To assert that the German-American votes were indispensable for Lincoln’s election cannot be sustained by the evidence available,” concludes Baron, “ but the political involvement and impact of this immigrant population was unprecedented” (p. 162).

Bruff’s Wake: J. Goldsborough Bruff and the California Gold Rush, 1849–1851. By H. L. James. (Independence, Mo.: Oregon-California Trails Association, 2011, 189 pages, paper $34.95.)

Traveling in the wake of sketch artist Joseph Goldsborough Bruff and his failed venture to the California gold fields, readers will experience what the author terms “historical integrity of site” (p. 13). The route Bruff’s party used is still accessible, filled with striking land formations and views, most drawn by Bruff. Just thirty-two miles short of their destination, Bruff’s mules buckled and died. Members deserted, winter set in, and, reduced to two men, the camp faced starvation. Eventually, after his last companion went for supplies and never returned, Bruff hiked out alone, subsisting on “a tallow candle, coffee grounds, and a lizard” (p. 52). With Bruff’s sharp, evocative pencil sketches as well as present-day photographs, this book draws the reader along the California Trail to recreate Bruff’s adventure visually and narratively.>

Missouri Armories: The Guard’s Home in Architecture and History. By Robert P. Wiegers. (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2012, xxii + 192 pages, paper $34.95.)

Citizens’ armies have a long and venerable legacy in American society. Center Methodist University professor and long-time National Guard member Robert Wiegers provides a detailed history of the Missouri guard from its founding as a French militia in 1751 to its current role as the Missouri National Guard. Uniquely, he traces this history through guard-house architecture. As the role of the guard changed through time so did the buildings that housed its units. With nearly 190 illustrations and maps, Wiegers’s work provides an insightful narrative and visual accounting of the guard’s history.

Ho! For the Black Hills: Captain Jack Crawford Reports the Black Hills Gold Rush and Great Sioux War. Edited by Paul L. Hedren. (Pierre, S.Dak.: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2012, xx + 295 pages, paper $29.95.)

Most historians of the American West are quite familiar with the events and participants of the Black Hills Gold Rush and the warfare between Indians and the U.S. Army that it precipitated. Captain Jack Crawford is one of the lesser-known individuals who played an important role in those events. He was a scout along with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Later, based upon his experiences and connections, Crawford aspired to public entertainment but without the same success as Cody. Through careful editing of Crawford’s reports to the Omaha Daily Bee, retired National Parks Service Superintendent Hedren provides a fresh, firsthand narrative of the gold rush and its consequences.

Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business: The Path of Reform in Arizona, 1890–1920.By David R. Berman. (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2012, xii + 330 pages, paper $19.95.)

Examining Arizona’s diverse and fluid “anti-corporate reform movement,” David Berman provides “a fresh look at how Progressivism worked out in a lightly populated western territory and state heavily dependent on mining activity and heavily influenced by outside investors” (p. 3). In response to the growing economic power of eastern corporations, Progressives—including organized labor (especially the Western Federation of Miners and the more radical IWW), Populists, Socialists, and above all George Hunt, Arizona’s first governor and leader of the state’s mainstream, progressive Democrats—pursued reforms such as the direct referendum and greater regulation of corporations. Although the Progressive movement in Arizona was racist, largely silent on the question of female suffrage, and inevitably ruined by World War I, it “was far more effective in bringing about changes opposed by a business elite than is portrayed” in most similar studies of other states (p. 12).