Jump to Navigation

Kansas History - Spring 2012

Kansas History, Spring 2012(Vol. 35, No. 1)

Denise Low and Ramon Powers, “Northern Cheyenne Warrior Ledger Art: Captivity Narratives of Northern Cheyenne Prisoners in 1879 Dodge City.”

Read this article online

Students of Kansas history and regular readers of Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains are at least somewhat familiar with the so-called last “Indian raid” in Kansas, which occurred in 1878 when a group of about 350 Northern Cheyenne men, women, and children, led by Little Wolf and Dull Knife, escaped their Indian Territory reservation and fought skirmishes and raided throughout western Kansas on their unsuccessful trek to their northern plains homeland. Less known is the story of the return to Kansas, first to Dodge City and then Lawrence, of seven Cheyenne prisoners in 1879. While awaiting trial for nearly six months, “these seven Northern Cheyennes, improbably, survived and helped sustain the Cheyenne way of life.” And as the authors demonstrate through careful analysis, the prisoners “also collaborated to create four extant ledger-art notebooks and three separate drawings, which they sold,bartered, or gave to their incarcerators. These glyphic drawings, done in a Plains Indian idiom, endure as their personal documentation of this critical period in Northern Cheyenne history.”

Rebecca Edwards, “Mary E. Lease and the Populists: A Reconsideration.”

Read this article online

Scholars have assessed and reassessed the People’s Party and Populism in Kansas for more than a century, but many of the Populist movement’s leaders remain something of a mystery to us. Rebecca Edwards, a professor of history at Vassar College, has studied the life and political career of Mary Elizabeth Lease for many years and here provides an insightful “reconsideration” of an always intriguing and in many ways remarkable woman. For historians, as well as was for her contemporaries, observes Edwards, Lease was “one of the most controversial leaders of the People’s Party. Rising to national fame in the Kansas campaign of 1890, Lease won the admiration of thousands of grassroots Populists and became one of the party’s most sought-after speakers, and perhaps its most effective. Populism, however, took a different direction than Lease had hoped. Her opponents in the party, both in Kansas and at the national level, made fusion arrangements with Democrats and marginalized those, such as Lease, who supported Prohibition and women’s suffrage. Lease then became an outspoken critic of her former allies.” Professor Edwards asks and offers answers to several questions about the private and public Mary E. Lease in an effort to clarify her role in the movement and to shed light on Populism’s diversity and complexity.

Michael L. Olsen, “Myth and Memory: The Cultural Heritage of the Santa Fe Trail in the Twentieth Century.”

Read this article online

Over a century separates the end of the Santa Fe Trail, in 1880, as a route of commerce across the Great Plains to New Mexico and the commemoration of that route as the Santa Fe National Historic Trail in 1987. While the Santa Fe Trail never captured the American imagination as did, for example, the Oregon Trail, nevertheless during that century myths and memories of the trail persisted and the heritage of the trail never faded completely. In this article Michael Olsen, who has researched and published widely on ethnic and cultural aspects of the Santa Fe Trail, considers how myth and memory contribute to cultural persistence, albeit sometimes tenuously. The activities of historically oriented organizations, such as the Kansas Daughters of the American Revolution, initially kept the memory of the trail alive. Tourism, promoted first by railroads and later by pioneer automobile clubs and “good roads” associations played a vital role. In the 1930s bus travel down the trail even became popular. Over the years, novels, magazine articles, movies, children’s literature and popular songs also reflected a continuing consciousness of the trail on a regional and national level. The formation of the Santa Fe Trail Association in 1986 capped this century of activity and guaranteed that, “The Santa Fe Trail Lives On!” 


Fighting Chance: The Struggle Over Woman Suffrage and Black Suffrage in Reconstruction America
by Faye E. Dudden
viii + 553 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Marilyn S. Blackwell, historian and biographer, East Montpelier, Vermont.

Principle Over Party: The Farmers’ Alliance and Populism in South Dakota, 1880–1900
by R. Alton Lee
xviii + 291 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2011, cloth $32.95.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Ostler, Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History, University of Oregon, Eugene.
by Thomas Fox Averill
206 pages.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011, cloth $24.95.
Reviewed by Douglas S. Harvey, visiting assistant professor of history, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas.

A White-Bearded Plainsman: The Memoirs of Archaeologist Raymond Wood
by W. Raymond Wood
xviii + 364 pages, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2011, cloth $49.95.
Reviewed by Margaret Wood, associate professor of anthropology, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

Border War: Fighting Over Slavery before the Civil War
by Stanley Harrold
xvi + 292 pages, illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010, cloth $30.00.
Reviewed by William O. Wagnon, emeritus professor of history, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

The Big Empty: The Great Plains in the Twentieth Century
by R. Douglas Hurt
xvii + 315 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Tucson: University of Arizona, 2011, paper $29.95.
Reviewed by James N. Leiker, associate professor of history, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas.

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War
by Tony Horwitz
xii + 365 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2011, cloth $29.00.
Reviewed by James W. Loewen, visiting professor of African American studies, University of Illinois, Urbana.

My Work is that of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver
by Mark D. Hersey
xv + 290 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011, paper $24.95.
Reviewed by Debra A. Reid, professor of history, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston.

Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915–1930
by Kelly J. Baker
xvii + 326 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by James Klein, assistant professor of history, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Plains Indian Art: The Pioneering Work of John C. Ewers
edited by Jane Ewers Robinson
xx + 203 pages, illustrations, bibliography, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Todd Leahy, history instructor, Maplewoods Community College, Kansas City, Missouri.


Views from the Dark Side of American History.By Michael Fellman. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2011, xii + 155 pages, paper $22.50.)

More than twenty years ago, Professor Michael Fellman at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver made all students of the Bleeding Kansas era rethink the nature of guerrilla war on the Missouri-Kansas border with the publication of his seminal Inside War: The Guerilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War. Fellman’s subsequent publications have included books on William T. Sherman, Robert E. Lee, and, most recently, In the Name of God and Country: Reconsidering Terrorism in American History. Views from the Dark Side of American History draws on that body of scholarship but features six articles “written over the past thirty years” that “elucidate some of the major personal and scholarly concerns” of the author’s career; it is, according to Fellman, “both methodological and autobiographical in nature” (p. 2). Readers of Kansas History will, perhaps, be most interested in the third essay, “At the Nihilist Edge: Reflections on Guerrilla Warfare during the American Civil War.”

Demon of the Lost Cause: Sherman and Civil War History. By Wesley Moody. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, Blue and Gray Series, 2011, 208 pages, cloth $30.00.)

Demon of the Lost Causeis included in the University of Missouri’s Blue and Gray Series, which offers Civil War studies that “address the relationship between society and warfare” (n.p.). Focusing on what he sees as the postwar deterioration of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s reputation, Moody examines what generates and perpetuates historical controversy, especially in popular memory. The author uses public square statuary, regional editorials and obituaries, and even Hollywood films to illuminate Sherman’s contested public image. The book, as its dust jacket notes, concentrates on hidden agendas, the “machinations behind the Sherman myth." Southern Lost Cause historians bitterly denounced Sherman’s total war approach in Georgia, blaming him directly for the defeat of the South. More interesting yet is the role that Sherman himself played in complicating his own image for posterity. A chapter titled “The War of the Memoirs” reviews this involvement.

Broughton, Kansas: Portrait of a Lost Town, 1869–1966. By M. J. Morgan and students in history classes at Kansas State University. (Manhattan, Kans.: The Chapman Center for Rural Studies at Kansas State University, 2010, ix + 201 pages, cloth $35.00.)

In the 1950s and 1960s, fourteen towns along the Blue and Republican rivers in Kansas were moved or destroyed to create two dam systems. Broughton, a crossroads village in Clay County, was bulldozed after barely one hundred years of optimistic settlement. Over forty Kansas State University students worked for more than five years to produce a detailed, complex history of this small settlement. Based on extensive interviews with former residents as well as on archival material, the study includes foldout photographic timelines of the town and a reconstructed one-room school landscape map. Portraits of independent women as well as diverse peoples—the Pawnee, gypsies, Mexican and Greek railway workers, fishermen, and postmistresses—remind us that small Kansas communities, and especially river towns, are unexpectedly textured.

The Plains Political Tradition: Essays on South Dakota Political Culture. Edited by Jon K. Lauck, John E. Miller, and Donald C. Simmons, Jr. (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2011, viii + 392 pages, paper $19.95.)

An edited volume of twelve original essays by noted historians and political scientists, The Plains Political Tradition explores the relationship between South Dakota’s political culture and national political trends from statehood in 1889 to the present. While South Dakotans have consistently voted for Republicans except during the Populist and New Deal eras, the editors present a strong case that “progressive conservatism” best describes South Dakota’s political tradition. They define progressive conservatism as a blending of the ideals of limited government, civic engagement, public virtue, egalitarianism, and community.

Scenery, Curiosities, and Stupendous Rocks: William Quesenbury’s Overland Sketches, 1850–1851. By David Royce Murphy, with contributions by Michael L. Tate and Michael Farrell. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011, xii + 275 pages, cloth $45.00.)

William Quesenbury, a largely self-taught journalist, artist, and diarist, had a thirst for travel among Indian peoples in the western territories of the United States. He journeyed from his native Arkansas, headed for the gold fields of California in 1850 and returned in 1851. Along the route he sketched the West’s natural and built features. John Wesley Jones, an entrepreneur who hired Quesenbury, hoped to market a visual, traveling display of the sketches and daguerreotypes taken by his other employees. Eventually, the Nebraska State Historical Society purchased Quesenbury’s sketch book, and Murphy headed a team to analyze Quesenbury’s work, some of which depicted Kansas. Anyone interested in the western landscape will find this lavishly illustrated work immensely enjoyable.

Eisenhower and the Cold War Economy. By William M. McClenahan, Jr., and William H. Becker. (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, xv + 304 pages, cloth $55.00.)

After reviewing Eisenhower’s macroeconomic philosophies and policies, guided by the overriding challenge of meeting the Soviet threat without sacrificing free enterprise, this welcome volume offers detailed case studies of his farm, antitrust, and foreign-economic policymaking, convincingly demonstrating that “economic policy was second only to national security in the president’s mind” (p. ix). The thirty-fourth president receives high marks for actively crafting a “consistent course” that sustained the low-inflation prosperity of the 1950s. Microeconomic policy proved more challenging—efforts to reduce farm subsidies floundered, for example—but Eisenhower adeptly compromised on trade policy, integrated Japan into the world trading system, and cooled the historically contentious politics of antitrust. Although the authors do not reject entirely the familiar conclusion that Eisenhower promoted a novel and moderate “Modern Republicanism,” one that accepted the New Deal welfare state and the Keynesian premise of government management of the business cycle while still seeking to balance the budget and tame inflation, they conclude that, on the whole, “the president’s ‘liberal’ tendencies were outweighed by his more traditional ‘conservative’ predilections” (p. xiv).