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Kansas History - Spring 2013

Kansas History, Spring 2013

(Vol. 36, No. 1)

Chris Rein, “The U.S. Army, Indian Agency, and the Path to Assimilation: The First Indian Home Guards in the American Civil War.”

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The First Indian Home Guards, a regiment of loyal Creeks (Muscogees) raised in Kansas during the Civil War, marked a transition period in the army’s use of indigenous allies in military campaigns. Instead of treating the still-sovereign nations as independent allies, the army sought to incorporate individuals into regular army units with mixed results. Indians pushed back against some areas of army bureaucracy, still managing to negotiate the terms of their service with an organization desperate for manpower on the volatile frontier. While the trend towards enlistment of individual instead of coherent groups came to dominate Indian military service in subsequent conflicts, the regiment’s service in Kansas and the Indian Territory during the Civil War materially advanced federal war aims and marked the leading edge of more intensive efforts at assimilation.

Susan McCarthy, “Tired of Dorothy and Toto? Three Nineteenth-Century Icons of Kansas.”

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What if popularly associated images of Kansas reflected something truly significant about the state’s historical, cultural, and social development? Three visual images of late nineteenth-century Kansas, none widely known today, do just that. Drouthy Kansas by Henry Worrall was a widely circulated illustration used to encourage immigration to Kansas. Mary Bartlett Pillsbury Weston’s painting The Spirit of Kansas promoted a peaceful future for the state after the turbulent days of Bleeding Kansas. American Woman and her Political Peers, a painting conceptualized by Henrietta Briggs-Wall, demonstrated how women’s lack of voting rights at the end of the nineteenth century affected women’s stature. The creators of these three works were united in seeking a brighter future for Kansas using art to convey their messages. Their work demonstrates how artists engaged historical and political questions of the day using imagery that was understood by the public. Collectively, these Kansas images uniquely embody the “spirit” of the state and are important icons because their noble ideals show how art was used as an effective social force.

Thom Rosenblum, “Unlocking the School House Doors: Elisha Scott, ‘Colored Lawyer, Topeka.’”

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“Throughout the first half of the twentieth century,” writes Thom Rosenblum, a historian with the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, National Historic Site, Elisa Scott and a number of other young, ambitious, and committed African American attorneys “chipped away at the legal scaffolding propping up the culture of Jim Crow.” Scott boldly took the cases of black clients before white courts and “symbolically upset the prevailing structure of racial order in America.” The Topeka-born and educated attorney’s fame and influence were widespread by the late 1930s, and his story enhances our understanding of mid-century race relations and social change in Kansas and the nation. Attorney Scott was not directly involved in the case of the century, which was finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, but his sons were, and “it was Scott and a handful of dedicated black and white attorneys who first breached the wall of segregated justice and demanded equal educational opportunity and justice for all citizens.”


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Zebulon Pike, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
edited by Matthew L. Harris and Jay H. Buckley
vii + 242 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Jason E. Farr, graduate student in history, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

The Brothers Robidoux and the Opening of the American West
by Robert J. Willoughby
xiii + 243 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2012, cloth $45.00.
Reviewed by M. J. Morgan, professor of history, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History
by Louis S. Gerteis
xiii + 237 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2012, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Joe R. Bailey, PhD candidate, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

Fighting Foreclosure: The Blaisdell Case, the Contract Clause, and the Great Depression
by John A. Fliter and Derek S. Hoff
x + 222 pages, bibliographical essay, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012, cloth $34.95, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by Joe Anderson, associate professor, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

General Lewis B. Hershey and Conscientious Objection during World War II
by Nicholas A. Krehbiel
xi + 201 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011, cloth $40.00.
Reviewed by John Reed, professor of history, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Kansas City and How It Grew, 1822–2011
by James R. Shortridge
xiii + 248 pages, illustrations, tables, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Carl Abbott, professor of urban studies and planning, Portland State University, Oregon.

Beyond Cold Blood: The KBI from Ma Barker to BTK
by Larry Welch
xii + 396 pages, illustrations, notes, index.
Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2012, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Christopher C. Lovett, professor of history, Emporia State University, Kansas.


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Hell of a Vision: Regionalism and the Modern American West. By Robert L. Dorman. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2012, xii + 256 pages, cloth $50.00.)

“Regionalism in the West and elsewhere in the United States,” observes Dorman, “might still be considered a ‘soft’ form of cultural nationalism” (p. 14). In this study, Dorman traces the variegated evolution of competing perceptions of western identity from the 1890s to the present. Drawing from literary sources, historians, and government publications, he examines how regionalism—that “sense of place” defined by “spatial conceptualization,” “regional identity,” and “self-identification” (p. 3)—has been manifested, reproduced, and celebrated in American society. He explores a variety of regional visions from the Turnerian nationalist West to the revisionist New West while highlighting many subregions as well. Dorman’s work is clear enough for the novice yet rich enough for the seasoned western aficionado to enjoy.

Encyclopedia of Local History. Second Edition.Edited by Carol Kammen and Amy H. Wilson. (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2012, x + 655 pages, cloth $125.00.)

This second edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History (the first was published in 2000) continues to provide valuable information about and insights into a field of historical study that, in recent years, seems to have gained greater acceptance within the profession and remains as popular as ever with its local constituency but is, ironically perhaps, financially “strained” more than ever before. The Encyclopedia contains new “capsule historical biographies” of each state, Guam, and the Canadian provinces, as well as “brief sketches” of some other English-speaking countries. It also offers thematic essays or entries—most short, some relatively long—on such topics as “American exceptionalism” (p. 25), “environmental history” (p. 162), “historic preservation” (p. 249), the “underfunding of historical societies” (p. 265), “race and class, in a local history organization” (p. 479), “technology and local history” (p. 523), and “interpreting women’s history at local history sites” (p. 579).

Soldiers and Statesmen: Reflections on Leadership. By John S. D. Eisenhower. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2012, xix + 181 pages, cloth $34.95.)

HereJohn S. D. Eisenhower describes not only his relationship with his father, Dwight D. Eisenhower, but also his father’s relationships with instrumental military and political figures during World War II. In 1944, shortly after the Allied invasion of occupied Europe, the younger Eisenhower, a recent graduate of West Point, served directly under his father and was thus privy to some of the most important conversations of the war between General Eisenhower and, among others, Winston Churchill, John Foster Dulles, Harry S. Truman, Mark Wayne Clark, George S. Patton, Jr., Terry Allen, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, and Matthew B. Ridgway. Eisenhower’s personal reminisces, enriched by his knowledge of the military and his skills as a historian, provide new perspectives on U.S. leadership and foreign relations during World War II.

Bound Like Grass: A Memoir from the Western High Plains. By Ruth McLaughlin. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010, xii + 184 pages, paper $16.95.)

This account of a family’s experiences on a Montana wheat farm over the past one hundred years is more than a memoir; it is a tale of environmental, familial, and emotional renewal. McLaughlin traces the generational differences between her paternal grandparents, who claimed the homestead; her parents, who clung feverishly to the land; and her siblings, who either fled the farm willingly or out of necessity. The author compares her family, metaphorically, to prairie grass: the family, like the grass, was bound to the land even as many of its members were displaced. The harsh plains environment combined with her parents’ attempt to hold on to a Depression Era-like frugality led to a challenging childhood of isolation and impoverishment in the early 1970s. McLaughlin comes to terms with her parents’ harsh lives, trapped as they were between their own parents’ dreams of adventure in the West and the needs of their “discontented children,” but she still feels unable to shrug off the weight of being poor.

Ledger Narratives: The Plains Indian Drawings of the Landsburgh Collection at Dartmouth College. Edited by Colin Calloway. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, xiii + 283 pages, cloth $49.95, paper $29.95.)

Following the Civil War, hundreds of Native men, many of them community leaders, were imprisoned as war criminals at Fort Marion in Florida. With little to do, these soldier-statesmen attempted to recall and maintain their tribal values by drawing on ledger paper with crayons and pencils. This oversized, beautifully designed volume of their word is a companion to the first two exhibitions of such “ledger art” in the Landsburgh Collection at Dartmouth—a collection many years in the making. What sets this effort apart is the focus on the drawings as cultural signifiers. Clear explanations of what was happening to the artists who created the art, as well as what they were trying to say, will greatly aid historians’ use of these enigmatic images.

Thinking Like a Watershed: Voices from the West. Edited by Jack Loeffler and Celestia Loeffler. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012, xii + 266, paper $24.95).

Jack Loeffler, a Lore of the Land, Inc., board member, has been actively engaged in collecting thousands of hours of field recordings of people living in the American Southwest. His work has led him to the conclusion that addressing the serious water issues in the region requires a wholly different approach to governance and regulation, an approach based on grassroots governance from within a home watershed. Thinking Like a Watershed highlights this conclusion through its collection of nine essays, the majority of which were written by authors from the Tewa, Tohono O’odham, Hopi, and Navajo Indian nations as well as representatives of Hispano and Euro-American cultures. Loeffler hopes this volume will allow readers to “identify at least part of the array of collective human conduct . . . [that] threaten not only ourselves, and societies everywhere, but also our fellow biota and even geophysical characteristics that have made our tenure as the keystone species possible” (p. 3).