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Kansas History - Winter 2000/2001

(Vol. 23, No. 4)

Kansas History, Winter 2000/2001

Roger D. Cunningham, "Douglas's Battery at Fort Leavenworth: The Issue of Black Officers During the Civil War."

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In recent years the service rendered by African Americans during the Civil War has begun to elicit the attention it deserves, but there is still much for us to learn and study. Here Roger Cunningham explores the little known Independent Battery, U.S. Colored Light Artillery, which was organized during the summer of 1864, headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, and led by African American officers such as Captain H. Ford Douglas and Lieutenant William D. Matthews. Douglas's Battery, as it was commonly known, "enjoyed the unique distinction of being the only Federal unit to serve entirely under the leadership of black officers." In addition, writes Cunningham, a retired army officer, "it is most important to remember its clear demonstration that black men, most of them former slaves, were eager to serve in the war for their freedom, believing that, as Matthews had pointed out at Fort Scott on the original Emancipation Day, 'If we fight we shall be respected.'"

Julie Courtwright, "Want to Build a Miracle City? War Housing in Wichita."

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Defense contracts and the concomitant demand for industrial expansion beginning in early 1940, made or remade many towns throughout the nation, and no Kansas city was more involved in wartime production or more significantly impacted by its positive and negative implications than was Wichita. In this intriguing article, Julie Courtwright, a Ph.D. student at the University of Arkansas, examines the all important housing issue, focusing on the development of the new communities of Planeview, Beechwood, and Hilltop Manor. These successful housing projects involved both federal and local government officials and programs and gave rise to social and economic issues that would only intensify in the postwar years. In fact, writes the author, "the most heated arguments concerning war housing in the Kansas 'air capital' began not in the frantic confusion of the early war years, but when V-J day was clearly in sight." These communities became "an unintentional experiment in social reorganization and an ongoing and far-reaching lesson in community identity."

R. Alton Lee. "The Ill-Fated Kansas Silk Industry."

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Sericulture is an ancient industry which has an interesting history in Kansas, but few people know of that story beyond, perhaps, the rise and fall of Ernest de Boissiere's Silkville colony in Franklin County. Professor emeritus Alton Lee, a native Kansan who spent much of his professional career in the Department of History at the University of South Dakota, remedies this situation with this interesting look at the ill-fated, late nineteenth century effort to make silk culture a viable part of the state's agricultural economy. It is a tale of high expectations, vigorous promotion, political intrigue and scandal, and personal tragedy. "Kansans became greatly excited about the possibilities," writes Professor Lee, and "the state sought to encourage silk production at it did the sorghum sugar industry, but it too 'proved to be an elusive and eventually shattered dream.'"

Joseph W. Snell, "Edgar Langsdorf, 1911-2000: In Memoriam."


(The following books and collections are reviewed in full in our print version.)

American Agriculture and the Problem of Monopoly: The Political Economy of Green Belt Farming 1953-1980
By John Lauck
xiv + 259 pages, tables, notes, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000, cloth $45.00.

Reviewed by Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, assistant professor of history, Kansas State University.

Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West
By Christopher Phillips
xiii + 344 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000, cloth $29.95.

Reviewed by Jeff Patrick, interpretive specialist, Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, Republic, Missouri.

Consumers in the Country: Technology and Social Change in Rural America
By Ronald R. Kline
xii + 372 pages, illustrations, notes, appendixes, bibliography, index.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, cloth $39.95.

Reviewed by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, associate professor of history, Iowa State University, Ames.

Waiting on the Bounty: The Dust Bowl Diary of Mary Knackstedt Dyck
Edited by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg
xiv + 365 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999, cloth $37.95.

Reviewed by Sara W. Tucker, professor of history, Washburn University.

Wilson's Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It
By William Garrett Piston and Richard W. Hatcher III
xix + 408 pages, maps, photographs, notes, appendix, bibliography, index.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000, cloth $37.50.

Reviewed by Bruce D. Mactavish, assistant dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and assistant professor of history, Washburn University.

Land Grant Ladies: Kansas State University Presidential Wives
By Michaeline Chance-Reay
xvii + 83 pages, photographs.
Manhattan, Kans.: Riley County Historical Society, 1999, paper $14.95.

Reviewed by Homer E. Socolofsky, emeritus professor of history and university historian, Kansas State University.

Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade: Wheeled Vehicles and Their Makers, 1822-1880 By Mark L. Gardner
xx + 204 pages, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000, cloth $40.00, paper $19.95.

Reviewed by David Clapsaddle, historian and author, Larned, Kansas.

Massacre at Cheyenne Hole: Lieutenant Austin Henely and the Sappa Creek Controversy
By John H. Monnett
xviii + 163 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1999, cloth $22.50.

Holding Stone Hands: On the Trail of the Cheyenne Exodus
By Alan Boye
xiv + 347 pages, photographs, map, notes.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999, cloth $29.95.

Reviewed by Ramon Powers, executive director, Kansas Historical Society.

To Show Heart: Native American Self-Determination and Federal Indian Policy, 1960-1975
By George Pierre Castile
xxvii + 227 pages, photographs, notes, references cited, index.
Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998, cloth $35.00.
Reviewed by Raymond Wilson, professor of history, Fort Hays State University

Military History Manuscript Collection Kansas Historical Society
Reviewed by Linda Barnickel, head of reference, Library and Archives Division, Kansas Historical Society.


Along Route 66
By Quinta Scott
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. xii + 308 pages. Cloth $34.95.)

Interest in the history of tourism, early automobile travel, and highways has been on the upswing in recent years, and anyone attracted to these topics will most certainly be charmed by Quinta Scott's new book of contemporary--mostly taken during the past two decades--black-and-white photographs Along Route 66. The "Mother Road," which crossed only the southeastern corner of Kansas on its way from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, featured some fascinating individuals and curious roadside architecture, the focus of this volume. Our state's eleven and a half miles of Route 66 is represented here by an abandoned, canopied gas station in Galena and an old bank building and Spencer's diner in Baxter Springs.

World War II and the American Indian
By Kenneth William Townsend
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000. x + 272 pages. Cloth $35.00.)

Billed as "the first full account of Native American experiences from the 1930s to 1945 and the first to offer the Indians' perspective," World War II and the American Indian examines the Native American response to the impending crisis, the native people's reaction to Nazi propaganda directed at them, and their involvement in the war effort at home and abroad. The author makes brief reference to the war's impact on Indian boarding schools including Haskell Institute in Lawrence, which "adjusted its class schedule to a six-day week plan. . . . [so] three full ninety-day semesters could be accommodated without interruption and schools would be in a position to release students for summer farming and war-related work."

Photo Odyssey: Solomon Carvalho's Remarkable Western Adventure, 1853-54
By Arlene B. Hirschfelder
(New York: Clarion Books, 2000. ix + 118 pages. Cloth $17.00.)

Using a variety of illustrations, some from the collections of the Kansas Historical Society, and Carvalho's own journal and letters, the author tells the story of a daguerreotype photographer and artist's 1850s experience on John C. Fremont's final expedition through the West. The journey, and thus this narrative, takes the reader from Westport, Missouri, through what would soon be Kansas, across the Rockies and on to the West Coast (Los Angeles vicinity). Carvalho (1815-1897), a thirty-eight-year-old Orthodox Jew from Charleston, South Carolina, was a novice explorer but the only member of the expedition to chronicle--albeit in a journal written more than a decade after the fact--all of "the extraordinary adventures and unspeakable hardships that he, Fremont, and the other fellow travelers--ten of them Delaware Indians--experienced on this expedition."

The Federal Landscape: An Economic History of the Twentieth-Century West
By Gerald D. Nash
(Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999. xv + 214 pages. Paper $17.95.)

In The Federal Landscape, Gerald Nash, distinguished professor of history at the University of New Mexico, examines how the federal government remade or "formed" the American West, transforming the region's colonial economy "into a pacesetting technologically advanced economy." "It was the federal government," he writes, "that determined the pattern of farms in the humid regions, built the major roads and highways, and fostered the growth of the principal cities of the West." This volume seeks to fill a void in the historiography by providing an overview of the region's dynamic twentieth-century transformation and in so doing examines issues dealing with public policy, economic development, the environment, race and gender, and urbanization.

Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1875-1883
Vol. 10.
Edited and compiled by Kenneth L. Holmes
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. xviii + 285 pages. Paper $13.00.)

Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters From the Western Trails, 1879-1903
Vol. 11.
Edited and compiled by Kenneth L. Holmes
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. xviii + 205 pages. Paper $14.00.)

In the introduction for volume ten of the Bison Books edition of Covered Wagon Women, first published by Arthur H. Clark Company in 1991, historian Elliot West reminds us that much had changed during the four decades of overland travel chronicled in the this series of women's writings, but the later accounts still give the reader "a vivid feel for those parts of the overland trek--part adventure, part grind--unchanged since the first companies set forth from the Missouri River valley for the Pacific coast in the early 1840s." Here we have nine different firsthand accounts of that experience, three of which were left by Kansas women: Virginia Belle Benton, who removed to Wyoming in 1881, and Sarah J. Collins and Mary Matila Surfus, who journeyed to Oregon in 1883. The series' last volume, introduced by historian Katherine G. Morrissey of the University of Arizona, contains five more accounts, three of particular interest to readers of the journal: "Iowa to Kansas, 1879"; "Kansas Caravan, 1881"; and "Kansas to Oregon by Road and Rail, 1888."

Baum's Road to Oz: The Dakota Years. Edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal
(Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2000. 182 pages. Paper $15.95.)

Appropriately, during the centennial year of the publication of L. Frank Baum's immortal children's classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a new book appeared that offers Baum fans the opportunity to learn more about the author's pre-Oz experiences on the Northern Plains. "The volume attempts to . . . serve as a casebook for anyone wishing to study Baum's Dakota years," explains Nancy Tystad Koupal, who edited and annotated Our Landlady in 1996. "It offers a generous sampling of various types of Baum's newspaper and Dakota-based writings, plus three essays exploring his activities in Dakota and beyond." The latter are contributed by Michael Patrick Hearn: "The Wizard Behind the Plate: L. Frank Baum, the Hub City Nine, and Baseball on the Prairie"; Koupal, "On the Road to Oz: L. Frank Baum as Western Editor"; and Mark I. West, "The Dakota Fairy Tales of L. Frank Baum."

Volume 23 Index