Promised Lands

ISBN-10: 0700618236
ISBN-13: 9780700618231
Edition: 2002
Authors: David M. Wrobel
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Description: Whether seen as a land of opportunity or as paradise lost, the American West took shape in the nation's imagination with the help of those who wrote about it; but two groups who did much to shape that perception are often overlooked today. Promoters  More...

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Book details

List price: $25.00
Copyright year: 2002
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Publication date: 10/31/2002
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 340
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.100
Language: English

Whether seen as a land of opportunity or as paradise lost, the American West took shape in the nation's imagination with the help of those who wrote about it; but two groups who did much to shape that perception are often overlooked today. Promoters trying to lure settlers and investors to the West insisted that the frontier had already been tamed-that the only frontiers remaining were those of opportunity. Through posters, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and other printed pieces, these boosters literally imagined places into existence by depicting backwater areas as settled, culturally developed regions where newcomers would find none of the hardships associated with frontier life. Quick on their heels, some of the West's original settlers had begun publishing their reminiscences in books and periodicals and banding together in pioneer societies to sustain their conception of frontier heritage. Their selective memory focused on the savage wilderness they had tamed, exaggerating the past every bit as much as promoters exaggerated the present. Although they are generally seen today as unscrupulous charlatans and tellers of tall tales, David Wrobel reveals that these promoters and reminiscers were more significant than their detractors have suggested. By exploring the vast literature produced by these individuals from the end of the Civil War through the 1920s, he clarifies the pivotal impact of their works on our vision of both the historic and mythic West. In examining their role in forging both sense of place within the West and the nation's sense of the West as a place, Wrobel shows that these works were vital to the process of identity formation among westerners themselves and to the construction of a "West" in the national imagination. Wrobel also sheds light on the often elitist, sometimes racist legacies of both groups through their characterizations of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans. In the era Wrobel examines, promoters painted the future of each western place as if it were already present, while the old-timers preserved the past as if it were still present. But, as he also demonstrates, that West has not really changed much: promoters still tout its promise, while old-timers still try to preserve their selective memories. Even relatively recent western residents still tap into the region's mythic pioneer heritage as they form their attachments to place. Promised Lands shows us that the West may well move into the twenty-first century, but our images of it are forever rooted in the nineteenth.

Preface to the Paperback Edition
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Imagining and Remembering
Promises
Promotional Contours and Claims
The Power of Imagination
The Qualification of Frontiers
Promoting the "New West"
Comparing Promised Lands
Havens of Culture, Climate, and Agriculture
Boosterism on Trial
The Second Boosterist Phase
Depression, Catastrophe, and Recovery
Regional Wonderlands
Cautions and Claims in Eden
Photo Essay, Imagined Wests
Memories
Remembered Journeys
Death Valley Memories
Pullman Pioneers
The Quintessential Journey Reenactor
Reminiscences of a Booster's Wife
Organizing Memories
Forging a Frontier Heritage
Manhood, Femininity, and Memory
Object Lessons for New Generations
Subregional Divides of Western Memory
Photo Essay, Remembered Wests
Legacies
Promotion, Reminiscence, and Race
California as Tainted Eden
Promoting the Southwest
Wonderlands of Whiteness and Color
Remembering Race Relations
The Ghosts of Western Future and Past
The Enduring Frontier Heritage
Primacy, Authenticity, Promise, and Place
Californication in the Contemporay West
Change, Mythology, and Regional Identity
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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