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Kansas History - Winter 2002/2003

(Vol. 25, No. 4)

Kansas History, Winter 2002/2003

Donna C. Roper, "The Whiteford Family of Salina: Mid-Twentieth Century Avocational Archeologists"

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Best-known for their involvement in the excavation and early commercial operation of the Indian Burial Pit at Salina, Kansas, the Whiteford family, argues Kansas archeologist Donna C. Roper, was an important component in "a cadre of amateur archeologists" who studied Kansas and the Central Plains during the 1930s and 1940s. "It was they who had the collections, knew the sites, and had the contacts to gain access to them, and they who supplied" professional archeologists, such as A. T. Hill of the Nebraska State Historical Society and William Duncan Strong and Waldo R. Wedel of the Smithsonian Institution, with vital information. "The Whitefords' work was in the best tradition of the archeology of their time; and their collection is largely intact at the Kansas Historical Society, where its importance and value endure to this day."

Claudia J. Keenan, "The Education of an Intellectual: George S. Counts and Turn-of-the-Century Kansas"

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Born and raised at Baldwin, Kansas, George Sylvester Counts (1889-1974) was educated at Baker University and the University of Chicago and left Kansas to become one of the nation's leading educators, spending most of his career at Teacher's College, Columbia University. "Throughout his life," writes Dr. Claudia J. Keenan, "Counts remained ambivalent about the things he associated most palpably with Kansas - overbearing religiosity, the relentless demands of farm work, and the natives' wary suspicion of the world beyond its borders. Yet, Counts's ambivalence about Kansas spurred him to think inventively about American life. By the mid-twenties, less than a decade after he left Kansas, Counts had emerged as a leading teacher and intellectual known for his interpretations of the relationship between culture and education. . . . Like John Dewey, Counts maintained that education should be a lever for social reform and that teachers must lead not follow." In "The Education of an Intellectual," Keenan paints an intriguing portrait of turn-of-the-century Kansas and demonstrates profound significance of Counts's twenty-four years in Kansas on his life and accomplishments.

Kansans and the Visual Arts Review Essay by William Tsutsui and Marjorie Swann

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The sixth piece in Kansas History's review essay series is this contribution by Bill Tsutsui and Marjorie Swann, professors of history and English, respectively, at the University of Kansas, that explores Kansas's rich visual arts heritage, analyzes the existing scholarly literature on that subject, and examines the opportunities for future scholars of the arts in the Sunflower State. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the authors found a dearth of good, published work on their subject but a fascinating and important story to be told. "A new generation of scholarship published since the 1970s," they observe, "has broadened our conception of who is regarded as an artist, what constitutes art, and how Kansas art should be contextualized historically. . . . integrating the story of art into the greater historical narrative of Kansas is a fundamental challenge for future researchers. Breaking down the artificial boundaries which have separated art history from the major social, political, economic, environmental and intellectual debates of the state's past is essential. . . . In the simplest terms," the authors argue, "scholars should acknowledge the extent to which art pervades history and history pervades art."


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Saving the Heartland: Catholic Missionaries in Rural America by Jeffrey Marlett
xi+233 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002, cloth $40.00.
Reviewed by Penelope Adams Moon, assistant professor of history, Bethel College, North Newton.

Land Grant Universities and Extension into the 21st Century: Renegotiating or Abandoning a Social Contract by George R. McDowell
xiv + 198 pages, references, index.
Ames: Iowa State University Press, 2001, paper $34.99.
Reviewed by Claire Strom, assistant professor of history, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

"This is America?": The Sixties in Lawrence, Kansas by Rusty L. Monhollon
xi + 284 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Palgrave Publishing, 2002, cloth $39.95.
Reviewed by Gretchen Cassel Eick, associate professor of history, Friends University.

Elmer McCurdy: The Misadventures in Life and Afterlife of an American Outlaw by Mark Svenvold
312 pages, photographs, notes, index.
New York: Basic Books, 2002, cloth $25.00.
Reviewed by Roy Bird, historian and author, Kansas State Library, Topeka.

The Bizarre Careers of John R. Brinkley by R. Alton Lee
xvii + 283 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2002, cloth $29.95.
Reviewed by Duncan Stewart, librarian, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

The Saga of the Pony Express by Joseph J. Di Certo
ix + 244 pages, photographs, maps, appendixes, bibliography, index.
Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Publishing, 2002, paper $17.00, cloth $29.00.
Reviewed by Michael L. Olsen, archivist, Old Colorado City Historical Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Histories of the American Frontier Series: Racial Frontiers: Africans, Chinese, and Mexicans in Western America, 1848-1890 by Arnoldo De Leon
ix + 150 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002, paper $19.95.
Reviewed by James N. Leiker, assistant professor of history, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park.

Book Notes

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Southern Counterpart to Lewis & Clark: The Freeman & Custis Expedition of 1806
Edited by Dan L. Flores
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. xxi + 386 pages.
Paper $19.95.)

First published in 1984, Southern Counterpart to Lewis & Clark (edited by noted historian of the West Dan Flores, a professor of history at the University of Montana), tells the story of Thomas Jefferson's failed southwestern expedition that was completely overshadowed by the celebrated successes of the Corps of Discovery headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Although originally intended as a true southern counterpart, Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis "failed even to achieve [their] last-minute, more limited objective of exploring the Red River only," being turned back by a superior Spanish army. This timely new paperback edition includes, of course, the original 1806 reports and Professor Flore's insightful, ninety-five page introduction, "Probing the Southwestern Wilderness."

Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows
By Will Bagley.
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. xxiv + 493 pages. Cloth $39.95.)

Overland Trail enthusiasts especially will be interested in historian Will Bagley's account of the massacre at Mountain Meadows, "the first serious investigation" of the September 1857 atrocity in more than fifty years. "The story of the most violent incident in the history of America's overland trails remains among the West's most controversial historical subjects, yet even students of the American West have nearly forgotten the event," writes the author. "Most Americans, including many Utahans, have never heard of it." Bagley seeks to remedy this situation with an impressive volume that includes thirty-six black and white illustrations, an appendix listing of the "Victims of the Massacre" (one-hundred-plus men, women, and children), copious notes, and an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

It Happened Here: Stories from Marshall County, Kansas
By Oretha Ruetti.
(Marysville, Kans.: Marshall County Historical Society, 2002. xii + 484 pages. Cloth $45.00.)

Based on the author's long-running, weekly Marysville Advocate column, "It Happened Here," this handsome local history contains a dozen chapters or themes: agriculture; daily life; early days; towns and ghost towns; memorable places; business and industry; building a community; grim realities; the old schoolhouse; celebrations, games, gatherings; Oretha's own story; and people and families. The columns were published over a twenty-five-year period beginning in March 1977, and the book contains an appendix listing of "all columns included in whole or in part . . . with their original title."

Danes in America: Kansas and Nebraska
Translated by Ninna Engskow, edited by John W. Nielsen.
(Blair, Neb.: Lur Publications, Danish Immigrant Archives, 2002. xii + 126 pages. Paper $16.50.)

First published in 1908 and 1916 as part of the two-volume Danske i Amerika (or Danes in America), this second volume in a projected multivolume series by Lur Publications (the first was Danish Lutheranism in America) makes the Kansas and Nebraska material available for the first time in English. The Kansas portion of the book covers the first thirty pages and provides some important information about late-nineteenth-century Danish settlements and settlers in the Sunflower State. "In these pages," writes editor John W. Nielsen, "one encounters the hardships of life on the prairie . . . but almost always expectation for the future and determination to succeed give even the accounts of these events hopeful undertones."

First to Fight
By Henry Mihesuah, edited by Devon Abbott Mihesuah.
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. xviii + 104 pages. Cloth $26.95.)

First to Fight is the story of a member of the Quahada band of Comanches who grew up on a farm near Duncan, Oklahoma, and returned, after service as a Marine during World War II and several years in California, during the last decades of the twentieth century to fight for that farm and against racism in his native state. It is based on interviews conducted by Henry Mihesuah's daughter-in-law, Devon Abbott Mihesuah, a professor of applied indigenous studies and history at Northern Arizona University and editor of the American Indian Quarterly.

Magnificent Failure: A Portrait of the Western Homestead Era
By John Martin Campbell, introduction by Kenneth W. Karsmizki.
(Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2002. xiv + 183 pages. Paper $29.95, cloth $60.00.)

Although no Kansas images appear among the seventy black-and-white plates that make up the heart of this volume, readers of Kansas History may well find much of interest in author and photographer John Martin Campbell's coverage of "the Western Homestead Era, that period beginning around 1885." Stark landscapes, abandoned cabins and dugouts, and long neglected farm equipment support the author's tale of the relatively brief success and ultimate failure of so many a western settler's dreams. In the words of Kenneth W. Karsmizki, associate curator for history and archeology at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, Campbell offers "not the niggling little details of the history of public land laws. Instead, he embraces the emotion and texture of individual people and places."

Santa Fe: The Chief Way
By Robert Strein, John Vaughan, and C. Fenton Richards Jr.
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002. 131 pages. Paper $24.95.)

Using numerous wonderful images, many from the collections of the Kansas Historical Society, the authors of Santa Fe: The Chief Way offer the reader or viewer a sense of how the Santa Fe "profoundly impacted New Mexico and the Southwest" and how the Southwest and its people "profoundly influenced the railway." The illustrations selected for this book really do convey "the excitement and romance of streamlined train travel on the Santa Fe" in the 1940s and 1950s, and as a whole the volume "provides a look at how the railroad used the landscapes and Indian culture of the American Southwest to promote travel on its famous trains."

Volume 25 Index