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Victorian West: Class and Culture in Kansas…

Victorian West: Class and Culture in Kansas Cattle Towns (1991)

by C. Robert Haywood

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To my mentors in exploring culture: Esther Holcomb Main, from the placid, tamed, and totally civilized hills of Doge City

George Allen Smith, from the sometimes civilized theaters of Boston and sawdust floor of Jake Wirth's
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The cattle-town era lasted only a few years, less than two decades, but few economic enterprises have had a more lasting afterlife and none has had the romantic appeal of that dusty, makeshift method of moving a product to market.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0700604774, Paperback)

Picture a Kansas cattletown. What do you see? Most people see a "Gunsmoke" version of Dodge City--a dusty frontier town full of thirsty cowboys, gunslingers, outlaws, and ladies of the evening.

But the "Gunsmoke" version tells only half the story, according to historian C. Robert Haywood. Two cultures existed simultaneously in Kansas cattle towns, Haywood writes. Alongside the Wild West culture of the cattle trailing industry there existed a highly developed Victorian society, complete with civic activists, churches, boosterism, small-town politics, and Victorian architecture to rival that of the east coast.

In Victorian West Haywood examines education, recreation, social stratification, philanthropy and common community goals in three Kansas cowtowns--Dodge City, Wichita, and Caldwell. He finds that the Victorian attitudes of the post-Civil War era prevailed in Kansas as well as the rest of the nation.

Since the Wild West aspect of cattletown life has been so heavily stressed in both academic and popular arenas, the development of Kansas towns as progressive, even elegant Victorian cities, has been overlooked. But, according to Haywood, life in Kansas cattletowns was clearly tied to dominant Victorian themes: society was stratified, Victorian fads were emulated, "fancies" were coveted, and Victorian manners and morals were part of the process of refinement.

In Victorian West Haywood relates Victorian themes like optimism, anxiety, anti-intellectualism, and the commercial spirit to the Kansas community experience. He also provides a synthesis of cultural information that places the cowtowns of Kansas in a broader cultural context.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:03 -0400)

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