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The Oregon Trail : Sketches of Prairie and…

The Oregon Trail : Sketches of Prairie and Rocky Mountain Life (1847)

by Francis Parkman (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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It never ceases to amaze me how hypocritical and prejudice some people can be. ( )
  ElizabethBraun | Oct 14, 2011 |
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the frontier, as a well-educated young Eastern man, in the days when you really would need to worry about Indians taking your scalp, and there were no showers or electricity back home to miss? This book pretty much shows you.

The author is a twenty-something Harvard educated man - think of John Adams or Robert Gould Shaw here - in the 1840s, who enthusiastically roams the world in search of adventure and edification and things to write home about. He lies to his mother and tells her he's taking the safe route to Fort Bridger, all he knows about Mormons is that they're really religious and people in Missouri hate them, and his attitude towards hunting buffalo can be summed up with: "they're stupid, you can kill a million of the males and not hurt the species since Indians kill only cows, they're stupid, we're hungry, they're stupid, when they're all dead the Indians will die off too, they're really, really stupid, and killing is fun, whee!" He also, by the way, is really ill for most of his adventures - he details many weeks of lying on the ground unable to function, trying to ride a horse without falling into unconsciousness, and taking drugs he suspects will poison him just because there was a chance it'd make him feel better.

The author is judgmental and, from our perspective, remarkably unkind. He's also brutally honest, especially considering that the insults and criticism of fellow Easterners was always written for publication. Later in life, he went back and changed a lot of the things he said in this book - that was after the Civil War, after polygamy scandals and the invention of the telegraph, after he was respected and married and so forth. The Oxford World's Classics edition is pretty much what he first wrote, so it's rougher and there's a lot more "look how smart I am, quoting ancient Latin poetry from memory" silliness than are found in other editions. He became one of the most famous and influential Western historians in the later 19th century.

I definitely recommend it for people who are interested in the period, especially since it's first person. Someday everything you write today will be 160 years old; a certain amount of sympathy and understanding will, I promise you, take you a long way.

(about the buffalo: no buffalo dies before page 220 or so, that wasn't killed for a good reason and put to the best usage it could be; some of the later stuff is gross and beyond excessive from a 21st century standpoint, but seriously, guys, this was the 1840s, and there were no grocery stores on the plains.) ( )
1 vote lloannna | Oct 10, 2009 |
While not currently favored by historians, this is one good read. Keep in mind the conceits, prejudices, etc. of the man and his period and all will be well. Sometimes the language is a little too flowery (sp?) but other times you will be captured by the descriptions. Try not to get too upset about the buffalo carnage but again keep in mind the historical times that these people inhabited. The illustrations, mostly early american western painters is up to the usual folio society standards - that is to say excellent. ( )
1 vote hewitt | Aug 6, 2009 |
The Oregon Trail is rather appalling to a twenty-first century mind but still very well written and interesting as a snapshot of its time. ( )
  literarysarah | Apr 9, 2009 |
4169 The Oregon Trail, by Francis Parkman (read 2 June 2006) Back when I was a freshman in high school I started this book first published in 1849, and for some forgotten reason stopped reading at page 60. When I saw a copy at a rummage sale for a dime, I bought it and now have read it. It tells of Parkman's trip in 1846 on a part of and in the locale of the Oregon Trail--he never got to Oregon itself--and tells of his time with Indians and of his hunting. I was repelled by the senseless killing of buffalo by all concerned. Parkman and the others seemed to think buffaloes were there to be killed, even if the carcass was not used. The book is pretty dry, and I never felt eager to read more. But I usually finish a book I start and this book lived in my memory all these years and now I have finished it. So there. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Oct 23, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Parkman, FrancisAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pendrey, Peterlino-cutsmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Benton, Thomas HartIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Commager, Henry SteeleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guthrie Jr., A. B.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langellier, John P.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Remington, FredericIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyeth, N. C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The comrade of summer and
the friend of a lifetime
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Last spring, 1846, was a busy season in the city of St. Louis.
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Book description
Per Library of Congress catalog on 02.20.2012:
Presents accounts of a young man’s travels on the Oregon Trail and his sojourn with the Oglala Indians.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486424804, Paperback)

Keen observations and a graphic style characterize the author's remarkable record of a vanishing frontier. Detailed accounts of the hardships experienced while traveling across mountains and prairies; vibrant portraits of emigrants and Western wildlife; and vivid descriptions of Indian life and culture. A classic of American frontier literature.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:49 -0400)

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Provides an account of the author's 1846 expedition into the American West.

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