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The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman

The Oregon Trail (1849)

by Francis Parkman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Owner's name on Inside Cover.
  iwb | Feb 16, 2017 |
This narrative describes 23-year-old Parkman's travels west in with fellow Boston Brahmin Quincy Adams Shaw. Together they travel with settlers adventurers through the future states of of Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas (the title is a misnomer as they never go to Oregon), and spend three weeks hunting buffalo with the Ogala Sioux. It's a well-written narrative that captures the flora and fauna of the prairies, the lives of settlers, soldiers, and Native Americans, and the uncertainty of so much change happening in the region at one time.
Unfortunately, the huge problem is that Parkman is deeply prejudice against the native peoples, which yes is a characteristic of the time, but there were more sympathetic contemporary white American writers of the time as well. Parkman also is dismissive of a number of white settlers he encounters. I kind of imagine that Parkman and Shaw were like Charles Emerson Winchester haughtily looking down on those around them. So, yes, this is a terrific descriptive narrative, but there are a lot of aspects that will be hard to stomach for modern readers. ( )
  Othemts | Apr 19, 2016 |
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.) ( )
2 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 |
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Parkman, Francisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benton, Thomas HartIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Commager, Henry SteeleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guthrie Jr., A. B.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langellier, John P.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pendrey, Peterlino-cutssecondary 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:57 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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

» see all 10 descriptions

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Skyhorse Publishing

An edition of this book was published by Skyhorse Publishing.

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