Cover image for The forgotten founders : rethinking the history of the Old West
The forgotten founders : rethinking the history of the Old West
Udall, Stewart L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, DC : Island Press ; [Covelo, Calif.] : Shearwater Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxvii, 237 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Native peoples : the first forgotten founders -- European settlers : human faces, far-flung places -- Explorers and fur trappers -- The religion factor in western settlement -- The Manifest Destiny morass -- California gold fever : fact and fancy -- Bootstrap capitalism in the Old West -- The Wild West and the wrenching of the American chronicle -- The Wild West and the settlers : contrasting visions.
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Material Type
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F591 .U45 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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For most Americans, the Wild West popularized in movies and pulp novels - a land of intrepid traders and explorers, warlike natives, and trigger-happy gunslingers - has become the true history of the region. The story of the West's development is a singular chapter of history, but not, according to former Secretary of the Interior and native westerner Stewart L. Udall, for the reasons filmmakers and novelists would have us believe. In The Forgotten Founders, Udall draws on extensive research and his vast knowledge of and experience in the American West to make a compelling case that the key players in western settlement were the sturdy families who travelled great distances across forbidding terrain to establish communities there. He offers an illuminating and wide-ranging overview of western history and those who have written about it, challenging conventional wisdom on subjects ranging from Manifest Destiny to the importance of Eastern capitalists to the role of religion in westward settlement. Udall argues that the overblown and ahistorical emphasis on a wild west has warped our sense of the past. For the mythical Wild West, Udall substitutes a compelling description of an O

Author Notes

Stewart L. Udall was elected to four terms as congressman from Arizona before being appointed by President John F. Kennedy to be secretary of the interior, a position he held for eight years during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This collection of spirited essays is, says its distinguished author, his "final" book. But since serious works of thought like this rarely issue from the pens of former cabinet members, we should hope not. Udall, who served as Interior Secretary under presidents Kennedy and Johnson and before that as a congressman, is no typical politician, having written many serious books, among them the celebrated Quiet Crisis (1963). This one takes on what Udall considers the harmful myths about western U.S. history, myths that put the wrong people (fur traders and gold miners) and the wrong subjects ("Manifest Destiny" and armed violence) at the center of the history of the Old West. With a lively and sometimes personal take, he wants us to replace old folk tales with "reality"-with the known stories of a greater diversity of men and women, natives and newcomers, who gave the West its distinctive character. Udall is particularly compelling when writing of his own and his wife's great-grandparents, among whom was the Mormon who led the infamous Mountain Meadow Massacre of 1857. Unfortunately, this only tends to replace one set of "heroes" with another, "the forgotten founders" who take center stage here only as strong, religious, fearless, hard-working folk without shortcomings. The trappers, miners and politicians who did in fact play a role in the West are elbowed almost totally out of the picture. Nevertheless, Udall's version of the West's past fits well with recent scholarly views, and many who read this book because of its author's renown will gain solid knowledge and much pleasure. Maps, photos. (Oct. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Westerner, historian, and former Secretary of the Interior Udall has written his ninth and perhaps most insightful book. Udall approaches both the West and the past as a westerner--an insider born of the pioneers who settled the region, were shaped by its environment, and came to call it home. He denies the West of the mythmakers who would rather have the West conquered and destroyed, and its inhabitants, human and otherwise, prone to violence. Udall also strays from the conventional by considering the religious motivations of many of those who moved west in search of opportunities denied them. By considering those spiritual motives, he elevates the beliefs and their practitioners above the baser political and economic motives more commonly discussed in contemporary considerations of the West. Regardless of one's personal, political, or mythical view of the West, Udall's passion for and understanding of the place is vital to a more complete view of the region's complexity and its place in the nation's past. That he comes to these conclusions by looking at the humanness of the settlers is all the more interesting. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All public and academic libraries. L. Graves South Plains College

Table of Contents

ForewordDavid M. Emmons
Introduction: How the West's Settlers Were Ousted from Their Olympian Ledge
Part I Beginnings
Chapter 1 Native Peoples: The First Forgotten Founders
Chapter 2 European Settlers: Human Faces, Far-Flung Places
Part II Settlement in the Old West: Correcting the Record
Chapter 3 Explorers and Fur Trappers
Chapter 4 The Religion Factor in Western Settlement
Chapter 5 The Manifest Destiny Morass
Chapter 6 California Gold Fever: Fact and Fancy
Chapter 7 Bootstrap Capitalism in the Old West
Part III Violence in the Old West: Correcting the Record
Chapter 8 The Wild West and the Wrenching of the American Chronicle
Chapter 9 The Wild West and the Settlers: Contrasting Visions
Notes and Suggested Readings