The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

years. The first primitive steamboats appeared on the Brazos in the early
183os and the most elegant of them all, the Hiawatha, capable of load-
ing i,5oo bales of cotton and boasting a seventeen piece string orchestra,
foundered and sunk off Columbia in 89 I. During that span of time more
than one hundred boats of various types and grades plied the river from
source to mouth.
Unfortunately, however, the Brazos, like all Texas rivers, could not ac-
commodate steamboats on a regular basis. Though attempts were made
to navigate the river as far north as Waco, any trip beyond Washington-
on-the-Brazos was hazardous in the extreme. Along the lower reaches of
the river navigation was somewhat more feasible, though the sandbar at
Velasco was a constant threat to life and property. Generally, during those
steamboat years the price for transporting cotton down-river was attractive,
but the authors correctly contend that few companies prospered. Financed
in shaky fashion and subject to capricious and unpredictable storms below-
ing off the Texas coast, steamboating on the Brazos seldom proved profit-
able. The advent of the railroad doomed the riverboats, and following Fort
Sumter many were purchased by the Confederacy and used as transports
for troops and supplies or as "cotton-clads" against the Union blockade.
Efforts to revive the river trade during the Reconstruction era and beyond
came to naught, again principally due to railroad competition.
Pamela A. Puryear and Nath Winfield have written an interesting book
and covered their subject well. They have mined the sources available and
where possible have included anecdotes and character sketches of some
of the colorful personalities involved in the Brazos trade. This is the
kind of a work that will appeal to both specialists and aficionados of
Texas history and the Texas A&M Press is to be congratulated on the pro-
duction of a handsome book.
University of Houston STANLEY E. SIEGEL
Oil Power. By Carl Solberg. (New York: Mason/Charter, 1976. Pp.
xi + 3o. Notes, bibliography, index. $12.50).
Carl Solberg, former senior editor of Time, Inc., and now a visiting
scholar in the department of history at Columbia University, views oil's
dominant role as a mover of our society during most of the twentieth
century, with the King Oil that succeeded King Cotton now in crisis and
facing decline. In an always readable style that is the vehicle for a great
many facts and insights, Solberg traces the power of oil upon our society,
its politics and economics, from the early days of Rockefeller the founder to

348

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/. Accessed April 20, 2014.