The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

Book Reviews

one of our better writers, while those who like what they see in Rem-
ington's paintings will not rest easily with the thought that the per-
sonalities and terrain are secondary to the artist's feelings. But both
books add to the accumulating serious literature on artists of the
American West and are, therefore, welcome.
Amon Carter Museum of Western Art RoN TYLER
Saloons of the Old West. By Richard Erdoes. (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1979. Pp. 278. Illustrations, bibliography, index. $13.95.)
"Saloons were always so damnably convenient," alcoholic-turned-
prohibitionist Jack London wrote in his later years. "They were every-
where in my western country." He was saying nothing new to the
millions of Americans who have been fascinated by the popular
media's version of the old West. Most of us could no more imagine a
western town without a saloon than we could picture a cowboy with-
out boots and a Stetson.
In this handsome book, Richard Erdoes has tried to describe the
history and many activities of frontier saloons from colonial days until
the opening of the present century. Some 16o photographs and line
engravings, as well as drawings by the author, illustrate chapters on
various aspects of saloon life-drinking habits, the composition of the
"wet goods," violence, women, preaching, bartenders, gambling, and
entertainments. Erdoes writes with an engaging and entertaining style.
There are plenty of smiles and several good belly laughs between the
covers.
But Saloons of the Old West also contains serious problems. Many
statements are inaccurate or simply wrong. On page 4 the reader
learns that in 1930 "half of the continental United States had been
bone dry since the 188os, turned into a hardshell-Baptist schoolmarm's
desert." Erdoes gives us a nice turn of phrase, but unfortunately in
1890 only Maine, Kansas, and North Dakota had state prohibition
laws. Too many of the following 247 pages contain similar misstate-
ments, such as the reference to the "Comstock gold mines" (p. 64).
Other "facts" should defy the common sense of the most casual stu-
dent of Western history. "The men of Cheyenne, Wyoming," Erdoes
reveals "had a greater capacity for the hard stuff than any other known
humans" (p. 72), and in the next paragraph on the West in general,
"Everybody drank" (p. 72). Finally, some passages are perilously simi-
lar to the writings of others, who are given no credit in the notes. How

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed November 27, 2014.