The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

the work's most important features. Still, this history is a significant
contribution, and though more costly than most county histories, it
should be placed in every public library in the state.
Sul Ross State University EARL H. ELAM
Populism in the Mountain West. By Robert W. Larson. (Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1986. Pp. x+2 io. Acknowledg-
ments, maps, illustrations, notes, bibliographical essay, index.
$27.50.)
Noting that historians of Populism have focused on the wheat and
cotton belts, Robert W. Larson attempts to correct their neglect of the
mountain states of the West. Observing that historians have agreed that
Populism in the mountains was based only on the single issue of silver
coinage, Larson seeks to demonstrate instead that Populism in the
mountain West responded to a variety of grievances and sought a vari-
ety of reforms.
In this brief survey of Populism in the states of Colorado, Wyoming,
and Montana, and the territory of New Mexico, Larson achieves these
modest goals. His concentration on disproving the single-issue image
of mountain Populism, however, has kept him from addressing other
questions about the Populists. While he shows that Populists in this re-
gion raised many issues, he has not dispelled the conclusion that Popu-
list electoral success here was based predominantly on the party's posi-
tion on silver. Although he brings together in one place an account of
Populism in the mountains, his version largely summarizes the studies
of James E. Wright, David B. Griffiths, and Thomas A. Clinch, as well
as his own previous work. Larson has not effectively merged these sep-
arate histories into a unified interpretation.
The common theme that Larson finds in Populist issues in this re-
gion is one of antimonopoly: an opposition to the absentee ownership
and alleged monopoly power of mines, railroads, water companies, and
large cattlemen. Populists in the mountains were miners and urban la-
borers as well as farmers, he claims, and he credits them with the ad-
vocacy of labor reforms. Larson deals with Populist complaints, how-
ever, only at the level of rhetoric and does not concern himself with
examining their legitimacy or expediency. At times, the text becomes
merely a recitation of party platform planks.
In general, Larson argues that Populism in the mountain states was
not fundamentally different from Populism elsewhere, but was part of
the Populist "mainstream." Silver coinage did become the mountain
Populists' major issue by 1896, Larson admits, because it became the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed September 20, 2014.