The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews
NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
An Amercan Vzsion: Far Western Landscape and National Culture, 1820-1920.
By Anne Farrar Hyde. (New York: New York University Press, 1990.
Pp. xiv+346. Acknowledgments, introduction, illustrations, epilogue,
notes, appendices, index. $29.95.)
This is one of the more important books recently published in what might be
called "western" history. Its focus is on the West, but it is really about American
culture as a whole. Toward the end of the book, Hyde writes that the West
represented all that seemed indigenous, vigorous, and characteristic to Ameri-
cans. It offered a history that provided a kind of cultural grounding. Ameri-
cans could look to the West and find splendid ancient history as well as evidence
of more recent glories. It contained wilderness, the testing ground that many
Americans believed was vital to their national development. More importantly,
it offered a landscape whose forms and colors had given Americans distinctive
language, artistic styles, and architecture, which were crucial to the develop-
ment of a national culture. (p. 301)
To illustrate this point and to show how views of the West changed from
1820 to 1920, thus reaching the state described above, Hyde covers an enor-
mous range of views of the West from those of explorers to those of tourists,
newspapermen, railroad guidebooks, and resort designers. She makes the im-
portant point that the West always seemed to be a "destination," especially for
tourists. Readers will recognize, of course, that the ubiquitous Earl Pomeroy
had said this some years ago in his In Search of the Golden West, but Hyde carries
the story forward with much greater subtlety and detail.
Her book, however, gets off to a rough start when she deals with explorers of
the West. Her chapter on this subject seems forced and is full of errors. For
example, contrary to Hyde's assertion, the U.S. government did not publish
Maj. Stephen Long's report, which was actually written by Edwin James. This
suggests that in the 182os the government of strict constructionists was not in-
terested in promoting westward expansion-especially insofar as it drained
cheap labor away from infant New England and Middle Atlantic manufactur-
ing industries. Hyde also declares that Captain Bonneville did nothing to set up
trade routes. All Bonneville did was to send Joseph R. Walker across the West
to trace out the emigrant tract to California, which soon became a trade route
as well. George Catlin traveled west in 1830 not 1832. The latter was simply the
year he first went up the Missouri River, and he certainly illustrated for mass
consumption a West that no one had seen before. Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives, in

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed October 23, 2014.