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

Book Reviews

The Papers of Frederzck Law Olmsted. Charles Capen McLaughlin, Editor in
Chief; Charles E. Beveridge, Series Editor. Volume V: The Californza Fron-
tier, 1863-1865. Victoria Post Ranney, Editor; Gerald J. Rauluk, Associate
Editor; Carolyn F. Hoffman, Assistant Editor. (Baltimore: The Johns Hop-
kins University Press, 1990. Pp. xxi + 820. Acknowledgments, introduc-
tion, editorial policy, biographical directory, photographs, maps, appen-
dices I & II, index of plant materials, general index. $48.50.)
This is the fifth in a twelve-volume series of the edited Papers of Frederick Law
Olmsted. The volumes already published follow a format that neatly reflects his
miscellaneous activities through i865. The next five volumes, also to be ar-
ranged chronologically, promise a career biography of the man, his firm, and
the profession of landscape architecture that Olmsted so influenced between
1865 and his retirement in 1895. The final two volumes will break with the
accepted practices of collected papers and turn from words to works-the true
language of landscape design: a vocabulary of drawings, maps, photographs,
plans, and reports. This innovative editorial policy, by avoiding efforts to force
this miscellany of material into any set scholarly mode, proffers an accurate
portrait of the man, his life and career, and his America.
The volume under review and its predecessor document the transition years
in Olmsted's public life. During the American Civil War, he divided his time
between two new career directions. Early in the war, between 1861 and 1863,
Olmsted administered the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a voluntary organization
charged with overseeing the health and morale of citizen-soldiers; this period
is the subject of Volume IV. Later, between 1863 and 1865, he managed the
Mariposa Estate, a 4o,ooo-acre tract in the Sierra Nevada that encompassed
seven gold mines, four mills for crushing ore, two company stores, one rail-
road, and a tenant population of 7,000. His correspondence, his landscape
design reports for three Bay Area projects and the Yosemite reservation, as
well as a text constructed by the editors from Olmsted's miscellaneous notes
and drafts for a major book, to which they have given the title "The Pioneer
Condition and the Drift of Civilization in America," comprise Volume V.
"The Pioneer Condition," the major focus of this review, is the capstone of
Olmsted's long-term explorations of the American frontier. They began in the
early 1850s with his travels in the Slave South, about which he wrote some
seventy articles (many of them in Papers II) and three books-A Journey in the
Seaboard Salve States (1856), A Journey Through Texas (1857), and Journey in the
Back Country (186o)-as well as a summary volume that synthesized all three,
The Cotton Kingdom (1861). His travels resumed with his trip to the Midwest in
spring 1863, concerning which he prepared a previously unpublished "Jour-
ney in the West" covering his visits to Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago,
and other points west (Papers IV, pp. 523-602). And they concluded in frontier
California, where Olmsted wrote most of "The Pioneer Condition."
"My own opportunities of observation have been unusually extended," Olm-
sted rightly claimed. "None of the travellers whose narratives and opinions
have been given to the public have had nearly as good," he confidently boasted.

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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 February 1, 2015.