Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Minor errors are strikingly few, and there is no point in dwelling on
them. The sole major deficiency, it would seem, is the omission of a sum-
marizing chapter preferably placed at the end of the book. The author's
response to such a criticism might be that he summarizes as he goes along.
Still I do think that an overall interpretation at the end, similar to Roy F.
Nichol's final chapter in the 1958 edition of Franklin Pierce, would have
been enthusiastically welcomed by more than one of Johannsen's fellow
University of Kentucky HOLMAN HAMILTON
Americans and the California Dream, I850-19r5. By Kevin Starr. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Pp. xviii+494. Illustrations,
notes, additional sources, index. $12.50.)
Since Gold Rush days, California has been the subject and object of more
American expectations than any other state. Her qualities seemed uniquely
suited to working out the American experiment. Hers was a new society,
fluid and abounding with opportunities but rooted in the stabilizing older
culture of the Mediterranean. The state seemed overflowing with riches,
yet boasted an unparalleled natural setting that would temper men's indi-
These expectations and resources in turn made life in the Golden State
ambivalent from the start of the American period. Americans sometimes
wished to profit from the lessons in the Mediterranean past; more often
they behaved as if Latin culture was inferior or merely quaint. They wavered
between trying to develop a special relationship to nature and mere ex-
ploitation. They tried to let the sun shine on restrictive puritanism but often
merely created a purposeless hedonism. Some qualities of the area's life were
almost unique. Californians in general, and San Franciscans in particular,
developed a public style of life somewhat outside the reigning American
ethic, resting on fine restaurants, special social clubs, elegant parks, and gen-
eral use of the outdoors. They sought to combine old and new, to relax
without losing productive tension, to live well with purpose.
These ideas worked well in some sectors of life but produced many ironies.
The need for elegance and style too often resulted in empty eclecticism. Tol-
erance of eccentricity, which seemed a mark of cosmopolitanism, often ended
up as mere bohemianism, organized and advertised through special clubs,
magazine features, and widely reported hi-jinks. The desire to widen the
scope of individualism beyond money-making created mere exoticism or fak-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed March 17, 2014.