The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Book Reviews

racism did not constitute the central thrust of his movement. Instead, Davis ap-
pealed to the white people of the Arkansas countryside who resented the grow-
ing power of the merchant-planter class in small towns as well as the influence
of northern capitalists in the South. Although Davis clung to a largely negative
view of government, he opened the door to Progressivism by encouraging the
concept of governmental regulation of corporations and by working for a more
humane penal system. The division of Arkansas politics along a town-country
axis, combined with Jeff Davis's forceful personality, contributed a bifurcation
within the democracy that gave the appearance of a two-party system. But that
lasted only a short time. With Davis's election to the United States Senate in
1907 and his death in 1913, his movement quickly lost strength. Between 19o9
and 1920 the Arkansas Democratic party embraced a new manifestation of
Progressivism. Under the administrations of George W. Donaghey and Charles
H. Brough, the emphasis in state government shifted to orderliness, efficiency,
scientific planning, and increased governmental reliance on business methods.
Richard L. Niswonger carefully traces the major trends in Arkansas politics
and examines in detail the factionalism within the Democratic party. He also
devotes a chapter to the Republican party. In addition to making extensive use
of manuscript collections and newspapers of that era, Niswonger demonstrates
a command of the secondary literature that enables him to place the Arkansas
story in the broader context of regional developments in the South. In the
main he agrees with the analysis that Raymond Arsenault developed in his
1984 study of Jeff Davis. But Niswonger covers a broader era, and his book
contributes to a clearer understanding of Arkansas politics at the close of the
nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century.
University of Georgia WILLIAM F. HOLMES
Western Rivermen, 1763-I 86i: Ohio and Mississippi Boatmen and the Myth of the
Alligator Horse. By Michael Allen. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univer-
sity Press, 1990. Pp. xiii+261. Acknowledgments, preface, map illustra-
tions, epilogue, appendix, glossary, bibliographical essay, index. $25.)
This book is a social history of the antebellum westerners whose jobs were on
rafts, flatboats, and keelboats. Although steamboatmen are not considered,
Michael Allen carefully documents the influence that steam transportation had
on the non-steam boatmen of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Relying on more
than eighty firsthand accounts by men who worked on these boats, Allen sup-
plements and corrects views of this occupational group held by people on the
shore and recorded by them in documents ranging from travel accounts to
wharf and customs lists to government and Spanish colonial records.
Allen frames his reconstruction of the lives of real western rivermen by suc-
cinctly and accurately surveying the romantic depictions of them in the folklore
and popular culture of the Jacksonian era. Americans heard the boatmen's tra-
ditional boast of being "half horse, half alligator" and responded by making
them folk heroes. The narratives of Mike Fink-who after his death in 1823

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed July 28, 2015.