The Mississippi in 1953: A Photographic Journey from the Headwaters to the Delta

Overview

The Mississippi River flows through American history and culture as a mythic waterway brimming with tragedy and hope, and awash in passionate ambitions and harsh realities. In 1953, a young Charles Dee Sharp traveled twice down the Mississippi (first by towboat and then by car along the renowned river road Highway 61) to make a documentary film of it, taking black-and-white photographs of the river, its communities, and its people.

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Overview

The Mississippi River flows through American history and culture as a mythic waterway brimming with tragedy and hope, and awash in passionate ambitions and harsh realities. In 1953, a young Charles Dee Sharp traveled twice down the Mississippi (first by towboat and then by car along the renowned river road Highway 61) to make a documentary film of it, taking black-and-white photographs of the river, its communities, and its people.

While Sharp's documentary never came to fruition, the striking images he captured survived as moving and evocative historical testaments to a lost era, now collected in his new book The Mississippi in 1953. These images create a vivid portrait of America's heartland a half century ago, and they are enriched with excerpts from Sharp's original trip journal, intriguing anecdotes from the people he encountered along his journey, and an engaging environmental history of the river by historian John O. Anfinson. The Mississippi in 1953 offers an original and poignant look at the living artery of the American landscape and how it molded the United States into the nation it is today.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
In 1953, a young documentary filmmaker named Charles Dee Sharp traveled down the Mississippi River, shooting still photographs for a film he never made. One of Sharp's pictures . . . is a color shot of rows of new red cornpickers awaiting shipment in Moline, Illinois. . . . Those old pickers — so bright and new in 1953 — are a visual reminder of the vital, complex connection between America's agricultural heartland and the Mississippi River.

— Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Commercial-Appeal
Memphis figures briefly in The Mississippi River in 1953. . . . Among the many evocative photographs are images of Front Street's Cotton Row, Main Street, Beale Street and Handy Park.

— Fredric Koeppel

Star-Tribune
Charles Dee Sharp's The Mississippi in 1953 is a special treat. . . . The photographic record of his journey and the thoughts he entered in a journal connect us to an era that seems more than half a century ago.

— Robert Armstrong

The Photo Review

"While Sharp''s documentary was never realized, the striking images and insightful writings he made have survived in this book as a moving and evocative testament to a lost era."—Photo Review

Photo Review
"While Sharp's documentary was never realized, the striking images and insightful writings he made have survived in this book as a moving and evocative testament to a lost era."
New York Times - Verlyn Klinkenborg
"In 1953, a young documentary filmmaker named Charles Dee Sharp traveled down the Mississippi River, shooting still photographs for a film he never made. One of Sharp's pictures . . . is a color shot of rows of new red cornpickers awaiting shipment in Moline, Illinois. . . . Those old pickers — so bright and new in 1953 — are a visual reminder of the vital, complex connection between America's agricultural heartland and the Mississippi River."
The Commercial-Appeal - Fredric Koeppel
"Memphis figures briefly in The Mississippi River in 1953. . . . Among the many evocative photographs are images of Front Street's Cotton Row, Main Street, Beale Street and Handy Park."
Star-Tribune - Robert Armstrong
"Charles Dee Sharp's The Mississippi in 1953 is a special treat. . . . The photographic record of his journey and the thoughts he entered in a journal connect us to an era that seems more than half a century ago."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781930066274
  • Publisher: Columbia College Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2004
  • Series: Center Books on American Places
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Dee Sharp, shortly after his Mississippi River odysseys, became an assignment editor for the Midwest bureau of CBS News.  He later started his own documentary film company, producing films in the Soviet Union, Middle East, and South America.  For fifteen years, he was an associate professor of cinema at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, before retiring.  He is the author of The Wonder of American Toys, 1920-1950.

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Table of Contents

PREFACE

THE JOURNEY

The River Beckoned

by Charles Dee Sharp

CONCLUSION

by  John O. Anfinson

APPENDIX

The River’s Geology

by John O. Anfinson

NOTES ON THE PHOTOGRAPHS

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

ACKNOWLEDGEMETNS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND THE ESSAYIST

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