Seeking Pleasure in the Old West

Overview

"Pioneering Americans of the nineteenth century did not merely rush for gold, lust for land, and thrust aside the West's original inhabitants. These mountain men, cowboys, homesteaders, and cavalry troopers played nearly as hard as they worked, exploiting to the hilt what little leisure they could steal from their labors. Nor did they only carouse-drink, gamble, and womanize-as the West's fiction might suggest. They were spectators at bull and bear fights in California; actors in amateur theatricals in Army garrisons; and participants in communal ...

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Overview

"Pioneering Americans of the nineteenth century did not merely rush for gold, lust for land, and thrust aside the West's original inhabitants. These mountain men, cowboys, homesteaders, and cavalry troopers played nearly as hard as they worked, exploiting to the hilt what little leisure they could steal from their labors. Nor did they only carouse-drink, gamble, and womanize-as the West's fiction might suggest. They were spectators at bull and bear fights in California; actors in amateur theatricals in Army garrisons; and participants in communal barn raisings and quilting bees on the prairie. This is a delightful look at a very neglected aspect of the story of westering Americans."-Richard H. Dillon, author of Meriwether Lewis, Fool's Gold, and The Legend of Grizzly Adams. "The men on Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition square-danced to fiddle music. Cowboys' leisure pursuits included singing, storytelling, dominoes, reading, and foot races. U.S. Army soldiers played the newfangled game of baseball and even enjoyed debating and attending concerts. Dary's irresistible narrative recreates card games on Mississippi steamboats, New Orleans balls, frontier campfires and cafe-theatres, Santa Fe saloons, and Wyoming bicycle clubs and mineral spas, and it charts the emergence of a middle class that came to disapprove of prostitution, gambling, drinking, bear-baiting, and buffalo-hunting. An engaging chronicle."-Publishers Weekly. "As David Dary proves in this pleasurable book, the Old West was not all trouble and toil. Much is to be learned here-from mountain men and Indians to cowboys and homesteaders-about how to have fun, no matter the circumstances."-Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. "This lively and good-humored narrative takes the reader on a journey to a time before pleasure ruled lives, a time when fun was where you found it and was what you did when you had time."-Dallas Morning News. "This delightful volume describes activities ranging from the simple and the homespun to the bawdy and elaborate."-Booklist. "A treasury of the colorful characters who spent their brief hour on that wild and woolly stage."-Kansas City Star.

An immensely readable, fact-filled, and entertaining look at the ways our forebears amused themselves in the Old West. Portrayed in rich detail are the coming of radio in the 1900s, Indian foot races, mountain men at rendezvous, cowboy songs, spelling bees, church socials, and more. 100 photos & illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
This delightful volume describes activities ranging from the simple and the homespun to the bawdy and elaborate.
Kansas City Star
A treasury of the colorful characters who spent their brief hour on that wild and woolly stage.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Shedding Puritan prejudices, people of the American West learned to enjoy themselves between approximately 1800 and the early 20th century. The men on Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition square-danced to fiddle music. Cowboys did more than drink, gamble and chase women; their leisure pursuits included singing, storytelling, dominoes, reading, footraces and, among wealthy ranchers, collecting fine paintings. U.S. Army soldiers played the newfangled game of baseball and even enjoyed debating and attending concerts. Drawing on diaries, recollections and early newspapers, Dary's (Cowboy Culture) irresistible narrative, marvelously illustrated with 110 old photographs and engravings, recreates Cheyenne ceremonial dances, card games on Mississippi steamboats, New Orleans balls, frontier campfires and cafe-theaters, Santa Fe saloons, Wyoming bicycle clubs and mineral spas as he charts the emergence of a middle class that came to disapprove of prostitution, gambling, drinking, bear-baiting and buffalo-hunting. Much more than a catalogue of diversions, his engaging chronicle offers a stirring and enlarging vision of American culture and character. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Dary (journalism, Univ. of Oklahoma) is the author of a number of popular Western histories, notably Cowboy Culture (Avon, 1981). Here, he examines a unique aspect of Western social history. Pleasure seeking includes both legitimate and illegitimate pastimes ranging from chautauquas to bawdy sport. Dary develops the notion that entertainment changed as the Western settlement moved from immigrant campfires to the sophisticated Windsor Hotel in Denver. Interestingly, as the West developed, a popular pastime became tours for those seeking the Wild West legend. At the same time residents sought activities to reflect their good taste and refinement. Dary makes extensive use of primary sources to capture the essence of Western pleasure seeking. Although this work is not terribly analytical, it is a fascinating account of a heretofore unexplored aspect of the American West. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Daniel D. Liestman, Seattle Pacific Univ. Lib., Kent, Wash.
School Library Journal
YAWith all of the stereotypical portrayals of cowboys, gun fights, and bawdy houses, it is gratifying indeed to learn that ordinary hardworking people in the West entertained themselves in many interesting and creative ways. Dary uses diaries, recollections, period newspapers and wonderful photographs and engravings to characterize American culture from 1800 to the early 20th century. With the advent of the transcontinental railroad, telegraph, and mail, towns and cities sprang up. Civilized institutions such as churches and schools grew, bringing people who disapproved of gambling, prostitution, drinking, and other "pleasures" in the early days. YAs will find this book fascinating reading as well as a resource for the study of social history during this period.Carol P. Clark, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700608287
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 364
  • Product dimensions: 6.18 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface

1. Early Explorers and Travelers

2. Among the Mountain Men

3. Among the Indians

4. Along the Rivers

5. With the Emigrants

6. Among the Soldiers

7. In Cow Country

8. On the Homestead

9. In the Prairie Towns

10. In the Mining Regions

11. Along the Rails

12. Western Pleasure Palaces

13. In the Desert Southwest

14. In the Pacific Northwest

Afterword

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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