A Shovel of Stars: The Settling of the North American Continent 1850-1994

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Region by region, through the eyes of the great class of the overlooked, Ted Morgan transforms the bloodless way we have been taught history into gritty human drama. Explorers and fur traders moving beyond the frontier into the Louisiana Purchase territory; Seminoles and runaway slaves in an unlikely coalition to battle the U.S. Army in Florida; mountaineers fighting the British for trapping rights; fortune seekers on the mad California gold rush; Chinese immigrants filling the need for manual labor; men digging ...
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Overview

Region by region, through the eyes of the great class of the overlooked, Ted Morgan transforms the bloodless way we have been taught history into gritty human drama. Explorers and fur traders moving beyond the frontier into the Louisiana Purchase territory; Seminoles and runaway slaves in an unlikely coalition to battle the U.S. Army in Florida; mountaineers fighting the British for trapping rights; fortune seekers on the mad California gold rush; Chinese immigrants filling the need for manual labor; men digging mines in the Rockies and laying tracks and telegraph wires across the prairie; prostitutes and outlaws converging on the silver-mine towns of Nevada; cowboys and rustlers driving cattle; the forced removal of the Indians to reservations in Oklahoma; and homesteaders and their sled dogs making their way across Alaska. In A Shovel of Stars, Morgan has captured all the rugged everydayness - the humanity, passion, violence, and unsung heroism - that is the real-life making of America.

Region by region, through the eyes of the great class of the overlooked, Morgan delivers a stunning new account of the forging of the American West, from the first forays into the Louisiana Purchase to the lonely homesteaders in the far reaches of the last continental state, Alaska. Illustrations. Maps.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In this sequel to Wilderness at Dawn, which chronicled the settling of the U.S. and the making of the first 13 states, Morgan continues his history from below, offering engaging sketches and anecdotes about ordinary folk in the remaining 37 states. Warning: the subtitle misleads; in each chapter, Morgan concludes with the establishment of a state; thus only the Alaska chapter touches on the present. Moreover, no chapter is close to comprehensive, nor does the book engage in any debates about our history. Given that, this is a good complement to conventional histories and a fine book for browsing: The characters are pioneers of pluck and, sometimes, ugliness; the disenfranchised, often Native Americans but also blacks, are both opponents and sometimes pioneers themselves. There are scenes of trading parties, seat-of-the-pants justice, medicine shows and mixing between such ostensibly disparate groups as Mormons and Navajos. And there are innovators, who proposed Manifest Destiny, brought postal service to the California gold mines, invented the refrigerated rail car and figured out how to can Hawaiian pineapple.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this sequel to Wilderness at Dawn, which chronicled the settling of the U.S. and the making of the first 13 states, Morgan continues his history from below, offering engaging sketches and anecdotes about ordinary folk in the remaining 37 states. Warning: the subtitle misleads; in each chapter, Morgan concludes with the establishment of a state; thus only the Alaska chapter touches on the present. Moreover, no chapter is close to comprehensive, nor does the book engage in any debates about our history. Given that, this is a good complement to conventional histories and a fine book for browsing: The characters are pioneers of pluck and, sometimes, ugliness; the disenfranchised, often Native Americans but also blacks, are both opponents and sometimes pioneers themselves. There are scenes of trading parties, seat-of-the-pants justice, medicine shows and mixing between such ostensibly disparate groups as Mormons and Navajos. And there are innovators, who proposed Manifest Destiny, brought postal service to the California gold mines, invented the refrigerated rail car and figured out how to can Hawaiian pineapple. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The subtitle for this continuation of the story Morgan began in Wilderness at Dawn (LJ 4/15/93) could be "How the States Were Made," for that is Morgan's focus as he looks at the settlement of each state during its territorial period from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. Drawing his information primarily from the collections published by the various state historical societies, Morgan tells the story of each state in the approximate order of admission, using a series of anecdotes about the ordinary people who did the actual settling. This approach gives the reader a good sense of what life was actually like on the frontier and at the same time allows Morgan to relate statehood movements to national events and conditions. In contrast to the first volume, the episodic nature of this volume actually enhances Morgan's story and helps give cohesion to his account. This work will be most useful to general readers and undergraduates seeking to supplement their texts.-Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
Gilbert Taylor
The accolades for Morgan's engaging rendition of the frontier epic, "Wilderness at Dawn" (1993), heightened anticipation for this sequel, and the high expectations are fully vindicated. Along with the textbook events, from Lewis and Clark's discoveries to the massacre at Wounded Knee, Morgan recounts the lives of average, unheralded people who are characteristic of the various frontiers. Florida, for example, was impenetrable to white settlement as long as the Seminoles resisted and offered haven to escaped slaves; Morgan shows the dynamic of the ensuing war (1835-42) through the doings of Abraham, an escaped house slave who helped lead the Seminoles. Another amazing black man, on the Illinois frontier, was the enterprising figure of "Free Frank," as his name appeared in the 1820 census. He made enough money to buy his own freedom and that of several relatives and established his own town (now vanished) on the prairie. Such figures abound in Morgan's captivating narrative, organized around each state's (after the original 13) rambunctious territorial years. Winding up with the admission to the Union of Alaska, this grandly inspired work--a completely satisfying read--embraces the texture and the drama of the West in all its heartbreak and heroism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671794392
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 560

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