Light on the Prairie: Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska's Pioneer Days

Light on the Prairie: Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska's Pioneer Days

by Nancy Plain


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Once President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted 160 acres of free land to anyone with the grit to farm it for five years, the rush to the Great Plains was on. Solomon D. Butcher was there to document it, amassing more than three thousand photographs and compiling the most complete record of the sod house era ever made.

Butcher (1856–1927) staked his claim on the plains in 1880. He didn’t like farming, but he found another way to thrive. He had learned the art of photography as a teenager, and he began taking pictures of his friends and neighbors. Butcher noticed how fast the vast land was “settling up,” so he formed the plan that would become his life’s work—to record the frontier days in words and images.

Alongside sixty-two of Butcher’s iconic photographs, Light on the Prairie conveys the irrepressible spirit of a man whose passion would give us a firsthand look at the men and women who settled the Great Plains. Like his subjects, Butcher was a pioneer, even though he held a camera more often than a plow.

Watch an interview with the author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803235205
Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 527,076
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Nancy Plain is the author of nine children’s books, including With One Sky Above Us: The Story of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians, winner of the 2010 Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction, and Sagebrush and Paintbrush: The Story of Charlie Russell, the Cowboy Artist, winner of the 2008 Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction. Her books have also won the Carter G. Woodson Honor award and First Place in Children’s Nonfiction from the National Federation of Press Women.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

A Note on Terminology xi

Introduction: A Tenderfoot Goes West 1

The Great American Desert 9

Solomon Butcher, Sodbuster 19

"Eureka!" 32

Attack of the Grasshoppers 47

Desperadoes 60

Years of Trial, Years of Change 72

Pioneer History of Custer County 84

Sweet Nebraska Land 95

Where to Find Solomon Butcher's Photographs 103

Notes 105

Bibliography 111

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Light on the Prairie: Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska's Pioneer Days 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
CSimar More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and couldn't put it down until I had read every word. The antique photos taken by Solomon Butcher so long ago become alive again with Nancy Plain's lively narrative. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Midwest history.
BillMarkley More than 1 year ago
Light on the Prairie, Solomon D. Butcher. Photographer of Nebraska’s Pioneer Days by Nancy Plain. This is an excellent book for young adults who want to learn about what it was like to homestead on the prairie. It is also a good overview for adults to get a grasp of homesteading in Nebraska. Nancy Plain chronicles the life of Solomon Butcher who traveled the plains capturing on film the life and times of Nebraska pioneer farmers. In doing so, Plain also details the hardships of homesteaders including fire, flood, locusts, drought, blizzards, and isolation. The selection of photographs is a real plus to the book. They will inspire young readers to want to turn the next page and read more about it. This would make a great supplement to American history classroom curriculums and should be on the shelves of every junior and senior high school library.
Charlottes-son More than 1 year ago
Not really all that. But, what do you do with old photographs? They are interesting. And you do learn something.