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Kansas History - Spring 2003

(Vol. 26, No. 1)

Kansas History, Spring 2003

L. Boyd Finch, "Doctor Diamond Dick: Leavenworth's Flamboyant Medicine Man."

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In this very interesting look at the life and “flamboyant” career of George B. McClellan, also known as “Diamond Dick,” author L. Boyd Finch places his subject at the nexus of medicine shows, wild west shows, and dime novels in order to give the reader a better understand of all three late nineteenth and early twentieth-century phenomena, as well as the characters who made them popular. “Dr.” McClellan, who died Bell Memorial Hospital (University of Kansas Medical Center) in Kansas City, Kansas, was involved in all three and the story of his life makes for interesting reading and although he roamed the Midwest, his ties to Kansas were extensive. He was “known in every Kansas hamlet by his costume,” proclaimed the Kansas City Journal, but, according to Finch, “McClellan enjoyed particular success in Leavenworth in 1887-1888,” where his “promotional methods” through the pages of the local newspapers were especially “memorable.”

Dale E. Nimz, "Damming the Kaw: The Kiro Controversy and Flood Control in the Great Depression."

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Two decades before "Big Dam Foolishness" triumphed with the building of the Tuttle Creek Dam and Reservoir in the Blue Valley, Kansans and interested individuals throughout the nation hotly debated the advisability of damming the Kansas River for the purposes of controlling downstream flooding and regulating navigation on the Missouri River. Historian Dale E. Nimz examines the contesting factions in the 1930s fight for and against the construction of the Kiro dam, and "shows how policy changed through competition among different groups with different interests. At a time of widespread insecurity, the Kansas Rive Dam represented an ambition for the control of nature through engineering that grew for the next thirty years," and ultimately "the water politics of Kansas contributed to the making of an environmental policy that transformed the rivers of the Missouri basin and the other great river basins of the United States."

Donna Cooper Graves, "'We'll fight it out fair right now': Homicide, Felony Assault, and Gender in Kansas City, Kansas, 1890-1920."

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Since men have and continue to “commit the overwhelming majority” of the nation’s crimes, female crime has been, at least until recently, understudied by historians and professionals in other disciplines. Professor Graves’s study of such crime in Kansas City, Kansas, based on extensive research in the criminal court records and newspapers, joins a growing and important body of work that is now focusing “exclusively on female crime or places gender at the center of analysis.”

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, "Growing up in Kansas. Review Essay."

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Our review essay series continues with this fine contribution by Iowa State University historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, who examines the field of children’s history and concludes that, with a very few exceptions, “the history of childhood in Kansas is a history yet to be written.” Riney-Kehrberg guides the reader through the relevant but relatively scarce literature on this subject, while speculating on the nature of the “ideal history of childhood,” providing a working “definition of childhood,” and discussing the “difficulties of writing the history of children”—that is, the dearth of and unique “problems with source material.”


(The following books and collections are reviewed in full in our print version.)

The Shawnee Indians: An Annotated Bibliography by Randolph Noe
xxxv + 721 pages, notes, indexes.
Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2001, cloth $105.00.
Reviewed by Joseph B. Herring, senior program officer, National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, D.C

Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creation of the American West by David M. Wrobel
xi + 322 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by Jay M. Price, assistant professor of history and public history program director, Wichita State University

The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land by Conevery Bolton Valencius
viii + 388 pages, photographs, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
New York: Basic Books, 2002, cloth $30.00.
Reviewed by Eric Juhnke, assistant professor of history, Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa

Hero of the Heartland: Billy Sunday and the Transformation of American Society, 1862-1935 by Robert F. Martin
xv + 163 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, cloth, $27.95.
Reviewed by Gary R. Entz, assistant professor of history, McPherson College, McPherson.

An American Colony: Regionalism and theRoots of Midwestern Culture by Edward Watts
xxv + 285 pages, photographs, notes, bibliography, index.
Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002, cloth $55.00.
Reviewed by John E. Miller, professor of history, South Dakota State University, Brookings

General Eisenhower: Ideology and Discourse by Ira Chernus
vii + 366 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 2002, cloth $59.95.
Reviewed by Christopher C. Lovett, professor of history, Emporia State University.

Down and Out on the Family Farm: Rural Rehabilitation in the Great Plains 1929-1945 by Michael Johnston Grant
x + 232 pages, photographs, notes, sources, index.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002, paper $39.95.
Reviewed by David B. Danbom, professor of history, North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Barns of Kansas: A Pictorial History by Robert L. Marsh
ix + 166 pages, photographs, map, glossary, bibliography, index.
Virginia Beach: Donning Co., 2002, cloth $34.95.
Reviewed by James R. Shortridge, professor of geography, University of Kansas, Lawrence.


Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy.
By Andro Linklater.
(New York: Walker and Co., 2002. 320 pages, cloth $26.00.)

Although surveying dates back several thousand years, and “measurement is older still,” writes British author and journalist Andro Linklater, it is central to our existence as human beings; “only when it changes” do we give it a second thought and are we reminded “that there is nothing certain about these units after all.” This engagingly written book reminds us just how important a relatively precise system of land survey and measurement (“chains and links” and the grid system) was to the resettlement and development of late-eighteenth- and nineteenth- century America; and, indeed, how central it was to the realization of our national concept of individual land ownership. Linklater covers the Great Plains “checkerboard,” where “the surveyors’ right angles became the dominant feature of the land,” in a chapter entitled “The Limit of Enclosure.”

W. D. "Bill" Fossett: Pioneer and Peace Officer.
By Jim Fulbright.
(Goodlettsville, Tenn.: Mid-South Publications, 2002. xxv + 289 pages, paper $24.95.)

Although he never achieved the legendary status of his contemporaries, such as Wild Bill Hickok or Bat Masterson, Bill Fossett (1851–1940) was, according to author Jim Fulbright, “legendary among his peers in the old West,” but he also was “a quiet man, not given to talking much about himself.” Tennessee author and journalist Fulbright, however, does some fine talking for the old lawman in this detailed account of a life and career mostly set in Kansas and Oklahoma. Fossett moved to Sumner County, Kansas, in 1873 and was assistant marshal in Caldwell and marshal in Kingman in the early 1880s. The Kansas portion of the story is mostly told in three chapters, entitled “Along the Cattle Trails,” “Law in the Border Queen,” and “Kingman.”

Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders.
Edited by James R. Goff Jr. and Grant Wacker.
(Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002. xviii + 430 pages, paper $34.95.)

Although the movement’s Topeka, Kansas, origins and founder, Charles Fox Parham, are not the subject of this anthology, readers interested in this important, “dramatically successful” twentieth-century religious movement will find this volume of great value. Editors James R. Goff Jr., who published an article on Parham in Kansas History (Autumn 1984) and a 1988 biography, and Grant Wacker consciously chose to focus here “on important but comparatively unstudied individuals, or on individuals who have not received examination in the context of Pentecostal cultural history.” Portraits of a Generation includes twenty biographical essays on seven women and thirteen men, representing the work of the editors and twenty-two additional scholars, and an “Afterword” by David Edwin Harrell Jr., Breeden Eminent Scholar in the department of history, Auburn University.

Great Wildlife of the Great Plains.
By Paul A. Johnsgard.
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003. xv + 309 pages, cloth $29.95.)

As we watch the state’s wildlife habitat give way to subdivision after subdivision and the seemingly endless march of box stores and strip malls and learn that the once ubiquitous black-tailed prairie dog, nearly exterminated by “large-scale poisoning and fumigation programs,” is about to go on the endangered specious list, the publication of Great Wildlife of the Great Plains appears quite timely, and it should be a welcome addition to the literature on the region’s flora and fauna. This fine book, illustrated with many well-done drawings, by one of the region’s leading wildlife authorities, “focuses on the ecology, behavior, and life histories of 121 notable species that people are most likely to encounter when traveling in the region.” Professor Johnsgard’s previous publications include Hummingbirds of North America and Prairie Birds: Fragile Splendor in the Great Plains.

Harker's Barns: Visions of An American Icon.
Photographs by Michael P. Harker, with text by Jim Heynen.
(Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003. 104 pages, paper $24.95.)

Seventy-five beautifully reproduced images by Iowa photographer Michael P. Harker here illustrate and document an important artifact and icon of our nation’s agricultural heritage—the barn, whether rectangular or round, brick or wood, evokes memoirs of an earlier, perhaps simpler, time. Harker, who has been interested in and documenting the barns of Iowa for about a decade, writes: “I believe my photographs can take on the role of a visual museum, preserving our heritage for future generations.” Why is this important? Because, as Minnesota writer and teacher Jim Heynen observes, “An old barn is layered in history. It is layered with stories. Sometimes it tells about the people who built it. . . . The closer we look, the more we will see, the more we will hear.”

An American Epic of Discovery: The Lewis and Clark Journals. The Abridgment of the Definitive Nebraska Edition.
Edited and with introduction by Gary E. Moulton.
(Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. lviii + 413 pages, cloth $29.95.)

Based on the “entirely new comprehensive edition” of the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, published in thirteen volumes and finished in 2001, An American Epic of Discovery succeeds in bringing the almost two-hundred-year-old words of the Corps of Discovery “to a wider audience in a compact form: an accessible one-volume abridgement based on a reliable source with pertinent clarifying information.” The volume, which appears on the eve of the national bicentennial celebration, opens with a predictably fine introduction by the editor, Gary E. Moulton, Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of American History, University of Nebraska, who is, of course, also the editor of the “definitive Nebraska edition.”