An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011



Two veteran Washington journalists offer a vigorous and resonant portrait of the 30-year decline and polarization of our capital. Jaffe (of Washingtonian magazine) and Sherwood (of WRC-TV, formerly of the Washington Post) tell their story in episodic sketches, covering the city's historic caste system among blacks, the rise of community organizer (and, later, mayor) Marion Barry during the War on Poverty, and the shift of power to blacks after the traumatic 1968 riots. The authors criticize the long-standing federal stranglehold on the district, as well as the Post's ignorance of black Washington, but their major culprit is ``Boss Barry,'' who emerged in his second mayoral term (1982-6) as a betrayer of the biracial coalition that first elected him. Barry's failures were legion: political spoils for a narrow group of adventurers such as profiteer-from-the-homeless Cornelius Pitts; a top aide turned embezzler; a police department in disarray; a downtown that boomed as other neighborhoods crumbled. His defiance of the black bourgeoisie and the white power structure preserved his popularity among blacks, and when he was arrested on drug charges in 1990—an episode recounted in telling detail—his lawyer successfully argued that the government was out to get him. After serving a six-month jail term for one misdemeanor, Barry began a comeback as council member from the city's poorest ward. The authors criticize the current mayor, reformer Sharon Pratt Kelly, as out of touch, and warn that federal receivership for Washington is as likely as full home rule and statehood. Reliance on dialogue-rich scenes sometimes sacrifices depth for drama, but this is a memorable and disturbing reminder of much unfinished urban business.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-76846-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994




In a splendid retelling of a great story, Ambrose chronicles Lewis and Clark's epic 1803-06 journey across the continent and back. Thomas Jefferson, more than anyone else, helped to effect the dream of a transcontinental US. As noted historian Ambrose (Univ. of New Orleans; D-Day, 1994, etc.) recounts, Jefferson's first great accomplishment in this regard was the Louisiana Purchase. His second was the dispatching of a US Army "Corps of Discovery" under his neighbor and friend, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to travel by land to the Pacific Ocean in search of a waterway to the West. Lewis, partner William Clark, and their 30-man expeditionary force recorded hundreds of species of birds, plants, and animals not previously known to Western science; mapped the interiors of the country; established ties with Indian tribes of the Northern Plains and the Northwest; and set the stage for the exploitation of the western country, particularly in the fur trade. Also, by Ambrose's account, Lewis and Clark's well-meaning ignorance and diplomatic maladroitness set the tone for early American relationships with Native Americans. Despite their close relationships with some Indians, Lewis and Clark persisted in absurd beliefs about them, some of which were subscribed to by Jefferson, as well (e.g., that Indians were descendants of a long-lost tribe of Welshmen). Although the expedition was a great success and fame and fortune followed, Lewis, now drinking heavily and suffering setbacks in love and politics, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1809. The author speculates that he might have considered his great expedition a failure because the land remained unexploited by Americans. A fascinating glimpse of a pristine, vanished America and the beginning of the great and tragic conquest of the West.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81107-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1995

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