The California Gold Rush inspired a new American dream--the "dream of instant wealth, won by audacity and good luck." The discovery of gold on the American River in 1848 triggered the most astonishing mass movement of peoples since the Crusades. It drew fortune-seekers from the ends of the earth, accelerated America's imperial expansion, and exacerbated the tensions that exploded in the Civil War.H.W. Brands tells his epic story from multiple perspectives: of adventurers John and Jessie Fremont, entrepreneur Leland Stanford, and the wry observer Samuel Clemens--side by side with prospectors, soldiers, and scoundrels. He imparts a visceral sense of the distances they traveled, the suffering they endured, and the fortunes they made and lost. Impressive in its scholarship and overflowing with life, The Age of Gold is history in the grand traditions of Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough.
A gripping portrait of black power politics and the struggle for civil rights in postwar OaklandAs the birthplace of the Black Panthers and a nationwide tax revolt, California embodied a crucial motif of the postwar United States: the rise of suburbs and the decline of cities, a process in which black and white histories inextricably joined. American Babylon tells this story through Oakland and its nearby suburbs, tracing both the history of civil rights and black power politics as well as the history of suburbanization and home-owner politics. Robert Self shows that racial inequities in both New Deal and Great Society liberalism precipitated local struggles over land, jobs, taxes, and race within postwar metropolitan development. Black power and the tax revolt evolved together, in tension. American Babylon demonstrates that the history of civil rights and black liberation politics in California did not follow a southern model, but represented a long-term struggle for economic rights that began during the World War II years and continued through the rise of the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. This struggle yielded a wide-ranging and profound critique of postwar metropolitan development and its foundation of class and racial segregation. Self traces the roots of the 1978 tax revolt to the 1940s, when home owners, real estate brokers, and the federal government used racial segregation and industrial property taxes to forge a middle-class lifestyle centered on property ownership. Using the East Bay as a starting point, Robert Self gives us a richly detailed, engaging narrative that uniquely integrates the most important racial liberation struggles and class politics of postwar America.
Fifty years ago, John Steinbeck's now classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, captured the epic story of an Oklahoma farm family driven west to California by dust storms, drought, and economic hardship. It was a story that generations of Americans have also come to know through Dorothea Lange's unforgettable photos of migrant families struggling to make a living in Depression-torn California. Now in James N. Gregory's pathbreaking American Exodus, there is at last an historical study that moves beyond the fiction of the 1930s to uncover the full meaning of these events.
American Exodus takes us back to the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and the war boom influx of the 1940s to explore the experiences of the more than one million Oklahomans, Arkansans, Texans, and Missourians who sought opportunities in California. Gregory reaches into the migrants' lives to reveal not only their economic trials but also their impact on California's culture and society. He traces the development of an Okie subculture that over the years has grown into an essential element in California's cultural landscape.
Gregory vividly depicts how Southwesterners brought with them on their journey west an allegiance to evangelical Protestantism, plain-folk American values, and a love of country music. These values gave Okies an expanding cultural presence their new home. In their neighborhoods, often called Little Oklahomas, they created a community of churches and saloons, of church-goers and good-old-boys, mixing stern-minded religious thinking with hard-drinking irreverence. Today, Baptist and Pentecostal churches abound in this region, and from Gene Autry, Oklahoma's singing cowboy, to Woody Guthrie, Bob Wills, and Merle Haggard, the special concerns of Southwesterners have long dominated the country music industry in California. The legacy of the Dust Bowl migration can also be measured in political terms. Throughout California and especially in the San Joaquin Valley Okies have implanted their own brand of populist conservatism.
The consequences reach far beyond California. The Dust Bowl migration was part of a larger heartland diaspora that has sent millions of Southerners and rural Midwesterners to the nation's northern and western industrial perimeter. American Exodus is the first book to examine the cultural implications of that massive 20th-century population shift. In this rich account of the experiences and impact of these migrant heartlanders, Gregory fills an important gap in recent American social history.
In 1784, the United States was scarcely more than a strip of seaports, inland towns, and farms along the Atlantic coast--and already the China trade had begun, as the Empress of China sailed into Canton. From this small beginning, an American empire in the Pacific grew until it engulfed Alaska, Hawaii, the Philippines, and hundreds of small islands. With World War II, U.S. power advanced further, into China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia--where it was finally halted. Today American influence continues to ebb, as Japanese economic supremacy mounts and Manila forces the U.S. to dismantle its bases.
In The American Pacific, Arthur Dudden provides a sweeping account of how the U.S. built (and lost) a vast empire in the ocean off our west coast. Opening with a fascinating account of the early China trade, Dudden provides a region-by-region history of the Pacific basin. What emerges is the story of how American commercial interests evolved into territorial ambitions, with the acquisitions of Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippines, and finally into far-reaching efforts to project American power onto the shores of mainland Asia. Dudden's vivid narrative teems with the dynamic individuals who shaped events: William Seward, the Senator and Lincoln's Secretary of State who was driven by a vision of American dominion in the Pacific; Kamehameha I, the Hawaiian conqueror who tried to bring his kingdom into the modern world; William Howard Taft, who as the first governor-general of the Philippines built the institutions of American rule; Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Japan's attacks on Pearl Harbor and Midway Island; and of course General Douglas MacArthur, whose immensely influential career spanned supreme command of the pre-war Philippine army, the Allied occupation forces in Japan, and the U.N. forces in Korea. Dudden brings the story up to date, reviewing the war in Vietnam, the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, the triumph of the Pacific rim economies, and the tremendous impact of Asian immigration on American society.
Since the days when Commodore Perry sailed his black ships to open feudal Japan, the histories of the American republic and the peoples of the Pacific have been closely intertwined. Dudden seamlessly blends developments in domestic politics, military campaigns, commercial trends, and international relations, providing the first comprehensive overview of this critically important region.
The history of the Barbary Coast properly begins with the gold rush to California in 1849. If the precious yellow metal hadn't been discovered ... the development of San Francisco's underworld in all likelihood would have been indistinguishable from that of any other large American city. Instead, owing almost entirely to the influx of gold-seekers and the horde of gamblers, thieves, harlots, politicians, and other felonious parasites who battened upon them, there arose a unique criminal district that for almost seventy years was the scene of more viciousness and depravity, but which at the same time possessed more glamour, than any other area of vice and iniquity on the American continent. The Barbary Coast is Herbert Asbury's classic chronicle of the birth of San Francisco--a violent explosion from which the infant city emerged full-grown and raging wild. From all over the world practitioners of every vice stampeded for the blood and money of the gold fields. Gambling dens ran all day including Sundays. From noon to noon houses of prostitution offered girls of every age and race. (In the 1850s, San Francisco was home to only one woman for every thirty men. It was not until 1910 that the sexes achieved anything close to parity in their populations.) This is the story of the banditry, opium bouts, tong wars, and corruption, from the eureka at Sutter's Mill until the last bagnio closed its doors seventy years later.
The veteran Wall Street Journal science reporter Marilyn Chase's fascinating account of an outbreak of bubonic plague in late Victorian San Francisco is a real-life thriller that resonates in today's headlines. The Barbary Plague transports us to the Gold Rush boomtown in 1900, at the end of the city's Gilded Age. With a deep understanding of the effects on public health of politics, race, and geography, Chase shows how one city triumphed over perhaps the most frightening and deadly of all scourges.
" Thomson is] one of the finest film
critics in the English language."
--philip lopate, the new york times book review
writers-on-film, but...one of our
wisest and best writers, period."
A captivating chronicle of how the City of Angels lost its soul
Los Angeles was the fastest growing city in the world, mad with oil fever, get-rich-quick schemes, celebrity scandals, and religious fervor. It was also rife with organized crime, with a mayor in the pocket of the syndicates and a DA taking bribes to throw trials. In "A Bright and Guilty Place," Richard Rayner narrates the entwined lives of two men, Dave Clark and Leslie White, who were caught up in the crimes, murders, and swindles of the day. Over a few transformative years, as the boom times shaded into the Depression, the adventures of Clark and White would inspire pulp fiction and replace L.A.'s reckless optimism with a new cynicism. Together, theirs is the tale of how the city of sunshine got noir.
When "A Bright and Guilty Place" begins, Leslie White is a naive young photographer who lands a job as a crime-scene investigator in the L.A. district attorney's office. There he meets Dave Clark, a young, movie-star handsome lawyer and a rising star prosecutor with big ambitions. The cases they tried were some of the first "trials of the century," starring dark-hearted oil barons, sexually perverse starlets, and hookers with hearts of gold. Los Angeles was in the grip of organized crime, and White was dismayed to see that only the innocent paid while the powerful walked free. But Clark was entranced by L.A.'s dangerous lures and lived the high life, marrying a beautiful woman, wearing custom-made suits, yachting with the rich and powerful, and jaunting off to Mexico for gambling and girls. In a shocking twist, when Charlie Crawford, the Al Capone of L.A., was found dead, the chief suspect was none other than golden boy Dave Clark.
"A Bright and Guilty Place "is narrative nonfiction at its most gripping. Key to the tale are the story of the theft of water from the Owens River Valley that let L.A grow; the Teapot Dome scandal that brought shame to President Harding; and the emergence of crime writers like Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, who helped mythologize L.A. In Rayner's hands, the ballad of Dave Clark is the story of the coming of age of a great American city.
"A breeze to read."--San Francisco
Between the frequently recounted events of the Gold Rush and the Great Depression stretches a period of California history that is equally crucial but less often acknowledged. In his fresh, synthetic consideration of these in-between years, George L. Henderson points specifically to the take-off of California's rural juggernaut between the 1880s and middle 1920s--the upward spiral of city bids for country dollars and rural bids for urban investments. These decades were salve for mining's risky finances yet groundwork for the chaotic 1930s. Moreover, Henderson argues that much like the two important periods which framed it, this era produced a cultural and literary apparatus that attempted to grapple with capital's machinations, if only to legitimate them in the end.Central to California and the Fictions of Capital is a theory of how the circulation of capital wove itself into agriculture. The book asks why it mattered to capital that agriculture was based in Nature, and then explores the procedures through which images of Nature became central to capitalism's story of itself. What unique possibilities did Nature offer to circuits of capital and what was their role in suturing the urban and rural together? How did boom and bust intervene and set the pace for regional change? How was capital linked to the racializing of working bodies? And why was the capitalist imperative expressed in landscape alterations like irrigation? Such are the key questions informing this bold, far-reaching volume. Beyond political economy, the book also looks to the rural juggernaut's cultural and literary work, which was stamped by celebratory, if fretful, ruminations. In all sorts of texts--but especially in novels by Frank Norris, Mary Austin, Harold Bell Wright, and many other writers--difficult questions surfaced. Capital was seen in terms of its spillage into rural frontiers, just as rural frontiers were seen in terms of movements of capital. Capital was the new geography of money. But for whom did it work? Which identities did it favor? In mapping the real and imaginary realms that capital occupied, Henderson locates the banker-, land developer-, and engineer-heroes of California fiction as well as the fictionalized new woman of the capitalist, agrarian West. He unravels the colliding representations of race, gender, and class, while linking their treatment to the naturalizing rhetoric of capital's agrarian turn. In part a tour of California as a virtual laboratory for refining the circulation of capital, and in part an investigation of how the state's literati, with rare exception, reconceived economy in the name of class, gender, and racial privilege, this study will appeal to all students and scholars of California's--and the American West's--economic, environmental, and cultural past.