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What Ozark Vigilantes of the 1880s Reveal about Modern America

All U.S. vigilante groups are in some way a representation of the American value of self-government. We are a society that was founded, at least in part, on the firm belief that the people have the right to create their own institutions of government, what is referred to as the “right of revolution,” expressed right there in the Declaration of Independence. If the government is not doing what it’s supposed to, if it’s not protecting the people’s liberties, if it’s not serving the people’s interest, we have the right to rise up and replace that government. The problem is, you cannot do that on a continuous basis and have a stable society.–Matthew Hernando

Lisa Hix has written about the intriguing Bald Knobbers, based, in large part, on Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks and a discussion with the author, Matthew Hernando. Read the fascinating article here:

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Novelty and Networks in the Ivory Tower

By Andrew Porwancher

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Andrew Porwancher is an Assistant Professor at the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at the University of Oklahoma.  This piece has been adapted from his book, John Henry Wigmore and the Rules of Evidence: The Hidden Origins of Modern Law (University of Missouri Press, 2016).

As academics, we inhabit a world of two conflicting truths.  The first truth is that, even in fields as seemingly solitary as the humanities, we can only produce our best work with the help of others.  Hardly islands unto ourselves, we exist in networks of colleagues, editors, and mentors.  To be sure, all of us labor independently, but we rely on others who recognize the value of those our labors, refine our scholarship, and promote our work.  Among the most vital networks from which we benefit comprises those researchers who came before us, who fertilized the terrain for the growth of our own ideas.

This truth that networks matter sits uncomfortably alongside another truth—the incentive structure of academia calls on us to distance ourselves from other scholars.  To advance in our fields, we must create scholarship that is deemed original.  We must be explicit about how we diverge from our predecessors.  Too often, this premium on novelty encourages us to downplay intellectual debts and overstate the ingenuity of our own ideas.

What are we to make of this conflict? How are we to reconcile these truths? Can we harmonize this premium on novelty with the reality that we are deeply indebted to networks of intellectual patronage? The story of John Henry Wigmore offers unique answers to these questions.

Wigmore was the legendary dean of Northwestern Law whose exhaustive treatise on evidence law came to dominate the practice of jury trials after its publication in 1904.  This treatise reflected Wigmore’s predisposition to acknowledge rather than efface intellectual debts.  Perhaps as a result of his own deteriorating relationship with his parents, Wigmore saw in older jurists not targets but father figures. That is not to say that Wigmore never critiqued seasoned judges and scholars.  But to a greater extent than his peers, he built his career by cultivating—not caricaturing—his elders.  Wigmore was an exceptionally cerebral person who fulfilled his longing for human companionship by finding intellectual common ground with others, both older and younger, both mentors and protégés.

Praise for John Henry Wigmore and the Rules of Evidence:

“[It] will become the standard work on the subject, and more than that, will contribute to emerging clarity in the field of early twentieth-century legal ideas more broadly.”—Noah Feldman, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, author of Cool War: The Future of Global Competition

“It evidences a close reading of Wigmore’s work and extensive work in the archives at Harvard and Northwestern, bringing to light a good deal of new material on the connections among important figures in ‘legal modernism.’”—Robert P. Burns, Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law, author of Kafka’s Law: The Trial and American Criminal Justice

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African American Studies

Since its founding in 1956, the University of Missouri Press has proudly published books in African American Studies. Our new African American Studies catalog collects these works, which range from a focus on Missouri to the White House, from military history to the poetry of Langston Hughes, and from activism to memoir. Take a look!

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See also our recent seasonal catalogs:

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Politics in Paperback: Grenville Clark and Thomas J. Pendergast

After the election, we have politics on the brain and now take a look at two very different political subjects of two books newly out in paperback. In the award-winning A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark, Nancy Peterson Hill gives life to the unsung account of a largely anonymous American and reveals how the scope of Clark’s life and career reflected his selfless passion for progress, equality, and peace.

In contrast, Thomas J. Pendergast created a powerful political machine that used illegal voting and criminal enforcers to gain power. He took control of Kansas City and ran it as his own personal business, receiving over $30 million annually in the 1930s from gambling, prostitution, and narcotics, putting him in the big leagues of American civic corruption.

Nancy Peterson Hill

 

$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2091-2 ¦ 280 pages ¦ 24 illustrations

 

hill-webRecipient of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, the David J Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography, and the New-York Historical Society Annual Book Prize in American History

 

Grenville Clark was born to wealth and privilege in Manhattan, where his maternal grandfather, LeGrand Bouton Cannon, was an industry titan, retired Civil War colonel, and personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Clark grew up on a first-name basis with both Presidents Roosevelt, and his close friends included Supreme Court justices. He was well known and respected in the inner circles of business, government, and education.

 

During his extensive career, he refused pay while serving as a private advisor for the Secretary of War of the United States during World War II, and he worked closely with the NAACP to uphold civil rights for African Americans during the tumultuous 1950s and ‘60s. Clark devoted his last decades to a quest for world peace through limited but enforceable world law, rewriting the charter of the United Nations and traveling the globe to lobby the world’s leaders.

 

Lawrence H. Larsen & Nancy J. Hulston

 

$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2114-8¦ 256 pages ¦ 35 illustrations larsen-pendergast-72-dpi

 

Part of the Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

More than a half-century after the death of Kansas City’s notorious political boss, the Pendergast name still evokes great interest and even controversy. In this biography of Pendergast, Lawrence H. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston have successfully provided—through extensive research, including use of recently released prison records and previously unavailable family records—a clear look at the life of Thomas J. Pendergast.

Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1872, Tom Pendergast moved to Kansas City around 1890 to work for his brother James, founder of the Pendergast “Goat” faction in Kansas City Democratic politics. In 1911, Pendergast became head of the Goats, and over the next fifteen years he created a powerful—and corrupt—political machine.

In this well-balanced biography, the authors examine Pendergast’s rise to power, his successes as a political leader, his compassion for the destitute, and his reputation for keeping his word. They also examine Pendergast’s character development and how his methods became more and more ruthless. Pendergast had no use for ideology in his “invisible government”—only votes counted.

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Now in Paperback: The African American Experience in Kansas City and Missouri

Three books that focus on the African American experience in Missouri—and particularly in Kansas City—are now available! Sherry Lamb Schirmer examines how white residents’ ideas about race and class helped shape the urban landscape in Kansas City. Charles E. Coulter traces the way the African American community in Kansas City developed, despite the restrictions of segregation and discrimination. And Gary Kremer takes a look at the experience of African Americans in the state as a whole, from the end of the Civil War through the 1960s.

 

Sherry Lamb Schirmer

$24.95
ISBN: 978-0-8262-2095-0
272 pages
maps, tables

A City Divided is an informative and very readable study of how whites’ racial attitudes evolved and shaped social relations in one modern metropolis. Schirmer is particularly good at revealing why and how white Kansas Citians infused the social meaning of urban space with racial content. Schirmer contributes to the ongoing effort by scholars to show that the system of racial discrimination and the perceptions that bolster it are functional and change throughout time. Indeed, the deeply embedded discriminatory housing practices, both covert and overt, help to explain the persistence of residential segregation even as activists dismantled Jim Crow in other areas.”—Journal of Planning History


Because of rapid changes in land use and difficulty in suppressing crime, the control of urban spaces became an acute concern for the white middle class in Kansas City. As the African American population grew, whites increasingly identified blacks with what deprived a given space of its middle-class character. The white middle class established its own identity by excluding blacks from the urban spaces this group occupied. Although black and white activists successfully laid the foundation for desegregating public accommodations in Kansas City, this effort failed to dismantle the systems of spatial exclusion and inequitable law enforcement, which continue to shape race relations in Kansas City.

$24.95
ISBN: 978-0-8262-2112-4
360 pages
17 maps, tables, and illustrations
 

“Coulter’s first-rate research, if absorbed fully, ought to open a lot of eyes as today’s Kansas City residents drive, bicycle or walk to the neighborhood grocery, the sports stadium, the suburbs and downtown.”—Kansas City Star


Unlike many cities farther north, Kansas City, Missouri had a significant African American population by the mid-nineteenth century and also served as a way station for those migrating north or west. Coulter focuses on the people and institutions that shaped the city’s black communities from the end of the Civil War until the outbreak of World War II, blending rich historical research with first-person accounts that allow participants in this historical drama to tell their own stories of struggle and accomplishment.


While recognizing that segregation and discrimination shaped their reality, Coulter moves beyond race relations to emphasize the enabling aspects of African Americans’ lives and show how people defined and created their world. As the first extensive treatment of black history in Kansas City, this is an exceptional account of minority achievement in America’s crossroads.


$24.95
ISBN: 978-0-8262-2116-2
288 pages
35 illustrations


“A crash course in African American history from the end of the Civil War to the 1960s.”—Missouri Life 


No one has written more about the African American experience in Missouri over the past four decades than Gary Kremer. Now, for the first time, fourteen of his best articles on the subject are available in one place. By placing the articles in chronological order of historical events, Kremer combines them into one detailed account that addresses issues such as the transition from slavery to freedom, all-black rural communities, and the lives of African Americans seeking new opportunities in Missouri’s cities.


Kremer also includes a personal introduction revealing how he first became interested in researching African American history and how his mentor Lorenzo Greene helped him realize his eventual career path. Race and Meaning makes a collection of largely unheard stories spanning much of Missouri history accessible for the first time in one place, allowing each article to be read in the context of the others, and creating a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Related title:
Micah W. Kubic

 

Hardcover $75.00
296 pages
15 illustrations

“Provides us both a substantive and theoretical window into understanding the internecine dynamics of black urban mobilization and empowerment. This book will earn great notice among students of black and urban politics.”—Todd Shaw, author of Now Is the Time! Detroit Black Politics and Grassroots Activism Founded in 1962 by African American political activists in Kansas City, Missouri, Freedom, Incorporated was crucial to the desegregation of Kansas City public facilities. As the oldest surviving organization of its kind, Freedom, Inc. has played an essential role in raising the visibility of key concerns among the black community and engineering a string of firsts in elected offices, including the election of many black Missouri state representatives since 1963.


This, the first history of the organization, shows that these feats were achieved only because Freedom, Inc. was institutionalized, corporatist, capable of mobilizing the black community, and engaged in strategic bargaining with other political actors. Kubic asserts that strong local organizations are dynamic organism, and that they, rather than charismatic candidates or interracial alliances, are the crucial players in both determining political outcomes and advancing black interests in urban areas.

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Bestselling Missouri Mammals Book Celebrates Third Edition

Schwartz 2Beginning as a series of forty-seven abstracts of species published in the Missouri Conservationist from July 1953 to September 1957, The Wild Mammals of Missouri has a long, rich history. Naturalists Charles W. Schwartz and Elizabeth R. Schwartz compiled the text and detailed illustrations from their original fieldwork and observations, as well as several other sources.

The University of Missouri Press released the first edition of the book in 1959 as the third book of the original books published by the Press; it was printed in Kansas City. It was jointly published with the Missouri Conservation Commission, as the Commission wanted a reference like this for a long time.

For nearly 60 years this book has been regarded as the definitive guide to the identification of these animals. Charles Schwartz’s technically accurate drawings capture the spirit of his subjects. Many researchers and college classes have used this text and led to its popularity. More than just a taxonomy guide, however, this book also describes the mammalian relationships to each other and to human and concerns of ecology. Management concepts and economic considerations also varied over this span of half a century.

This book went through six printings before the Schwartz family revised it in 1981. Two other revisions followed, one in 2001, and most recently, the third revised edition appeared in 2016.

Larry R. Gale, Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, wrote this in the 1981 foreword:

“During the past twenty-one years, this scientific yet popular publication by Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz has been widely acclaimed as the definitive work on its subject. The book has been adopted as a standard text by many universities and colleges, and it has become a frequently cited reference for mammal research. Sustained sales over the years prove it is equally popular with nonprofessionals wanting to know more about wild animals.”

Each edition has stayed current with habitats, increased numbers of species, and nomenclature changes through the years. The fields of social communication and behavior added further research to the first revision. The number of mammals in Missouri described in the book has increased from 63 species in 1959 to 72 in 2016.

Even though both of these conservationists have died (Charles in 1991 and Elizabeth in 2013), they left an invaluable mark in their field. The authors won national and international recognition for their films of the mid-20th century.

“Only this collaboration of wildlife biologist, artist, photographer, and writer could have made this book possible,” wrote William E. Towell, Director of the Missouri Conservation Commission, in the 1959 foreword.

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Fall Harvest is Here: Books on Agriculture and Farming in Missouri

Corn and soybean farmers in Missouri are enjoying near-record yields in their fall harvest this year. As these producers store their crops or haul them directly to market, today we highlight our excellent memoirs, biographies, and rural writers of Missouri farmers.

hines-wilder-coverLaura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Journalist: Writings from the Ozarks
Edited by Stephen W. Hines

Before Laura Ingalls Wilder found fame with her Little House books, she made a name for herself with short nonfiction pieces in magazines and newspapers. Read today, these pieces offer insight into her development as a writer and depict farm life in the Ozarks—and also show us a different Laura Ingalls Wilder from the woman we have come to know.

This volume collects essays by Wilder that originally appeared in the Missouri Ruralist between 1911 and 1924. Building on the initial compilation of these articles under the title Little House in the Ozarks, this revised edition marks a more comprehensive collection by adding forty-two additional Ruralist articles and restoring passages previously omitted from other articles.

“These writings provide a unique window into the thoughts and writing of Laura Ingalls Wilder, showing a side of her that many are unaware of.”—John E. Miller, author of Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder

snow-from-missouri-coverFrom Missouri: An American Farmer Looks Back
By Thad Snow, edited by Bonnie Stepenoff

After years of subjecting the editors of St. Louis newspapers to eloquent letters on subjects as diverse as floods, tariffs, and mules, Thad Snow published his memoir From Missouri in his mid-seventies in 1954. He was barely retired from farming for more than half a century, mostly in the Missouri Bootheel, or “Swampeast Missouri,” as he called it. Now back in print with a new introduction by historian Bonnie Stepenoff, these sketches of a life, a region, and an era will delight readers new to this distinctive American voice as well as readers already familiar with this masterpiece of the American Midwest.

This unique and honest series of personal essays expresses the thoughts of a farmer, a hunter, a husband, a father and grandfather, a man with a soft spot for mules and dogs and all kinds of people. Snow’s prose reveals much about a way of life in the region during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as the social and political events that affected the entire nation. Whether arguing that a good stock dog should be left alone to do its work, explaining the process of making swampland suitable for agriculture, or putting forth his case for world peace, Snow’s ideas have a special authenticity because they did not come from an ivory tower or a think tank—they came From Missouri.

“Today, more than five decades after it was [first] published, From Missouri remains one of the best explanations I have ever read about how the land and landscape of a region shaped its people and determined their history. . . . It is time for a new generation of Americans to hear what Snow had to say. The issues he addressed in From Missouri are timeless; his thoughtful comments about and analysis of them are inspiring.”—Gary R. Kremer, coauthor of A History of Missouri, Volume 4: 1875 to 1919

Hilty cov comps.inddDirt, Sweat, and Diesel: A Family Farm in the Twenty-first Century
By Steven L. Hilty

This book provides readers a glimpse into life on a modern Missouri farm where a variety of grains, grass seed, corn, and cattle are produced.

All of the conversations, events, and descriptions are drawn from the author’s experience working alongside and observing this father and son family farm operation during the course of a year.

“The great strengths of this book are the author’s knowledge and understanding of rural life, including the weather, land, animals, technology, and people of the Midwest. There is a remarkable attention to detail.”—Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor Emerita of History, Southeast Missouri State University, author of Big Spring Autumn

Read more about Dirt, Sweat, and Diesel on the blog here.

hamilton-deep-river-coverDeep River: A Memoir of a Missouri Farm
By David Hamilton

Deep River uncovers the layers of history—both personal and regional—that have accumulated on a river-bottom farm in west-central Missouri. This land was part of a late frontier, passed over, then developed through the middle of the last century as the author’s father and uncle cleared a portion of it and established their farm.

Deep River is composed of four sections, each exploring aspects of the farm and its neighborhood. While the family story remains central to each, slavery and the Civil War in the nineteenth century and Native American history in the centuries before that become major themes as well. The resulting portrait is both personal memoir and informal history, brought up from layers of time, the compound of which forms an emblematic American story.

“This magnificently written account of a time now gone is far more than just a slice of Missouri’s rural history. . . . In its best sections (and there are many), it catches the tone and mood of a place in a manner worthy of a modern-day Thoreau.”—Bruce Clayton

hauser-my-farm-mississippi-missouri-coverMy Farm on the Mississippi: The Story of a German in Missouri, 1945-1948
By Heinrich Hauser, Translated & Introduction by Curt A. Poulton

My Farm on the Mississippi is a delightful and informative memoir by the German writer Heinrich Hauser about his experiences while living in Perry County in southeast Missouri from 1945 to 1948. Born in Berlin in 1901, Hauser was an accomplished journalist and novelist who had published at least two dozen books by the time he fled Germany for the United States in 1939. In 1945, after an unsuccessful stint as a farmer in upper New York, a brief stay in Chicago, and the publication of three more books, Hauser purchased three hundred acres along the Mississippi near the little town of Wittenberg, Missouri (which succumbed to the Great Flood of 1993).

Hauser’s remarkable ability to portray day-to-day life with detailed observations, along with his knack for sharing his sense of wonder at the natural surroundings, makes this work a great adventure story, as well as an important resource for Missouri folklore and for scholars pursuing local and American immigrant history.

My Farm on the Mississippi is the work of a gifted writer. It provides insight into a place and time that we know little about. I don’t know of any better descriptions of farmwork, its challenges and its rewards, or of the benevolence and malevolence of the natural world anywhere.”—Adolf E. Schroeder

lauters-more-farmers-wife-coverMore than a Farmer’s Wife: Voices of American Farm Women, 1910-1960
By Amy Mattson Lauters

Farm women have often been seen by their city sisters as victims of patriarchy, overwork, and poverty, aptly depicted by the “Migrant Mother” image from the Great Depression. Amy Mattson Lauters now goes directly to the women themselves to get the other side of the story of American farm life: that many women survived and even thrived on farms through the adversity of the Great Depression and beyond.

More than a Farmer’s Wife spans fifty years of farm life to reveal that many women saw farming as an opportunity to be full partners with their husbands and considered themselves businesswomen central to the success of their farms. Lauters shows that the farm woman was fundamental to the farming industry—the backbone of the family business and the manager of the farm home—as she explores the role of media in the farm woman’s everyday life and discusses the construction of the American farm woman in those publications.

young-cultivating-cooperation-coverCultivating Cooperation: A History of the Missouri Farmers Association
By Raymond A. Young

As one of the most successful farm organizations in the United States, the Missouri Farmers Association brought together farm clubs from all over the state to serve as the central body through which farmer-owned businesses could compete with investor-owned businesses. In Cultivating Cooperation, Raymond A. Young follows the fascinating history of MFA from its grass-roots beginning in a schoolhouse in 1914 through the upheaval that led to only the second leadership change in the organization’s history in 1979.

The late Raymond A. Young started his lifelong career with the Missouri Farmers Association in 1933 as an accountant for the Producers Produce Company in Springfield. In 1938 he moved to Columbia, were he served as President of MFA Oil for forty-two years, spending the last thirteen years of his career as Executive Vice President of MFA.

dean-opportunity-lost-coverAn Opportunity Lost: The Truman Administration and the Farm Policy Debate
By Virgil W. Dean

Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” domestic policy agenda promised to continue Roosevelt’s New Deal and, with some modification for postwar realities, to guide America into a new age of peace and prosperity. Agricultural policy was a cornerstone of this program, as it attempted to transform the farm program from the parity price foundation crafted by FDR to one based on income support through direct payment to farmers.

Virgil W. Dean takes a new look at the much-heralded “Brannan Plan” to examine in detail the farm policy dilemma and Truman’s quest for a long-range agricultural program that would confront the problems of an industry in the midst of a technological revolution—one in which regional and commodity-based differences only served to complicate any solution.

“An Opportunity Lost is well-written, solidly researched, and cogently argued. . . . Dean has given astute, perceptive analysis to an often tangled and always difficult aspect of domestic policy, the farm program.”—R. Douglas Hurt

parker-portrait-missouri-coverA Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration
By Paul E. Parker

Among FDR’s most important New Deal programs were those created to address rural poverty and a depressed farm economy. In 1935, several such programs were consolidated into the Resettlement Administration, which in 1937 became the Farm Security Administration (FSA). For the next six years, the FSA stayed at the center of a turbulent battle over the shift from regional to national authority. One tool the FSA used to defend itself against political attacks was its Photographic Section, under the direction of Roy Stryker.

Stryker, who was once referred to as “the press agent of the underprivileged,” directed a team of photographers who documented American life in the thirties, capturing images of the old ways while seeking to justify a new agricultural order. The photos they took were used to build up popular support for the FSA and the New Deal. Seven of these photographers traveled in Missouri and produced a collection of over 1,250 pictures. Drawing on those photographs, A Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943 chronicles the photographers’ work, the programs they sought to promote, and slices of life they captured in Missouri during this time.

“The photographs are engrossing. They show the efforts of the Farm Security Administration to illustrate the problems of the 1930s and the results of the programs designed by the New Deal to address these problems. More than simply being a vehicle of persuasion, however, these photographs document the way Missourians lived during the period.”—Lawrence Christensen

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The 98th Anniversary of the Siege of the Lost Battalion

“It was the most poignant incident of the American part in the World War, and its biggest newspaper story.”—Thomas M. Johnson, “The Lost Battalion,” American Magazine, November, 1929

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“The pocket” where the Lost Battalion was trapped

From October 2nd through 7th, 1918, three battalions from the U. S. Army’s Seventy-seventh Division were trapped by German forces in a pocket of the Argonne Forest. The men’s courage under siege in the midst of rifle, machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire with nothing to eat and with water dangerous to obtain, has gone down in American history. In Five Days in Ocotber, Robert Ferrell presents previously unavailable material, providing a fuller understanding of the story behind the Lost Battalion.

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“The pocket,” October, 1918

The causes of the entrapment were several, including command failures and tactical errors. The men had been sent ahead of the main division line without attention to flanks, and because of this misstep, they were surrounded by the Germans. Thus began a siege that took the lives of about 200 men.

After enduring two days of attacks from the Germans, American artillery fire hit the area. It started just beyond the Lost Battalion’s location and succeeded in damaging the German position. However, it shifted directly to the pocket, forcing the soldiers to hunker down and wait it out. By the time the fire ended, an hour and a half after it started, 30 men had been killed or wounded and many trees and bushes had been flattened, exposing their position.

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Cher Ami

In the midst of the shelling, Major Whittlesey sent his last carrier pigeon, Cher Ami, with the message:

We are along the road parallel 276.4. Our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it. – Whittlesey, Major, 308th

The story is that Cher Ami, shot by enemy fire, managed to deliver its message, but died soon after. It was later stuffed and exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Read more fascinating and informative details about this WW I episode in Farrell’s book, available at Amazon and Indiebound, in addition to our website.

How Does a Family Farm Really Work?

Hilty_Dirt_Sweat_72.jpgThose who depend on the land for their living, who roll their dice with weather and pestilence and uncertain commodity prices, see rural life differently than those who don’t. —from the introduction

As each generation goes by in American life, fewer people have the experience (or grandpa’s memory) of working and living on a family farm. Much is romanticized in our thoughts about country living, and much information in pop culture about agriculture is simply incorrect.

In this new book by Steven L. Hilty, readers go on a one-year journey through the seasons with a father-son family farm team, their families, and their hired hand. Set in western Missouri, you will laugh at the funny incidents (nothing is held back) and will feel for the livestock they take care of. Go into the heart of the rural Midwest lifestyle of cattle and row crops with Dirt, Sweat, and Diesel: A Family Farm in the Twenty-first Century.

This book presents a view of the complexities of farm life that few urban dwellers ever see: a “get-your-hands-dirty” look at keeping farm machinery repaired, keeping cattle healthy, struggling with planting and harvest, violent weather, new technology and cycles of birth and death. Above all, it is a chronicle of success and of a way of life integral to our economy and nation.

The great strengths of this book are the author’s knowledge and understanding of rural life, including the weather, land, animals, technology, and people of the Midwest. There is a remarkable attention to detail. —Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor Emerita of History, Southeast Missouri State University, author of Big Spring Autumn

Want to ride along in trucks, tractors, and combines for a few hours? Pick up this book today for an intimate portrait of life on a modern family farm.

Steve Hilty is an author and naturalist whose work has focused on birds and natural history. For more than twenty years he has made his home in Overland Park, Kansas, where he maintains a strong interest in agriculture and family farms.

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American Tragedian: The Life of Edwin Booth

Daniel J. Watermeier’s American Tragedian has just been selected as a finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of theater or performance. American Tragedian examines the life of Edwin Booth (1833-1893), widely considered to be the preeminent tragic actor of his era, and the greatest-ever American Shakespearean actor. His achievements, however, are often overshadowed by his brother’s assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (In a weird coincidence, Edwin Booth saved Lincoln’s son, Robert, from serious injury or death when he slipped between a moving train and the platform.)

This biography focuses on Booth the actor, the producer-director, and the champion of the “classical” acting tradition. Booth’s histrionic “genius” and his extraordinary popular success were affected by a number of off-stage buffetings, including the unexpected loss of his actor-father, Lincoln’s assassination, the premature death of two wives, and the failure of his theater and the resulting bankruptcy. In American Tragedian, Booth’s behind-the-scenes life is intertwined with and balanced against his on-stage work.

The scholarship that underpins this work is first-rate, but scholarship alone does not a good biography make. The biographer has to get on the wave-length of his subject and gain a kind of intimacy with that personality, as this one does. It was gratifying that my reading of this book confirmed what theatre historians have been buzzing about for years: Watermeier’s will be the definitive Booth biography.—Felicia Hardison Londré, author of History of World Theater: From the English Restoration to the Present