"Astoria" Reading List

Posted 07 December 2017

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Compiled from research by Astoria Production Dramaturg Benjamin Fainstein, immerse yourself in the world of nineteenth century North America with this reading list.

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
by Peter Stark

In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Skeletons in the Zahara, Astoria is the thrilling, true-adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition, an epic, now forgotten, three-year journey to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast. Peter Stark offers a harrowing saga in which a band of explorers battled nature, starvation, and madness to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest and opened up what would become the Oregon trail, permanently altering the nation's landscape and its global standing.

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Astoria, or, anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains

by Washington Irving

Commissioned by John Jacob Astor as an official history of his company's expedition to Oregon in 1810–1812, Astoria became a bestseller in 1836 and at the time was required reading in some schools. From its first appearance--when it was hailed by no less a reviewer than Edgar Allan Poe--to the present day, Astoria has been read as a vivid and fascinating history, comparable indeed to the finest of romances, but rooted in the rough and hardy life of trapping, hunting, and exploration.

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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

Dee Brown's classic, eloquent, meticulously documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication, it has sold over four million copies in multiple editions and has been translated into seventeen languages. Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the series of battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them and their people demoralized and decimated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was won, and lost. It tells a story that should not be forgotten, and so must be retold from time to time.

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The Voyageur

by Grace Lee Nute

The Voyageur is the authoritative account of a unique and colorful group of men whose exploits, songs, and customs comprise an enduring legacy. French Canadians who guided and paddled the canoes of explorers and fur traders, the voyageurs were experts at traversing the treacherous rapids and dangerous open waters of the canoe routes from Quebec and Montreal to the regions bordering the Great Lakes and on to the Mackenzie and Columbia Rivers. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, explorers and fur traders relied on the voyageurs to open up the vast reaches of North America to settlement and trade. A noted scholar of the fur trade, Grace Lee Nute was a curator at the Minnesota Historical Society, a professor of history at Hamline University, and the author of The Voyageur's Highway.

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Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West

by Patricia Nelson Limerick

The "settling" of the American West has been powerfully perceived throughout the world as a series of quaint, violent, and romantic adventures most with happy endings and a process that came to an end with the "closing" of the frontier in the 1890s. But in fact, Patricia Nelson Limerick argues, the American West has a history grounded in primary economic reality hardheaded questions of profit, loss, competition, and consolidation. In The Legacy of Conquest, she interprets the stories and the characters in a new way: the trappers, traders, Indians, farmers, oilmen, cowboys, and sheriffs of the Old West "meant business" in more ways than one, and their descendants mean business today.

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Atlas of the North American Indian

by Carl Waldman

With over 100 two-color, an informative text, and handsome illustrations, this unique and comprehensive reference work covers the history, culture, and tribal locations of Indian peoples in the United States, Canada, and Middle America from ancient times to the present.

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Fur Trappers and Mountain Men of the Upper Missouri

by Leroy R. Hafen

John Jacob Astor’s dream of empire took shape as the American Fur Company. At Astor’s retirement in 1834, this corporate monopoly reached westward from a depot on Mackinac Island to subposts beyond the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. Fur Traders, Trappers, and Mountain Men of the Upper Missouri focuses on eighteen men who represented the American Fur Company and its successors in the Upper Missouri trade. Their biographies have been compiled from the classic ten-volume Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West, edited by LeRoy R. Hafen.

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Narrative of a Voyage: to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811,1812, 1813, and 1814
by Gabriel Franchère

A native of Montreal, Franchère joined the Pacific Fur Company as a merchant apprentice, arriving at Fort Astoria on the Tonquin. After Astoria was sold to the North West Company, Franchère returned to Montreal overland in 1814. He was employed for a time by John Jacob Astor in Montreal and wrote Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America. Published in 1851, this work was translated into English and published as part of the General Series of the Champlain Society in 1969. The untranslated version was one of Washington Irving's sources for his book Astoria.

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Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.

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Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia
by Robert T. Boyd

Chinookan peoples have lived on the Lower Columbia River for millennia. Today they are one of the most significant Native groups in the Pacific Northwest, although the Chinook Tribe is still unrecognized by the United States government. In Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia River, scholars provide a deep and wide-ranging picture of the landscape and resources of the Chinookan homeland and the history and culture of a people over time, from 10,000 years ago to the present. They draw on research by archaeologists, ethnologists, scientists, and historians, inspired in part by the discovery of several Chinookan village sites, particularly Cathlapotle, a village on the Columbia River floodplain near the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. Their accumulated scholarship, along with contributions by members of the Chinook and related tribes, provides an introduction to Chinookan culture and research and is a foundation for future work.

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John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire
by Axel Madsen

Expertly situating his subject's accomplishments in the context of late 18th- and early 19th-century commercial and geopolitical expansion, Madsen (Chanel; Gloria and Joe) weighs in with an absorbing biography of one of 19th-century America's most powerful men. Having immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1783, Astor was on friendly terms with such prominent figures as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Albert Gallatin by the time he came to dominate the North American fur trade in 1800. While Astor's relationships with Jefferson and others characterized the wheeling and dealing in fledgling Washington, D.C., his mastery over the fur trade figured significantly in opening up the American West. 

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The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial Edition
by Donald R Hickey

The newly expanded The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial Edition includes additional information on the British forces, American Indians, and military operations such as the importance of logistics and the use and capabilities of weaponry. Hickey explains how the war promoted American nationalism and manifest destiny, stimulated peacetime defense spending, and enhanced America's reputation abroad. He also shows that the war sparked bloody conflicts between pro-war Republican and anti-war Federalist neighbors, dealt a crippling blow to American Indians, and solidified the United States's antipathy toward the British.

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After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific
by Robert M. Utley

In 1807, a year after Lewis and Clark returned from the shores of the Pacific, groups of trappers and hunters began to drift West to tap the rich stocks of beaver and to trade with the Native nations. Colorful and eccentric, bold and adventurous, mountain men such as John Colter, George Drouillard, Hugh Glass, Andrew Henry, and Kit Carson found individual freedom and financial reward in pursuit of pelts. Their knowledge of the country and its inhabitants served the first mapmakers, the army, and the streams of emigrants moving West in ever-greater numbers. The mountain men laid the foundations for their own displacement, as they led the nation on a westward course that ultimately spread the American lands from sea to sea.

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