A Shovel of Stars: The Making of the American West, 1800 to the Present

Ted Morgan, Author Simon & Schuster $29.5 (559p) ISBN 978-0-671-79439-2
In this sequel to Wilderness at Dawn, which chronicled the settling of the U.S. and the making of the first 13 states, Morgan continues his history from below, offering engaging sketches and anecdotes about ordinary folk in the remaining 37 states. Warning: the subtitle misleads; in each chapter, Morgan concludes with the establishment of a state; thus only the Alaska chapter touches on the present. Moreover, no chapter is close to comprehensive, nor does the book engage in any debates about our history. Given that, this is a good complement to conventional histories and a fine book for browsing: The characters are pioneers of pluck and, sometimes, ugliness; the disenfranchised, often Native Americans but also blacks, are both opponents and sometimes pioneers themselves. There are scenes of trading parties, seat-of-the-pants justice, medicine shows and mixing between such ostensibly disparate groups as Mormons and Navajos. And there are innovators, who proposed Manifest Destiny, brought postal service to the California gold mines, invented the refrigerated rail car and figured out how to can Hawaiian pineapple. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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