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Last Updated: Jul 8, 2015 - 11:24:42 PM 

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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "The Oregon Trail" by the late Francis Parkman Jr.
By Milt Gross
Jul 8, 2015 - 11:24:34 PM

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This 1937 publication, The Oregon Trail, was interesting and contained a lot of information about the West around 1836. I think it is a true story, and it tells of the "degenerate" (my opinion) ways things were done before and when the book was written. For example, killing buffalo just because they found them. Milt Gross photo.
This 1937 book from The World Syndicate Publishing Company, New York does not state whether The Oregon Trail is fiction or a record of the late Parkman's travels. Looking up the book and author on handy dandy computer gives no clue, except that it mentions an apparent research trip through the West by the author.

It reads like it was taken from a diary of some type.

Wikipedia states, "A scion of a wealthy Boston family, Parkman had enough money to pursue his research without having to worry too much about finances. His financial stability was enhanced by his modest lifestyle, and later, by the royalties from his book sales. He was thus able to commit much of his time to research, as well as to travel. He travelled across North America, visiting most of the historical locations he wrote about, and made frequent trips to Europe seeking original documents with which to further his research."

Living from "(September 16, 1823 -- November 8, 1893), Parkman was an American historian, best known as author of The Oregon Trail, Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life, and his monumental seven-volume France and England In North America. These works are still valued as historical sources and as literature. He was also a leading horticulturist, briefly a Professor of Horticulture at Harvard University and author of several books on the topic. Parkman was a trustee of the Boston Athenaeum (a library in Boston) from 1858 until his death in 1893."

I'm guessing the book was a combination of fiction and the author's experiences in his travels.

The book follows in first person a trip across part of the West, and it mentions contact with wagon trails heading for Oregon. But I didn't read of any trip in the first person of the Oregon Trail itself. The incidents in the book seem to be real, including camping with Native Americans.

The buffalo hunting especially reflected a mindset in which this killing sport was acceptable. Lots of buffalo were shot, sometimes when the shooter happened to find them and not because the shooter needed the meat or hides for any particular purchase. The story follows a before-conservation time and attitude toward wild game.

I found it interesting because it seems to represent life and attitudes as they likely were in the 1840s.

It's a book I'd recommend, because it shares the values or lack thereof of that period in American history, not made up from today but as the values were then. I personally am glad those values have changed. Had they not, there probably would be no buffalo alive today nor any parks of any type where the visitor can see what the land was like when the parks were founded.

I saw no price in the book, which wouldn't matter anyway since it would have been from 1937. But carries several publications of the same book, ranging from $6.74 for paperback, $18.75 used and new (doesn't say whether hardcover or paperback), free for Kindle, and $28.95 for the out-of-stock hardcover.

You're free to borrow my copy, using my e-mail address below, as I probably will not want to read it again.

The book is a close look at the activities and values of the time it depicts.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

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