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Sierra crossing : first roads to California /
Thomas Frederick Howard.
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1998.
description
ix, 218 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, facsims. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0520206703 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1998.
isbn
0520206703 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
2167432
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 195-205) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"As Thomas Howard proves in this engaging study of early efforts to breach the Sierra Nevada, contemporary pathways represent an intriguing interaction of geography, human intention--and will. Having read this book, one will never again think simply about roadways. From Native American trails to overland stage routes, and the railways and freeways that were to follow, each axis of approach coaxed from the land and from the people who crossed the land the highest levels of engineering skills and dialogue with nature."--Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California "Tom Howard's intricately researched and well-told story. . . [is] the best kind of commingling of geography and history. . . that the legendary George Stewart would have relished."--Paul F. Starrs, editor ofGeographical Review "This lively and scholarly study is the definitive analysis of the overland mountain routes to California. . . .Sierra Crossingis indispensable for anyone interested in the historical geography of the westward movement and California history."--Martin Ridge, Senior Research Associate, The Huntington Library
Flap Copy
"As Thomas Howard proves in this engaging study of early efforts to breach the Sierra Nevada, contemporary pathways represent an intriguing interaction of geography, human intention--and will. Having read this book, one will never again think simply about roadways. From Native American trails to overland stage routes, and the railways and freeways that were to follow, each axis of approach coaxed from the land and from the people who crossed the land the highest levels of engineering skills and dialogue with nature."--Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California "Tom Howard's intricately researched and well-told story. . . [is] the best kind of commingling of geography and history. . . that the legendary George Stewart would have relished."--Paul F. Starrs, editor of Geographical Review "This lively and scholarly study is the definitive analysis of the overland mountain routes to California. . . . Sierra Crossing is indispensable for anyone interested in the historical geography of the westward movement and California history."--Martin Ridge, Senior Research Associate, The Huntington Library
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1998-11:
As the title correctly suggests, this book offers an examination of efforts to link central California with the nation over the spine of the Sierra Mountains by overland roads. Although the coming of the transcontinental railroad, which opened in May 1869, lessened the importance of wagon ways, these trails held considerable significance from the time of the initial gold rush in the late 1840s until the "Railway Age." Howard, a geographer, has explored the various proposals and projects for trans-Sierra roads. As with contemporary railroads themselves, funding varied, schemes fizzled, and routing strategies changed. Howard has studied an important, albeit largely neglected, topic that provides valuable insights into the overall nature of these pioneer paths. For one thing, he correctly argues that a route suitable for horses, mules, or wagons might not be a practical one for railroads or later for motorized vehicles. The work is enhanced by excellent maps, fascinating illustrations, and a valuable bibliography. And, too, Howard writes with an engaging style; he "humanizes" this dimension of western transportation history. All levels. H. R. Grant; Clemson University
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-06-15:
Howard (geography, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Georgia) offers a history of overland roads to California. Fur trappers and mountain men were the first European Americans to traverse the mountains, deserts, and passes. Their routes laid the foundation for wagon trains, overland stages, freight wagons, and, finally, the railroads. The elevation and snow of the Sierra Nevadas created great challenges for road builders, as did politics‘both local and national. California cities vied to become terminuses, and sectional difficulties at the federal level postponed the building of a transcontinental railroad until the 1860s. With the completion of the Union Pacific in 1869, the nation was physically joined, the Western territories were secured, and the mineral wealth, agricultural lands, and seaports of California were now a part of the national system. Howard has used diaries, letters, newspapers, and official reports while also describing present conditions of many of California's first roads to produce an entertaining piece of scholarship. Recommended for all public libraries.‘Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, May 1998
Booklist, June 1998
Library Journal, June 1998
Choice, November 1998
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
A critical era in California's history and development--the building of the first roads over the Sierra Nevada--is thoroughly and colorfully documented in Thomas Howard's fascinating book. During California's first two decades of statehood (1850-1870), the state was separated from the east coast by a sea journey of at least six weeks. Although Californians expected to be connected with the other states by railroad soon after the 1849 Gold Rush, almost twenty years elapsed before this occurred. Meanwhile, various overland road ventures were launched by "emigrants," former gold miners, state government officials, the War Department, the Interior Department, local politicians, town businessmen, stagecoach operators, and other entrepreneurs whose alliances with one another were constantly shifting. The broad landscape of international affairs is also a part of Howard's story. Constructing roads and accumulating geographic information in the Sierra Nevada reflected Washington's interest in securing the vast western territories formerly held by others. In a remarkably short time the Sierra was transformed by vigorous exploration, road-promotion, and road-building. Ox-drawn wagons gave way to stagecoaches able to provide service as fine as any in the country. Howard effectively uses diaries, letters, newspaper stories, and official reports to recreate the human struggle and excitement involved in building the first trans-Sierra roads. Some of those roads have become modern highways used by thousands every day, while others are now only dim traces in the lonely backcountry.
Main Description
A critical era in California's history and development--the building of the first roads over the Sierra Nevada--is thoroughly and colorfully documented in Thomas Howard's fascinating book. Some of those roads have become modern highways, while others are only dim traces in the lonely backcountry. 22 photos. 3 maps.
Table of Contents
Preface
Introductionp. 1
Mountain Wall, Snow, Basins, and Riversp. 6
Trans-Sierra Transport before Wheeled Vehiclesp. 12
Wagon Trains across the Sierrap. 34
Local Initiatives in Road Buildingp. 54
State Government Road Measuresp. 75
The Distant Prospect of Railroadsp. 100
The Federal Government Builds West to Californiap. 115
Mail Contracts and Stagecoach Servicep. 125
A Revival of Interest in Road Construction in Californiap. 139
The Central Pacific Railroadp. 163
Epilogue: Trans-Sierra Roads after 1869p. 174
Notesp. 181
Referencesp. 195
Indexp. 207
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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