Western Expansion Bibliography

1850 to 1890

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

This is another period and area on which the books written could be stacked and glued together to form a fair-sized mansion and its furniture. There are many general histories, and many an old diary or memoire. We have tried to stick to those most generally available, or of outstanding worth, or else to warn you off the losers.

Adam, Ramon F.

The Cowboy Dictionary: The Chin Jaw Words and Wing-Ding Ways of the American West ****
Every era needs a word-book that gives you the slang and catch-phrases. This one lets your cowpokes relax and sound like themselves instead of putting on their school-marm best English. T2

Adams, Andy(3may1859-26sep1935)

The Log of a Cowboy: A Narrative of the Old Trail Days *****!
1903; now from MJF; in process at PG!
Great memoire of the trail drives, and cowboy life in general. T2

also in process:

Reed Anthony, Cowman
Wells Brothers

Each title should take you right to its download page.
Cattle Brands: A Collection of Western Camp-fire Stories
The Outlet

Arnold, Oren

Hot Irons: Heraldry of the Range ***
New York,The Macmillan Company, 1940
Sets out to be an authority on Western brands, and covers a lot of atmosphere and background.
Irons in the Fire ***
London/New York/Toronto, Abelard-Schuman, 1965
Mostly cattle rustling stories involving brand changes, and some on invention of brands or peculiar brand stories.

Bianchi, John E., PhD.

Blue Steel and Gunleather ***
Bianchi International, Temecula, CA, 1986, 2nd ed.
The chapter on actual Western gunleather is unique. Everyone talks about guns critically, but your holster can't be anachronistic, either. T3

Bird, Isabella L.

Go To Project Gutenberg
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains *****!
orig. 1879; now at Project Gutenberg
Based on her letters to her sister in England. Bird landed in San Francisco in 1873 (which city she skips over), then proceeded east by rail and by horse. Gives exact descriptions of the Sierra Nevadas, Rockies, and points between. Please note with what confidence a 42 yo woman travelled alone: she did not live in fear of rape as we do nowadays and as far too many women in historical novels do. To drag the chivalrous men of the 19th century west down into the gutter with so many predatory males of today is an anachronism as well as a disservice. Women used to be able to trust most men; it gives readers hope that it may be so again when you portray it accurately. T3

Bloomingdale Brothers

Bloomingdale's Illustrated 1886 Catalog: Fashions, Dry Goods and Housewares ****
reprinted by Dover; 160 pg
Not only what's available, from clothes to rifles, but period prices as well. Unabridged: the only cutting was done by the original owner, who cut out several pages apparently for reference, mostly in men's suits. T3

Blum, Stella, editor

Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867-1898 *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 320 pg, 1000+ illos
Stellar costume book, detailing materials and colours as well as styles, but most valuable for its illustrations of how women did their hair in the period. T3

Boucher, Francois

Twenty Thousand Years of Fashion; the History of Costume and Personal Adornment **
Harry N. Abrams, 1966; 440 pg, index, glossary
European orientation makes this less useful for this area at this time. T1

Bray, Peter, editor

Transport Through the Ages **
Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., NY, 1971; illos by Barbara Brown
Covers a bit of everything, from dugout canoes on. Emphasis on later periods. T1

Byers, Chester

Cowboy Roping and Rope Tricks ***
G. P. Putnam's Sons, NY, 1928; now Dover Publications, Inc., NY
Don't see as many rope acts as in the days of vaude, anymore. Lets you know what is and isn't possible. Will Rogers wrote the forward. T3

Capps, Benjamin

The Indians ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1973; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Mostly about the Plains tribes after they got horses, but occasionally there will be an odd intrusion of Choctaws, Pueblos, or the like, by careless editors of the many illustrations. Includes how to pack a tipi, saddles and bridles, cradleboards from different tribes, pipes, musical instruments, cooking gear, weapons, courting, marriage, and a great deal on religious ritual. T2

Collins, Richard, ed.

Cowboy Dreams: Cowboy Nostalgia *****!
A portfolio of glass plate photographs by the likes of Belden, Huffman, Kendrick, Koerner, and Smith of the classic images of the West: roundups, cattle drives, and frontier towns. T1

Drimmer, Frederick, editor

Captured by the Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870 ****
Dover, 384 pg
Talk about your culture shock! Some were taken as prisoners of war, and accordingly treated horrendously; others were adopted in, and treated like any member of the tribe. T2

Erdoes, Richard

Saloons of the Old West *****!
Gramercy, NY
From the first whiskey peddler until they were closed down by Prohibition, girls, gamblers, and gunfights fully illustrated. T2

Fardon, G. R.

San Francisco in the 1850's, 33 Photographic Views ****
1856; now Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 48 pg
Really cancels the glamour! Dirt streets, clapboard boxes, and the occasional ambition of brick. T3

Fryer, Douglas J.

Antique Weapons A-Z ***
T. Nelson, NY, 1971
For collectors. Emphasis on bizarre and decorative, and terminology. The glossaries are great. T3

Gandy, Joan W. and Thomas H., editors

The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs: Natchez to New Orleans, 1870-1920 ***
Dover Publications, Inc., NY, 1987; 128 pg, 170 photos
Mostly exterior shots, the interior ones of the J.M. White, one of the palace ships, is revelatory -- spittoons every six feet on deck, but a framed mirror large and fancy as a gothic church entry. Wonderful images, but you will need more information than the captions provide. T3

Gernsheim, Alison

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey, 1840-1914 *****!
Dover Publications; 240 pg, 235 photos (most two to the page, sideways)
The text is wonderfully researched, with period comments on fashion, cosmetics, emigrant kits, dyes and colour combinations -- priceless! Must read, even though very European. T2

Gilbert, Bill

The Trailblazers ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1973; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Lewis & Clark, native tribes, mountain men, trappers, botanists, zoologists. A good number of maps. T2

Gorsline, Edward

What People Wore ***
Bonanza Books, NY, 1961; 269 pg, bibliography, about 9x12"
Gorsline is usually not a good buy, except and unless your interest is Western dress in line drawings from photographs. T2

Holloway, Mark

Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880 ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY
And you thought "cults" were a new thing! Explore the attempts build new Edens, where your characters may get involved, or at least discuss if there's one in the neighborhood. T2

Horn, Huston

The Pioneers ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1974; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Lavishly illustrated, with maps of the major routes west. Covers border squabbles by Washington, missionaries, layout of a wagon, miseries of travel, travail of settling, sodbusters, Oregonians, Mormons, how much turf is necessary to consturct the average house; naturally wide-ranging. T2

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
The Historical half has a chapter on Victorian American naming popularity, while family names can come from anywhere in the Contemporary section. There is also a mixed Native (North) American chapter, besides Cherokee, Delaware, Sioux and Cheyenne chapters. T1

Kohler, Carl

A History of Costume ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY
Hand-sized, info-packed, based on surviving clothes first and artwork secondarily. Author's line drawings of construction and detail. Neophytes should use with a picture book, which it will greatly clarify. T2

Lubbock, Basil

The Western Ocean Packets ****
Dover; 192 pg
These are the ATLANTIC Packets (fast ships) that are the forerunners of the fast ocean liners later in the century. Gives which lines are active when, which ships they added when, and what days they sailed. A good informative book. T3

MacColl, Gail, and Carol McD. Wallace

To Marry an English Lord ****
Sidgewick and Jackson, Ltd., London, 1989
Whether the hunting of titles by rich young Yankee women (and some Western heirresses), or the hunting of heiresses by bankrupt (largely British) noblemen, the cross-Atlantic traffic forever changed both Society and possibly world affairs. These are the details from Mrs. Astor's Four Hundred to the weddings, the parties, life in England, and how to remarry or at least play around. Covers 1860 to about 1910. T2

Margo, Elizabeth

Women of the Gold Rush *****!
orig. Taming the Forty-Niner, 1955; Indian Head Books, Barnes & Noble, Inc., NY, 1992; 245 pg, no index, bibliography
Tells as much about how the men got along without women, as what they did when there were few or many. Note the general gallantry towards even those of the lowest class, so hard to imagine in our misogynistic day. T1

Matthews, Frederick C.

American Merchant Ships, 1850-1900 ****
Dover; 960 pg in 2 vol, 195 B&W illos
The builders, tonnage, voyages, cargoes, and stories aboard of 322 vessels. Surely one is the ship you're looking for! T3

Mills, Betty J.

Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions 1830-1910 *****!
Texas Tech Press; 1985; 191 pg, 104 photos
Frontier, pioneer, and other plain, common, unfashionable folk, with whom the country is filled. What they wore, 1830-1910, and even how they took care of it. T2

Nevin, David

The Mexican War ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1978; 240 pg, index, bibliography
A nice detail book, for the newbie as well as the military historian. T2

The Soldiers ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1973; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Copious photos, as well as engravings, paintings, etc., show the life of the US Army man, especially in cavalry, during the western Indian Wars after the War Between the States. The viewpoint of the tribes is covered in other volumes; this is that of the 19th C. soldier. T2

The Texans ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1975; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Superb picture galleries, with all the fascinating bits -- the European emigration societies, the Republic of Fredonia, Santa Anna's battle map of the Alamo. Goes up to 1877 in details, but most of it is over by the time of annexation. T2

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T2

O'Neil, Paul

The Frontiersmen ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1975; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Plenty of maps! Adventures of the likes of Boone, Crockett, and less known men and women. Admirably explains some of the atrocities that turned previously friendly Native Americans hostile. Generally balanced. Photos of equipment from antler-handled patch knives to surveyor's chains. T2

Philip Morris Company

Chuckwagon Cooking from Marlboro Country ***
Philip Morris, Inc., 1981; 28 pg
This highly pictorial cookbooklet (8 1/2 x 11), has a center spread of what is where on a chuckwagon. Most of the recipes are fairly authentic, depending on if canned tomatoes have joined the repetoire by your period. Lots of old chuckwagon B&W's. T3

Reiter, Joan Swallow

The Women *****!
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1978; 240 pg, index, bibliography
A wide selection, from San Francisco belles to Native American lecturers, from stagecoach robbers to librarians, serial killers to ranchers. T2

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
Besides Native American warrior women, Salmonson gives an example of the pioneer woman defending the homestead, as in so many small-scale local examples later credited to her husband, who was hors de combat early. Also the many mule-skinners, outlaws, and sharp-shooters who (sometimes) wore skirts. T2

Scheffel, Richard L., project editor

Discovering America's Past **
Reader's Digest Books, Pleasantville, NY; 1993; 400 pg, index, no bibliography
An omnium gatherum of inventions, customs, practices and lifestyles, divided into 11 chapters by topic, such as "Educating America" which follows educational development as a series of short articles (half to full page) on unusual (to us) practices or noteworthy developments. Heavily illustrated, flashes of information, one of which may suit you. Best for the pages in the back listing Living History sites you can visit. T3

Sedgwick, Michael

Antique Cars ****
Exeter Books, NY, 1980
Beautifully illustrated, perfectly selected, more informative than far more titanic tomes, covering 80 early automobiles from the 1860 Rickett to the 1918 Overland. T2

Severa, Joan L.; Forewords by Nancy Rexford and Claudia Brush Kidwell

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 ****
Kent State University Press; January 1995; Hardcover, 540pp.
Expensive, but revelatory. Gives the clues for telling a lower class person dressed in their best from the true upper class look. Look for at library! T2

Siringo, Charles

A Texas Cowboy, or, Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony ****
Reprint of the autobiography of a cowboy. T1

Stephens, Autumn

Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era ****
Conari Press, Berkley, CA, 1992; 249 pg, no index, bibliography
150 mini-biographies (none over two pages) of unconventional women. Good to whet the appetite for further research in the bibliography. Note the social hell these women caught, too, for their actions. T2

Tanner, Ogden

The Canadians ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1977; 240 pg, index, bibliography
The voyageurs and their dealings with the natives, Mackenzie's explorations, magnificent photos of the Kwakiutl, formation of the Mounties, and other especially Canadian western expansion aspects. A bit too much for one book, but it may start you off on a good track. T2

The Ranchers ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1975; 240 pg, index, bibliography
From the King Ranch in Texas to the vaqueros of California, not missing Teddy Roosevelt out West. Notable among the many illos: the Marquise riding sidesaddle in trousers, pg. 164, and the three ranch girls holding and branding a calf on pg. 12-13. Includes sheep ranchers, with the layout of a sheep wagon (pg. 96), and dude ranchers, too. T2

Time-Life, the editors of

The Gamblers ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1978; 240 pg, index, bibliography
The gambling of the natives, including their acquired passion for poker, Mississippi Riverboat gamblers, extensive photos of surviving gambling gear, gambling in gold-rush canvas casinos and San Francisco's Chinatown, and concealable knives and pistols. T2

Trachtman, Paul

The Gunfighters ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1974; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Marred by being written by a man who obviously despises them all as criminal psychopaths. But covers all the major players. T2

Tunis, Edwin

Frontier Living ****
The World Publishing Company, Leveland, OH & NY, 1961; illustrated by the author
Pen drawings manage to be technically accurate and artistic at once. Text in easy, personal style, accurate on what it covers, which is quite a lot of primitive technology. Hits early log cabin settlements, rivermen, Alta California, mountain trappers, weapons, food, milling shelter, clothes, vehicles, etc.! T2

Wallace, Robert

The Miners ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1976; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Rarely seen photos from inside the mines and around the camps, not just the boomtowns of the various rushes. T2

Waugh, Norah

Corsets and Crinolines *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1954
Underpinnings, 1600's to 1925, in period art. T3

The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1964
The most fashionable men's dress, in period illustrations, with tailor's patterns, period comments on colours and fabrics, etc. Superb. T3

The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600 to 1930 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1968
The same for women. Both books show fastenings! T3

Wheeler, George M.

Wheeler's Photographic Survey of the American West, 1871-1873: with 50 Landscape Photographs by Timothy O'Sullivan and William Bell *****!
Dover, NY
May have just the landscape, or details of people of the time, you've been needing to make a scene take off. T3

Wheeler, Keith

The Alaskans ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1977; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Starts with the Russian settlement, on through about 1910, from Gold Rushes to salmon canneries. Includes the natives both in traditional life and as workers. T2

The Chroniclers ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1976; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Unusual coverage of the painters, photographers, and writers of the expanding frontier. Plenty of pictures. T2

The Railroaders ***
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1973; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Covers the lives of the railroaders as well as the experience of passangers. As usual, beacoup illustrations. T2

West, Elliott

The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado ***
University Press of Kansas.
Starts with the rise and creation of the Plains horse-nomad culture, rather than acting like it had been forever, or else was created entire just as the white eyes arrived. Shows the conflict over the Plains created by prospectors and miners. T2

Wetmore, Helen Cody

Last of the Great Scouts: The Life Story of Col. William F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill" ****
1899, now from National Historical Society.
The story as told by his sister. T2

Wild West, the editors of

Wild West Magazine *****!
Empire Press, Leesburg, VA; monthly
A specialty history periodical. Look for it at the library, for back issues, or even buy it. Some issue may have just the article you need. Heavily illustrated with period paintings, engravings, photos, and lots of the highly researched Western art of today. T3

Williams, Richard L.

The Loggers ****
part of The Old West series, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1976; 240 pg, index, bibliography
Lest we forget the forests of the West! Entrepreneurs who ran the business and the lumberjacks who brought in the product. Should have had more maps to locate the reader. Lots of paintings and photographs. T2


American Memory ****!


For everything American, whether books, maps, pamphlets, or pictures. The Library of Congress might have up what you're looking for, as well as things you never imagined were available.

H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***


A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern<yours>, and 20th C), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

  • Leave for H-GIG

Internet Modern History Sourcebook ****


Halsall, whom we know from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, is responding to demand in the world by now compiling an onl-line library on modern subjects. As it grows, you never know what has been lately added.

Making of America****


Cornell is hosting a site heavier on periodicals than books. Don't just look for period publications: look for ones maybe 30 years later talking to old-timers.

The Phrenology Page ***


"Phrenology is the science which studies the relationships between a person's character and the morphology of the skull." Includes a historical overview, definitions of words and concepts, and images with meanings of various characteristics.

Project Gutenberg ****


Since 1971 putting classic books into electronic form.

The Wild West *****!


A fine-looking, easy-to-read site containing or linking to excellent biographies on The Outlaws, The Lawmen (both well-filled), The Women (picking up) and The Towns, an empty section we hope will include maps or plans. The links inside the biographies link you to graphics if you haven't already seen the famous photos or the lesser players. Strong on dates and places, and gives the several conflicting versions when they occur rather than siding with one and ignoring the existence of the rest.

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