Magazine article The New Yorker

Go West, and Write about It

Magazine article The New Yorker

Go West, and Write about It

Article excerpt

Before the first postcards arrived back East showing sunlit cactuses and mesas, railroad-company photographers and government surveyors had already begun to document the American West for commercial gain. In PRINT THE LEGEND (Yale), Martha A. Sandweiss writes that as early as the eighteen-sixties daguerrotypes, album plates, and glass lantern slides encouraged railroad barons and real-estate developers to plot their next moves. Desolate flatlands were paired with optimistic text, depicting "a visual story that affirmed and expanded the central fictions of nineteenth-century western history."

The rodeo circuit provides another framework for Western legend; barrel-racing cowgirls spent their time away from the arena "polishing white boots and powdering white hats," according to RODEO QUEENS AND THE AMERICAN DREAM (PublicAffairs). Author Joan Burbick interviews female rodeo stars, starting with the foremothers of the nineteen-thirties. …

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