With the close of the Revolution, the spilling over the Alleghenies of thousands of Americans and of many foreign visitors and observers led to an untold number of diaries, travel accounts, and reminiscences of voyages through the wilderness in which men detailed the adventures of their youth, the development of their business enterprises, their share in military actions, their work in carrying the Word to the Indian, their wanderings in the cause of science, or their plain curiosity as tourists. The firsthand reports of this flood of travelers of every persuasion, afloat on the "western waters" for every conceivable reason, are documents of prime value to the social and cultural historian as well as narratives of perennial interest to those who delight in reading of man and his ways.
Many of these early accounts of life and scene on the rivers of the Mississippi Valley were printed by the traveler-author in small editions and in time have become quite scarce, accessible only in rare book collections. A few of them were reprinted by Reuben Gold Thwaites in his model series of Western American Travels in 1904. Others have since found their way back to a new audience in a new dress. But many of the narratives describing the new world beyond the Alleghenies have remained out of common reach.
What was it like in the old, old times on the Mississippi before Huckleberry Finn came into being, before "OldTimes on the Mississippi" charmed the readers of Harper's Magazine in 1874, even in that dim, dark day before young Sam Clemens was born? Long before Mark Twain took out his copyright on it, the river was there, a carrier of commerce and chicken coops, princes, prelates, and paupers. Businessmen and lawyers and missionaries and artists, soldiers, newspapermen, eager-eyed and sour French and English and German tourists, botanists, politicians, peddlers, emigrant families, musicians, actors, and gamblers floated patiently or impatiently down the great river, risked the hazards, enjoyed the pleasures,