The Perils of a Partisan Farm Bill

by Christopher Bosso, author of Framing the Farm Bill

The House Republican leadership took a gamble. Prompted by outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan, it bet that that it could push through a farm bill without any Democratic votes by emphasizing work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aimed at cutting overall program spending. Stricter work rules are popular with most (but not all) Republicans but opposed by most (but not all) Democrats. Ryan bet that getting tougher on SNAP would overcome skepticism among more libertarian “Freedom Caucus” Republicans regarding the costs of commodity programs. And Ryan had at least the Twitter support of President Trump.

That bet failed. The House on May 18 voted down HR 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, 198-213, with 30 Republicans joining 183 Democrats in opposition. Freedom Caucus Republicans, many upset about inaction on a separate immigration bill, rebuffed Ryan’s overtures – as did a few of their more moderate GOP colleagues, for whom charges that their party was stigmatizing hungry people could prove unpopular going into the 2018 midterms. Prospects for House action by November are modest. Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee will move on its own, more bipartisan bill, to give senators at least symbolic benefits going into the elections.

The take-away? As we saw with the long saga over passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, as detailed in Framing the Farm Bill, today’s House is a non-rural body. Only three dozen House members now represent “farming” districts. As such, the 1.7% of Americans who farm — and who depend on USDA farm programs – need the votes of colleagues for whom agricultural policy is a distant priority. To do so, they extended farm bills to include priorities of those colleagues — nutrition programs.

Their political calculation was clear. Since the 1970s a shrinking congressional farm bloc included nutrition programs, SNAP in particular, into farm bills precisely to get the votes of their non-rural colleagues for commodity programs they might otherwise oppose as “welfare” for ever-larger farming operations. In return, rural conservatives would support nutrition program spending despite their antipathy toward “welfare” for poor people. That “farm programs + food stamps” deal, an awkward marriage of convenience at the best of times, became the linchpin holding together the farm bill coalition.

However, the House GOP’s most conservative members, bolstered by their homogenous suburban base, rejects this deal. They despise SNAP and commodity programs. In 2013, after dealing the Agriculture Committee a similar floor defeat, they split the two into separate bills, passing each by party line votes. The Senate, whose members represent broader constituencies, reknit the two. No SNAP, no Farm Bill.

Ryan could put SNAP into a “welfare reform” bill. It won’t pass the Senate, because few senators want to untie the knot that has held together farm bills for decades. More to the point, it won’t pass because the few who farm depend on the good will of the non-farming majority for whom SNAP is important. The House GOP’s partisan farm bill had no hope.

Christopher Bosso is professor of public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University. His books include Environment, Inc.: From Grassroots to Beltway, also from Kansas, and Pesticides and Politics: The Life Cycle of a Public Issue.

Dwight T. Pitcaithley (The U.S. Constitution and Secession) Q & A

Five months after the election of Abraham Lincoln, which had revealed the fracturing state of the nation, Confederates fired on Fort Sumter and the fight for the Union began in earnest. This documentary reader offers a firsthand look at the constitutional debates that consumed the country in those fraught five months. Day by day, week by week, these documents chart the political path, and the insurmountable differences, that led directly—but not inevitably—to the American Civil War. In The U.S. Constitution and Secession; A Documentary Ahthology of Slavery and White Supremacy, Dwight Pitcaithley has assembled the quintessential public statements that lead to the South’s secession in an effort to maintain slavery and advance white supremacy.

 

1. When did you first have the idea to work on The U.S. Constitution and Secession?

I began my research on secession upon my retirement from the National Park Service in 2005 simply to satisfy my own curiosity. I knew that slavery was at the core of the secession movement, but I did not understand exactly how. As I started uncovering the dozens of proposed solutions to the “problem” posed by Lincoln’s election in 1860 the idea for a book began taking shape. Once I realized that no one had ever codified or analyzed the sixty-seven suggested constitutional amendments or written about them as a specific category of evidence, I started conceptualizing the book.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

From start to finish the book took about a decade. Locating and analyzing the published proceedings from the various official gatherings over Secession Winter took a fair amount of time. Then I had to determine what the proposed constitutional amendments meant. Were they honest efforts to solve the sectional crisis or were they just designed to stall or prolong the deliberative process. Once I understood their import, I began crafting a monograph, organized by geographic regions, that described and analyzed the amendments. I became dissatisfied with that manuscript because of the repetitive nature of the proposed solutions. I then shifted to a documentary reader format with an extended introduction. Crafting the introduction spanned around three years. During the process of understanding the puzzle of secession, I became intrigued with the symbiotic relationship between slavery and white supremacy and the degree to which southerners assumed and defended that connection. Factoring that relationship into the research and writing process provided new meaning to the proceedings of the elected officials over Secession Winter.

3. What was the most challenging aspect of editing the publication?

The most challenging (and yet, in an interesting way, rewarding) aspect of the editing process was chasing down sources for the un-attributed quotes, allusions to historical and fictional characters, and references to classical literature that were imbedded throughout the official documents. The Witch of Endor and Mazeppa, for example, were not part of my educational background.

4. The U.S. Constitution and Secession is, essentially, the nail in the coffin for those arguing that the Civil War was not about slavery. How do you respond to people who maintain their argument that Southern states seceded for any reason other than the protection of slavery and white supremacy?

People can and do believe what they want to believe. If, after reading The U.S. Constitution and Secession, they still maintain that secession was not about slavery, they need to develop the case that Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs, John Crittenden (and virtually all elected officials at the time) were prevaricating when they explained to their peers that slavery was the root cause of secession.

5. Do you expect, or have you received any negative feedback from your book and the case you are presenting?

I have received no negative comments as yet although I certainly expect some. And I will welcome challenges to the book and its findings. The resulting conversation will help get us where we need to go.

6. What is your reaction to recent events that have triggered a new debate over the roots of the civil war?

My first reaction is sadness that the notion of white supremacy continues to motivate individuals to violence. The events of Charleston and Charlottesville and other places remind us of how far we have yet to go regarding race relations, how debilitating racism continues to be. This nation can abolish slavery and legislate against segregation, but the solution to white supremacist thinking seems to confound us.

At the same time, the public debate over the proper role Confederate memory plays in our society should be welcomed. Airing the dark aspects of this country’s past will help us understand the relationship between then and now, and how decisions we make about the future should not be based on false histories.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

President Trump. It might help him understand the historical (and contemporary) corrosiveness of white supremacy.

8. What are you reading now?

Mitch Landrieu’s In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History (2018)

Dwight T. Pitcaithley is a college professor of history at New Mexico State University. He is a former Chief Historian of the National Park Service.

Matthew Roth (Magic Bean; The Rise of Soy in America) Q & A

At the turn of the twentieth century, soybeans grew on so little of America’s land that nobody bothered to track the total. By the year 2000, they covered upward of 70 million acres, second only to corn, and had become the nation’s largest cash crop. How this little-known Chinese transplant, initially grown chiefly for forage, turned into a ubiquitous component of American farming, culture, and cuisine is the story Matthew Roth tells in Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America.
1. When did you first have the idea to work on Magic Bean; The Rise of Soy in America?
 
It emerged from a discussion on the New York subway between myself and a colleague.  At that point, I had been a vegetarian for 20 years, so I was familiar enough with using tofu as an ingredient, as well as more newfangled soy foods such as textured vegetable protein (TVP).  I had even helped produce commercial tofu at a commune where my brother lived for a time.  But I had no real firm sense of when tofu had become a “thing” in America. More to the point, I didn’t know how that related to its other role as a key component in the American system for producing meat.  Were these two separate strands of history, or were they causally related?  In any case, this double-identity interested me, and I let my curiosity lead the way.  I must have been pretty excited about the topic from the outset, because a lady on the subway told my friend and me that we were talking too loudly.
2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?
 
Years and years, both in graduate school and beyond.  I once heard a museum curator of found objects describe the first step of creating a good collection as assembling a “critical mess,” and research can be something like that.  I scouted everywhere for sources: old newspapers, magazines and scientific journals; secondary and primary books; patents; fiction and movies; and eventually a wide array of archives. There was a mother lode at the SoyInfo Center near Berkeley, California, which also provides many primary sources online.  Then there was the task of organizing all of this material into a coherent whole: the most complicated jigsaw puzzle you’d ever want to do, especially as there is no picture on the box to guide you.  My first approach was sprawling and biographical, but as I worked on the material, I was able to find narrative through-lines that made sense of the soybean’s rise, and this allowed me to considerably streamline the final book.
 
3. What was the most challenging aspect of researching the story of the soybean?
 
I would say getting beyond the hype.  The soybean has had its boosters for over a century, predicting it would be the next big thing long before it actually became the next big thing.  And given its steep rise, you could find articles from just about any year proclaiming its recent ascent from obscurity – in 1960, as in 1930, it was said to have been a negligible factor in American agriculture five years earlier, but had now arrived.  This made it unclear when the true breakthrough came: the boll weevil infestation of the South in the early 1900s? World War I? World War II?  A large part of my work was identifying the false starts, because though the soybean’s rise was eventually precipitous, it was not exactly a straight line.
 
4. This year soybeans have become the nation’s most-produced crop, overtaking corn. Can you summarize what led soybeans from being almost a forgotten crop at the turn of the twentieth century to America’s leading cash crop?
 
My argument in the book is that the adoption of the soybean by American agriculture, and its incorporation into American food, followed the path of many major innovations.  The first phase, from around 1900 to 1930, was one of chance and contingency: it benefitted from broader efforts to bring exotic plants into American farming, and then to find alternatives for both the South and North to what were considered soil-depleting crops.  Though the soybean had its boosters, however, it was pretty touch-and-go.  It found a firm home in the Midwest in the 1920s with the emergence of a soybean-crushing industry, but this as well experienced some false starts early in the decade.  By 1930, however, there was a virtuous cycle of investment not only in processing equipment, but in things like combines to harvest soybeans and in federal efforts to import superior varieties.  The Depression era involved efforts to make good on these investments, exploring all avenues of possible – and more lucrative – uses for soybean oil and meal.  Government support during World War II to insure increased meat production helped the industry leap forward.  As the scale of production increased, and soy became more plentiful, it became a competitive raw material for a wide array of uses, which in turn further promoted its growth.  There were limits, though.  Sterols in soybean oil were used early on as precursors for synthetic hormones, but until the end of the century, soy hormones were sidelined by those derived by wild Mexican barbasco yams.
 
5. What are the possible negative impacts of China’s proposed soybean tariffs?
 
Enormous.  On the one hand, one would think this was a case where China needed us more than we need them.  In the push to industrialize, China has relinquished its lead as a soy producer and depends heavily on imports.  On the other hand, however, it has options in the world market.  The rise of competition to US soy growers was spurred by a Nixon-era embargo that briefly barred the export of American soybeans.  This made the American supply look unreliable to overseas buyers, especially in Japan, which then invested in a nascent Brazilian soybean industry.  By the 1980s, competition on the world market was one factor in the farm crisis.  But what globalism took away with one hand, it eventually gave back with another: the rise of China at the end of the 1990s, while putting pressure on American manufacturing, was a major boost to soybeans. Up to this point, it has been one of the bright spots for us in the US-China balance of trade.  Maybe not for long.
 
6. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?
 
I have many different people I’d like to read the book for a variety of reasons. There are my idols in my fields of environmental history and the history of technology, folks like William Cronin and Henry Petroski.  There are soybean farmers and researchers, for whom I’d like to provide an enjoyable way to put their work into perspective.  For my fellow vegetarians, I’d like to perhaps shed some light on the ways that dietary habits do and do not change.  If I had an imagined reader while writing the book, I suppose it would be someone somewhat like myself: curious about the stories behind the current shape of our world, in part as a way of discovering how it might be changed for the better.
 
8. What are you reading now?
 
As it happens, I’m preparing to teach a new undergraduate course on global food history.  Right now, I’m reading a pair in books in tandem – Andrew Lawler’s Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? and Mark Essig’s Lesser Beasts (on pigs) – that have some relevance to the soybean, which was a key input in the postwar mass production of poultry products and pork.  More than that, though, they are both fascinating, and often funny, explorations into the deep history of the human domestication of the natural world.

The Truth about Oil and the Iraq War, 15 Years Later

By Gary Vogler, author or Iraq and the Politics of Oil

April 24 marks the 15th anniversary of my initial entry into Baghdad as the senior oil advisor to retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, our US government civilian leader in Iraq. It was the beginning of my six plus years in Iraq working on the oil sector and denying the allegation that the Iraq war had an oil agenda. I can no longer refute such an allegation.

Was there an oil agenda for the Iraq war? If you had asked me that question four years ago, I would have said no, absolutely not. And, I said no on national television in 2014.

Ambassador L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer and I went on the Rachel Maddow Show to refute Maddow’s position that the Iraq war was largely about oil. Specifically, I said that I had not witnessed any serious oil agenda during my time at the Pentagon and in Iraq. I cannot honestly say that today. So what has changed my mind?

Phil Carroll (the retired Shell US CEO who became my boss in Baghdad in May 2003) and I agreed that if either of us saw anything close to an oil agenda in the summer of 2003, we would both resign and leave Iraq. Phil and I had spent time in the US army during our younger years before our careers in the oil industry and both of us detested the thought of US soldiers dying so that some oil company could profit from it. We were looking for an agenda involving US oil companies. The President’s critics were looking for the same thing and even inferring in the US press that it was taking place. We did not see it.

Up until 2013 my focus was on execution of plans and helping the Iraq oil sector as best I could. I had little desire to research about an oil agenda. I was in denial. I believed that my country sent me to Iraq for a noble reason and that people in my government just got the WMD issue wrong. I refused to entertain the idea that oil played any part in their decision.

I saw things that I did not understand during 2003, but wrote them off as distractions to our mission. Such as, why did Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense, verbally reverse the decisions made by the President’s cabinet about an export pipeline through Syria just before the war started? We had discussed the Syria export pipeline during our prewar policy discussions. No oil infrastructure was supposed to be targeted during the invasion. The final written policy agreed by the President’s cabinet in late December 2002 stated that exports through that Syria pipeline should be used as leverage with the Syrian government to get their cooperation. The pipeline was not supposed to be destroyed.

However, Wolfowitz verbally reversed that guidance during a video teleconference with General Franks about a week before the invasion. The one large pump station that pumped oil through the Syrian export pipeline was destroyed early in the war. It was the only intentional oil infrastructure target. Secretary Rumsfeld announced to the NY Times the day after the pump station destruction that it was destroyed to punish Syria for helping Saddam smuggle oil outside of the United Nation’s oil for food program. Such explanation made no sense.

The attack on the pump station punished the future government of Iraq much more than Syria. Iraq lost an export channel and a $50 million pump station. Syria only lost the toll fees from any export barrels that Iraq would export through the pipeline in the future. Iraq incurred more than 95% of the punishment. This had all been discussed during our prewar planning and that is why the written policy approved by the cabinet stated as it did. So why did Wolfowitz reverse it? It made no sense to me until I started doing some serious research in the last few years while writing my book.

Using the Google search tool, I was able to find things in 2014 and 2015 in the foreign press that were real eye-openers. There were several articles in the Israeli and British press from 2003. I learned several new facts. I learned about an oil agenda and the players involved, but the most important was that I learned motives. I had many sleepless nights. I learned that a person cannot sleep when they are angry and the more I learned, the angrier I became. I had been a volunteer for all of my time in Iraq. I risked my life for seventy-five months in Iraq working for what I thought were noble reasons. The more I learned the more I realized that there was an oil agenda and I was just an unknowing participant.

The oil agenda I discovered and experienced was to supply Iraq oil to Israel. The players were the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration, their favorite Iraqi – Dr Ahmed Chalabi and the Israeli government. One of the motives was because Israel was paying a huge premium for its oil imports and this premium had just started in the late1990s. The agenda called for the reopening of the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and its significant expansion. When this pipeline plan became unattainable in the 2nd half of 2003 then Chalabi took other actions to get inexpensive Iraqi oil to Israel.

A much more credible explanation for intentionally destroying the Syrian export pipeline than what Secretary Rumsfeld told the NY Times was found in the British press. The Guardian, a London newspaper, quoted a retired CIA agent just after the Syria pipeline attack. “It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply. Rebuilding the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline would transform economic power in the region, cutting out Syria and solving Israel’s energy crisis at a stroke.”

This was just one of several facts that I discovered during my research. Our nation’s second President, John Adams, was quoted as saying, ”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Ten facts are discussed at the end of my recently published book and include the following five that I consider tipping point facts. These five facts made me realize that I had been in denial for many years. After learning these facts coupled with my other experiences, I recognized that there really was an oil agenda.

First, Israeli Infrastructure minister Joseph Pritskzy was interviewed in the Israeli press on March 31, 2003 – before the US Forces had even taken Baghdad. He was identifying how the Iraq war would benefit Israel economically. He was in contact with civilians at the Pentagon and they were planning to reopen the pipeline between Kirkuk in Iraq and Haifa Israel – a pipeline that was the only export pipeline in Iraq from 1934 until 1948 when Israel came into existence and the pipeline was closed by the government of Iraq. The pipeline through Syria was built to replace the Haifa pipeline after 1948. Pritskzy identified that Israel was paying a 25% premium for the oil imports they were receiving and the reopened pipeline to Haifa would eliminate the premium and be a huge economic benefit to Israel.

Second, the Israeli finance minister in 2003 was Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister. The Israeli press reported that Netanyahu went to London in 2003 to find investors willing to invest in the expansion of the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline. A quote from his sales pitch about the oil pipeline to Haifa went this way – “and this is no pipe dream.”

Third, the number three person at the Pentagon in 2003 was Doug Feith. Feith’s law partner for fifteen years before Feith joined the Bush administration was Marc Zell. Zell was interviewed in 2004 in an article entitled “How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons.” Zell is quoted as saying that Chalabi promised to reopen the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and enable a huge amount of business between Iraq and Israel. Zell went on to further criticize Ahmed Chalabi saying “Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat.” The nerve of this guy Zell – criticizing his partner in crime who helped push us into a war that would eventually cost us 4,489 KIAs and over $2 trillion just so that he could make $millions in profits.

Fourth, Scooter Libby was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in Washington. Libby had a secure communications link to Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad during the summer of 2003. Libby was also linked to the nefarious oil trader Marc Rich. That name might be familiar to you. Marc Rich was the person who President Clinton pardoned on his last day in office from crimes of income tax evasion of $100 million and trading with the enemy. Libby was Marc Rich’s lawyer for many years while Rich made $billions moving Iranian crude oil through a secret pipeline through Israel.

The pipeline carried oil from the Red Sea Israeli port of Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. This secret pipeline was constructed in 1970 and Marc Rich transported Iranian oil through this pipeline for over 20 years, until the mid 1990s. He moved the oil through Israel to his customers in the Mediterranean and Israel received what oil it needed – at a discounted price. This arrangement stopped sometime after 1994 when Rich was forced out of the company he founded. The original company was called Marc Rich & Co, AG and located in Switzerland. The name was changed to Glencore in 1995 after Rich was bought out.

Both Marc Rich and Scooter Libby developed a very close relationship to the Israeli government and especially the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence group. The former British foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006 was Jack Straw. Straw said of Scooter Libby, “It is a toss up whether he is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day.”

Last, there was a young analyst assigned to our Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) at the Pentagon back in October 2002 by the name of Mike Makovsky. Makovsky had no recognizable experience in the oil industry and no applicable experience in government – so his role on our team was somewhat contentious. The security people at the Pentagon refused to grant him a top secret clearance and he refused to deploy to Iraq with the rest of us, remaining at the Pentagon as the Pentagon’s so-called expert on the Iraq oil sector.

Years later, I learned that Doug Feith over-ruled the Pentagon security group to get Makovsky his top secret clearance. Something that I did not know was even legal. I also learned that AIPAC (the Israeli Lobby group) placed Makovsky in Doug Feith’s group at the Pentagon. I also learned that Makovsky left the US in 1989 to join the Israeli foreign service. My CIA contacts told me that Israel’s foreign service is 98% Mossad, the Israeli intelligence. So, it prompts a question – why was a Mossad contact with no oil experience placed in a key Iraq oil position at the Pentagon in 2002 through 2008? The only reasonable conclusion was to support the identified oil agenda for supplying Iraqi oil to Israel. Makovsky is currently the CEO of JINSA – an Israeli lobby think tank in DC.

The Alternative Plan

It became evident that the Haifa pipeline plan was unattainable late in the summer of 2003. The neoconservatives learned that the pipeline no longer existed inside Iraq and Ahmed Chalabi recognized that the Iraqis were violently resisting the idea of an oil pipeline to Israel.

In July 2003, the Iraqis started attacking oil pipelines. This led to severe shortages of gasoline and diesel for the population. Gas lines quickly became several kilometers long in 100-degree heat in Baghdad. The National Security Council (specifically Frank Miller) had a tirade on our video teleconference because pictures of the long gas lines were all over the US press and making the administration look bad.

It was recognized in Baghdad that the attacks had to be an inside job, but we would not be able to confirm it until years later. We eventually learned that the reason for the attacks was because the Iraqis were reading in the Baghdad Arabic press that the Americans were shipping their oil to Israel through a pipeline to Haifa. Israeli government leaders were announcing in their press that the Americans would soon reopen the Haifa pipeline and the Iraqi press just picked up the stories.

Oil ministry insiders began attacking their own pipelines after reading the Iraqi press. Chalabi convinced the neocons to give up on their primary plan of opening a pipeline to Haifa in 2003. He executed an alternative plan to get oil to Israel. He ordered the reversal of our CPA policy of not selling oil to brokers. The timing of the Chalabi order was very opportune because both Phil Carroll and I were out of the country. Phil and I endorsed the policy of not selling to brokers in order to minimize the risk of corruption.

Chalabi ordered the oil ministry to sell their oil to Glencore, the commodity brokerage company created by Marc Rich that had supplied as much as 90% of Israel’s crude oil over the last three decades. Iraq crude oil was sold to Glencore throughout the remainder of CPA and through the summer of 2004.

The facts cannot be denied. History should accurately reflect an oil agenda for the Iraq war of providing Iraqi oil to Israel.

Gary Vogler is president of Howitzer Consulting, LLC. From December 2006 to September 2011 he was a senior oil consultant for US Forces in Iraq, and before that he served as deputy senior oil advisor, CPA, for Baghdad, and as senior oil advisor, ORHA, for the Pentagon, Kuwait, and Baghdad. Vogler, a former US Army officer, has also worked in management positions at ExxonMobil and Mobil Oil Corporations for over two decades.

Local, Independent and Proud

According to an NPR report, between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent bookstores grew by 35 percent. The growth was a direct contradiction to other consumer trends and will be celebrated this Saturday (April 28) on Independent Bookstore Day.

“Independent bookstores are more than just stores that sell books,” acquisition editor Kim Hogeland explains. “Each plays a significant role in the cultural life of its community. They support local and regional authors and bring in national and even international authors; this is particularly important outside of major cities, where residents may not get the same chance to listen to and talk with major literary and cultural figures. Independent bookstores host events, both individually and in partnership with other community organizations. Here at UPK, we really value our relationships with our regional indies and see them as an important partner in our mission to publish and distribute the high-quality work on Kansas and the Midwest.”

Lawrence has long been a regional center for independent, free-thinking. Before Kansas was a state, Lawrence was ground zero for the abolitionist movement in the territory. After statehood, when a pack of guerilla bandits crossed the border from Missouri and burned most of the town to ashes, Lawrence dusted itself off, and got back to living its independent life.

We are proud to be supported by two outstanding independent bookstores. The Raven Bookstore and the KU Bookstore are vastly different operations, but share a common vision of supporting authors, readers and a fierce passion for getting the job done their way.

The Raven sits on a side street just off Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. If you close your eyes and picture a quaint bookstore, chances are you’ll imagine The Raven. Old wood floors creak with each step and the store is full, floor-to-ceiling, with books. The shop has a reputation for stocking the best mystery novels available, but also carries a full line of non-fiction, best-seller, children and regional books.

Heidi Raak operated The Raven Bookstore for 9 years (the store has been a staple for Lawrence readers since 1987) before selling the store to Danny Caine last year. An independent store since its inception, Raak weathered (and Caine continues to weather) the changes in the marketplace.

“Obviously our biggest competition wasn’t another store in town, but the internet,” Raak says with a matter-of-fact tone. “We had to overcome the ease of buying a book online with great customer service and knowledge. I think the atmosphere of the store and the experience of shopping for a book is a big draw. There’s something about picking up a book and holding it that is special. You can’t get that online.”

Raak worked hard to create an environment around the store that keeps people interested. The Raven hosts countless book launches, readings and parties with authors. Those events bring people to the store and help establish the staff as go-to resources.

“We understand we’re part of a community,” Raak explains. “We support local artists and well-represented authors. We’re proud to carry books by the (University) Press. We appreciate the support Lawrence gives us, and we work hard to be the best, most-welcoming bookstore in town.”

Up the hill from The Raven, on the north edge of the University of Kansas campus, the KU Bookstore fills most of the 2nd floor of the Kansas Union. The store is one of only a handful of bookstores serving a major university that operate independent of the university.

“We are completely independent of the University of Kansas,” explains Jen O’Connor, store director. “We have no affiliation or obligation to the university. In addition, we are an operating non-profit, which helps us serve the students of KU more effectively.”

The great majority of university bookstores are operated by a larger, national bookstore. When asked to name other independent stores serving universities, O’Connor struggles to name more than two or three.

“I know there are more, but honestly, not many,” she says with a laugh. “We are independent of the University but Student Affairs has oversight of the KU Memorial Union, of which we are a part.”

Much like The Raven, the KU Bookstore puts a lot of effort into bringing students, and the Lawrence community, into the store with events. O’Connor estimates they host one or two unique events a week either at the store or somewhere on campus.

“We have to stay relevant to the students,” she explains. “We know these students have a lot of options and we work hard to be their first choice. Luckily, not a lot of outlets carry every textbook they need.”

Because the store is a non-profit, they can often offer very competitive prices on trade, text and consumer books. In fact, almost half of the store’s sales are books or products not for a class.

“We don’t have to answer to sales numbers or investors,” O’Connor says. “We have to pay the bills and keep the lights on. That gives us a great opportunity to stay competitive on price – which is a big, big help.”

In addition to working with The Raven and KU Bookstore, we’re thrilled to announce a partnership with Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The shop will feature four University Press of Kansas authors at an event starting at 4:00 pm.

Sarah Bagby, Watermark owner, will give a short presentation about the philosophy of the press and it’s importance to Kansas. Then, each author will briefly speak about their works before a question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Watermark Books: (316) 682-1181

Featured authors:

CJ Janovy, No Place Like Home: Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.

CJ Janovy an editor at KCUR, Kansas City’s NPR affiliate.

 

Max McCoy, Elevations: The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey.

Max McCoy is professor of journalism and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University.

 

George Frazier, The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Since the last wild bison found refuge, the public image of natural Kansas has progressed from Great American Desert to dust bowl to flyover country. But look a little harder and you can find the last places where tenacious stretches of prairie, forest, and wetland cheat death. Documenting three years spent roaming the state in search of these hidden treasures, Frazier offers an eye-opening travelogue of nature’s secret holdouts in the Sunflower State.

George Frazier is a software developer and writer.

 

Mark Eberle, Kansas Baseball, 1858-1941: This history spans the years between the Civil Warera and the start of World War II, encapsulating a time when baseball was adopted by early settlers, then taken up by soldiers sent west, and finally by teams formed to express the identity of growing towns and the diverse communities of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans. As elsewhere in the country, these teams represented businesses, churches, schools, military units, and prisons.

Eberle teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University.

University Press Day in Wichita

We’re thrilled to announce a partnership with Watermark Books in Wichita, Kansas to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The shop will feature four University Press of Kansas authors at an event starting at 4:00 pm.

Sarah Bagby, Watermark owner, will give a short presentation about the philosophy of the press and it’s importance to Kansas. Then, each author will briefly speak about their works before a question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Watermark Books: (316) 682-1181

Featured authors:

CJ Janovy, No Place Like Home: Far from the coastal centers of culture and politics, Kansas stands at the very center of American stereotypes about red states. In the American imagination, it is a place LGBT people leave. No Place Like Home is about why they stay. The book tells the epic story of how a few disorganized and politically naïve Kansans, realizing they were unfairly under attack, rolled up their sleeves, went looking for fights, and ended up making friends in one of the country’s most hostile states.

CJ Janovy an editor at KCUR, Kansas City’s NPR affiliate.

 

Max McCoy, Elevations: The upper Arkansas River courses through the heart of America from its headwaters near the Continental Divide above Leadville, Colorado, to Arkansas City, just above the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Max McCoy embarked on a trip of 742 miles in search of the rivers unique story. Part adventure and part reflection, steeped in the natural and cultural history of the Arkansas Valley, Elevations is McCoy’s account of that journey.

Max McCoy is professor of journalism and director of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University.

 

George Frazier, The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Since the last wild bison found refuge, the public image of natural Kansas has progressed from Great American Desert to dust bowl to flyover country. But look a little harder and you can find the last places where tenacious stretches of prairie, forest, and wetland cheat death. Documenting three years spent roaming the state in search of these hidden treasures, Frazier offers an eye-opening travelogue of nature’s secret holdouts in the Sunflower State.

George Frazier is a software developer and writer.

 

Mark Eberle, Kansas Baseball, 1858-1941: This history spans the years between the Civil Warera and the start of World War II, encapsulating a time when baseball was adopted by early settlers, then taken up by soldiers sent west, and finally by teams formed to express the identity of growing towns and the diverse communities of African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans. As elsewhere in the country, these teams represented businesses, churches, schools, military units, and prisons.

Eberle teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University

Lana Wirt Myers (The Diaries of Reuben Smith) Q & A

In 1854, after recently arriving from England, twenty-two-year-old Reuben Smith traveled west, eventually making his way to Kansas Territory. There he found himself in the midst of a bloody prelude to the Civil War, as Free Staters and defenders of slavery battled to stake their claim. The young Englishman wrote down what he witnessed in a diary where he had already begun documenting his days in a clear and candid fashion. As beautifully written as they are keenly observant, these diaries afford an unusual view of America in its most tumultuous times, of Kansas in its critical historical moments, and of one mans life in the middle of it all for fifty years.

Lana Wirt Myers speaks about her experience editing the book…

When did you first have the idea to work on The Diaries of Reuben Smith?

My first introduction to Reuben Smith’s diaries happened forty years ago when I was a graduate assistant in the Special Collections Department of Wichita State University’s library. While I was organizing the manuscript collection of Kansas poet May Williams Ward, I found an excerpt from her grandfather’s diary describing his voyage from England to America in 1854. It was a fascinating story and once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Soon after, I learned from one of Ward’s cousins that their Grandfather Smith had written extensive diaries and they were believed to be in the possession of a descendant living in Texas.

Now, fast-forward to 2009 when I was finishing my book Prairie Rhythms, a biographical book about May Williams Ward. I was checking some references at the Kansas Historical Society’s archives when I saw that the complete set of Reuben Smith’s diaries had been acquired and was available for viewing. Of course I had to see them. And I found the stories within them as captivating as the excerpt I’d read back in 1978. I knew then what my next project would be.

Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

When I first began, I honestly had no idea how I was going to present the diaries in the book. I didn’t want the book to be simply a transcription of the diaries; I wanted it to appeal to a general audience, ranging from those who would simply enjoy Smith’s personal stories to those who would appreciate the historical details contained in them. So, I guess you could say it was a bit like letting the fabric speak to the designer or the canvas dictate to the artist. It was a process that kept evolving, and I tried to let the diaries guide me. When I first read through them, I noted some of my own curiosities and what I felt I needed to learn in order to understand who some of the people were and the roles they played, especially during the Civil War years. Gradually, I began to picture my role as one to provide the background for Smith’s stories, offering the necessary information to make the stories more meaningful.

After I finished typing the diaries into a word processing document, I launched into research, especially pertaining to Civil War military history, because I wanted to let readers know what was happening at various times, both nationally and regionally. An added bonus to this was learning so much about where I’d grown up and where my father’s family settled along the western border of Missouri. It truly became a journey for me as well as for the book. During this time, I also began to see that the diaries could be sectioned into categories, or chapters, and not necessarily by years. In addition, I began to see that not every diary entry needed to be included. The significant stories within the diaries are those that provide a new primary resource for early Kansas history.

In all, I spent two and a half years working on the book, including the various editing stages involved in the publishing process.

What was the most challenging aspect of editing the publication?

I’m not sure I can assign “most challenging” to any one aspect, but initially, I had to figure out a workable way to transfer the original diaries to a word processing document. It was a tremendous help to be able to access the diaries through the Kansas Historical Society’s “Kansas Memory” website, but it took some experimenting to figure out a workable way to read from one screen while typing to another. It was a bit tricky working with a desktop computer and a Surface tablet at the same time, using two keyboards and two mouses, but the equipment and I eventually settled into a routine.

Beyond logistics, an ongoing challenge was identifying references in the diaries to unfamiliar names and phrases — ranging from towns, creeks and bridges that no longer exist to the nickname of an insect that was notorious for residing in Missouri soldiers’ tents. I consulted all sorts of unusual and dated resources, even an 1860s military medical guide, to find answers. One of the local interlibrary loan librarians finally asked me, “What ARE you working on?” Some field trips were involved as well. But this historical “digging” was fun, and the little victories were rewarding.

The Diaries of Reuben Smith is a beautiful narrative of Free State settler and Civil War soldier. Smith’s writing is moving and candid. What do you think readers, both from Kansas and across the globe, will find more interesting about his story?

I think Smith provides an unusual perspective, being a young Englishman who formed his political opinions after arriving in the United States, unfiltered by familial or geographical loyalties. And he’s never a bystander; he’s a participant. He gives us personal introductions to key figures, and through his descriptions of what he observes and experiences, we feel as though we are there alongside him. He takes us with him as he encounters border ruffians, wolves and Indians on his way to stake a claim on land in Kansas Territory. And through his writings, we witness the escalation of the Civil War along the Kansas-Missouri border, as well as Smith’s evolution from a civilian volunteer soldier to a seasoned military officer. We can see the process. We can watch as history unfolds.

Smith was an early steward of the Kansas State Insane Asylum. Is there any indication of how he would view the current state of the Larned State Hospital and Osawatomie State Hospital?

I’ve thought about that as I’ve read news articles about the problems facing these institutions, especially Osawatomie State Hospital, since Smith was entrusted with its funds as steward during the early days of its operation. Smith experienced firsthand what the swinging pendulum of politics can do to the state’s institutions. I believe he’d be busy writing letters to newspapers, as well as to legislators, voicing his opinions and proposing solutions.

 If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

I’m going to take the liberty of defining “one person” as all of Smith’s descendants. And that is no small number, since Smith fathered thirteen children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. I can’t imagine a more treasured gift for a father to leave his children and grandchildren than fifty years of his personal history, during which he participated in the settlement and statehood of Kansas, in the fight against slavery, in postwar politics, and in the operation of the state’s first psychiatric hospital. Smith wanted his children to read history as he lived it. And I’m anxious for his many grandchildren to meet him.

What are you reading now?

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Lana Wirt Myers is the author of Prairie Rhythms: The Life and Poetry of May Williams Ward, named a 2011 Kansas Notable Book.

Following the 2018 Election, pt. 3 – Why Money Matters

by Betty O’Shaughnessy and Dick Simpson, authors of Winning Elections in the 21st Century

Trump triumphed in 2016 when he won the Electoral College vote, even

though he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes. We have seen how much this matters in the year since he has become President, which is especially true because the Republicans also won both houses of Congress, allowing President Trump to carry out his platform promises, creating major changes in tax policy, immigration, foreign policy, trade and making Supreme Court and lower court appointments. There is broad resistance to those Trump policies, but by executive orders and the momentum of the first year of his presidency, he continues often to get his way in changing the country’s direction.

Trump’s victorious campaign strategy emphasizing charisma and addressing voters’ anger won out won over that of the less charismatic candidate Hillary Clinton following a careful game plan. Anger in both political parties – as reflected in the Democrats supporting Bernie Sanders and Trump Republican voters – reflected real needs and a high level of discontent.

The recent Illinois primaries were the second national primary elections after those earlier in the month in Texas and they are a harbinger of things to come in November. The biggest battle in 2018 is the attempt of the Democrats to gain 24 seats in the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to retake control of one or both houses of Congress in order to block further Trump administration policies.

Results from the Illinois election show higher voter turnout in a greater number of contested elections. Early voting and absentee voting was more than double the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections and the final vote tallies show that 2018 Illinois voter turnout exceeded 30%, as compared to the midterm general election of 2014 when only 16 percent turned out. While not as high a turnout as desirable, these figures show that voters perceived the choices to be important. As is usual in a midterm election, the party out of power was energized, with Democrats voting twice as heavily as Republicans.

The Democratic races were mostly close and interesting. In the gubernatorial race, Pritzker won the Democratic vote easily while Rauner barely beat Jeanne Ives, his opponent in the Republican primary. If we divide the total amount spent by the campaign with his total number of votes, Rauner paid $215 for each vote, and Pritzker paid nearly as much. In the attorney general race, Kwame Raoul defeated former Governor Pat Quinn and six other candidates. In the Cook County assessor race incumbent Democrat Joe Berrios, an ally of controversial Party Chairman Mike Madigan, was defeated by Fritz Kaegi. Significantly, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was elected to Congress and the progressive Latino candidates he supported defeated even incumbent State Legislator Daniel J. Burke, a relative of powerful Chicago alderman Ed Burke.

This sets the stage for the other 2018 elections and the 2020 races to follow, and it is clear that those elections will follow the strategies spelled out in our book, Winning Elections in the 21st Century

21st Century Campaigns: the Increasing Role of Money and Online Data Analyitics

Money

There were other lessons in the 2016 and 2018 elections, specifically, the important roles both money and computer-generated data analytics will play in most future elections. In terms of campaign funding, every election seems to be more expensive than the last. 2016 was one the most expensive elections in American history, with at least $1.3 billion being spent by presidential candidates, $1 billion by candidates for the House of Representatives and $700 million on the U.S. Senate contests. In the most expensive race for Illinois State Legislature in 2016, the candidates spent from $106 to $113 for each of the 20,000 votes they each received.

Nonetheless, any campaign begins with a budget and the contribution that the candidate and his or her family are willing to contribute so you know how much you need to raise, whether it is $10,000 or a million dollars. You could have the best candidate in the world the best campaign theme, and an inferior opponent, and still lose. You have to raise money to be taken seriously as a candidate. To run for alderman or state legislator you have to raise at least $250,000; Congressional races cost over a million dollars, and Statewide races for U.S. Senate or Governor cost tens of millions.

Unless you are independently wealthy like Donald Trump, or the Illinois gubernatorial candidates Bruce Rauner or J. B. Pritzker, you have to raise money from contributors including wealthier individuals and groups like Labor Union or Business PACs. Beyond campaign fundraising parties and web site requests for donations, the primary secret to raising money is to have the candidate personally ask prospects herself. Several hours a day a staff member or volunteer literally places calls for the candidate to the prospect list who have usually received a letter of solicitation beforehand.

Candidates simply hate to do fundraising calls, but even though it seems to them too much like begging, they still have to make the calls every day if they want to be elected. Once elected, our congressional representatives spend from 2-4 hours a day making fundraising calls for their next election.

In addition to the one-on-one fundraising calls to individuals and PAC officials, money is raised by positioning a contribute button prominently on the campaign web site and by sending frequent emails or social media messages to all campaign supporters for smaller campaign contributions from $5 to $500. These small amounts add up; the average campaign contribution to the Bernie Sanders campaign was $27. The secret is that once someone has given online or in person, they can be solicited again and again. These online messages are frequently tested with smaller groups until the campaign determines the most effective “ask” to produce the best results when sent to the entire list of supporters.

In 2018 in Illinois, we had the most expensive gubernatorial primary in American history with Democratic challenger Pritzker spending almost $70 million and Republican incumbent Rauner spending over $75 million; the next three candidates (two Democrats, one Republican) spent over $13 million total. This election alone affirms that we desperately need real public funding of campaigns or “Small D Democracy,” as advocates call it.

Voter Analytics

The second element that 21st century campaigns now include (on top of the traditional campaign strategies) is the increased used of voter analytics with online campaigning. Some of you are Democrats and would never vote for a Republican and some of you are Republicans and would almost never vote for a Democrat. In old Chicago the Democratic precinct captains would know who would vote for their party’s slate of candidates, but now with computer analytic tools anyone with enough money and computer savvy can know.

Take the example of Tea Party conservative David Brat, who ran for Congress in Virginia’s Republican 2014 primary election. With only $200,000 in his war chest, he beat then Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who spent over $5 million in his campaign. Brat simply got more of his people out to vote by using voter analytics to find the voters who could be persuaded to cast ballots against Cantor.

Similarly, Winning Elections tells the story of how now-Illinois State Senator Will Guzzardi was able to use voter analytics in an Illinois state legislative race to defeat Chicago Democratic Party Boss Joe Berrios’ daughter, despite the best efforts of their allies to keep her in the state legislature.

Voter analytics combines information about who voted in each election with personal information gleaned from credit card purchases and Internet browsing, then adds voter responses from campaign contacts. Thus, in a Chicago ward that may have less than 20,000 voters, analytics can find and rank potential supporters your campaign should contact, which in this case would be less than 10,000. The Obama Presidential campaigns used a scale from 1-100 and any voters who scored higher than 65 were “must contacts.” The usual system uses “+”, “—“, and zero symbols or a sample scale of 1-5.

The use of analytics can make easier what is still our two most effective method of delivering the campaign message: door-to-door precinct work and phone canvassing. In both instances, voter analytics finds the potential supporters on which a campaign can focus, and can also provide information on how to best approach them.

Social Media

Voter analytics would not be as effective as it is were it not for the exponential growth of social media. Today, most campaigns have a social media component, which tends to evolve to suit its candidates campaign style in each election. For instance, Hillary Clinton’s campaign at first looked like a media start-up with dozens of staff producing original content. She had a blog anchored by five full-time writers. Meanwhile, Donald Trump sat at his computer and sent out missives with more than 5,000 posts on Twitter in the first few months of the primary campaign which, in turn generated 85 million interactions on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Trump continued this tactic throughout the campaign and election and even now in the White House

Social media campaigns start with a simple looking campaign website with the same colors photos and message as other campaign materials such as brochures and yard signs. Added to that are campaign email lists partly gathered from the web pages of donors, volunteers, and supporters, who are contacted weekly online to contribute, attend events and volunteer. After a campaign has its basic web page and email lists, it establishes social media pages, (at the very least, on Facebook page and Twitter) so that people can follow the campaign and retweet or repost critical messages. For instance, through social media, the Bernie Sanders campaign scheduled 74 phone banking events at homes in the Chicago area, at which volunteers called Iowa voters before the caucuses in February, 2016.

Conclusion

In the end, the 2016 election was one in which the majority of American voted “no!” against the elites and the status quo. There had been more than 4.4 million home foreclosures since the Great Recession began in 2008. There have been no real salary increases for the working and middle class for nearly two decades. Unemployment, especially in ghetto areas and among young adults remains too high. Americans were mad as hell and by their vote they signaled that they weren’t going to take it anymore.

The 2018 election with its turnout twice that of 2014, indicates that voters are still both engaged and divided. On a more positive note, the Texas and Illinois primaries show us that voter participation is up, as are the number of people running for office. How the new and old candidates, Trump supporters and “resisters” alike, reach and motivate these voters is spelled out in Winning Elections in the 21st Century.

 

Dick Simpson is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the co-editor with Dennis Judd of The City, Revisited: Urban Theory from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York.

Betty O’Shaughnessy is a visiting lecturer in political science, University of Illinois at Chicago and coauthor of The Struggle for Power and Influence in Cities and States.

 

From the Backlist; For Linda Brown

Linda Brown Thompson, who as a young girl was the student at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, died in Topeka, Kansas. She was 75. In her honor, we share our book on the landmark case.

Before 1954, both law and custom mandated strict racial segregation throughout much of the nation. That began to change with Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that overturned the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine. In declaring that legally mandated school segregation was unconstitutional, the Supreme Court played a critical role in helping to dismantle America’s own version of apartheid, Jim Crow.

The study of Brown—the title for a group of cases drawn from Kansas, Virginia, South Carolina, Delaware, and the District of Columbia—offers an insightful and original overview designed expressly for students and general readers. It is concise, up-to-date, highly readable, and very teachable.

The authors, all recognized authorities on legal history and civil rights law, do an admirable job of examining the fight for legal equality in its broad cultural and historical context. They convincingly show that Brown cannot be understood apart from the history of caste and exclusion in American society. That history antedated the very founding of the country and was supported by the nation’s highest institutions, including the Supreme Court whose decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) supported the notion of “separate but equal.”

AP photo

Their book traces the lengthy court litigations, highlighting the pivotal role of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and including incisive portraits of key players, including co-plaintiff Oliver Brown, newly appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren, NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, and Justice Felix Frankfurter, who recognized the crucial importance of a unanimous court decision and helped produce it. The authors simply but powerfully narrate the obstacles these individuals faced and the opportunities they grasped and clearly show that there was much more at stake than educational rights. Brown not only changed the national equation of race and caste—it also changed our view of the Court’s role in American life.

The dramatic story of the road to and from Brown, despite the retrenchments of recent years, needs to be heard anew. As we prepare to commemorate the decision’s fiftieth anniversary in May 2004, this book invites readers to walk that road again and appreciate the lasting importance of what is indisputably a landmark case.

“A wide-ranging and important exploration of how ‘caste’ and ‘culture’ have related to the U.S. Constitution. . . . This thoughtful, wise, accessible, and prize-winning book should be kept in print as an exceptional introduction to the thorny issues that led up to Brown v. Board of Education and its long aftermath.” – Journal of Southern History

Tara Kathleen Kelly (The Hunter Elite) Q & A

At the end of the nineteenth century, Theodore Roosevelt, T. S. Van Dyke, and other elite men began describing their big-game hunting as “manly sport with the rifle.” They also began writing about their experiences, publishing hundreds of narratives of hunting and adventure in the popular press (and creating a new literary genre in the process). But why did so many of these big-game hunters publish? What was writing actually doing for them, and what did it do for readers? In exploring these questions, The Hunter Elite reveals new connections among hunting narratives, publishing, and the American conservation movement.

 

1. When did you first have the idea to write The Hunter Elite?

I started out planning to write about exploration and hunting at the beginning of the twentieth century—originally I wanted to examine how wealthy travelers and their guides interacted on expeditions, and this was a great period to study because there were so many narratives published. The more I read, though, the more interested I got in the narratives themselves, just the sheer number of them, and I started asking why so many hunters and amateur explorers suddenly started writing down and publishing their experiences around the turn of the century. That led me into looking at publishing in that era and thinking about what kinds of stories hunters were selling, why they wrote them at all, what their effect on readers were—and, eventually, what consequences they had. It was an odd shift in perspective, because generally historians use texts like these as sources that tell what happened– “this is what occurred on Roosevelt’s safari” (or “this is what Roosevelt says occurred…”)—but putting them into context as desirable economic commodities in a transatlantic publishing marketplace really changes how we see them. By publishing, these hunters also came to dominate the middle-class recreational press, and that really matters. Among other things, it let their version of conservation sweep aside many forms of local and market hunting across North America: they had an international pulpit from which to persuade middle-class readers, because other hunters weren’t writing about what they were doing.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

13 years from beginning to end—but happily I wasn’t writing that whole time, a lot of it was spent teaching! It started as a dissertation, but I was lucky enough to get a postdoctoral fellowship to the Huntington Library, where I found a huge amount of great new material that had to be thought through and incorporated into the MS. I also had fantastic press readers who asked me some really challenging questions, so it got reworked once again because of that. It’s a much stronger book as a result, but I’m glad I didn’t know it was going to take this long when I started it!

As far as process, in grad school I wouldn’t allow myself to check email or go online until my day’s writing was finished, but once I started working full-time I didn’t have that luxury. My biggest fear in revision was coming up with a good conclusion, but when the time came I found I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

3. The Hunter Elite is the first book to explore both the international nature of American hunting at the end of the nineteenth century and the essential contributions of hunting narratives and the publishing industry to the North American conservation movement. Why do you think these topics have not been previously explored?

I might say it’s the first book to explore these topics in the way it does? I’ll tackle the second part first: ever since John Reiger’s foundational work back in 1975, we’ve known that the recreational press promoted conservation, but I investigate the why and how of that—the reasons this group of hunters chose to write and publish stories about their experiences, how they recruited editors and publishers as allies, and how readers were urged to participate. I also argue that the content of the narratives—the ways hunters consistently linked wilderness experience to manliness, self-discipline, the pioneer past, and Americanism—played a huge role when they began talking to readers about conservation, because they brought the same rhetoric to bear. And at that point they really did control the national recreational press, especially Outing Magazine, which was the fastest-growing periodical at the beginning of the twentieth century.

As for the international role, I find it odd that it’s been neglected (except for Roosevelt’s safari). Historians like Greg Gillespie have been doing great work on British hunting in North America, and there’s always been a lot of writing on the continental U.S. West, but by 1900 big game was becoming so scarce that Americans seeking trophies had to travel to Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, British East Africa, or India, so it made sense for me to follow them out there. I’ve always loved comparative history and I got so much out of analyzing the very different ways British and American hunters described their experiences, even when they were on the same hunting grounds or even the same expedition. I also got to go in-depth on the logistics of the safari and the unbelievable skills of African gunbearers, but with a different perspective, since I compare them to Alaskan guides and look at how, on both continents, they negotiated with, befriended, and battled the wealthy hunters who employed them. Canada and Newfoundland are in the mix as well: it’s fascinating to watch U.S. hunters describe Canada as an untouched wilderness while British hunters insist that it’s just another colony. The hunter elite also influenced or even wrote game laws in Canada and Newfoundland, as well as addressing hunting in Mexico, so it really is a North American story (with occasional forays through Africa and India).

4. When most people think of hunting in this period, they think of Theodore Roosevelt. How does he feature in the book?

The problem with Teddy Roosevelt isn’t just that he’s incredibly anomalous compared to all the other American elite hunters, it’s also that he wrote so much that he still dominates our impressions of elite hunting at the turn of the century. I hope that my book contributes to moving the history of elite hunting out from under Teddy’s shadow. The vast majority of American elite hunters in this era celebrated stalking game on foot as a display of manly self-control, and pointed to their refusal to kill even as many animals as allowed by their hunting licenses as proof of self-discipline; in their narratives they avoided discussing violence, war, and imperialism; and many of them liked and respected their guides. Some elite hunters were also women! You can’t see any of that without shifting out from under TR’s shadow, however, and I think sometimes historians working on the culture of the period have assumed that he was representative of elite hunting. Instead he was, as Christopher Lasch once said, compelling but rather bizarre. I certainly discuss him, especially when it comes to conservation, but I really hope this book helps to move the conversation on elite hunting away from this one man and over to the hundreds of other hunters, male and female, who were also publishing narratives of sport in this period. The story they were telling was equally influential and, I think, more interesting because it’s unexpected.

5. You mentioned conservation: what role did American hunters play in helping to establish national parks?

As we know them today? Everything.

If you like the national parks, thank a hunter—or rather go back in time and thank the Boone and Crockett Club. These guys understood very early on that parks would provide reservoirs for game that would assure good hunting beyond park boundaries, but, as time passed, they also came to see them as the last bastion for endangered animals. Remember, this was the generation that saw the bison driven almost to extinction: Owen Wister, urging Outing’s readers to support conservation, reminded them that “[You may] say that it is our grandchildren who will not find much trout fishing, but bear in mind that men not yet forty have seen the buffalo like armies along the banks.” The hunter elite were directly responsible for creating Glacier, Denali, Mesa Verde, Wind Crater, and what became Grand Canyon National Park, and barring hunting in Yellowstone. They also pushed through game-changing legislation, including the Antiquities Act, which gave presidents the ability to preserve these beautiful places without Congress’ consent (Obama was the most recent president to take advantage of that).

At the same time, conservation in this era had its darker side: saving wild places and animals often meant placing restrictions on local people as well as market hunters, and non-white and working-class hunters were the most likely to feel the impact. What interests me most is how the hunter elite used their power in the national media to disenfranchise local hunters by reaching out to middle-class readers, creating a constituency out of them, and then mobilizing them on behalf of conservation. It’s a different way of seeing the power they wielded than just examining political position and legislation, and it’s one of the parts of the story I’ve uncovered that’s most relevant to the current day: the role played by the media in deciding the outcome of conflicts over nature is really important to environmentalists and political scientists as well as historians.

6. What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

I’d probably have had a different answer at each stage of it, but one thing that strikes me is that I had the bad (or good) fortune to straddle the massive change in availability of these texts that we’re experiencing right now. When I wrote the first draft, everything I used was from libraries and archives, but by the time I was revising for the press almost all those texts—and some I hadn’t encountered before!– were available to me on my phone. There had to be a point where I took a deep breath, reminded myself that more is not always better, and stopped adding material. The availability is great for teaching (and for writers without travel funds), but I wonder sometimes how overwhelming it is for grad students just starting to explore a topic—archives are finite, so you can always reach the end of the file, pat yourself on the back, and go find a pub.

7. What was your favorite part of writing the book?

Engaging with the storytelling—although that also could fall under the “most challenging part,” since I wanted to make sure the anecdotes never overwhelmed the analysis. But these men and women were literate and engaging writers, and that was one of the reasons that their narratives resonated with readers. From sneering condemnations of “the great American trout-swine,” to “Songs of Pig-sticking” (complete with music and lyrics), to accounts of being attacked by grizzly bears (“I was greeted with a terrible growling and the crackling rush of a heavy body. I fired, and was embraced, it seems to me, almost simultaneously, calling to Clark as I went down…”), I never got tired of reading these sources. Their diaries are equally engaging: I love guide George Elson’s simple note on the day his expedition reached its goal, “Your joy no man taketh from you.”

I also kept an eye out for the aside that reveals more than the author intended. The safari, for instance, is often framed as being about subjugation, with white masters and black servants replicating the ugliest of race relations, but Winthrop Chanler (unintentionally) reveals that his workers had their own idea of that relationship when he insists on travelling across a lake on a creaky raft: his men lined the shores, he writes, and “shouted cheering words to us, such as, ‘Look out for the crocodiles!’ ‘If master dies, who’ll pay us.’ These cries, added to the dismal chill of the air, almost caused me to turn back…” Some elite whites might have liked to imagine they were acting out a story of mastery, but at least one worker on that safari knew it was all about his paycheck! I hope my analysis is always clear, but I love being able to share the words of these hunters and their guides with readers; they’re a large part of why this genre became so popular in its time.

8. What surprised you the most as you read these narratives?

I think the amount of evidence I’ve found about big-game hunting women. There’s been some great work written on women’s hunting, but it tends to focus on the handful of women who published narratives: there weren’t many, and they were mostly single, so that’s been our image of female hunters. Reading men’s stories, though, I discovered women hunting everywhere, most often with their husbands, but also with their fathers or brothers; these women didn’t usually publish, however, so they’ve been invisible so far. It upends a lot of what we thought. Charles Sheldon, for instance, took his society bride, Louisa Gulliver Sheldon, hunting, since he thought she would enjoy nothing as much as shooting a bear. It sounds like a hell of a honeymoon: at one point she was almost swept out to sea when they were crossing a river; she managed to keep her rifle above water, though, and displayed it proudly to Charles when he hauled her safely to shore. In addition, he notes, she turned out to be “perfectly cool, even more so than most men,” when dealing with bear. This is actually typical; most men hunting with their wives or daughters have nothing but praise for them.

Women’s published narratives are fascinating as well, because they conform to some elements of the men’s stories but openly challenge others—and even though far fewer women published than hunted, their books were hugely popular. They published in the recreational press as well (helpfully reminding other women, for instance, to discard their corsets before mountain-climbing).

9. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

Living or dead? Charles Sheldon, the most respected American big-game hunter and the force behind Denali National Park: I’d love to know if he thought I got it right! He could share it with Louisa and maybe I could ask her why she never published her own version of her bear-hunting adventures.

10. What are you reading now?

In fiction, I’m almost through Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, which is fantastic, like The Name of the Rose if it were sci-fi. In history, I just finished Mark Bowden’s Hué 1968. I’ve taught the Tet Offensive and also worked in Vietnam so I was fascinated to read a book that draws on sources from both sides of the conflict.

Tara Kathleen Kelly is an independent scholar with a PhD in American history from Johns Hopkins University.