Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Calvin Geer's father's Oregon Fever


Recorded in 1925, this account tells of Calvin Geer's 1847 journey westwards after his father got a 'case of Oregon fever'. In much detail, he explains the journey with an abundance of cliches, travelling with a wagon and oxen, staying in slave camps through Missouri, foraging for food and finding plenty in the rockies and dangerously avoiding illness and river torrents. A short yet concise re-telling of his family's journey culminating in his father getting a teaching job and having a house built as pay for the family to live in after staying in a shack over winter, an ending earning the American Dream seal of approval.

Broken down, the story of Calvin Geer seems so casual yet remarkable in a way. The nonchalance of his account presents the attitude that very much goes in hand with the American dream, an idea of confidence and hope in the face of adversity. Segments about how, even in the winter, they can walk into the woods and just stumble across fresh mushrooms, walnuts, small game aplenty are just ingrained in the image of comfort America exuded, especially the west coast which even Calvin himself does not expand on the exact reasons as to why west is best. From his story, it seems that the beauty, the space and its sheer natural wealth, whether its the precious minerals or abundant resources make the West attractive in the way that Americans always want the best and after a while they see its the west.

The Writings of Alvin A. Coffey


This is from the diary of Alvin Coffey, an African American man, who travelled as part of an ox-team journey accross the American Plains. He details in first person the difficulties they faced on their travels. He writes about how they started in St. Louis, Mo. travelled along the mississippi river before detailing the many dificutuies him and his team had with their oxen while crossing the plains. Particularly one event where he had to kill one of his oxen because it was being attacked by wolves. The diary extract closes with Coffey discussing his experiences with mining in the Sacremento Valley.

Alvin Coffey's story is particularly exceptional as despite being slave during his journey out to california, he was still one of very few African American men to take part in the settlement of western America. He used the money he earned in the west to buy his freedom, which strongly links with the fundamental ideas upon which the American Dream is built.

Harriet Scott Palmer on Crossing Over the Great Plains


http://lcweb2.loc.gov/mss/wpalh2/29/2909/29091524/29091524.pdf (Full Account)

This is an account from the point of view of 11 year old Harriet Scott Palmer, travelling with her family from their home in Illinois, to California, in 1852.
I enjoyed this, as Harriet describes how her family prepared for the journey west, with relatives preparing gifts, her parents selling their farm etc. This emphasises the magnitude of the move from East to West during this era.
Another interesting aspect of the account was the danger of the journey highlighted in it. Harriet talks about quicksand, "impassable" roads, and an occasion in which her family couldn't find her, as she was "nearly smothered" underneath the bows.
Harriet also laments on the death of her mother, who suffered from cholera, and didn't live to make it to California. They buried her in Wyoming, but couldn't find her grave in the later years when they returned, unfortunately.
The journey remained dreadful, as the company often had to travel through the night, and after a tiresome attempt at saving cattle from across a river, the animals ended up poisoned and dying anyway, at the expense of Harriet's father's sanity.
Harriet later faced yet another loss, as her four year old brother fell sick during August, and died, presumably from the immense heat.
Running low on provisions, and plagued by their oxen continually dying, things didn't look good for Harriet and her family.
I think this account is incredibly interesting as it describes the hardships and losses faced by Harriet's family and their company on the journey West.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Lucy Jane Hall, Diary Entry


This diary entry focus' on the journey westwards of Lucy Jane Hall, following the directions of Stephen Meek.
The diary begins by stating how Lucy's father is the captain of one the train services, moving on to focus on an attack by the native Indians towards the train group. Although the attack failed as the side of the natives failed to compete with the weaponry of the other side.
The entry moves on to focus on the journey westwards as directed by Stephen Meek, the story explains how the team got lost after many weeks travelling and had to break into a smaller team in order to find water and food, it took many days to hear a reply from the others, in the mean time many of the group had fallen ill and some died.
The entry ends with the group reaching the Dalles, a city in Oregon.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln


This website is a collection of the professional and personal writings of Abraham Lincoln. This collection is largely composed of letters written to and from Lincoln during his time in senate and while he was president of the United States of America.

There are many comparisons which can be drawn between the life of Abraham Lincoln and the ideas of the American Dream that were presented by Cullen and Truslow Adams. Lincoln was born to a modest family in a small one room log cabin and he was mostly self taught and had little formal education. Through his hard work and famously honest attitude, he was able to work his way up to become president of the United States of America. He was also strong and physically able as shown by the fact that he lead the Union army during the Civil War.

In addition to his physical and mental traits, Abraham Lincoln fought to and succeeded in abolishing slavery. This lead to the creation of the equal and free land, which led to opportunities for everyone "regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position" as described by James Truslow Adams in The Epic of America (1931).

Monday, 18 January 2016

Women's Suffrage Collection


This webpage is a collection of documents from the Women's Suffrage campaign, including the likes of timelines, biographies, and official letters sent during the movement, with over 65,000 documents.

These can easily be linked to Cullen and Truslow Adams and the idea of the American Dream, as we can see through numerous sources, the fight that women fought to have richer, fuller lives, rather than be restricted by laws and cultural restrictions. This is key, especially as Truslow notes that the American Dream is "a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." In this, we see him address women, and argue that gender and other circumstances should be dismissed when a person tries to reach their full potential, a point shared by the women who fought for rights during the campaign.

This webpage presents the stories of slaves born between 1823 and 1860s regarding their thoughts on slavery, slaveholders, coercion of slaves, their families, and freedom. Their stories not only focus on the hardship of their time during enslavement but also on their lives as a whole, as many of the interviews take places almost 60 years after their enslavement ended.

These stories can be related to the works of Cullen and Truslow Adams, as it relates to the American Dream in the way that these individuals have grown from nothing to create long fulfilling lives for themselves, and a 'happier life' as expressed by Truslow Adams. For many people in enslavement their ‘American Dream’ is freedom, of which some of these stories portray. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

This Blog is for Juliet's first group in AM1212.  We meet Tuesday at 10.00 in Alasdair's old office, TAB 214.

Post a link to an example of primary source material from the American Memory site at  http://loc.gov/collections and analyse it with explicit reference to Cullen and Adams. See Week 1's page on the LN for more information.