Jul 13, 2015

Children of the Wild West

by Russell Freedman

A juvenile non-fiction book, this is pretty good for its intended audience but won't be a keeper for me. It relates what life was probably like for kids during the mid- to late 1800's in America. Pioneer children travelling west in wagon trains and native american children living in their various tribes. Mostly it just details daily life, occasionally touches on some deeper topics such as how native american children were often taken from their homes and put into white schools, taught new occupations. (Some of the most compelling images were side-by-side pictures of groups of native girls and boys, depicted when they first arrived at a school dressed in their traditional attire, and again a year or so later in stiff western clothing. They look miserable- but its hard to tell really when you remember how still they had to keep their faces for a clear photograph back then). The book also tells how young children had to work on farms and homesteads, in town jobs such as running messages or typesetting, riding horses on ranches and even acting as travelling performers. Their typical daily chores. What kinds of games and amusements they had. Schooling in one-room buildings (that often doubled as a church on sunday), the hardships of frontier schoolteachers. I did not find a lot here that was new to me, but the photographs are excellent for their time, it is quite something to peer at their solemn, often indistinct faces and wonder what it was really like for them. The book also details how early photography was done, the difficulties of travelling photographers who presented their skill as a novelty item to the hardworking people in frontier and mining towns.

Rating: 3/5        104 pages, 1983

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