Early images of Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Payson, the Magic of Trees, and Legacy of a Nebraska PioneerThursday, November 29th, 2012
Light on the Prairie: Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska’s Pioneer Days by Nancy Plain (University of Nebraska Press, $16.95)
The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed by Lincoln which granted 160 acres of free land in the Great Plains to anyone with the grit to farm it for at least five years. Solomon D. Butcher arrived in Nebraska during the spring of 1880 to stake his claim. He might have remained an obscure new settler except for the simple fact that he came to the new territory armed with a camera. That camera captured all of the historic drama of the men and women settling this new frontier.
The images in this collection are stunning. Farmers posed in front of sod houses, tracklayers working on the Union Pacific Railroad, corn harvesting, and even the sadness of a family gathered around a lonely grave, all iconic views reflecting the irrepressible spirit of the Nebraska pioneers who made this inhospitable region their home.
Even though sixty-two images are in this collection, his legacy includes more than 3,000 glass plates, one of the most complete photographic records of the sod house era ever made.
The Power of Trees by Gretchen C. Daily & Charles J. Katz, Jr. (Trinity University Press, $10.95)
Twenty-six black and white photographs illustrate the development of trees: how trunks are formed, what rings tell us about human societies, and how trees define the future of humanity.
Gretchen Daily, a national trustee for the Nature Conservancy, and Charles Katz, Jr., an attorney, board member of the Nature Conservancy, and a photographer, invite readers to more fully appreciate the evolution, impact, and natural wonder of trees. As Daily points out, trees come in at least 60,000 varieties. Over their some 400 million year history, they have staked their claim in nearly every terrestrial environment and have enriched humankind in ways that simply can’t be calculated.
Trinity University is in San Antonio, Texas.
Images of America: Downtown Phoenix by J. Seth Anderson, Suad Mahmuljin, and Jim McPherson (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)
In 1867, Jack Swilling, a former Confederate soldier, saw the remains of an ancient canal system near present day Phoenix and wondered if the desolate area could be transformed into a thriving agriculture oasis. By the next decade, crude adobe structures were being built and the little town began to grow.
Local historian J. Seth Anderson, photographer Saud Mahmuljin, and Arizona Preservation Foundation president Jim McPherson, have gathered rare images from various sources to show tantalizing views that reflect the city’s rich history. What makes this collection so extraordinary is that it celebrates the history of almost every aspect of Phoenix life, from its neighborhoods to its incredible architecture.
Even though many of the older structures such as Patton’s Opera House which once stood on Third Avenue and Washington Street have been demolished, there are still traces of the past to be found in the city. For example, the Orpheum Theater was renovated and reopened in 1997 with a performance of “Hello, Dolly!” starring Carol Channing.
Images of America: Tucson Arizona by Jane Eppinga (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)
Jane Eppinga is a Tucson-based writer who has published more than 200 articles on Tucson and the Southwest so it seems more than appropriate she should present an overview of the Old Pueblo for this book. Filled with historic images, this collection is lively, highly readable, and extremely entertaining.
Divided into eight main sections, Eppinga traces the city’s history from the conquest of the Spanish conquistadors through its evolution of a modern city. Some of the pictures are classics. For example, there is a view of the Tucson Street Railway Car #1, the city’s first mule car.
Eppinga’s text truly reflects all of the twists and turns of the town’s rich, colorful history. This is a classic piece of Western Americana.
Payson: 15 Historic Postcards (Arcadia, $7.99) These black and white views include cowboys at the Star Valley Ranch, Fishing on Tonto Creek, and the Payson rodeo. This is a perfect stocking stuffer.
Flagstaff: 15 Historic Postcards (Arcadia, $7.99) This set includes the perils of crossing a flooded creek in an early automobile, early businesses in Flagstaff, Navajo weavers, and the Arizona National Guard on parade in 1915.
The Arcadia sets may be ordered at firstname.lastname@example.org.