“The Picturesque West”

By Eilene Lyon

I stopped into the Friends of the Library book shop earlier this week. Check out this book I was so delighted to find – for the grand price of $4.00!

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As many of you are aware, I am working on a non-fiction book set during the California gold rush. This stout hardcover includes a collection of over 1000 images of life in the west during the 19th century. According to the dust jacket notes, the authors spent many years accumulating rare illustrations.

Along with photographs of the era, these will be a delightful resource to add “color” to my narrative. I can hardly wait to dig in!

One of the other compelling reasons to buy this book was the excellent bio of the authors on the back of the dust jacket.

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“LUCIUS BEEBE and CHARLES CLEGG have long been established as ranking historians in the field of the picturesque West. Mr. Beebe was for many years on the New York Herald Tribune editorial staff. He and Charles Clegg came to know the West while shooting the photographs for their classic railroad histories, Mixed Train Daily, Virginia and Truckee, Hear the Train Blow and for U.S. West: The Saga of Wells Fargo. Eventually they went West to live and staked a claim amidst the dusty glories of Virginia City, Nevada, once the richest city on earth and the scene of the incredible Comstock bonanzas. Today their being is Western, their thought Western and their activities Western.

In 1952 Beebe and Clegg acquired The Territorial Enterprise, Nevada’s oldest newspaper, literary birthplace of Mark Twain and one of the celebrated properties of the Old West. Under their ownership it has climbed from the smallest circulation in Nevada to being the largest weekly newspaper in the seventeen Western states. Throughout the West their Rolls-Royce motor cars, their private railroad car Virginia City, their big St. Bernard Mr. T-Bone Towser, and their hospitality are part of their legendary grand manner of life.”

Oh, wouldn’t I love to have met these characters! They sound like a worthy book subject themselves.

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Feature image: Illustration on the inside covers of The American West: The Pictorial Epic of a Continent by Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg.

12 thoughts on ““The Picturesque West”

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    1. That’s an easy trap! I do both, but I’m focusing on writing so that I can see what gaps in my research need to be filled. But first, I do an exhaustive search for each of my principal characters, because the more I know about their entire lives, the better feel I have for their personalities. I think it will make for a better story, even though the book covers less than a decade.

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