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The American West through British Eyes, 1865 - 1900: Introduction

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

Introduction

Following the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, the number of Britons who visited the American West increased dramatically. Many of these travellers were eager to find new investments for their capital in mining, cattle-raising, land speculation, or the new urban centres. Others hoped to exploit the magnificent hunting grounds of this region. The majority, however, went simply as tourists, and either travelled solely in North America or stopped at a few destinations en route to San Francisco, from where they would depart to India, the Far East and Australia.

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains.
Enlarged image Enlarged image

Isabella L. Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. London, 1879. (10411.df.7)
Copyright © The British Library

A large number of these men and women recorded their impressions in their journals and diaries, and in the letters they sent home to their families. In many cases, accounts of their trips were then published upon their return.

One such traveller was Isabella Bird, one of the best known 'Lady Travellers' of the Victorian era. Bird first visited the United States in 1854 in an attempt to improve her poor health, and her account of this visit was published in 1856.

Nearly twenty years later she returned to the United States on her way home from Hawaii. 'A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains', based on her letters to her sister in Scotland, vividly depicts her four-month stay in Colorado.

Works such as Bird's, together with the commentaries of writers such as Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson, provide a rich source of information not only about North America itself - its people, culture, politics and landscape - but about how it compared to Great Britain

 

The printed items displayed in this exhibition represent a small selection of the materials on this subject held at the British Library.

Part 1: The Journey
Part 2: Native Americans
Part 3: The Chinese
Part 4: Mormons
Part 5: Mining
Part 6: Cattle-ranching
Part 7: Hunting

 

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains.
Enlarged image Enlarged image

Isabella L. Bird, A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. London, 1879. (10411.df.7)
Copyright © The British Library

 

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7


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