Class and Culture in Kansas Cattle Towns
C. Robert Haywood
Picture a Kansas cattletown. What do you see? Most people see a "Gunsmoke" version of Dodge City—a dusty frontier town full of thirsty cowboys, gunslingers, outlaws, and ladies of the evening.
But the "Gunsmoke" version tells only half the story, according to historian C. Robert Haywood. Two cultures existed simultaneously in Kansas cattle towns, Haywood writes. Alongside the Wild West culture of the cattle trailing industry there existed a highly developed Victorian society, complete with civic activists, churches, boosterism, small-town politics, and Victorian architecture to rival that of the east coast.
“Victorian West is rewarding reading.”
—Journal of American History
“This book is rich in detail about daily life, social organizations such as lodges, institutions such as the school and the church, as well as beliefs about death, attitudes about women’s roles, Victorian hopes for the future, and other social ideals.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“The wide use of photographs and illustrations enhances the narrative of this well-written and well-documented study. For those interested in discovering another facet of life in the cattle towns, Victorian West is an excellent place to begin.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“Haywood writes in a style that combines scholarly, professional treatises and popular histories for the general reader. Anyone wanting to peel away the thin veneer of the uncivilized legendary ends of the cattle trails to find the communities as they really existed will want to read Victorian West.”
“Thanks to Haywood’s anecdotal and lively style, the social and recreational panorama beyond the saloons and burlesque houses comes to life. He has lifted his discussion far beyond the level of local history and has made an important contribution not only to our knowledge of Victorian life and culture, but to American social history as well. This volume will be useful and appealing not only to students of Kansas and regional history, but also to those with an interest in the broader national themes which Haywood ties, most effectively, to the Kansas frontier.”
—Michael B. Husband, director, Old Cowtown Museum, WichitaSee fewer reviews...
In Victorian West Haywood examines education, recreation, social stratification, philanthropy and common community goals in three Kansas cowtowns—Dodge City, Wichita, and Caldwell. He finds that the Victorian attitudes of the post-Civil War era prevailed in Kansas as well as the rest of the nation.
Since the Wild West aspect of cattletown life has been so heavily stressed in both academic and popular arenas, the development of Kansas towns as progressive, even elegant Victorian cities, has been overlooked. But, according to Haywood, life in Kansas cattletowns was clearly tied to dominant Victorian themes: society was stratified, Victorian fads were emulated, "fancies" were coveted, and Victorian manners and morals were part of the process of refinement.
In Victorian West Haywood relates Victorian themes like optimism, anxiety, anti-intellectualism, and the commercial spirit to the Kansas community experience. He also provides a synthesis of cultural information that places the cowtowns of Kansas in a broader cultural context.