Monday, February 8, 2016

Picturesque Arizona

Enoch Conklin - Picturesque Arizona (1878)

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I have a weakness for old travel narratives though in actuality I don't read many all the way through.  (Have been slowly working on Pausanias for a couple of years.)  This is a journalist's account of Arizona in 1877 and is considered "one of the first national publications to focus attention on the scenic wonders of the American Southwest" (Brian McGinty's The Oatman Massacre p186).  Probably of more interest today are the many descriptions of Indian life which Conklin appears to be (I'm skimming again) a fairly sympathetic observer.  True to a writer of that time he cites Prescott and Humboldt but otherwise seems to be reporting accurately though certainly tinged with romanticism.  There's also material on the ruins he found, Tucson of the period, mining, river conditions, what "desert" means - the usual grab-bag that makes travel books so surprising and, if we're lucky, entertaining.