Pumpkin Patch to Jack-o’-lantern: A Halloween History Lesson

Pumpkin decor and jack-o’-lanterns have become ubiquitous symbols of Halloween, but how did a simple squash become a quintessential part of this American holiday? Cindy Ott explores this and other surprising stories about the pumpkin’s rise to icon status in her book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Beginning with the myth of the first Thanksgiving, she shows how Americans have used the pumpkin to fulfill their desire to maintain connections to nature and to the family farm of lore, and how small farms and rural communities have been revitalized in the process. In the following excerpt from the book, Ott delves into the origins and evolution of Halloween pumpkin traditions.

When most Americans think about communing with nature, they probably do not think about celebrating Halloween, but its festivities say a lot about how Americans imagine the natural world around them. While adult costume parties and parades still define the holiday, they share the night with children walking from door to door in costumes, yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’ to be rewarded with candies from their neighbors. The tradition started in the 1920s and became more popular with post-World-War II suburbanization and the baby boom. Pumpkins ranging from a single jack o’ lantern to more elaborate displays greet neighborhood children. Some homes metamorphose into haunted-house extravaganzas, with cobwebs stretched across bushes, faux gravestones planted in yards, paper skeletons hanging from porch rafters, and glowing jack-o’-lanterns perched on doorsteps. Others highlight a country feel, with hay bales, pumpkin-headed scarecrows, cornstalks, folk-art style wooden pumpkin cutouts, and fresh pumpkins piled decoratively near potted mums.

Glaser, William C.C., lithographer. In Florence Bourgeois’ “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Grower.” Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1937.

Although the themes of death, the supernatural, and wild nature still figure prominently at Halloween, their representative ghouls are tame and benevolent by historical standards. Jack-o’-lanterns and other Halloween creatures have become childlike cartoons such as Casper the Friendly Ghost or, in other cases, nurturing, New Age caregivers. Greeting cards, toys, and books often portray the jack-o’-lantern with big round eyes and a goofy grin rather than a threatening grimace. And perhaps most significantly, instead of being a two-legged beast, the new jack-o’-lantern has, as one poet put it, nothing underneath — it is just a head. Amputating and disembodying this symbol of wild, primitive nature nullifies its danger. Without a body to propel it, the jack-o’-lantern is powerless to act on its own will and wreak havoc.

Replacing the volatile and mischievous creature depicted in early twentieth-century Halloween memorabilia is a comforting and compassionate guardian spirit. A 1999 poem offers a glimpse of this new jack-o’-lantern personality:

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin bright
When my ‘Tricks or Treats’ are said,
Will you light me to my bed,
King old father pumpkin head?

The transformation owes much to the rising popular beliefs in the healing power of nature. Pumpkin Light, a 1993 children’s book, is one of many tales about a pumpkin with magical powers. In the story, a jack-o’-lantern saves a boy named Angus, who was born on a day when ‘the sun rose like a shining pumpkin.’ After Angus disobeys his parents, a mean scarecrow turns the boy into a dog, and the only way he can be transformed back is for someone to carve a magic pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern. The tale’s narrator states about Angus, ‘Sometimes he thought he could almost hear sounds from deep within the pumpkin. As if messages from the sun and the moon somehow entered through the pumpkin’s stem to rest among the silent seeds.’ At the end of the story, Angus’s mother carves the pumpkin and thereby returns the boy to his rightful form. In this fairy tale, the jack-o’-lantern offers salvation and restores the human spirit with the power of its magical forces.

The affiliation of pumpkins with children, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, remains as powerful as ever, because the two mutually reinforce the themes of natural exuberance and goodness. Photographs of a small child sitting on or holding a pumpkin in a pumpkin patch or dressed up as a pumpkin in a Halloween costume are ubiquitous in calendars, office cubicles, studio portraits and just about every American newspaper in the month of October. Children’s stories meld one with the other. For example, ‘The Ugly Pumpkin’ (1970) mimics the classic ugly duckling tale but substitutes a ‘lopsided runt’ pumpkin that becomes a handsome jack-o’-lantern. Peter Pumpkin (1963) is a coming-of-age story about a pumpkin learning how to be a man. ‘Pumpkin’ is a common term of endearment for children. A 1995 Libby’s advertisement for canned pumpkin includes a photograph of two cheerful toddlers sitting inside a giant pumpkin, suggesting that the contents of the can are as sweet and wonderful as two rosy-cheeked babies. Both the pumpkin and the babies exude happiness and well-being.

Cindy Ott is associate professor of American studies at Saint Louis University. Learn more about Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon by visiting the book’s website.

“A fascinating look at how a simple squash became mythic…a captivating book about an iconic American symbol.” —Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

“From Halloween to Thanksgiving; decorative dwarfs to 1000-pound monsters; jack-o-lanterns to pies, the pumpkin has been central to American understandings of nature, agrarian pasts, and ‘traditional’ values.  An extraordinary scholar and storyteller, Cindy Ott tracks the culture that altered the very nature of the pumpkin—and in do so, tells us a revealing story about ourselves.   It’s a new optic on the relation between food, environment, cultures and markets, and is not to be missed.” —Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places

NBC Bay Area recently interviewed Ott: The Pumpkin Spice Story: From “Food of Last Resort” to Fall Flavor King


Five Activists Who Shaped Seattle’s Civic and Cultural Landscape

StirringSeattle-CampbellIn the 1950s, the city of Seattle began a transformation from an insular, provincial outpost to a vibrant and cosmopolitan cultural center. As veteran Seattle journalist R. M. Campbell illustrates in Stirring Up Seattle: Allied Arts in the Civic Landscape, this transformation was catalyzed in part by the efforts of a group of civic arts boosters originally known as “The Beer and Culture Society.” This merry band of lawyers, architects, writers, designers, and university professors, eventually known as Allied Arts of Seattle, lobbied for public funding for the arts, helped avert the demolition of Pike Place Market, and were involved in a wide range of crusades and campaigns in support of historic preservation, cultural institutions, and urban livability. The excerpts below introduce five influential activists who shaped the Seattle we know and love; learn more about them and the battles they waged along with other activists in Stirring Up Seattle.  

Upcoming event: Join Stirring Up Seattle author R.M. Campbell as well as Mary Coney, both members of the original Allied Arts, and former Seattle Mayor Wes Uhlman for a conversation moderated by Town Hall founder David Brewster at Town Hall Seattle on November 10 at 7:30 p.m.

1. Alice Rooney

Alice Rooney with Paul Schell at the Allied Arts annual meeting, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Alice Rooney with Paul Schell at the Allied Arts annual meeting, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Alice Rooney almost said no to Robert Jackson Block, then president of Allied Arts, when he offered her the job of executive secretary in 1960. “I have two children; I live in the suburbs and have no car.” Block then asked two questions: “Do you have a typewriter? And phone?” Well, yes, she tentatively replied. In his customary fashion, Block barked, “What’s the big deal? That’s all you need. You’re hired.” And so Rooney came to the fledging organization that had been founded only six years earlier, and stayed for twenty years [...] Even now, some thirty years later, one does not mention Allied Arts without mentioning Rooney.

2. Victor Steinbrueck

Victor Steinbrueck, n.d. Photo by Esther M. Fox. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Victor Steinbrueck, n.d. Photo by Esther M. Fox. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

No one is more closely associated with the preservation of the Pike Place Market than Victor Steinbrueck, architect, member of the University of Washington (UW) faculty, and Allied Arts trustee. There is a reason he was called the “patron saint” of those seeking to save the Market; he was also referred to as Clarence Darrow, to borrow an apt comparison from writer Joyce Skaggs Brewster, for his style and brio. It was his unrelenting voice that insisted on the complete renovation of the Market, which at the time was grubby and run-down—a disaster, really. The Market’s charm, which is obvious now, was not clear in the 1960s when the battle raged so powerfully.

3. Betty Bowen

Betty Bowen, September 1965. Photo by Mary Randlett. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Betty Bowen, September 1965. Photo by Mary Randlett. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Those who knew Betty Bowen remember her well even though she died more than thirty years ago. She was famous, or infamous perhaps, for prodding people to do her bidding—saving the environment, maybe birds, maybe old buildings, helping needy artists—and for connecting disparate elements of society. By the sheer force of her ebullient personality, Bowen was readily at home with all sorts of people. She knew everyone, or so it seemed, and she never hesitated to call late at night or early in the morning with a request to do something she wanted[....]Bowen was given various titles: “an important catalyst to the arts and social causes,” “one of the most amusing people in Seattle,” “an overzealous press agent.” In her diary, Bowen wrote, “Whatever I am, I am not a doodler.”

Betty Bowen also appears in the recently released Mary Randlett Portraits.

4. Paul E.S. Schell

Schell peering down Western Avenue, 1980. Photo by Roger Schreiber.

Schell peering down Western Avenue, 1980. Photo by Roger Schreiber.

In a piece in the Argus in 1973, not long after the arrival in Seattle of Paul E. S. Schell and his wife, Pamela, Schell was described as “one of that valuable breed, the foreigner-turned-native”; Paul was from Iowa, and Pamela was from New York. Nobody would have argued. At thirty-five, Schell had multiple careers ahead of him, in both the public and private sectors. Alice Rooney, former executive director of Allied Arts, did not equivocate. “Paul became a real leader,” she said in an interview in Western World, “presenting a very clear vision for us. I think he changed the face of the city.”

5. Mary B. Coney

Mary Coney, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Mary Coney, 1979. Photo by Roger Schreiber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Allied Arts has always thought of itself as forwardthinking, but there was one notable exception to this characterization, probably more a result of happenstance than design: presidential leadership by a woman. For two decades the organization of freewheeling thinkers only had men presidents. Then in 1976, Mary Coney, who had a doctorate in nineteenth-century British literature and had spent most of her academic career on the faculty of the University of Washington, became president. Coney doesn’t think that seems such an accomplishment now. “There are a number of times I’ve been the first woman for different things, as were a number of women in that era. The atmosphere for such issues was changing.” Did anyone object? “I don’t think so.”

A critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for over thirty years, R. M. Campbell had a front-row seat to the growth and maturation of Seattle’s cultural landscape. In Stirring Up Seattle, he offers a behind-the-scenes account of the campaigns that galvanized the community to take action for arts and culture. Profiling arts leaders, both well known and unsung, Campbell tells the lively story of how many of the most beloved elements of Seattle culture came to be.


Ten Essential Books for your Filipino American Reading List

October is Filipino American History Month and there are a number of events celebrating this heritage in the Northwest and beyond. This year also marks the centennial of Carlos Bulosan‘s birth, and a series of events—including the “Empire is in the Heart” conference at the University of Washington—seek to celebrate his place in American literary and labor history. The University of Washington Press is proud to be the publisher of a number of history and literature titles that shed light on multiple aspects of the Filipino American experience:

BULAM2America Is in the Heart: A Personal History 
By Carlos Bulosan
New introduction by Marilyn Alquizola and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

First published in 1943, this classic memoir by well-known Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan describes his boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to America, and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West. Read an excerpt from the new edition here.

BULALLAll the Conspirators
By Carlos Bulosan; introduction by Caroline S. Hau and Benedict Anderson

In this thriller set at the end of World War II, American Gar Stanley returns to his native Philippines to help his childhood sweetheart locate her missing husband in the wake of a Japanese ambush. With Clem’s ring as his only clue, Gar moves from the nightclubs of Manila to the mountains of Baguio, from mansions to hovels, bordellos to churches. He pursues and is pursued by bankers, matrons, hoboes, warriors, and thugs. Gar quickly realizes that no one is who they seem in this war-ravaged country. He must move quickly to stay ahead of the deadly conspirators before they silence his friend.


Growing Up Brown: Memoirs of a Filipino American
By Peter Jamero, foreword by Dorothy Laigo Cordova

Peter Jamero’s story of hardship and success illuminates the experience of what he calls the “bridge generation” — the American-born children of the Filipinos recruited as farm workers in the 1920s and ’30s. Their experiences span the gap between these early immigrants and those Filipinos who owe their U.S. residency to the liberalization of immigration laws in 1965. His book is a sequel of sorts to Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, with themes of heartbreaking struggle against racism and poverty and eventual triumph.


The Bread of Salt and Other Stories
By N. V. M. Gonzalez

Long considered the dean of modern Philippine literature, N. V. M. Gonzalez influenced an entire generation of young Philippine writers and acquired a devoted international readership. His books, however, are not widely available in this country.The Bread of Salt and Other Stories provides a retrospective selection of sixteen of his short stories (all originally written in English), arranged in order of their writing, from the early 1950s to the present day. This is a powerful collection, both for the unity and universality of the author’s subjects and themes and for the distinctive character of his prose style.

SCHPHIPhilip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement
By Craig Scharlin and Lilia V. Villanueva

Filipino farmworkers sat down in the grape fields of Delano, California, in 1965 and began the strike that brought about a dramatic turn in the long history of farm labor struggles in California. Their efforts led to the creation of the United Farm Workers union under Cesar Chavez, with Philip Vera Cruz as its vice president and highest-ranking Filipino officer. In his deeply reflective and thought-provoking oral memoir, Vera Cruz explores the toll these conditions took on both families and individuals.


Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: The Legacy of Filipino American Labor Activism
By Ron Chew

Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes examines the lives of two slain cannery union reformers during the tumultuous Civil Rights Era of the 1970s. Author Ron Chew was a close friend of Gene and Silme, and his poignant prologue sets the stage for the story of their political awakening, the events that led to their tragic deaths, and the movement they nurtured. Through memories of family and friends, we learn about the men as second-generation Filipino Americans, as leaders, and as part of a generation striving to make America live up to its democratic ideals. The book includes a history of Asian labor in the Alaska salmon canneries written by Gene Viernes. He intended to publish this work to illuminate the contributions of cannery workers and the noble fight to create a union.


By Peter Bacho

This remarkable first novel follows the struggle of Ben Lucero, a young Filipino American priest who must come to terms with his bifurcated notion of home as well as his own religious commitment. Ben’s first visit to the city of Cebu in the Philippines, for his mother’s burial, becomes the occasion of his corruption when he is confronted with the manipulative wiles of two enigmatic women, his powerful Aunt Clara and her glamorous young business associate, Ellen. Ben is inherently corruptible, but his moment of truth is advanced by what he sees as a perversion of Catholicism, namely the crucifixion as a means of bargaining with God. Despair, guilt, and their religious corollary, the need for redemption, follow Ben back to Seattle, where he attempts to unravel his existential dilemma.


Dark Blue Suit and Other Stories
By Peter Bacho

The book opens with the annual spring dispatch, by the Seattle-based Filipino union, of thousands of Filipino workers to the Alaska salmon canneries. We meet characters who reappear throughout the stories: Vince, the tough but charming union foreman and “big shot” father to Buddy, our American-born narrator; Chris, the battle-scarred union president targeted by McCarthyism; Rico, the spirited young king of the neighborhood who will fall victim to Vietnam; Stephanie, the beautiful mestiza who married up. There are many others who age and change in ironic counterpoint to persistent themes of loyalty, fierce ethnic pride, and a willingness to struggle against hostile forces in society. There are wry twists of humor and surprising turns of plot; a long-lost love is renewed; a long-hidden family secret is revealed.

Scent of Apples: A Collection of StoriesSANSCC
By Bienvenido N. Santos

This collection of sixteen short stories brings the work of a distinguished Filipino writer to the attention of an American audience. Bienvenido N. Santos first came to the United States in 1941, and since then, he has lived intermittently here and in the Philippines, writing in English about his experiences.

DUOTROTroubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora
Edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen

Pairing image and text, Troubling Borders showcases creative writing and visual artwork by sixty-one women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino ancestry. The collection features compelling storytelling that troubles the borders of categorization and reflects the multilayered experience of Southeast Asian women.

The diverse voices featured here have been shaped by colonization, wars, globalization, and militarization. For some of these women on the margins of the margin, crafting and showing their work is a bold act in and of itself. Their provocative and accessible creations tell unique stories, provide a sharp contrast to familiar stereotypes—Southeast Asian women as exotic sex symbols, dragon ladies, prostitutes, and “bar girls”—and serve as entry points for broader discussions on questions of history, memory, and identity.

Saving the Great Bear Rainforest: Q&A with Ian McAllister

Ian McAllister’s richly illustrated new book, Great Bear Wild, combines stunning photographs of the Great Bear Rainforest with essays that illustrate threats posed to the region by climate change, oil pipelines, and resource extraction. The book’s essays and photographs demonstrate the intimate and delicate connection between the ocean and rainforest—how the marine and terrestrial worlds don’t collide, but support each other: island wolves preying on salmon and seals; herring feeding countless birds and terrestrial mammals; salmon feeding over 200 species in the inshore environment. McAllister masterfully documents this tideline interface in his photographs, while passionately arguing for the preservation of this fabled region accompanying essays. Here, he discusses the Great Bear Rainforest, its most imminent threats, and the importance of conserving this treasured place.

Q: Many readers who pick up your book will be hearing about the Great Bear Rainforest for the first time. Why should readers here in the US be concerned about the Enbridge Pipeline, unsustainable fishing practices, or other threats facing the Great Bear? What can they do to help conservationists and First Nations in their efforts?

Ian McAllister: The Great Bear Rainforest finds itself in the unfortunate position of having become ground zero in a battle that is redefining Canada. We are at a crossroads as a nation and we now have to choose either to expand production of the climate altering tar sands while turning this magnificent coastal paradise into an energy corridor to Asia or to protect this coast and begin a strategic transition toward clean energy.

There is no one on this planet that will be spared impact if these pipelines are built through our rainforest. These projects will lead to exponential growth in tar sands production and the ensuing climate changing extraction process, not to mention the refining, transportation and ultimately the emissions coming out of millions of cars in Asia. If Canada, one of the most prosperous nations on the planet turns its back on dealing with climate change and is willing to sacrifice one of the most fabled wild coastlines on earth just to send oil to Asia then how can we possibly expect other countries to do their part? This is not just about our coast but is hugely symbolic—it is about our ability to be part of a global solution, to regain a leadership role in protecting this planet.

McAllister_pg 3

Photo by Ian McAllister.

We have been successful in the past at achieving large-scale habitat protection for the Great Bear Rainforest but it happened because people around the world stood up for this rainforest. Due to its intensive logging practices, Canada was at one time called the Brazil of the North but international condemnation forced those practices to change here. We need that kind of international pressure again now. First Nations are fighting a heroic battle to protect their traditional territories. The majority of British Columbians want a legislated ban on oil tankers in the Great Bear but we won’t achieve this until more people abroad make their voice heard. I hope this book, these images, and the stories that are told in it help encourage more people to speak out for this fragile and spectacular coast.

Q: The implementation of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline would result in constant oil tanker traffic up and down the regional coast. Why does this tanker traffic represent such a serious threat to the Great Bear Rainforest, even in the absence of a disastrous spill?

IM: Even in the absence of an Exxon Valdez type of oil spill, the sheer amount of oil and gas that is being proposed to move through this coast would irreversibly change everything we know about this place. It is estimated that the combined transportation of oil and gas would facilitate over 3,000 tanker trips a year. This is considered one of the single largest increases in shipping traffic proposed for any coastline on the planet.

We currently have over 300 humpback whales that have been identified using the exact waters that these tankers would be traveling through. We also have fin whales, the second largest animal to have ever lived on this planet, returning in increasing numbers each year. These whales are returning here because of the rich waters full of krill and forage fish but also because they represent an increasingly rare opportunity to communicate and forage without having to compete with the debilitating acoustic pollution caused by shipping traffic. Even if a major spill never happens we will have lost the ecological integrity of this coast just from the chronic noise of these ships—the underwater noise will be the end of this whale sanctuary. Invasive species discharged from ship bilges would cause a cascade of other problems for the animals and humans who inhabit the region, in particular the Gitga’at people of Hartley Bay, whose way of life and ability to sustain themselves in their traditional territory will be forever altered.

Major global concerns are at stake here, from our international commitments to reduce climate altering emissions to ability to protect one of the most important wilderness areas on the planet.

McAllister_pg 135

Photo by Ian McAllister.

Q: Ecotourism has recently become an important source of employment for local communities and also helps raise public awareness of development projects that threaten the region. However, greater public interest can also lead to greater human impact on a delicate ecosystem. What are your views on how to balance the benefits and threats that ecotourism presents to Great Bear Rainforest?

IM: This is a tough one. Clearly if people are not inspired by the beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest and all it represents we will never succeed in protecting it. So, yes, tourism plays a role in building broad support for the collective conservation efforts that are taking place on the coast in addition to providing much needed employment and revenue for coastal communities. However, too much human impact in sensitive areas can have a negative impact on wildlife. As the Great Bear becomes an increasingly popular destination, it is necessary that we more carefully consider how to manage all these visitors.

For example, there are places on this coast where there are daily visits by wildlife viewing companies to watch grizzly bears and what we are finding is that mothers with cubs and sub-adult bears quickly become tolerant of people but large male bears, being less tolerant, are pushed farther up river or to other rivers altogether. Hopefully more management plans will incorporate places that are true wilderness areas where industrial activity of any kind, including large-scale tourism, is prohibited.

McAllister_pg 179

Photo by Ian McAllister.

Q: Your accounts of conservation efforts in the Great Bear Rainforest make it clear that First Nations and conservation activists have the odds stacked against them in battles against corporate interests and the Canadian government. What gives you hope that the conservation efforts might prevail?

IM: First Nations on this coast have been leading the fight to keep tankers off this coast and continue to show strong leadership and unwavering commitment to protect their traditional territories. So, yes, it is very much a David and Goliath situation here. Every single major oil company in the world is invested in the tar sands and they want to see pipelines built to the west coast. What is especially tragic is that First Nations now have to spend scarce financial resources battling the Canadian government and the industry proponents in court. At the same time we are watching our current federal government systematically eliminate our few environmental protection laws in order to pave the road for these pipeline and tanker proposals.

What industry and government have not counted on is the huge and unmoving level of public opposition both from small indigenous communities and the general public across the country, this is where hope lies.

Ian_McAllister(2)Ian McAllister is a cofounder of the wildlife conservation organization Pacific Wild and an award-winning photographer and author of The Last Wild Wolves. Time magazine named him one of the Leaders of the 21st Century.

“Through breathtaking photographs and moving prose, McAllister’s Great Bear Wild presents a compelling case for the urgent need to protect, in perpetuity, one of the most magnificent ecosystems on the planet—the increasingly threatened Great Bear Rainforest.”
Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace

Join Ian on his Pacific Northwest book tour:

Town Hall Seattle
October 26, 7:30 p.m.

Eagle Harbor Books
October 27, 7:00 p.m.

Portland Audubon Society
October 28, 7:00 p.m.

Portland Patagonia Store
October 30, 7:00 p.m.

Photo Essay: Ten Northwest Luminaries Photographed by Mary Randlett

McCUE-MaryRandlettPortraitsMary Randlett Portraitsthe first collection of Mary Randlett’s photographs of people—presents visual artists, writers, and arts advocates from 1949 to 2014. Her portraits are known for their effortless intimacy, illuminating her subjects as few ever saw them—something noted by many of those whom she photographed. The portraits are accompanied by biographical sketches written by Frances McCue. Her short essays blend life stories and reflections on the photographs with Randlett’s own reminiscences. McCue also provides an essay that is the first to frame the scope of Randlett’s life and professional career. Mary Randlett, who will be 91 in May, 2015, is still photographing landscapes. Her last portrait photograph was of the author of this book, Frances McCue. The photographs and vignettes below are extracted from Mary Randlett Portraits.

1. Henry Miller, 1949

“Turn up Partington Ridge,” Mary Randlett’s mother told her. They were driving along Big Sur, up the California coast. “We’re visiting the writer Henry Miller and you should photograph him and his family.” So, the young Mary Willis, a budding photographer, obliged. In this picture, Henry Miller is watching his son Tony. His novels Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were banned in the United States at the time the photograph was taken.

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UW Press News, Reviews, and Events

UW Press Authors in the News

Gordon Hirabayashi famously challenged the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, before embarking on a long and distinguished academic career. His nephew Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, coauthor of A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States recently discussed his uncle’s battle–and eventual victory–on CSPAN’s BookTV. You can watch the discussion here.

The Wilderness Act turned fifty this month, but is it still working in Washington state and beyond? James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness, examined the current state of wilderness legislation in this The Seattle Times editorial.

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Wilderburbs and Wildlife in the American West: A Q & A with Lincoln Bramwell

Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature’s Edge is the environmental history of a housing phenomenon that places human developments in close proximity to wild places: on the edges of forests, deserts, and mountain slopes of the American West. Author Lincoln Bramwell, chief historian for the USDA Forest Service, spoke with us recently about what drove his interest in this topic and some of the major challenges that can accompany life in wilderburbs.

Q: Are wilderburbs and the sort of human/nature encounters they introduce a new phenomenon? 

Lincoln Bramwell: Wilderburbs are in no way a new phenomenon. People with means around the world have maintained country estates outside of the crowded metropolis for millennia. Wealthy Americans began imitating English country estates following the Revolution when cities like Philadelphia and Boston grew in population and density. While these spaces were definitely out of reach for all except the upper class, by the nineteenth century rail lines allowed the middle class to live in larger single occupant homes away from the city. The automobile  further expanded how far Americans could live outside of town and maintain a job in the city, but the romantic suburb of the wealthy remained unattainable as the homes and development outside cities morphed into suburban sprawl.

Only in the mid- to late twentieth century did you see a confluence of factors that allowed the middle class to find their version of the romantic suburb in greater numbers. After the development of all-weather highways throughout the country, the affordability of all-wheel drive vehicles, the information and communication revolution that freed people and capital from the city center, and the availability of forested lands for sale and development did you start to see large numbers of Americans move beyond the suburban fringe and into wilderburbs. The trend really began to boom the last two decades of the twentieth century, but the desire to live in the woods but close enough to enjoy the amenities of the city is as old as our nation.

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