Thanks to comments from Gary Roberts and historians in Alaska, I have much revised and retitled my work on the last days of Soapy Smith as MYTH, LEGEND AND SOAPY SMITH. Today I put a proposal in the mail to the editor of a renown academic press and we'll see what happens. The reason I mention all this to this forum is because much of the new material discusses the Smith Legend in the context of Slotkin's American Frontier Myth and his theme of "regeneration through violence." I intend to end my discussion with a comparison with the Earp Brothers, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok and George Armstrong Custer legends.
(Big Breath, here). This chapter has only been drafted out, and I'd be interested in what you all have to say. What does this forum think of Slotkin? Is he passe? Do you think Smith has the hero/anti-hero status of these latter characters and deserves the Big League discussion?
By the way, ALASKA HISTORY just published my review of Jeff Smith's biography of Soapy. I hope I did it justice.
In 1994 one common theme among cutting edge historians was that of lawmen being hired guns for American capitalism. For me that tied in nicely with the B&W B-movies I had seen as a kid in Central... more
Thank you William. When I responded to Cathy Spude on my Soapy Smith blog I did not know enough about Richard Slotkin, never having read his works. Thanks to you I understand more about him now, and... more
Cathy, I've been working on a response to Professor Urban myself. As usual, I was more than a little long-winded. Then, I read your post. It seems to me that you have the topic well in hand and... more
Actually, it was something you said when you reviewed a draft of my manuscript that sent me off in the direction of looking at myth and legend, so I really have you to thank for this line of thought, ... more
Cathy Joseph Campbell in his PBS shows about mythology said something like this, "If you want to know about a people or culture find out what the people believe rather than seeking the truth." If... more
If you want to study the audience, it is true that the facts matter little. If you want to study Wyatt Earp, they do matter. An audience conditioned by 1950 B movies to think of the railroad, bankers ... more
William, your post makes perfect since but if I may move the discussion back to her original intent, which is writing a book on Soapy Smith, my great-grandfather, using Slotkin's theories as stated... more
Tom: I have a copy of the book by Joe Campbell and Tom Moyer that was written after the PBS shows, and it has some great insight into American Mythology, stuff that really helps me understand our... more
I hope that no one thinks that I'm saying mythology, legend and history tell the truth in exactly the same way. The facts of history and the elements of legend, of course, will differ. Historians and ... more
I find the discussion intriguing. I have long held my own theories on why many consider Wyatt Earp a legendary hero. His flaws contribute to his heroic image. If you look at fictional main characters ... more
Hi Pam! Dixon Wector, in his 1963 book THE HERO IN AMERICA states that the hero has a sympathy for handicap, struggle and failure, because he has suffered these faults himself. In the classes I have... more
Cathy result in an uplifting lesson for the future generations? Isn't it possible study of such people might make people cynical about history. especially as presented in most media? I mean the media ... more
When you read the feature articles about Western characters in the 1880s and 1890s, it is easy enough to see that people ate them up because the stories somehow represented a simpler time that was... more
Do followers of this board realize how fortunate they are to have a learned professor of history provide them with coolly reasoned comments, without rancor or bias, on the subjects in which they are... more
Tom makes a good point when he says that people can get frustrated if writers confuse history with myth and legend. That is why I want to specifically discuss the difference between the two and talk... more
According to you Cathy, "Jeff Smith's book, for instance, is a superb collection of facts about the life of Soapy Smith, but I found little interpretation in his book." That's not true. It's just not ... more
As usual, Jeff misunderstands me, as if there is only one definition of historical interpretation. I suspect he simply objects to my name and reacts negatively to anything I say. The more I write... more
When two people write about the same subject they always have to be at odds. In my opinion they should let it go; they will more than likely sell books for each other anyway. Oh well, the nature of... more
I have some very good friends who write about the same subject I do--which is most importantly medieval history in the Baltic region. There is a lot of history there and many different audiences.... more
Once again William, you are correct. I do personally believe I am the foremost historian on Soapy Smith, but I do not believe, as Cathy states, that I am the only one allowed to discuss his history,... more