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Museum Books

I was looking at one of the photos I took at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, when it crossed my mind to try and find copies of the books in their little library. Perhaps, I thought, all the old books will have entered public domain, and be readily available to those of us who are interested in history and have a slight budget.

Well, not quite. Oh, some may be in public domain, but not all are available free. I’ve compiled a list of the titles, which are linked to the ebooks I found. I’ll make a note if it’s free. I will also include a list of related books I found while looking, because as you know, going down the rabbit hole of book shopping means you always come up with more than you bargained for!

High Desert Museum Bend Oregon

Related Titles:

Pathfinders of the West Being the Thrilling Story of the Adventures of the Men Who Discovered the Great Northwest: Radisson, La Vérendrye, Lewis and Clark this one is free, it came up when I was trying to find The Great West. 

Growing up, my mother’s favorite book was Swiss Family Robinson. We read more than one copy to pieces, reading it out loud, and I think she used it as a study aid at one point. I wonder if she’s seen this one? American Family Robinson is a free ebook.

This one looks interesting, and the price is right for looking into it, The Great Lone Land A Narrative of Travel and Adventure in the North-West of America. 

I couldn’t resist this title! By the author of Beyond the Mississippi you will find The Secret Service: The Field, the Dungeon, and the Escape.

Now that we have all these books, what are we going to do with them? Well, personally I am going to do some research and plot out a book of deep space exploration on a hostile planet. I love reading tales of derring-do and scouting, have written some on a small scale, and why not? Sure, it’s been done. But there are stories hidden in these books that will be fun to blend into the mix. Life is more improbable than fiction, which might mean I have to tame down the wild tales of opening the West.

Or maybe I’ll start on the other project that my recent visit to Oregon sparked in my mind. A series of kid’s books, as my Mom’s friend Lee asked for, about ‘little mysteries’ things found in attics, or under the roots of a gnarled tree, or… I read a throwaway book on the trip (there was a lot of reading time in airports and on planes) which mentioned the old crusty tale of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. I grew up with that story. I also grew up with my Dad avidly prospecting for gold. I’ve felt that fever as you slowly swirl off the black sand and see the glints of ‘color’ and I think it would be great fun to write some of that and this into tales to inspire young dreamers.

But most of all, this shows me how the internet has changed research. These books aren’t terribly old. They were behind glass, cut off from readers, a simple, static display that most people probably walk right by on their way to more interactive exhibits at the museum. However, with an hour of poking about on Amazon and the Internet Archive, I had found almost all of them for free or cheap. Suddenly, those forgotten books are accessible to all who have eyes to see and look again. So many stories, so little time.


  1. I commend to you the Gutenberg Project. I looked up only one of your books, How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon, and it is there free. Many of these books are probably in the public domain now, and Gutenberg is likely to have them. It should probably be your first “go to” when searching for older books. I’ve downloaded a bunch of classics from there, rather than paying even pennies for them at other places. Then I give the pennies to Gutenberg so they can find more books to digitize.

    January 3, 2015
    • I’m familiar with Gutenberg, but I’ve had issues with formatting and accessibility to readers in the past. Most of the links in the post are actually to the Internet Archive, which makes illustrations available as well, a nice perk for old history books. As for Amazon, sometimes I’m willing to pay a buck for ease of download and reading. Depends on the book.

      January 3, 2015
  2. Good suggestion. I began doing this years ago, collecting books dealing with the westward expansion and other historic times I found interesting. Some of the experiences, modified by the plot and adapted to my concept of an unsettled, sparsely-populated world found their way into my Darwin’s World series.
    That’s the beauty of inventing your own world to play in. I can write a series-within-a-series that’s ‘western’, a pirate book or two, sailing into the unknown, whatever. And all those books are there to give me a feel for the setting I’ll put my characters in.

    January 3, 2015
    • And they give you a basis for how characters will act in those settings, or react to crisis. People aren’t always logical, but they can be predictable.

      January 3, 2015
  3. The Great West is this one:;view=1up;seq=15

    If you zoom your image, you should be able to see a faint “Henry Howe” at the very bottom of the spine.

    January 3, 2015
    • Thanks! My eyes just couldn’t make that out.

      January 3, 2015
  4. I’m not certain if it is in the public domain or not (because it has been reprinted at least three times and is still in print), but for an idea of “tenderfoot goes west” I recommend Francis Parkman’s _The Oregon Trail_. He was a well-to-do, and somewhat sickly, Easterner who ventured out along the Oregon Trail as far as the edge of the Rockies. I saw several digital editions available through university libraries, xbooks, and other sources, so it might be PD now. (Parkman is also one of the first real historians in the US, and pioneered some writing techniques that today we use without a second thought.)

    January 3, 2015
    • Yes, I have read that one a few times, it’s worthwhile. Speaking of that style of writing, have you seen Celia Hayes’s To Truckee’s Trail? I thought it was very well done for a modern telling.

      January 3, 2015
      • I’ve sen it, it’s on my “to buy” list, but I’m elbow deep in WWI stuff and trying to write a footnoted paper from lecture notes and slide cues. (Rant warning: I HATE having to turn in a paper to a conference in advance, because I don’t read from a script – I use an outline with slide cues. End of Rant.)

        January 3, 2015
        • Good luck! you remind me I need to write a thing for the technical writing class.

          January 3, 2015
  5. Uncle Lar #

    As I recall, when I gave you my beta read impressions on that novella of yours a while back I remarked that to me it had a strong sense of Louis L’Amour. He was according to some a stickler for accuracy in the geography and period mores of his stories and their characters. Most of what I “know” about the old west is from his works, though in younger days I did travel extensively in that part of the world.
    In a similar vein I’ve gotten a feel for the gritty reality of WWII from a couple of WEB Griffins series, particularly “The Corps” for actions in the Pacific theater.
    Of course any assumptions taken from fiction must be backed up with corroboration from known factual historical reports. Funny how that can often be as much in what the histories don’t say as what they do report.

    January 3, 2015
  6. Even the historical reports can be inaccurate, just because people don’t always see the same thing, even though they are seeing the same thing (ask any LEO who had interviewed several witnesses of the same incident). However, they are a very good starting point. Cedar, I can’t remember — do you have a copy of Grandma Ella’s little book? There are a lot of very interesting stories in that, and I think remembered pretty accurately (if only because I listened to her stories over and over during the eight years we lived with her, and they didn’t change!). Also, Grandad Vanderburg’s book has some really good stories in it, that would link into a fiction story really well.

    January 3, 2015
    • I have both, and yes, planned on incorporating them into the mix. The project this is slowly developing into isn’t one that will see results before summer, at the earliest.

      January 3, 2015
  7. Kim #

    Cedar, other resources are Conversation with Pioneer Women by Fred Lockley (any of the interviews by Lockley are excellent) it is from $0.01 at Amazon.
    Phil Sheridan’s memoirs are pretty good for the first couple of chapters where he talks about being a young officer in Texas and the Oregon Territory. That one is on Gutenberg.

    January 3, 2015
    • Thanks, I’ll add them to the (virtual) stack!

      January 3, 2015
  8. Belated C4C

    January 4, 2015
  9. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter #

    Gotta love Archive.ORG. I write some historical horror stories, and finding a Sears mail order catalog from 1906 saved my sanity at one point.


    January 5, 2015

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