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!
- The Great West (author unknown)
- Stansbury’s Expedition to the Great Salt Lake (free at Internet Archive)
- Bigelow’s Life of Colonel Fremont (free at Forgotten Books)
- Fremont’s Life, Explorations, and Public Service (this ebook is a dollar at Amazon)
- Famous Frontiersmen, Pioneers, and Scouts (this ebook is $2 at Amazon, but worth it I think)
- How Marcus Whitman Saved Oregon (this one is $2 at Amazon)
- Two Years in Oregon (free!)
- McLoughlin and Old Oregon (free, but not on Amazon)
- Beyond the Mississippi, by Albert Richardson (I cut this off in the photo, but deduced it later)
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.