In 1879 two Englishmen, writer Samuel Nugent Townshend and photographer John George Hyde, set out for a pleasant Indian summer on a tour of the American West. The duo documented their travels by steamship and train, through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, across the Missouri to the “new state of Kansas” and the beginning of the western lands and business opportunities that were to become the focus of their narrative. Reprinted here with critical notes and introduction, Our Indian Summer in the Far West offers an enlightening—and often entertaining—perspective on an early moment in the growth of capitalism and industry in the American West.
Originally published as a photographic travelogue and guide to British investment in the American West, Townshend and Hyde’s account is both idiosyncratic and emblematic of its time. Interested in the West’s economic and environmental potential, the two men focused on farming in Kansas, railroads and mining in Colorado, a bear hunt in New Mexico, and ranching in Texas. The sojourners’ own foibles also enter the narrative: alerted to the difficulty of finding a hotel with a bath, the two Victorians took along a portable bathtub made of India rubber. Their words and pictures speak volumes about contemporary attitudes toward race, empire, and the future of civilization. An introduction by coeditor Alex Hunt provides background on the creators and the travelogue genre.
The recovery and republication of this extremely rare volume, an artifact of the Victorian American West, make available an important primary document of a brief but pivotal historical moment connecting the American West and the British Empire.