The open range cattle era lasted barely a quarter-century, but it left America irrevocably changed. These few decades following the Civil War brought America its greatest boom-and-bust cycle until the Depression, the invention of the assembly line, and the dawn of the conservation movement. It inspired legends, such as that icon of rugged individualism, the cowboy. Yet this extraordinary time and its import have remained unexamined for decades.
Cattle Kingdom reveals the truth of how the West rose and fell, and how its legacy defines us today. The tale takes us from dust-choked cattle drives to the unlikely splendours of boomtowns like Abilene, Kansas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We venture from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakota Badlands to the Chicago stockyards. We meet a diverse array of players – from the expert cowboy Teddy Blue to the failed rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt. Knowlton shows us how they and others like them could achieve so many outsized feats: killing millions of bison in a decade, building the first opera house on the open range, driving cattle by the thousand, and much more. Cattle Kingdom is a revelatory new view of the Old West.
"Cattle Kingdom is the best all-around study of the American Cowboy ever written. Every page crackles with keen analysis and vivid prose about the Old West. A must read!"
– Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America and The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
"A fresh look at the U.S. cattle industry [...] this vastly informative volume will be of interest to general readers and a welcome addition for all library collections."
– Library Journal
"Quality book [...] Knowlton's absorbing work demonstrates that the years of lucrative cattle driving may have been short, but meatpacking and transportation innovations and the rugged individualist ideology of the West maintain their place of importance in American life."
– Publishers Weekly
"An informative and well-written examination of a key area."
"Cattle Kingdom accomplishes the rare feat of capturing the worlds of cattlemen and cowboys in all their color, while also covering well the global economic and environmental tides that made the cattle kingdom rise and fall."
– Stephen Aron, 2017 President of the Western History Association and Robert N. Burr Department Chair, UCLA Department of History
"A pleasing contribution to the history of the post-Civil War frontier."
– Kirkus Reviews