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Edward Linenthal
Journal of American History

Last modified: Monday, June 29, 2009

'The Journal of American History' listens to the sounds of the frontier

June 29, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- We all have a mental picture of the sights that greeted European settlers when they first encountered the American West. But what about the sounds?

In the June 2009 issue of The Journal of American History, historian Sarah Keyes describes how overlanders imposed their own aural environment on the native peoples and natural landscape as they crossed the continent from east to west.

Journal of American History

The June 2009 "Journal of American History" features a 1904 caricature of Charles E. Knoblauch, a former Rough Rider and New York Stock Exchange member.

Print-Quality Photo

"From the moment European powers first stepped foot in the New World, they wielded sound to establish territorial dominion and cultural control," she writes in the essay "The Overland Trail as a Sonic Conquest," which won the 2008 Louis Pelzer Award from the Organization of American Historians.

Keyes writes that settlers relied on sounds that they associated with civilization -- ringing church bells, lowing cattle and their familiar languages -- to counter the terrifying strangeness of howling wolves, violent weather and Indian war whoops. American Indians experienced the coming of whites as, in the words of Paiute leader Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, as "a roaring lion."

The quarterly Journal of American History is published by the Organization of American Historians, based at Indiana University Bloomington. Also in the June 2009 issue:

  • Julia C. Ott examines the efforts of the New York Stock Exchange to transform American's perceptions and relationships with the stock market in the 1910s and 1920s. As NYSE publicists promoted stock ownership as a democratic practice, she writes, they established many of the economic precepts of modern political conservatism.
  • Robyn Muncy counters the usual narrative of the role played by rank-and-file workers in 1960s social change. Muncy argues that Appalachian coal miners and other constituents of organized labor played a crucial role in the upheaval that created the Great Society.
  • Joy Rhode examines the threat that Defense Department patronage posed to scholarly objectivity in the 1950s. She writes that government-funded social scientists struggled to reconcile their elite scientific authority with democratic, participatory politics.
  • James Morton Turner argues that populist opposition to environmental regulation in the American West became essential to the rise of the political conservatism from the 1970s through the 1990s.

For more on The Journal of American History, including online articles from the current and past issues, see

The Web site includes suggestions for classroom use of Turner's article, "The Specter of Environmentalism: Wilderness, Environmental Politics, and the Evolution of the New Right." The June 2009 JAH Podcast is a conversation between Associate Editor Stephen Andrews and Julia Ott about her article, "The Free and Open People's Market: Political Ideology and Retail Brokerage at the New York Stock Exchange, 1913-1933."