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Astoria; Or, Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains

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By: (1783-1859)

"Astoria" describes the many perilous adventures, discoveries, and disasters experienced by the brave Americans who joined the 1810-1813 Astor Expedition to Oregon. The wealthy New York fur magnate John Jacob Astor masterminded an extensive enterprise with the hope of setting up a fur trading center and outpost of American colonization at the mouth of the Columbia River. Journeying by land and by sea, the intrepid travelers endured incredible hardships, utter exhaustion, and near starvation. Especially interesting and harrowing were the odysseys of Wilson Price Hunt and Robert Stuart who crossed the continent in opposite directions. In spite of the difficulties described, the book was a catalyst that inspired a generation of pioneers to pursue their own way to the Northwest. Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Rip Van Winkle, was a masterful writer who was especially good at conveying the vastness and dangers of the wilderness. But as the book was written at the behest of the tycoon Astor, it also includes much description of business dealings, discussion of good and bad management decisions, and even at times some rather fawning praise of Astor himself. Irving also includes some anthropology as he describes the encounters of the explorers and the members of various tribes, whom he synonymously calls Indians, aborigines, savages, or their tribal names. It is noteworthy that the member of the expedition who receives the most abundant and unreserved praise from Irving is an Indian woman who exhibits constant courage and virtue. - Summary by Carol Pelster

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