As part of our occasional series of Throwback Thursday reviews, here is one from 1991.
Prairie Visions: The Life and Times of Solomon Butcher, by Pam Conrad. (Illus.) NY Harpercollins 1991. 85pp.
For her award-winning novel, Prairie Songs, Pam Conrad researched the achives at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln. There, she came across a collection of photographs taken by a man named Solomon Butcher. His pictures documented the people and the prairie of Nebraska in the late 1800s. She incorporated Butcher into her novel, embellishing his personality with her own imagination. In Prairie Visions: The Life and Times of Solomon Butcher, Conrad reflects upon the life of the real Solomon Butcher, including many of his haunting photographs--which look like a quirky hybrid of Matthew Brady and Dorothea Lange--and anecdotal stories he gathered for this book, Pioneer History of Custer County, Nebraska, originally published in 1901. Though Butcher, an unrepentantly indolent schemer, was sometimes scorned and ridiculed during his lifetime, Conrad shows just how valuable his photographic efforts have become. One can hardly get a better sense of what life on the endless, barren Nebraska prairie was like at the end of the 19th century than by studying Butcher's frank images and reading the often humorous, though disclosive, tales he collected. In addition to the narrative on Butcher's life and a retelling of some of his stories, Conrad also includes background information on the history and science of photography, explains the Homestead Act, which brought so many settlers to Nebraska, and discusses the trials and rigors of typical prairie life. In this, her first non-fiction work, Pam Conrad uses a light touch and inquisitive voice to explore the visions captured through Solomon Butcher's lens. Prairie Visions is a treasure chest for the imagination.—Bob Clark, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC *
* Bibliographic information and reviewer affiliation are as originally published in 1991.
22 Apr 2015 9:08 PM