Joseph McCoy’s Great Gamble
Here’s a brand new book on the great chapter of The Chisholm Trail. This book, The Chisholm Trail: Joseph McCoy’s Great Gamble is written by James E. Sherow, and follows McCoy’s vision and the effects of the Chisholm Trail from post-Civil War Texas and Kansas to the multi-million-dollar beef industry that remade the Great Plains, the American diet, and the national and international beef trade. At every step, both nature and humanity put a range of roadblocks in McCoy’s way.
In the foreword by James P. Ronda, he writes: “But Sherow’s book is also filled with hotel owners, real estate developers, Indian chiefs and tribal councils, state and local politicians, railroaders of all sorts, and whole grange halls of farmers. McCoy is always in the story but he is not the story.”
The book has stories of trail drivers, like G.O. Burrows, a cowboy from Del Rio, Texas.
“I put in eighteen or twenty years on the trail, and all I had in the final outcome was the high-heeled boots, the striped pants, and about $4.80 worth of other clothes, so there you are.”
Forging links from land to plate
Imagine, 150+years ago, the McCoy brothers of Springfield, Illinois, betting their fortunes on Abilene, Kansas. Joseph, who was the youngest brother, saw how a middleman could become wealthy. Sherow’s book covers the obstacles faced and how McCoy put his own stamp upon the land, and on eating habits as far away as New York City and London. McCoy’s enterprise forged links between cattlemen, entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs; between ecology, disease and technology; and between local, national and international markets.
This is Volume 3 in the Public Lands History Series.
James E. Sherow is Professor of History at Kansas State University, Manhattan, and author of numerous books and articles. The cover art is W.H. D. Koerner, And So, Unemotionally, There Began One of the Wildest and Strangest Journeys Ever Made in Any Land (1923). Oil on canvas, Courtesy of Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY.
This is a staff pick favorite! It resonates with our mission and delves into the many aspects we talk about and use in our education programs. It also is filled with historical illustrations, such as the Loading of Bison, an 1874 Worrall engraving showing McCoy’s crew capturing and loading bison for a traveling show that unfortunately, ended in disaster in Chicago, 1868.