Adventure Journalism in the Gilded Age

Essays on Reporting from the Arctic to the Orient


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About the Book

These new essays tell the stories of daring reporters, male and female, sent out by their publishers not to capture the news but to make the news—indeed to achieve star billing—and to capitalize on the Gilded Age public’s craze for real-life adventures into the exotic and unknown. They examine the adventure journalism genre through the work of iconic writers such as Mark Twain and Nellie Bly, as well as lesser-known journalistic masters such as Thomas Knox and Eliza Scidmore, who took to the rivers and oceans, mineshafts and mountains, rails and trails of the late nineteenth century, shaping Americans’ perceptions of the world and of themselves.

About the Author(s)

Katrina J. Quinn is a professor of communication at Slippery Rock University. Named a Hazel Dicken-Garcia Distinguished Scholar of Journalism History in 2019, she has published on topics such as nineteenth-century political reporting, sensationalism, literary journalism, narrative, and personal accounts of the American frontier.

Mary M. Cronin is a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University. Her research focuses on nineteenth-century press performance and legal issues. The author of three previous books and numerous scholarly journal articles, Cronin was a former reporter, copy editor, and assistant news editor in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Florida prior to her academic career.

Lee Jolliffe is a professor of journalism at Drake University, where she teaches media design and honors courses on the media. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a freelance writer and as supervisor of the Writing and Editing Section at Battelle Institute on projects for NASA, DOE, DoD, NSF, NIH, and the EPA.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Katrina J. Quinn, Mary M. Cronin and Lee Jolliffe

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 249
Bibliographic Info: 57 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8055-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4209-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Michael S. Sweeney 1
Katrina J. Quinn 3
Katrina J. Quinn, Lee Jolliffe and Mary M. Cronin 5

Part I: Adventures at Home
Adventure Reporting from America’s Western Rails and Trails, 1860–1880
Katrina J. Quinn 24
From Gotham to the Golden Gate: Promoting American Expansion, Exceptionalism, and Nationhood by Railroad
Mary M. Cronin 40
“Into the Dark Abyss”: Gilded Age Adventure Reporting from the Mines of America
Katrina J. Quinn 57
Float Along the Frontier: Down the Missouri with Captain Paul Boyton, James Creelman, and the New York Herald
Crompton Burton 73
“An Almost Undiscovered Country”: Frank Leslie’s 1890 Alaska Expedition and the Tradition of Gilded Age Adventure Journalism
Mary M. Cronin 88
Teresa Howard Dean: Reporting Tragedies and Triumphs from the American West
Paulette D. Kilmer 104

Part II: Globetrotters
Thomas Wallace Knox: A Celebrity Journalist’s Travel and Adventure in Siberia and China
William E. Huntzicker 120
“Burning of the Clipper Ship Hornet at Sea” and Other Reports from Hawaii: Mark Twain’s Adventure Reporting from the Sandwich Islands
Jennifer E. Moore 137
“The First Bold Adventure in the Cause of Humanity”: Henry Morton Stanley’s Adventure Journalism in Africa
James E. Mueller 153
To Better See the World: The Adventure Journalism of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore
James E. Mueller 168
“Mr. Bennett’s Expedition”: The New York Herald’s Arctic Adventure
Crompton Burton 184
“Alive, but wiser from our experience”: Nellie Bly’s Adventure Reporting from Mexico and Around the World
Jack Breslin and Katrina J. Quinn 202

Lee Jolliffe 220
Bibliography 227
About the Contributors 235
Index 237

Book Reviews & Awards

• Winner, Ray and Pat Browne Best Critically Edited Volume—Popular Culture Association

• “Having reported on modern-day adventurers and my own explorations from ninety countries, to both Poles, and across the planet’s one giant ocean, I wish I’d had a copy of Adventure Journalism in the Gilded Age in my backpack during my own travels; it would have fattened my experiences, both here at home and to the most remote corners of the globe. Bravo!!”—Jon Bowermaster, 6-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, author of Crossing Antarctica, Descending the Dragon: My Journey Down the Coast of Vietnam

• “Adventure Journalism in the Gilded Age is a thoroughly researched examination of journalistic exploits we haven’t seen in decades. It makes me long for the days where reporters could take their readers on wild treks to places beyond their imagination and speaks to the types of stories we all want to tell and the influence we all want to have. This book will provide context and intrigue for the reporters of today and the future.”—Paula Reed Ward, a member of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning team for breaking news, author of Death by Cyanide: The Murder of Dr. Autumn Klein

• “Katrina Quinn, Mary Cronin, Lee Jolliffe and the chapter authors of Adventure Journalism in the Gilded Age take a fresh new look at the extraordinary influence of the travel writers of the nineteenth century, who made the American frontier accessible and provided a window into the most distant and remote places in the world. These journalists made travel, itself, exciting and a visit to even the most inhospitable places, a great ‘adventure.’ The book editors and chapter authors are all fine writers themselves and the remarkable characters who were the adventure journalists of the Gilded Age come alive in the pages of this book.”—David B. Sachsman, director of the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression

• “Adventure journalism is taught a lot, talked about some among historians, and written about in biographies and autobiographies, but there has not been a book that offers a review of some of the major adventure writers and stories from the period when they were a truly prominent genre of journalism…. This book could easily entertain a general audience as well as inform an academic one.”—Debra van Tuyll, author, Journalism in the Fallen Confederacy