American Endurance: Buffalo Bill, the Great Cowboy Race of 1893, and the Vanishing Wild West (Hardcover)

American Endurance: Buffalo Bill, the Great Cowboy Race of 1893, and the Vanishing Wild West By Richard A. Serrano Cover Image

American Endurance: Buffalo Bill, the Great Cowboy Race of 1893, and the Vanishing Wild West (Hardcover)


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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Richard A. Serrano's new book American Endurance: The Great Cowboy Race and the Vanishing Wild West is history, mystery, and Western all rolled into one. In June 1893, nine cowboys raced across a thousand miles of American prairie to the Chicago World's Fair. For two weeks they thundered past angry sheriffs, governors, and Humane Society inspectors intent on halting their race. Waiting for them at the finish line was Buffalo Bill Cody, who had set up his Wild West Show right next to the World's Fair that had refused to allow his exhibition at the fair.

The Great Cowboy Race occurred at a pivotal moment in our nation's history: many believed the frontier was settled and the West was no more. The Chicago World's Fair represented the triumph of modernity and the end of the cowboy age. Except no one told the cowboys. Racing toward Buffalo Bill Cody and the gold-plated Colt revolver he promised to the first to reach his arena, nine men went on a Wild West stampede from tiny Chadron, Nebraska, to bustling Chicago. But at the first thud of hooves pounding on Chicago's brick pavement, the race devolved into chaos. Some of the cowboys shipped their horses part of the way by rail, or hired private buggies. One had the unfair advantage of having helped plan the route map in the first place. It took three days, numerous allegations, and a good old Western showdown to sort out who was first to Chicago, and who won the Great Cowboy Race.
RICHARD A. SERRANO is a former reporter for the Kansas City Times and was a longtime Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He has shared in three Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the San Bernardino terror attacks, the Hyatt Sky Walks disaster in Kansas City, and the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. His most recent book is Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery That Outlived the Civil War.
Product Details ISBN: 9781588345752
ISBN-10: 1588345750
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Pages: 272
Language: English
“At the end of the nineteenth century, as electricity became widely available and cable cars and trolleys replaced horses, Americans swarmed to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to see the wonders the future held. Amid the roar of the machines and gadgets on display arose a different sound: the clatter of hooves. Nine cowboys raced across the country toward a competing Chicago fair held by Buffalo Bill Cody, hell-bent on proving that Wild West ways still mattered in this strange new world. This is a plain good story, and it’s what history is all about.”
—Winston Groom, author of El Paso: A Novel
“This is a brilliantly researched and written ode to the end of the Old West and of the men who refused to give up the reins on a distinctly American era. Serrano is a consummate storyteller, keeping this one galloping on course across the plains and down the dusty trails of the West to the cobblestone streets of the new urban America. This is a book that entertains as much as it educates.”
—Michael Connelly, New York Times–bestselling author of The Wrong Side of Goodbye (A Harry Bosch Novel)
“A marvelous retelling of an all-but-forgotten incident in the closing of the American West. Serrano writes history as it should be written—driven by a powerful narrative and packed with vivid detail. Outstanding.”
—John Jakes, author of the North and South trilogy
American Endurance, the thrilling story of the Great Cowboy Race of 1893, is deeply researched and written with wit and enthusiasm, both a celebration and an elegy for the Old West and the cowboy. Serrano packs an encyclopedia’s worth of history, folklore, legend, and reporting into this narrative of a publicity stunt that marked the closing of the frontier and the flourishing of show biz in America. It is a stirring account told with verve, authentic detail, and affection.”
—Robert Morgan, author of Lions of the West
“The Great Cowboy Race of 1893 is the basis for a gripping narrative of an event little known to the public or even Western historians. Building on profiles of the individual players in the story, Serrano expertly captures the essence of the Great Plains in the years immediately following the closing of the American frontier.”
—Robert M. Utley, former chief historian, National Park Service, and author of twenty-one books on the history of the American West

Long-distance horse races were popular in late-nineteenth-century Europe, and American ranchers had long boasted that the western bronc was sturdier than European breeds. But the 1893 race Pulitzer Prize–winning Serrano (Last of the Blue and Gray, 2013) chronicles took place mainly because a hoax-prone Nebraska reporter told the eastern press that a 1,000-mile cowboy race from the town of Chadron to the Chicago World Fair was set to occur. The finish line switched to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show, which ended up across the street from the Chicago Exposition. And nationwide disdain, backed by legal threats in objection to the potential mistreatment of horses, drove down the number of race entries to nine. Yet the race was run, and the Humane Society commended the riders for treating their horses well. Serrano captures the race’s underlying significance as an attempt to reaffirm the drive and majesty of the Old West in the face of Chicago’s celebration of modernism. With a clear, compact style and colorful characters, Serrano’s account of this fascinating chapter in American history has wide appeal.

Some stories practically tell themselves. The saga of the Great Cowboy Race of 1893—a 1,000-mile odyssey on horseback from the gumptious frontier town of Chadron, Neb., eastward across the Great Plains and Corn Belt to the bright lights of big-city Chicago—is one such story. It bridges the Old West and the modern era, bringing together chapped cowboys and bowler-wearing dudes, saddle horses and streetcars, Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody and prophet of the closing frontier Frederick Jackson Turner. It has all the elements of a natural page-turner without the need for embellishment. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer at the reins. Newspaperman Richard Serrano does his frontier forebears proud.