A short book written by Grace H. Flandrau
and published by the Great Northern Railway Company
in 1929. It is 40 pages long, well illustrated with black and white art (photographs and reproductions of paintings) and includes a folded color map insert that shows settlements, trails and the Great Northern routes.
The text traces the history of the northwest United States and Canada, from the earliest (18th century) explorations by French fur traders and Franciscan or Jesuit missionaries. The Verendrye family's discovery of what later became North Dakota is prominent. Later, English fur companies post people to the northwest, including Canadian geographer and explorer David Thompson who made the first map of the area. Early fur trading stations, where white traders and Native Americans interacted, were called forts long before the United States military came to the area. Finally, the Americans (that is, the United States) take control of the territory, sending the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition west as well as probing eastward from the Pacific Ocean along the Columbia River, in search of the Northwest Passage. Being something of a Company production, the book extols the beginnings of settlement and the civilizing influence of the railroad headed by the messianic James J. Hill after the fur trade dries up and the Indians are "subdued".
The writing is good, although dated in places and somewhat heavy on the virtues of the Great Northern Railway. The explorations by Verendrye, Thompson, Gray, Stevens and Astor may be unfamiliar to readers whose history educations glossed over non-United States involvement and skipped directly to Lewis and Clark. Also, Flandrau provides interesting sketches of indigenous tribes (mainly Blackfeet), despite suffering the "noble savage" viewpoint.