Review 1756: The Cold Millions

Best of Ten!

Sixteen-year-old Rye Dolan and his older brother Gig are wanderers through the Northwest, among thousands of other men looking for work when they can get it, in 1909. Indeed, the town of Spokane is teeming with them. It is a thriving town that has grown rapidly, and at first glance it seems to consist only of fabulously wealthy mine owners and the destitute.

The mine owners only accept workers through corrupt employment agents. Men pay a dollar, a day’s pay, for a referral for a job they may not get, and most of the money gets kicked back up the chain to the employer. Gig is a member of the IWW, or Wobblies, who are trying to recruit members to their union during a Free Speech Day that protests against the employment agents, the poor pay and working conditions, and the corrupt Spokane police department.

Rye isn’t so sure he believes in the union, but on Free Speech Day when the police begin beating and arresting the protesters, he is inspired to jump on a soapbox next to Gig and sing the union songs. So, he and Gig are arrested and thrown into jail along with 500 other men, into packed cells and brutal conditions.

Rye, because of his age, gets out of jail early with the help of a lawyer and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a crusading 19-year-old union firebrand (an actual historical figure). However, Rye sort of unwittingly makes a deal with Lem Brand, a mine owner, to give him information in exchange for getting Gig out of jail.

This novel vividly depicts the kinds of conditions that made unions evolve in the first place and the fight the unions had to stay in existence. Does that sound unexciting? Well, this novel has an appealing center around the two brothers, features a historical figure we should know more about, and is full of intrigue, action, and skullduggery. It is harrowing at times, alternating narrators among several characters who don’t always end up alive at the end of their narratives. I was enraptured.

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Day 1249: Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957

Cover for Wild BeautyAlthough we live in Washington, one of the most beautiful wild areas nearby is the Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon. That’s why, when we saw a program about Wild Beauty on television, we had to have a copy of the book.

Wild Beauty is a collection of stunning photos of the Gorge, taken between 1867 and 1957. The introduction explains how the Gorge was formed geologically and tells about advances in the field of photography during the time these pictures were being taken. Then, the book is divided into five sections, roughly chronological.

Section I features the photography of Carleton Watkins, who made several trips up the Gorge between 1867 and 1885. The introduction explains that the state of photography at the time required him to cart along large panes of glass and a portable darkroom, because the photos had to be developed immediately. Each picture is accompanied by a short caption telling what is known of the photo. This section contains the first known photo of the famous Multnomah Falls.

Section II shows photos by a variety of photographers between 1885 and 1910, when advances in both transportation and photography made it easier to take photos in the Gorge.

Section III is devoted to the work of Lily White and Sarah Hall, whose photographs tended more toward the artistic than the historical. The two women traveled up and down the Gorge on a houseboat between 1903 and 1905.

Section IV features photography along the Gorge’s new scenic highway between 1911 and 1929, including some photos that are hand tinted.

Section V features photos between 1930 and 1957 after dams were built along the river. Many of these are also hand tinted.

This book is full of stunning photographs that provide a historical record of the Gorge. This is an interesting book for people interested in the beauty or history of Oregon and Washington or the history of photography.

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