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William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679773002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679773009
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 4.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1786 William Cooper, determined to become a self-made gentleman of substance in post-revolutionary America, founded Cooperstown, N.Y., through a dodgy land deal. His town rose to become county seat, and Cooper became a judge and then a congressman. He lost most of the prestige he earned later, when he overstretched himself, and his local patronage weakened when he backed the Federalists against the victorious Republicans. Nonetheless, his son, James Fenimore Cooper, the early 19th century's best-selling novelist, wrote essentially a justification of his father in his third novel, The Pioneers (1823). Taylor's book--a combination of biography, personal history, social history, literary exegesis and analysis of father-son dynamics--charts the interplay between the fact and the fiction of the days when upstate New York was the frontier. William Cooper's Town won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Taylor's account of politician William Cooper and his son, the novelist James Fenimore Cooper, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Taylor's book is not a survey; rather it is mostly William Cooper's story.
Daniel J. Blinka
A sophisticated combination of primary source analysis, careful use of secondary literature, and insightful literary criticism, this book is a pleasure to read.
R. Albin
Overall, a great book that comes highly recommended for anyone interested in early American frontier history.
B. Dacin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By w.stahr@worldnet.att.com on April 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the story of William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, New York, and of how his son, James Fenimore Cooper, used his father's life and experiences in his novels. Described in this way, this sounds like a narrow book, of interest mainly to specialists. But anyone interested in early America should read this book: it reveals truths not only about these two men but about the whole period. One of the key themes of the book is that the Revolution, which in a sense made William Cooper by pushing aside the old aristocracy of New York, also unmade him by creating an anti-aristocratic politics that ousted him and other Federalists in 1800. A fascinating minor detail: the city fathers, in their effort to maintain a proper tone in Cooperstown in the early 1800s, outlawed stick ball, the precursor of baseball.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MIKE GRECO on July 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
The tale of James Fenimore Cooper's father on the New York frontier in the 1790s is an Horatio Alger story run amuck. Born to a poor Quaker farm family, William Cooper learned the craft of making and repairing wheels before reinventing himself as a land speculator, founder of Cooperstown, judge, congressman, patrician farmer and Federalist party powerhouse.
Alan Taylor's WILLIAM COOPER'S TOWN: POWER AND PERSUASION ON THE FRONTIER OF THE EARLY AMERICAN REPUBLIC is an outstanding biography of an archetypical American character, an extraordinary social history of life and politics on the late eighteenth-century frontier and a brilliant exercise in literary analysis.
This is a wonderful read. Taylor's lively prose, compelling narrative and original, fresh story sustained my interest from cover to cover. I never would have imagined such a dull title could cover such a marvelous book. WILLIAM COOPER'S TOWN certainly deserves the Pulitzer Prize it was awarded.
Taylor not only describes William Cooper's rise from rags to riches and even more meteoric fall but analyzes Cooper's political odyssey in America's frontier democratic workshop.
"As an ambitious man of great wealth but flawed gentility, Cooper became caught up in the great contest of postrevolutionary politics: whether power should belong to traditional gentlemen who styled themselves 'Fathers of the People' or to cruder democrats who acted out the new role of 'Friends of the People.'"
Taylor argues "Cooper faced a fundamental decision as he ventured into New York's contentious politics. Would he affiliate with the governor and the revolutionary politics of democratic assertion? Or would he endorse the traditional elitism championed by...Hamilton.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Blinka on November 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
William Cooper lived through the most prolific time of change in American history. And in telling the story of his time and life Alan Taylor has delivered to his audience a compelling documentation and narrative of how this period of remarkable transformation affected one individual and his family, the settlement of the New York frontier, and the political landscape of the frontier. William Cooper's Town is, first and foremost, a biography, yet it also functions as a regional history, and a literary analysis of James Fennimore Cooper's the Pioneers. With respect to these three features, Taylor divided his book into three sections: ascent, power, and legacies. Each tells a different story of William Cooper and exposes disparate characteristics of his personality and his success as a land owner and speculator, politician, and father (both of the people and of his children). Most important, each section of Taylor's unique book relates to Cooper's ambition for gentility, something which he vehemently strived for both in himself and his children. The reader gains a keen sense of the difficulty and unpredictability of frontier settlement from William Cooper's Town. Cooper acquired and lost his entire fortune in twenty-five demanding and challenging years. In addition, Cooper exemplifies the restraints left on social mobility even after the American Revolution. Cooper never obtained the greatly sought after gentry status.
Taylor's story of William Cooper widens our perspective of the early Republic. The era dominated by elite political figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams, also included important characters on the periphery.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on February 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
What a pleasure, what a joy to read this book. It's rare that history rises to such a wonderful pitch -- anecdote, analysis, historial context all wrapped up in one fine package.

I stumbled onto this book while perusing library shelves while my daughter picked out some kid books for herself. Since it won a Pulitzer, I thought I'd take a look. And I was treated to an amazing amalgam of history, economics, politics, and literary analysis. I love books that explore myths and then separate the fact from fiction, and I can't think of any that have done it in a more entertaining way.

If you like history, you'll love the sweep of about 50 years on America's early frontier. If you like politics, you'll love to learn about early New York political machines. If you like economics, you'll learn all about how trading economies were built almost from scratch in the States. And if you like name-dropping, there's everyone from Alexander Hamilton to Aaron Burr to Thomas Jefferson to James Fenimore Cooper.
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