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Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Tale of Ambition and Survival on the Early American Frontier Paperback – February 10, 2015
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In 1810, two years after the Lewis and Clark expedition crossed the American continent, wealthy fur merchant John Jacob Astor financed an overland and overseas expedition to build the equivalent of a Jamestown settlement on the Pacific Coast. Over a three-year period, separate groups, comprising a hodgepodge of Americans, French, and Scottish Canadians, set out for the coast. The Tonquin sailed for six months from Boston to the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest to create an outpost from which to circumnavigate between China, the eastern U.S., and Europe, to take advantage of the rage for otter pelts. At the same time, 140 adventurers and investors set off in two parties, one crossing the treacherous Rockies; nearly half of them died. Stark, author of Last Breath (2001) and The Last Empty Spaces (2010), offers a thrilling true-adventure tale filled with unforgettable characters, clashes of culture, ambition, and physical hardships from starvation to Indian attacks to cruel weather. A breathtaking account of an expedition that changed the geography of a young nation and its place in global commerce and politics. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Stark’s delightful narrative is proof that even though Astor didn’t leave the legacy he intended, his grand failure certainly deserves its own place in history.” (New York Times Book Review)
“In Astoria, Peter Stark recounts the colony’s history as a fast-paced, enjoyable adventure tale.” (Wall Street Journal)
“In his new book, Astoria ... Stark moves skillfully back and forth from one segment of the splintered expedition to another. He also raises a tantalizing question about the enterprise as a whole.” (Washington Post)
“[Descriptive] passages . . . make Stark’s fine book truly distinctive. They raise Astoria above the level of a well-done historical adventure and help the reader get into a scene and understand the context or see relationships between participants and between then and now.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Peter Stark’s Astoria is a vivid recreation of an era when the Pacific Northwest was a vast unexploited wilderness, with Astoria as its main American colony. . . . Stark is particularly strong in describing the wilderness and its effects on human psychology.” (Seattle Times)
“Stark tells their grim story well . . . ‘Astoria’ is a well-written . . . account of John Jacob Astor’s attempt to found a commercial empire in the Pacific Northwest. It illuminates the cultural limits of the American approach to frontier expansion.” (Portland Oregonian)
“In this harrowing historical tale of adventure and hardship, journalist Peter Stark re-creates a largely forgotten 19th-century expedition-during which one group crossed the Rockies and another sailed around Cape Horn-to establish America’s first colony on the Pacific Northwest coast.” (Parade Magazine)
“A fast-paced, riveting account of exploration and settlement, suffering and survival, treachery and death. [Stark] recovers a remarkable piece of history: the story of America’s first colony on the continent’s West coast.” (Kirkus (Starred Review))
“A page-turning tale of ambition, greed, politics, survival, and loss.” (Publishers Weekly)
“New York businessman Astor, with support from President Jefferson, launched two expeditions in 1810 - overland and by ship ... and Stark recounts the perilous journeys.” (New York Post)
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It also tells why the city of Astoria was named as it was.
The unintended consequences are that a very rich man attempted to corner the fur trade west of the Rockies but failed. However, his overland expedition team discovered a new southern trail over the Rockies that eventually became the Oregon trail.
The story itself is amazing. I don't mean the title of my review as a criticism, I mean it more as a statement of fact. This account will certainly give appreciation to the lengths that early settlers went to pioneer the west. It highlights the treachery and tragedy that was common place for pioneers of that day. This book also expertly conveyed the isolation people experience during forays into both the untamed wild and at sea. Living in the modern world, where everything is connected and you're virtually never out of cell phone range, it's hard to imagine such isolation.
Its a great read for anyone that is a history buff!