Read Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History by Paul Schneider Online


A fascinating account of how the Mississippi River shaped AmericaIn Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America's rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent's interior. Since then, the river has been thA fascinating account of how the Mississippi River shaped AmericaIn Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America's rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent's interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln's attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox—a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder....

Title : Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780805091366
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History Reviews

  • Eric Smith
    2018-11-20 15:30

    I would not have bought this book, it was a gift, but having read it now I recommend it without reservation. The book tells the story of the North American continent through the lens of the Mississippi River basin and its tributaries, which includes the Missouri and Ohio Rivers, the Cumberland, and dozens more. The area covered is two-thirds of the lower 48, one of the largest river basins in the world.The book packs great stories into page after page of compelling narrative, serving up history, geography, sociology, weather, landscape, war, personalities, cityscapes, and more, all with a flow that kept me turning pages. I read American history often, but most of this history here was new to me. The most wonderful thread is that of the Native Americans, which carries through the entire book and for me was a constant revelation.Parts of the book are written in the first person as the author travels down a section of the Mississippi with his son, giving the book a travelogue quality in addition to its historical narrative flavor. So much of this history we are not taught in school, even the section on the Civil War is fresh and revealing. Highly recommended.

  • Eric
    2018-12-17 17:34

    This was a really fun read about a topic I have a lot of familiarity with. I've been up & down the Great River Road, dodged flooding on the river many times, crossed the river more times than I can count, and stayed in so many of the towns he mentions that I've eaten in specific restaurants he mentions. And yet the author kept me entertained with stories I've never heard before from his personal experience, and he brings up attractions like the effigy builders that I hadn't been aware of and now I want to check them out. I like this combination travelogue & history, and his writing style is so very comfortable, like having a coffee with an old friend in your favorite local coffeeshop.

  • Jolene
    2018-12-11 17:30

    Man I love history and this book has the sweeping broad strokes of how the Mississippi was formed up till the channeling efforts of the Army corp of Engineers in the last 100 years. From first settlers, to Indian civilizations, French trappers, Spanish explorers, and the first settlers, the race of boatmen and businesses, the formation of New Orleans and other cities on the river. This book was excellent in telling the river's story!! Infused with personal stories of the author's travels canoeing on the river it plants a sense of adventure and a longing to see the river from different perspectives. Anyone who lives near the river would love this book as there is not an area untouched by this book.

  • David Crowley
    2018-11-18 14:18

    Interesting to read a history of the Mississippi River watershed over an extended period of time. Good writing and lots of interesting tidbits about the various groups that have lived in the area over time.

  • Steve Bera
    2018-11-28 16:26

    A well written book. Some parts a little slow, but overall a comprehensive look at the Mississippi River.

  • Conchetta
    2018-11-25 17:34

    Very well written. Takes a massive subject and makes it manageable.

  • Dave Courtney
    2018-12-11 12:31

    I had been working my way slowly through Mark Twain's grand love letter to the Mississippi when I accidentally got sidetracked by Schneider's enjoyable historical narrative of the river's history in the North America landscape, political movement and settlement and character. I recently returned from a trek down the GRR (Great River Road) and 'Old Man River' allowed me to place much of my own experience in to an appropriate context. We did not make it as far as New Orleans, but we started at the northern Minnesota birth point and made it as far as Memphis. While Schneider spends a good deal of time unfolding some of the more intimate moments of time and place that have shaped America's greatest waterway (or perhaps one of the worlds great waterways), the more nuanced pieces are shaped through his own narrative. As he personally recalls his own journey around the bends and through the towns and dams that break up the riverbank along the way, the river comes alive for the reader in a more personalized fashion. Living in Winnipeg (a short drive from the northern mouth), Minnesota in particular has become a sort of second home. Similarly, the midwest (particularly St. Louis) shares a certain sense of acute self awareness as a city which represents the great gateway between east to west. In proper scope this east/west divide has been dictated by the river. Schneider takes us through the early allusions of mastodons, mammoths and early hunters to the back and forth between the Spanish, the French, the English and the Americans. As time progresses the aspiring push for the political and economic upper hand produces a sort of wrestling match for power that drives us straight through stories of war and horror, accomplishment and progress. There is a powerful chapter on the eventual shift from the era of the steamboat to the dominating age of the railroad. The lobbying would find the true power given to the one who could connect the prosperous and fertile lands of the midwest with the growing centers of New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. And as the book puts in plain site, much of this lobbying would happen at the expense of the native americans who were pushed, pleaded, coerced and bargained out of the land they had been cultivating long before. Much of the book dives in to some familiar history, but does so with an explicit and intentional focus on the river which symbolizes and practically illustrates what the wars were all about. As he travels through the towns and cities that were founded for agricultural, industrial, economic or military benefits, I found myself walking back through my own footsteps as well. While he provides a known history of America, he allowed me to see the significance of the river in the formation of America. Bound in its banks is the complicated history with the native americans, the abolitionists battles against slavery, the growth of America from 'sea to sea', the center of the industrial revolution, and the ongoing shaping of New Orleans as a cultural, political and military focal point as a port city. Schneider also provides an important chapter on the future of the Mississippi, especially when it comes to the great marsh lands of the upper parts of the rivers flow. It is at once awe inspiring to know how nature shaped these lands, but also how precariously set our own human ambitions can become in light of nature. There is a certain balancing act that needs to be achieved for humankind and nature to co-exist, and in many respects the Mississippi represents a thoughtful discussion on the good, the bad and the ugly of being out of balance as well.

  • Jeff
    2018-12-08 17:20

    This was an ambitious project. The Mississippi River and its tributaries stretch from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains to the Canadian border. The river is prominent in the American psyche and from the beginning has served as an artery that connects the center of the country. The waterway connects many major cities and industrial areas that have grown along its banks: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. The Mississippi has been a blessing, but at times also a curse as wars have been fought over the river (and against the river as it is uncontrollable and known to flood). The River has given American one of its best authors, Mark Twain, and influenced the music styles of jazz and blues. Knowing this, I dig into the book. However, I will say I came away from the book a little disappointed. Schneider begins telling about the prehistory of the river and then a bit about the Native American culture that existed along the river and their interaction with the early Spanish explorers. Then he shifts to the French and English and the battles and alliances with Native Americans as both countries sought to control the river and the continent. Most of this battle was in the northeast section of the watershed, along the Allegheny River down to the forks (where the Allegheny joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio River) which is now Pittsburgh. The struggle for the continent, which was a small part of a larger struggle between France and Britain in the 18th and early 19th Centuries, made for interesting reading. This took up nearly two-thirds of the book.By the point that the English establish dominance over the upper waters of the river (and the lost the lands to the colonies), Schneider seems to have run out of steam. He spends a chapter on the flat and keelboats, then two chapters on the steamboat age (one of rather short chapter exploring the role steamboats played in slavery). Then he writes about Civil War. Afterwards, he shifts to discussing the battle to control the river and its negative impact to the marshland in Louisiana and how floods are worse than ever. His stories about music on the river is limited to one WPA interview (done during the great depression) of a former slave and the songs he remembered from a lifetime of working on the river. Schneider also only mentions the large amount of materials still transported on the river (coal, coke, iron ore, sand, and grain). Although he mentions floods, he doesn’t weave in any of the stories surrounding floods as he did with his earlier writing exciting. My conclusion is that he was ready to be done with the project, which left me as a reader wanting more.Several places in the book, Schneider becomes more personal as he gets onto the river. He paddled parts of the Allegheny (including a section I’d paddled in northern Pennsylvania), parts of the Mississippi and headed out in a motor boat to explore the river’s edge as it pushed out into the Gulf of Mexico.I enjoyed Schneider’s writing style. I just wish he would have been as detailed with the last 200 years of river history as he was with the 200-300 years before. Perhaps such an ambitious project deserves a second volume.

  • Walt
    2018-11-24 14:23

    There are many books on the Mississippi River. Most of them are fairly old and focus on the heyday of the steamboats. Schneider's book is a bit more general history beginning with the glaciers that carved out the Mississippi Basin and ending with efforts to control the river. The result is more of a brief history about the different forces vying to control the river and its tributaries. Readers will get brief glimpses into the Native American mounds builders, a much briefer glimpse into Spanish explorers, and subsequent wars between the French, Native Americans, British, and Yankee Americans. Readers could probably learn more about any stage in this history by focusing on a demographic or an era. Schneider's bibliography is very impressive and offers readers many other studies covering everything in his book. Alongside the history are small chapters describing Schneider's own journey down the Mississippi from around Pittsburgh-Wheeling. Admittedly, I glanced over these chapters even though they present different cultures in America, whether a chain-smoking German immigrant in Pennsylvania or the Cajun fishermen in Louisiana. The storyline is very well organized and the writing is clear and enjoyable. There is a mass appeal that includes many different reader demographics. But there is a price in detail. Schneider really only covers two periods with any detail, and both are isolated incidents: Jesuits meeting Native Americans, and the Union siege of Vicksburg. There is little description about the French colonies along river. In fact, he only mentions two failed colonies by LaSalle and a very vague description of the founding of New Orleans. Only near the end of the book, does he mention that it was a Native settlement originally. As per the Civil War era, this was the era of steamboats. Schneider describes their invention and the their glory; but it seems superficial. Even the imagery of the siege is difficult to imagine. Overall, the writing is clear and enjoyable. The chapters are small and move the reader quickly between epochs. Schneider uses specific images or scenes to describe an entire epoch resulting in less historical significance and interrelatedness. In fact, in several places, he quietly ends a chapter or section by saying something to the effect, and the 'river ran on.' However, it is a good book for casual readers and easy to digest and understand.

  • Sandie
    2018-12-05 12:42

    In this fascinating history and travel memoir, Paul Schneider takes the reader on a journey on the Mississippi River, one of the most striking geographical features of the North American continent. The book is developed around time periods and how the Mississippi played a part in each era.The author begins with prehistoric times and talks about how the Mississippi was created and the various facts surrounding the river. He discusses the mammoths and other creatures who were inhabitants at that time. From there, Schneider moves on to the age of the Native American and how the river impacted the various tribes that made their home there. The Europeans came in their turn and possession of the river became important from a trading and military basis as the French and English fought to claim it, each willing to take what they wanted from the previous inhabitants. After the battle to claim territory ended with the English the victor, the author talks about life along the river, the various ships that were used and what was traded and what an average riverman's life was like. The Civil War brought the prominence of the River back into focus as the North and the South each fought for strategic advantage and the ability to either expand or prohibit slavery. Finally, Schneider talks about the environmental impacts that the engineering features of levees to hold back floods has had. That decision and the 50,000 dams that are on the Mississippi these days, mean that what floods occur are more serious, that the farmlands along the river are not periodically replenished by new topsoil, and that Louisiana is slowly being eaten away. Regardless of topic, the reader learns a myriad of facts, each grounded in relevant context.Readers should enjoy Schneider's writing style. It covers each topic in detail but without becoming dry or overwhelming. The book is a mixture of historical and sociological facts, interspersed with Schneider's own travels on the river. The author is a nonfiction writer who has been published in various magazines such as The New York Times, O, Audubon, Esquire and The New Yorker. This book is recommended for readers of history and travel writing.

  • A. Bowdoin Van Riper
    2018-12-08 20:20

    Paul Schneider’s Old Man River is a book that defies easy categorization. It touches on history, geography, geology, archaeology, and flood-control engineering—with elements of travel narrative and popular natural history thrown in—but is not, strictly speaking, about any of those things. The geographic scope of the book is equally broad: not just the river itself, but its tributaries and drainage basin, which encompasses nearly half of North America. Old Man River, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes.How well all this works for you will depend, to a great extent, on what you want out of the book. Old Man River is neither a conventional, steadily paced narrative history, like John Barry’s Rising Tide, nor a sharply delineated but well-rounded study of a place, like John McPhee’s The Pine Barrens. It is a loosely organized collection of self-contained, stand-alone pieces—some chapter-length, others little more than vignettes—that suggests a more accurate subtitle might have been: “Things about the history of the Mississippi Basin that interested me.” Antebellum river pirates thus get attention out of all proportion to their historical significance, while the drier subject of the Mississippi’s role in industrialization and the rise of the “rust belt” goes begging. The discovery of the famous Folsom and Clovis (NM) archaeological sites in the 1920s lose most of their historical context, and are related instead to Schneider’s own discoveries of Native American artifacts.None of this makes Old Man River a bad book, or even an unsuccessful one. Schneider writes beautifully, and readers whose interests match his will likely be enthralled. It is, however, a book more likely to please fans of literary nonfiction than those seeking a serious, detailed study of the Mississippi and its impact on the humans around it.

  • Linda
    2018-12-14 15:26

    This a good and readable history of the River that I wish now I had learned more about when I was visiting my parents-in-law for 35 years. They lived in the small River town of Savanna in northwestern Illinois, and right away I'm sad that we didn't make it over to Iowa to Effigy Mounds National Monument, which is explored by the author. But the River is a very big presence in everyone's lives there; it couldn't be ignored especially when we had to cross it to do shopping or business with Mom & Dad in Clinton, Iowa. The northern stretches of the river are not as prominently featured by Schneider as are the stretches below Cairo. But it is a panoramic history from the prehistoric inhabitants to the modern efforts to control it with engineered constructions. The first half covers the Native Americans and all the confusing alliances and rivalries with the European colonists. The most recent 200 years seem more condensed, although there are good chapters on the strategies of the Civil War and the importance of the River for the Union. Like most popular nonfiction, the author interweaves chapters of his personal explorations on the River with kayaks and camping. Although interesting, I didn't feel this narrative was a highlight of outdoor adventure, and there are lots of interesting historic side stories, such as that of Cave-in-Rock and its bloody thugs, and I would have preferred more of those. I have a complaint that the publisher did not offer at least a few color pictures. The black and whites, including period maps, are grainy and miniscule.

  • Gary Brecht
    2018-12-09 14:25

    Author Paul Schneider transitions back and forth from his personal experiences on and around the rivers in the Mississippi watershed to the historical events, both human and geological, that bounded the iconic river we know today. While his writing style may at times seem to meander, it tends to imitate the river’s inexorable journey to the sea. Moreover, similar to the search for bones and arrowheads described in several of the book’s chapters, one finds interesting facts and historical events while sifting through this folksy narrative. Of special interest to me were the chapters written about LaSalle’s venture into the Illinois River valley and the subsequent interactions with the Native Americans in the region at that time.While I share the author’s concern for the future well-being of the Big River and its tributaries, I appreciate the fact that he refuses to totally condemn the man-made activities that adversely affect our environment. Instead he takes a macro-view, acknowledging that over the long term, Old Man River, and nature herself, can undo all that man has done to thwart them. On the whole this is an interesting and entertaining read.

  • Terry
    2018-12-08 19:40

    Schneider quite obviously loves the Mississippi and also suffers from wanderlust. Luckily, he also loves the written word. In this book he explores all aspects of the "Big Muddy's" personalities. He explores the whole Mississippi watershed from Montana to New Orleans and from New York to New Mexico. This book is not a travel log but rather a well researched study of the River's birth, life, affect on history, influence on humans and human events. It is the type of book that I love reading about a place before I visit because I get a sense of what geologic forces helped create it, how it got populated with flora, fauna and human beings and what is it's narrative.This is entertaining, informative and a relaxed drift from all the Rivers tributaries covered with ice age glaciers to the Delta and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Schneider is able to give the River a personality that observes the history in the making as it rolls by.

  • Jim
    2018-11-30 15:31

    An enjoyable history of the Mississippi River watershed. The author zooms through the geologic history a bit too quickly for my taste as a geologist. The sections on pre-European settlement are very informative. Another high point is the author's descriptions of the French explorers. Later in the book the author intersperses chapters about his kayak & boat trips down sections of the Allegheny, Ohio & Mississippi Rivers. Another section is devoted to the fighting along the Mississippi River during the Civil War. I would've liked to have seen him spend more time on the Civil War. Another high point is his discussion about the Corps of Engineers' attempts to control the Mississippi and its tributaries. There's also an excellent section in John McPhee's "The Control of Nature" about the Corps preventing most of the Mississippi's flow from changing course to head down the Atchafalaya River (which would leave New Orleans and other Lower Mississippi ports high & dry).

  • Kate Baxter
    2018-12-03 19:31

    A thoroughly entertaining read spanning prehistory through present day about a lifeline through the heart of the U.S. Having traveled along the Mississippi River so many times, I was quite familiar with a number of towns and sites mentioned in the book as well as the general history. However, there was so much more that Schneider brings to light that makes me want to explore the length of this great river all the more. Also, the book is written in a relaxed and engaging manner. If you're looking for an interesting and comprehensive read in preparation for your Mississippi River exploration, I recommend this book to you. I am grateful for having received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads "First Reads" program. Their generosity did not, however, influence this review - the words of which are mine alone.

  • Annette
    2018-12-09 15:40

    Author Paul Schneider has characterized this book as more a biography that a history. 'Old Man River' tells the stories of the Mississippi River - - its tributaries and drainages. Tracing the history from its prehistoric, ice age, Paleolithic roots, Schneider touches on geologic history, archaeological evidence, and anthropological findings to weave together the tales and legends of this river system. The river has been the scene of historical events with ancient cultures followed by the arrival of European explorers and American settlers. Schneider's book continues to present day examination of this busiest waterway of the planet - - a natural wonder that has been shaped and reshaped. It's modern history is American history. (lj)

  • Sedgewick
    2018-12-14 12:41

    This is a rich read -- I knew very little about the Mississippi River, but having lived near it for the past 17 years, thought it time to learn. Everything from deep geology (can't walk the ground without appreciating it more... deeply ... if that's not too trite) to the fascinating human relationship over time with the river, to stories of riding on it today. I loved this book, found the writing to be easy and deep at the same time (oh dear, there's that word again -- I'll avoid old and muddy, I promise). Bravo for a literary accomplishment that teaches, entertains, and enriches. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know a little -- no, a lot -- more about this vast country we presently call North America.

  • Phritz
    2018-12-14 15:37

    I wasn't sure what to expect from Old Man River. Rivers are fantastic natural features that attract all manner of cultural lore and adventure. I couldn't claim to know much about the Mississippi before reading this book, and frankly I can't claim to know much more now. Schnieder's book doesn't set out to educate the reader about the Mississippi, but to fill the reader with curiosity and wonder. Part travelogue, part history, part story core, Old Man River reads like a journey down the great river itself. It somehow feels undirected and pleasantly meandering, but paradoxically arrives at its forgone and inevitable destination.

  • John
    2018-12-05 13:25

    Excellent, highly-readable examination of the role of the Mississippi River system on American history, literature, folklore, and mythology.I had read the (greatest?) American novel "Huckleberry Finn" and "Uncle Tom's Cabin", as well as some non-fiction writing on characters like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, and Mike Fink.But I did not fully appreciate how central to our American civilization this river remains today - until I read this book.Congratulations, Paul Schneider, on your outstanding work. This book is highly recommended to anyone who appreciates good research and non-fiction writing.

  • Rock
    2018-12-11 18:16

    Probably belongs as much with the genre of bathroom readers as with history, this book is comprised of a set of internally readable vignetteish histories that don't ever really pool into a narrative. Even the geographic theme is stretched by the author's willingness to follow it upstream to tributaries as disparate as New Mexico and Pennsylvania. It's easy enough to float through the chapters, but at the end you feel more like you've been on a lake than a river. On top of which mediocrity his frequent interruptions to relate personal anecdotes is rarely enlightening and probably the least entertaining chapters.

  • Katherine
    2018-12-16 19:38

    Interesting story of the great Mississippi River. Schneider recounts history as a novelist would. Tracing the history of civilization and the river,you can read about the Indians, the Spanish, the French explorers Joliet, Fr. Marquette, LaSalle, past George Washington, to Grant and Sherman fighting along the river's shores in the Civil War. Schneider goes on to describe the settlements, towns, and cities all of which are dependent on the river. A fascinating account, Mark Twain would have loved it.

  • Lisa
    2018-11-24 13:36

    I got this from Noel's mom because she thought I'd be interested in it, and I was. I really enjoyed how the author obviously loves the subject, and I liked how he visited current locations and then told about the history of those locations. I expected a little more recent history (1930s-present), but was happy enough without it because I'm sure it would have included a lot of talk about how terrible the Corps is, and I already know that!

  • David Lucander
    2018-11-23 19:23

    This book presents a neat way to look at history, and its basic premise is important: that it's impossible to understand American history without appreciating the role of the Mississippi River. The chapter about Civil War strategy is excellent and the parts about European powers jostling for position on the Mississippi was illuminating, but it would have been interesting to learn more about the river's history in the twentieth century.

  • Patrick
    2018-12-09 14:29

    The book is a curious blend of natural history, political history, and travelogue, sometimes bouncing between all three genres in the same chapter. While some of the writing inevitably feels disjointed, Schneider's enthusiasm for this project and this river is infectious, and the treasure trove of fascinating detail in these pages flows smoothly into memory.

  • Gregory Flemming
    2018-12-15 16:16

    A great history of America’s most important river -- steadily coursing, like its subject, through more than 500 years of North American history. Old Man River uncovers some fascinating and little-know nuggets about our country’s heritage and the river, mixed in with Schneider’s own entertaining descriptions of his explorations and encounters along the waterway by kayak and boat.

  • Christopher
    2018-12-10 16:22

    A not-so-concise review of the mighty river running through the center of the United States. The early chapters are filled with new details and stories of prehistoric Americans. I quite enjoyed Schneider's asides where he writes of his own travels down the river. The last hundred pages, while covering nearly three hundred years of fascinating history, are a real slog.

  • Joseph Carano
    2018-11-28 17:27

    This is a history of the Mississippi river, and a pretty good one at that. It runs along side American history through the years of pre-United States, the colonial wars ,Indian wars, and the Civil war. It could have been a wee bit longer as I feel some parts were short changed, like the river boat history,but other than that, a pretty good book.

  • John
    2018-11-26 12:31

    The author starts with the Mississippi culture who lived along the Mississippi and hunted mammoths and tells the story of the river up to the present. Amazing to learn that almost all rain or snow which falls between the Appalachians and the Rockies ends up in the Mississippi delta. It's a fascinating story. I recommend it.

  • Lindsay
    2018-11-21 20:41

    Ok book. The book skips big chunks of time, which was annoying, and very much seemed like a white wash of anything less than pleasant. The author jumps from personal experience on the river to history. every personal recollection seemed to be a prelude to jumping to a completely different time period.