Rivers of America Series
The Rivers of America Series is a landmark series of books on American rivers, for the most part written by literary figures rather than historians. The series spanned three publishers and thirty-seven years.
The Rivers of America Series started in 1937 with the publication of Kennebec: Cradle of Americans by Robert P. Tristram Coffin, and ended in 1974 with the publication of The American: River of El Dorado by Margaret Sanborn.
Constance Lindsay Skinner initially conceived the series. She was also the first series editor. Skinner wrote an essay that was included in early volumes of the series in which she describes it as follows:
"This is to be a literary and not a historical series. The authors of these books will be novelists and poets. On them, now in America, as in all lands and times, rests the real responsibility of interpretation. If the average American is less informed about his country than any other national, knows and cares less about its past and about its present in all sections but the one where he resides, it is because books prepared for his instruction were not written by artists."
Skinner's unique vision extended to twenty-four volumes, but the series proved so popular that sixty-five volumes were eventually published over a 37-year period.
The publisher, Farrar & Rinehart, shepherded the project through four editors, and the publisher's evolution to Rinehart & Company and later Holt, Rinehart and Winston. The editors of the series were Constance Lindsay Skinner, who died at her desk editing the sixth volume in the series, Carl Carmer, who wrote the sixth volume in the series, Stephen Vincent Benét, and Hervey Allen. Associate editors were Elizabeth L. Gilman and Jean Crawford. The art editors were Ruth E. Anderson, Faith Ball, Benjamin Feder, Philip Fiorello and Lawrence S. Kamp.
The sixty-five books included in the series represent a wide cross section of writers and illustrators. The series' editors sought out poets, novelists, historians, and illustrators to produce a product that would be a literary sketch rather than a historical tome. For the most part, the editors were successful in bringing the folk life of America alive through the lens of the flowing of America's rivers.
The series includes the first book illustrated by Andrew Wyeth, The Brandywine; Marjory Stoneman Douglas' The Everglades: River of Grass which successfully focused public attention on the plight of the Everglades; Paul Horgan's Great River: The Rio Grande in America History, considered the definitive study of the early Southwest; and poet Edgar Lee Masters' The Sangamon.
The series represents one of the finest long-term efforts by a publisher to blend the talents of both writers and artists to present a tribute to the rivers that played such a vital role in the development of America. A testament to the editors' outstanding work is the fact that many of these volumes continue to be reprinted and the original editions are now considered highly collectible.
On April 9 and 10, 1997, a group of Rivers of America authors and illustrators were brought together by the Library of Congress to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the series. The Library of Congress published an Information Bulletin highlighting the celebration on June 7, 1997.
The first edition, first printings of the series were denoted by a colophon on the copyright page until 1960. The colophon consisted of either FR (1937–1946) or R (1946–1959) in a circle or diamond. After 1960, "First Edition" was printed on the copyright page.
Special signed and numbered limited editions were also produced, though not for every volume in the series, and sometimes in very limited print runs. The signed and numbered editions of the series generally included only the author's signature, though sometimes the illustrator's signature was included as well. Where known, these limited editions are included in the list below.
A set of War Editions was published between 1942 and 1945. These editions used a lesser quality of paper and a smaller font size to meet wartime restrictions.
There were also a series of Armed Services editions, denoted: "Overseas edition for the Armed Forces. Distributed by the Special Services Division, A.S.F., for the Army, and by the Bureau of Naval Personnel for the Navy. U.S. Government property. Not for sale. Published by Editions for the Armed Services, Inc., a non-profit organization established by the Council on Books in Wartime" (Note: This example is from the cover of the St Lawrence)
Several books in the series were revised and/or expanded either in the work itself, or in the illustrations. Where known, these revised editions are included in the list below.
Books in the series
Published by Farrar & Rinehart (1937–1946)
1. The Kennebec: Cradle of the Americans, Robert P. Tristram Coffin, 1937; illustrated by Maitland de Gogorza
6. The Hudson, Carl Carmer, 1939; illustrated by Stow Wengenroth
- The Wabash, William E. Wilson, 1940; illustrated by John de Martelly (signed, limited)
11. The Illinois, James Gray, 1940
- The Brandywine, Henry Seidel Canby, 1941; illustrated by Andrew Wyeth (Delaware Edition: signed, limited)
- The Charles, Arthur Benson Tourtellot, 1941; (Boston Edition: signed, limited)
- The Allegheny, Frederick Way, Jr., 1942; (Pittsburgh Edition: signed, limited)
- Songs of the Rivers of America, Carl Carmer, 1942 (not given a series number)
22. The Twin Rivers: Raritan & Passaic, Harry Emerson Wildes, 1943
26. The Missouri, Stanley Vestal, 1945
27. The Salinas, Anne B. Fisher, 1945
- The James: from Iron Gate to Sea, Blair Niles, 1945; (Expansion of the 1939 edition, which focused on the Tidewater area of the James River basin only.)
Published by Rinehart & Co. (1946–1960)
29. The Housatonic: Puritan River, Chard Powers Smith, 1946
30. The Colorado, Frank Waters, 1946
31. The Tennessee: The Old River, Donald Davidson, 1946
32. The Connecticut, Walter Hard, 1946
- The Everglades: River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 1947. (Florida Edition; signed, limited)
34. The Tennessee: The New River, Donald Davidson, 1948
35. The Chagres: River of Westward Passage, John Easter Minter, 1948
37. The MacKenzie, Leslie Roberts, 1949
39. The Ohio, R. E. Banta, 1949
- The Ohio, R. E. Banta, 1949; (Valley Edition; signed, limited)
41. The Saskatchewan, Marjorie Wilkins Campbell, 1950
42. The Fraser, Bruce Hutchison, 1950
44. The Gila, Edwin Corle, 1951
45. Salt Rivers of the Massachusetts Shore, Henry Howe, 1951
46. The Monongahela, Richard Bissell, 1952
47. The Yazoo, Frank E. Smith, 1954
48. Great River: the Rio Grande, Paul Horgan, 1954
49. The Susquehanna, Carl Carmer, 1955
51. The Columbia, Stewart H. Holbrook, 1956
- The Columbia, Stewart H. Holbrook, 1956; (Lewis & Clark Edition: limited, signed)
Published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1960–1974)
54. The Minnesota, Evan Jones, 1962
55. The Genesee, Henry W. Clune, 1963
56. The Cape Fear, Malcolm H. Ross, 1965
60. The Allagash, Lew Dietz, 1968
Published by William Hodge & Company; London, UK
- The St. Lawrence, Henry Beston, 1951; illustrated by A. Y. Jackson
- Rafael Palacios (artist), provided maps for the last 13 volumes
- List of rivers of the United States
- Rivers of America -- A Southern Illinois University Edwardsville digital exhibition that explores the history and impact of the series and showcases some of the authors and illustrators.
- Fitzgerald, Carol. The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography, 2001.
- The Rivers of America: A Selected Exhibition of Books from the Collection of Carol Fitzgerald, Bienes Center For the Literary Arts, Broward County Library, 100 S Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301 (pamphlet) 1997.
- An America Rivers Saga by Nicholas Basbanes
- Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 9, 1997 Four-Year 'Rivers of America' Project Announced (June 9, 1997) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin and 'Rivers of America' (June 9, 1997) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin
- Skinner, Constance Lindsay. The Rivers of America: An Essay
- Coffin, Robert P. Tristram (1937). The Kennebec: Cradle of the Americans. pp. Essay at rear of the book (un-numbered).
- Fitzgerald, Carol. The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography, 2001
- Library of Congress Information Bulletin: June 9, 1997
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