The President and Fellows of Harvard College

SIooling CovIo¸s and Indians· SiIenl Weslevn FiIns, Anevican CuIluve, and lIe BivlI oJ
HoII¸vood I¸ Andvev Bvodie SnilI
Beviev I¸· Evic ScIaeJev
TIe Business Hislov¸ Beviev, VoI. 78, No. 3 |Aulunn, 2004), pp. 551-554
FuIIisIed I¸· The President and Fellows of Harvard College
SlaIIe UBL· http://www.jstor.org/stable/25096929 .
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551
The Electric Vehicle is a
stunning triumph
of creative and
sophisti
cated
scholarship.
Nonetheless,
the book's
high
data
density,
intricate
explanations
not reducible to sound
bites,
and wooden
phraseology
threaten to confine its audience to EV enthusiasts and historians of
business and
technology. Nonetheless,
I recommend that this tome be
read?or at least
perused?by
anyone
interested in
studying technologi
cal
change,
for Mom's framework
gives good guidance. Indeed,
Dr.
Mom's
prescription?that technological change
be studied
holistically?
is a
potent
antidote to the
poisonous
extremes of
technological,
eco
nomic,
and sociocultural determinism.
Michael Brian
Schiffer
is Fred A. Riecker
Distinguished Professor of
Anthropology
at the
University of
Arizona,
and research associate at
the Lemelson
Center,
National Museum
of
American
History,
Smith
sonian Institution. A
theorist,
cofounder of
behavioral
archaeology,
and
student
of
electrical
history,
his
technology-related
books
(in
addition
to
Taking Charge,)
include The Portable Radio in American Life
(1991),
Technological Perspectives
on Behavioral
Change (1992),
The Material
Life of Human
Beings:
Artifacts, Behavior,
and Communication
(1999),
and Draw the
Lightning
Down:
Benjamin
Franklin and Electrical Tech
nology
in the
Age
of
Enlightenment (2003).
He also edited Anthro
pological Perspectives
on
Technology
(2001).
Schiffer
is
currently
researching changes
in electrical
technology from
1800 to 1880.
Shooting Cowboys
and Indians: Silent Western
Films,
American Cul
ture,
and the Birth of
Hollywood. By
Andrew Brodie Smith. Boulder:
University
Press of
Colorado, 2003. 240 pp. Illustrations, notes,
index.
Cloth, $34.95.
ISBN:
0-870-81746-9.
Reviewed
by
Eric Schaefer
Since the
mid-1970s Hollywood
has considered the western as dead as
a
black-hatted villain on a
sun-bleached street at
high
noon. While a
few throwbacks?Clint Eastwood's
Unforgiven (1992)
and the recent
HBO
series, Deadwood,
come to mind?have commanded critical at
tention and audience
interest,
westerns have been
supplanted by
sci
ence
fiction and
fantasy
as
genres
that can
be counted on to bolster the
bottom line. For
years,
though,
westerns were a
mainstay
of the Ameri
can
motion-picture industry.
In
Shooting Cowboys
and Indians: Silent
Western
Films,
American
Culture,
and the Birth
of Hollywood,
An
drew Brodie Smith demonstrates that the
genre
played
a critical role in
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Book Reviews
/ 552
establishing
movies
as a
popular
medium and
ensuring
that
Hollywood
became the center of
motion-picture production
in the United States.
Although
the
existing
literature on westerns is
extensive,
Smith's
book is
predicated
on what he identifies as two
major gaps:
"the failure
to examine
closely
silent-era films and the failure to understand the
genre's evolving
conventions as a
function of
larger changes
within the
industry" (p. 3).
Smith shows how the conventions of the western were
both a
response
to
contemporaneous
social
changes
and "the
crystalli
zation of
a
particular
set of business
conditions,
including
shifts in au
dience
demographics
and
tastes,
censorship
and reform
activities,
and
developments
in film exhibition and distribution"
(p. 4).
The first two
chapters
of this
compact volume,
which are
perhaps
the most
interesting,
examine the
productions
of
Chicago-based
com
panies,
such as the collaborative ventures of film manufacturer William
Selig
and
photographer Harry
H. Buckwalter.
Buckwalter,
who had ties
with Colorado
developers,
saw
motion
pictures
as an ideal tool for
pro
moting
the state. The films he made with
Selig
at the turn of the
century
were "scenics" and short documentaries that
captured
the local color of
Colorado and were
designed
to draw tourists and
potential transplants.
Buckwalter and
Selig
next
incorporated
elements of narrative
films,
notably
crime movies like The Great Train
Robbery (1903),
with the
Colorado
scenery.
Films such as The
Hold-Up of
the Leadville
Stage
(1904) proved popular
with
audiences,
but Buckwalter
quickly
realized
that the demands of the crime film were
incompatible
with the
require
ments of civic boosterism. As Smith
notes,
"Although
Buckwalter and
Selig
had assembled the basic elements of the
western,
it was another
two-and-a-half
years
until
audiences, filmmakers,
and exhibitors
rec
ognized
the
genre
and before
Selig Company
and the
industry
as a
whole
were
organized enough
to
exploit
its commercial
potential" (p.
24).
A new
Selig employee,
Gilbert M. "Bronco
Billy"
Anderson,
was the
first to make "western stories" that
were
promoted
as such.
By
the fall of
1909
the western had become the dominant
genre
in
the American film
industry.
Its success was due in
part
to the nickel
odeon
boom,
but it was
derived
as well from the western's relative
ease
of
production
and the
producers' ability
to
promote
it as a
uniquely
American
genre,
one
that could not be
properly
made
by foreign
com
panies. Authenticity
became
a central
concern in the
production
of the
western,
whether it was
hiring
riders and
ropers
from Wild West shows
or
Native American
performers,
such
as James
Young
Deer and Lillian
Red
Wing.
The search for authentic western locations led
Selig's
Fran
cis
Boggs
to establish the first
permanent
studio in Los
Angeles
in
1909,
and the
growing popularity
of the
genre
soon had other studios follow
ing Selig's
lead.
"By
1911
six
major
studios
were
operating
at least
one
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Book Reviews
/ 553
unit
year-round
in the area:
Selig,
New York Motion
Picture, Kalem,
Nestor, American,
and Path? West Coast. All of them
specialized
in
cowboy
and Indian
subjects" (p. 48). Others,
like
Essanay,
which
Anderson had created with distributor
George
K.
Spoor,
moved into
western
production,
and soon the
genre's popularity
not
only
laid the
foundation for
a
nationalist cinema but also allowed American
produc
ers to reclaim control of the domestic
market,
which had been domi
nated
by European companies.
In
addition,
it
proved
to be the
genre
that
independent producers
could use most
effectively
in their battle
against
the Motion Picture Patents
Company,
the cartel
developed by
Edison to control film
production
in the United States.
Much of
Shooting Cowboys
and Indians focuses on the
young
mo
tion-picture industry's
efforts to reach a wider audience that was both
more
upscale
and included more female
patrons.
This
campaign
led to
a decline in the "blood and thunder" of westerns and a
greater empha
sis on historical
spectacle, exemplified
in the films that
producer
Thomas H. Ince made for Bison. But the
major change
came
about with
the
development
of the western
hero,
and Smith demonstrates how
"Bronco
Billy,"
the character
portrayed by
Gilbert
Anderson,
was modi
fied to
appeal
to middle-class sensibilities. This trend
was further elab
orated
by
William S.
Hart,
who
played psychologically
nuanced western
heroes that were
scripted
"to
promote Christianity,
moral
reform,
and
other Victorian values"
(p. 170).
But
following
World War
I,
the old
fashioned values extolled
by
the western were seen as
pass?.
Urban
first-run theaters shunned westerns and booked films that featured
matinee idols like John
Barrymore
and
Rudolph Valentino,
who had
greater appeal
to women. As the
cowboy
hero was
transfigured
into a
character known for his athleticism and
riding ability,
"moral and
psy
chological
battles became less
prevalent
in the
genre" (p. 188),
and it
became associated with low
budgets,
second-tier
theaters,
and a
juve
nile male audience.
Smith's
impressive
research draws
on
early
studio
records,
trade
paper accounts,
oral
histories,
and a
range
of
secondary
sources. Shoot
ing Cowboys
and Indians suffers from some
redundancy,
and readers
who are
unfamiliar with the
history
of the
early
film
industry may
be at
a
bit of a
disadvantage
because of Smith's
tendency
to treat the western
in isolation from the rest of the
industry.
But he is
largely
successful in
showing
how this
quintessentially
American
genre
contributed to the
creation ofthat
quintessentially
American
place?Hollywood. Shooting
Cowboys
and Indians shares the
qualities
of the westerns Smith writes
about:
leanness, directness,
and
energy.
Eric
Schaefer
is associate
professor
in the
Department of
Visual and
Media Arts at Emerson
College
in Boston. He is the author
o/"Bold!
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Book Reviews
/
554
Daring! Shocking!
True!": A
History
of
Exploitation Films, 1919-1959
(1999)
and
of
many
articles on "low"
film
genres.
He is
currently
working
on
Massacre of Pleasure: A
History
of
Sexploitation Films,
1960-1979.
Industrial
Strength Design:
How Brooks Stevens
Shaped
Your World.
Edited
by
Glenn Adamson.
Cambridge:
MIT
Press, 2003.
xi +
219 pp.
Photographs, illustrations,
bibliography,
notes,
appendices,
index.
Cloth, $45.00.
ISBN:
0-262-01207-3.
Reviewed
by Carolyn
Thomas de la Pe?a
Brooks
Stevens,
whose Milwaukee-based
design
career
spanned
six de
cades,
embodied his
philosophy
that
an
industrial
designer
should be
"a business
man,
an
engineer,
and a
stylist,
and in that direct order"
(p.
203).
His statement seems
incongruent
with a
body
of work that con
tains such standards of
postwar
American life as the
Harley-Davidson
motorcycle,
the
Jeep
station
wagon,
and the Miller
Brewing logo.
Yet
for
Stevens,
as revealed
by
Glenn
Adamson,
the success of a
design
was
not found
exclusively
in the
product.
A free-market
conservative,
Stevens's real interest was in how his
designs
moved
products through
the
marketplace, creating profit
for his clients
and,
as he saw
it,
con
tributing
to a
vigorous
national
economy.
In this edited
volume,
a com
panion
to the recent Milwaukee Art Museum
retrospective,
Stevens
emerges
as a
unique hybrid
within the field of industrial
design,
a man
who contributed countless iconic
products
but who was
proud
to state
that his most
important design
contribution
was
"dollars in the bank
for the client"
(p. 23).
Such
pragmatism,
in tandem with what Adamson terms an East
Coast,
New York bias in industrial
design history, may
account for
Stevens's absence from the field's
canon. While numerous volumes
have documented the work and influence of Stevens's
contemporaries,
including
Norman Bel
Geddes, Raymond Loewy,
and Walter Dorwin
Teague,
this edited volume is the first to elevate him to their ranks.
Stevens entered
a
design marketplace
in the
1930s
and
1940s
where
"good design"
was
defined
as
that which
expressed
pure
form
(most
fa
mously
realized in the "streamline"
style
of the
1930s).
Adamson's vol
ume,
which combines
scholarly essays
on Stevens's influence with de
cade-by-decade
overviews of his
designs
and
excerpts
from Stevens's
public addresses,
allows us to understand how the
designer
earned
such
neglect, along
with the moniker "the enfant terrible of industrial
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