As we have seen, the image of Daniel Boone since 1784 has been much more important culturally and politically than the real thing. A number of recent studies and biographies have attempted to understand the historical personage as well as his image and its relation to American consciousness. The following are excellent sources for further reading.
By J. Gray Sweeney
St. Louis: Washington University Gallery of Art, 1992
This work is an excellent companion piece to an exhibition mounted at Washington University in St. Louis to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing. In using Columbus as a starting point, the exhibition emphasized that the myth-making surrounding Boone was first seen in the mythologization of Columbus. The emphasis is on the constructions generations of Americans created of Boone, with a particular look at the visual arts.
John Mack Faragher
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992
This work is an excellent and comprehensive view of the "real" Daniel Boone. Faragher's focus is to sort through the myths of Boone, to understand the basis of the ideal. Interestingly, what we find is that Boone was quite a complex character, following his instincts, ready to lead when required, not averse to fame, but above all trying to marry his love of the hunt and the wilderness with his responsibilities to his family.
"Boone's happiness was the life of the frontier. The prospect of a new start in a fresh land, his family and friends gathered about him, lifted his spirits. He might yet succeed in constructing a little backwoods community where he would be honored as a founder, a patriarch." (277)
Works about Boone began well before he died; well before he entered Missouri and the Femme Osage, in fact. The first laudatory work was published, by Daniel Bryan, in 1813, seven years before Boone's death. Asked to reflect on his life and his works, Boone gave this reply:
"I explored 'from the love of nature,' says he. 'I've opened the way for others to make fortunes, but a fortune for myself was not what I was after.' All he ever wanted, he claims, was a country where a man could 'tickle the soil with a hoe, and she would laugh you a bountiful harvest,' where he might 'hunt and live at ease.' It might be true that he was 'an instrument ordained to settle the wilderness,' to use the words of Filson's Boone." (301)
Undoubtedly, Daniel Boone was an interesting character who led an adventurous life, as well as an important player in the "winning of the West." Ultimately, however, it is the images of Boone, as Civilizer and Colonizer, as well as Natural Man, that have resonated with Americans, and provided them a useful icon for their particular political and social goals.
If you would like to learn more about Daniel Boone and Kentucky, check these sites:
Kentucky Atlas and Gazetter
Daniel Boone National Forest
Family history of Daniel Boone
Theme to Daniel Boone TV show --needs audio helper application such as Sound Machine
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Last updated 11/10/95