Sponsored by Southern Methodist University's
The William P.
Clements Center for Southwest Studies
SMU Press Colophon Friends of the SMU Libraries
The DeGolyer Special Collections Library
Lecture and Book Signing by David J. Weber and Jane Lenz Elder
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
6:00 reception followed by 6:30 lecture and book signing
Special Collections Library
6404 Hilltop Ln. & McFarlin Blvd.
In February 1849 seventeen-year-old George Clinton Gardner received a
remarkable appointment that took him from his home in Washington City to the
edge of Mexico. A bitter, bloody war between the United States and Mexico had
ended the year before. In the peace treaty that followed, Mexico and the United
States agreed to send commissions to survey and mark a new international
boundary. Clint Gardner joined the U.S. boundary commission, serving as a
junior assistant to the commission’s chief astronomer, Maj. William H. Emory.
For the next five years young Clint traveled with the survey party. He worked
first between San Diego and Yuma and then along the Rio Grande from El Paso to
the river’s mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Much of this broad expanse went
through a dry, remote, and dangerous land controlled by independent Indians.
The greatest impediment to the surveyor’s work, however, came from Washington.
Politicians who put party first and nation second sent ripples westward that
caused the U.S. commission to founder for lack of funds and able leadership.
High-ranking officials from both the Mexican and American sides left a substantial written record of their difficulties and achievements in surveying, mapping, and marking the new border. Clint Gardner’s previously unpublished personal letters, written mostly to family, give us a fresh vantage point, that of a well-informed young man with no ax to grind. Through his eyes we get a fine-grained view of the survey party’s logistical and financial problems, the personal and political rivalries of leading figures, the quarrels between the civilian and military members of the survey party, and the personal foibles and inadequate funding that turned the work of the U.S. survey team into a fiasco.
“This is a gem; Gardner’s lively letters will be a delight to anyone interested in the history of the Southwest.”— Joseph Werne
“Masterfully edited and annotated, these personal letters of a young American surveyor paint a detailed and colorful portrait of the men and women, Indians, Mexicans, and Americans of the border region at the moment of its making.”— John Mack Faragher
Fiasco: George Clinton Gardner's Correspondence from the U.S.- Mexico Boundary Survey, 1849-1854 , (SMU Press, 2010), was co-edited by David J. Weber and Jane Lenz Elder. This is their second book project together. The first, Trading in Santa Fe: John M Kingsbury's Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861, was published in 1996 by SMU Press and the DeGolyer Library.
The author of several prize-winning books on the American Southwest including The Spanish Frontier in North America (Yale University Press), David J. Weber directs the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU in Dallas. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and both the Mexican and Spanish governments have given him the highest award they bestow on foreigners.
Jane Lenz Elder, reference librarian at SMU's Bridwell Library, specializes in life writing, and has written on various aspects of the Southwestern United States and the American film industry. Her books include the prize-winning volume Trading in Santa Fe (SMU Press 1996), co-edited with David J. Weber; and Alice Faye, A Life Beyond the Silver Screen (University of Mississippi Press, 2002). She is currently completing a biography of golden-age screen villain Basil Rathbone.
For more information, please call 214-768-3684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last updated January 20, 2010.