The Adirondack guide (1820-1919): Hewing out an American occupation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Adirondack guide, New York State, J. F. Cooper, Leatherstocking Saga, American studies

Subject Categories

American Studies | History


The study traces of the evolution of the Adirondack guide and his profession in the Adirondack region of Northern New York State for a hundred year period (1820-1920) as he was depicted in literature, art, and history. The guide's characteristics and activities are discussed in nine chapters beginning with early literary models of the woodsman, especially as depicted in J. F. Cooper's Leatherstocking Saga. The study then considers the paintings of Arthur F. Tait that document the activities of the guide-sport system beginning in the 1850s; romantic travel accounts that describe the guide; the "rush" of tourists caused in 1869 by William H. H. Murrary's Adventures in the Wilderness; the characterization in Winslow Homer's painting The Two Guides of 1875; Paul Smith's rise from guide to entrepreneur in the Adirondack hotel business; the guide's role as mountaineer in Verplanck Colvin's land surveys; artistic depictions of the guide by Frederic Remington, Winslow Homer, and Seneca Ray Stoddard in the 1880s and 1890s; Irving Bacheller's novel Silas Strong and the view of the guide as reformer; and the personal accounts of two early twentieth century guides, Herbert Keith and Fay Welch, who show how the guide accommodated the impact of the industrial age.


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