One of the Best Visual Records, In a Single Volume, of American Westward Expansion.
This edition of Crofutt's Tourist is an extensive work, showing and describing many of the sites a traveler of the late 19th century would have visited in the US, focusing primarily on the western United States. Five fold-out maps appear in the work, including a detailed map of Salt Lake City, based upon BAM Froiseth's rare plan.
The fold-out maps in the work are as follows:
- Transcontinental Railroad Time Table. A substantial time table, with a small map showing railroads throughout the United States. Showing many advertisements.
- Map of the Great Transcontinental Railroad. A detailed map of the railroads from Lake Michigan to the Pacific coast. Showing many advertisements.
- Crofutt's New Map of Omaha and Council Bluff's, showing the New Railroad Bridge over the Missouri River, connecting the Two Cities. Larger folding map. Includes lithographed portraits of the first three presidents of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
- Crofutt's New Map of Salt Lake City. Shows streets, wards, Camp Douglas, the Wasatch Range, and about twenty-five early buildings. Verso advertises sewing machines.
- Yellowstone National Park. Based on Hayden's 1871 map. Printed two years after the park was created by Grant in 1872. Includes an advertisement for the watchmakers Borel & Courvoisier.
The book contains an additional 60 or so wood-engraved illustrations featuring many views of cities, including Salt Lake, of the railroads, and the scenic beauty of Yellowstone and the Sierras (and particularly of "Yo Semite"). A detailed map shows central California from San Francisco to Sacramento and the Yosemite Valley. In addition, a lithograph of the work American Progress is included, which was commissioned by Croffut and is now regarded as a prime representative of the concept of Manifest Destiny.
The work includes extensive and detailed notes regarding may places in the American west, though many of the details presented are embellished. A version of the story of the Donner Party, where only one crazed Dutchman survives, is presented. This meshing of truth with fiction would have had a substantial impact of the mythologization of the west.
The text includes a section detailing life in the Utah territory and the history of the early Mormon church. Two pages dedicate themselves to a biography of Brigham Young, telling the story of his apostolic life and providing a portrait of the man and his residence. Other famous figures of the west, for instance Leland Stanford, also have biographies.
Small tidbits of information line some of the pages, explaining local jargon and providing advice. One humorous one reads "Virtue and honor are very nice for Sunday wear, but too rare for every-day use."
When not discussing the wonders of the United States, the language Croffut uses for self-promotion is at once grandiose and disreputable. Crofutt claims that he only that they wrote the book was for money and love, money to help the poor (as "not that we [the authors] need one cent"), and love of the American West. The modern (and 19th-century reader) has several reasons to doubt this, especially when written by someone who made their fortune "selling the American West." He also includes a list of businesses "who we think are, from position, integrity, and ability, worthy to be rated first-class," though this list clearly only features those companies who paid for the privilege of inclusion. Features such as these provide fascinating insights into marketing tactics in the late 19th century.
Croffut published his Trans-Continental Tourist from 1869, and revised it annually until at least 1880. The title page identifies this as the "Sixth volume, fifth annual revise," indicating that an additional, unrevised volume exists. Further research suggests this additional volume was produced prior to 1872. The presented edition is in an uncommon quarto-size printing.