Spotlight on Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History by Paul Schneider

old man river

  • Title:  Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History
  • Author:  Paul Schneider
  • Genre:  History
  • Published:  September 2013 – Henry Holt and Co.
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America’s rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent’s interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln’s attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.

In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.

Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox—a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder.   (publisher)

My take:  I grew up in a small Wisconsin town along the Mississippi River so when I was invited to read Paul Schneider’s book about the Mississippi I happily accepted.

What I found was a fairly comprehensive look at the history and importance of the Mississippi River in US history. Schneider’s conversational style of writing made the pages fly. I loved all the art and photos depicting life on the river as well as important historical events.

I really enjoyed Old Man River. I especially appreciated the inclusion of source notes, bibliography and index at the end of the book. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about US history and geography.

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The Mississippi River


This photo was shot from the Iowa side of the river. You can see Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in the distance.


15 thoughts on “Spotlight on Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History by Paul Schneider

  1. sounds like I would love this book. Thank you for the review. One of our family’s favorite mileposts about our 2001 trip around the U.S. was my son fishing on the Mississippi!


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