25: The Man in the Buffalo Fur Suit

25: The Man in the Buffalo Fur Suit thumbnail

You’ve probably heard of Daniel Boone and “Grizzly” Adams, the quintessential frontier mountain men who helped forge America’s frontier identity in the 19th century. But you’ve probably never heard of Estwick Evans. An eccentric New Hampshire lawyer, something compelled to Evans put on a skin-tight suit made of buffalo fur, hoist a 6-foot rifle across his shoulders and take off into the snowy wilderness of New England on a frigid day in February 1818. Evans’s epic journey covered over 4,000 miles, overland across the Great Lakes to Detroit and then down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, out into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans, and then by ship around Florida and up the Eastern Seaboard back to Boston. On the journey—which he chronicled in an unusual book—Evans observed much of what America was in the Second Decade, and correctly predicted at least some of what it was to become.

Historian Sean Munger takes you along on Evans’s journey, often quoting Evans’s own words and descriptions of the landscapes he saw and the people he met along the way. On this journey you’ll get frostbitten ears in the Green Mountains of Vermont, encounter backwoods witches in upstate New York, join an Indian pow-wow, and float down the Mississippi on a river barge, while all the way experiencing Evans’s self-assured and perhaps narcissistic ruminations on war, peace, gender relations, zoology, slavery and morality. This is a priceless snapshot of what America was like just before the industrial 19th century would change it forever.