The Rivers of America series was one of the most successful publishing ventures in the 20th century. The series combined geography, history, and folklore to produce a regionalist portrait of America.
Popular with critics and the public of the time, the books seem particularly relevant today. In telling the stories of Native Americans, immigrants, and frontiersmen, the books grappled with issues of identity and place. The Rivers of America series profiled the values and conflicts of different groups competing for a shared section of the American landscape. The books' emphasis on the natural environment foreshadowed later developments in environmental history. The series ran from 1937 to 1974 and produced 65 volumes.
The original editor, Constance Lindsay Skinner, established a standard for writing and book design that influenced book publishing for the next seventy years. The series adapted a fine press printing aesthetic to a mass market product. Each volume included original maps and illustrations. Unique bindings, evocative book jackets, and a distinctive logo gave the series a personal identity. Art editors used the inside covers, title page, and illustrations to highlight the individual subject of each volume. Skinner ensured the text matched the innovative design by recruiting authors from the fields of journalism, botany, history, and biography.
The lively and informative writing contributed to the series' success. Many of the volumes went through multiple printings and over one third are still in print through university or regional publishers. The Rivers of America series represents a significant achievement in regional writing, American environmental history, and 20th century book publishing.
-- Introduction by Matthew Paris
Fitzgerald, Carol. The Rivers of America: A Descriptive Bibliography. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2001.
For a list of Rivers of America books available at Lovejoy Library, click here.