52nd Annual Meeting

Midwestern Outlier or A Cultural Shatterbelt?:(Re)considering Oklahoma’s Regional Affiliation

Timothy G. Anderson - Department of Geography, Ohio University

American geographers have long been concerned with the spatial delimitation and analysis of North America’s so-called “culture” regions, especially with respect to the delineation of various regional identities and the identification of characteristic regional cultural landscapes. While the “Midwest” has always figured prominently in such studies, it is at the same time considered to be a textbook example of what are known as perceptual regions: places on the map with informal, “fuzzy” boundaries that are open to interpretation and debate. That is, where and what is the Midwest? Which states are part of the Midwest? With regard to regional affiliation, it can be argued that among the states Oklahoma is the least understood, most likely owing to its distinct – if not unique – early settlement history and geography. Is it part of the South, the Midwest, or the West, or is it perhaps an admixture of all three? This paper employs both discourse analysis and empirical document analysis to (re)consider Oklahoma’s regional affiliation. First, early census data are employed to identify the regional origins of the state’s earliest Anglo-American and Native American settlers. Next, iconic themes that have been identified in describing the Midwest by various authors are outlined and presented: over time, the Midwest, as both a real place on the map and a perceived, constructed ideal came to be associated with a powerful set of populist themes and images. Finally, such themes and images, together with generic regional terms such as “Midwest”, “South”, and “West” are compared empirically with digital databases (such as business names and geographic names) in order to assess how Oklahomans themselves self-identify with regard to regional affiliation. The paper concludes by arguing that Oklahoma was initially indeed an “outlier” of the Midwest, especially with regard to the origins of its earliest Anglo-American settlers. With time, however, as a result of significant in-migration from other regions of the country and significant Native American influence, Oklahoma developed into what geographers refer to as a cultural “shatterbelt”, with so much ethnic differentiation that this itself came to determine Oklahomans’ self-perception of who they were and where they were.

Cogswell Fountains: The Failure of a Well-Intentioned Idea

Anne Beamish - Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning, Kansas State University

San Francisco millionaire dentist and temperance advocate Henry D. San Francisco millionaire dentist and temperance advocate Henry D. Cogswell believed that Americans needed an alternative to drinking alcoholic beverages. His solution was to donate a series of fountains to dozens of cities such as New York, San Francisco, Rochester, Boston, and Washington DC. The fountains were similar, but not identical. Some had a base decorated with shells, flowers, fish, and frogs, and water basins were provided for adults, children, and dogs. Other fountains were topped with a sculpture of Cogswell himself, holding a glass of water in his right hand and a temperance pledge in the other. Unfortunately for Cogswell, his fountains were not well-received. In fact, the fountains were so universally loathed that most were removed within ten years and the once ubiquitous fountain became rare. The fountain in Washington DC is one of the few still remaining. The fountains provided fresh drinking water to urban residents, which most cities would have welcomed. But with the water came Cogswell’s taste in public art, which many considered hideous. Cities objected to the fountains on aesthetic grounds, but they also resented someone from the outside pressing the sculpture on them, which they interpreted as a patronizing reprimand, and forcing them to pay some of the cost. But some good did come of it. It persuaded cities to develop policies and, in some cases, establish art commissions to be the arbiters of municipal good taste and to prevent the city from accepting well-intentioned but terrible sculptures in the future. This study explores Cogswell temperance fountains and how a generous gift was soon so despised that it was removed from streets and parks of American cities. Methods included an extensive analysis of American 19th and early 20th century documents including newspapers, journals, and books.  

Settler Colonialism and Counter-Memory along Missouri’s Potawatomi Trail of Death

Ethan Bottone – Northwest Missouri State University, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences

In September 1838, more than 850 members of the Potawatomi nation were forcibly marched by US militia from a village in northern Indiana to a reservation in eastern Kansas. During the two months it took for the caravan to make the 660-mile journey, an estimated 40 Potawatomi, mostly children, died from disease and exhaustion. Almost the entire month of October was spent traveling across the state of Missouri, a trek which was made difficult by increasingly cold and frozen weather conditions. Today, the route taken during this forced removal is known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death. While not as widely known as its contemporary, the Trail of Tears, the Potawatomi Trail of Death was the focus of a decades-long grassroots campaign that sought to commemorate the lives of those who were compelled to leave their homeland more than 150 years prior. The trail’s route has been designated a Regional Historic Trail, and a set of markers now indicate the sites where the Potawatomi camped in the four states they were marched through. Focusing on the difficult Missouri portion of the trail, this research seeks to understand the commemorative landscape in which these trail markers exist, particularly in the context of American settler colonialism. By contextualizing these markers as “counter-memorials,” the dominant narratives of settler colonialism and manifest destiny, often commemorated in public spaces of the former American frontier, are contrasted with the memories of ethnic cleansing that the Trail of Death epitomizes. Laying bare the difficult history which the United States was founded upon, the Potawatomi Trail of Death and the markers that delineate its route represent a shift in the memorial landscape of the nation, particularly through its grassroots creation and its focus on US-Indian relations.

Two Digits from Stardom — US Route 64

Wayne Brew – Montgomery County Community College

Many know of Route 66 through popular culture, but few are familiar with US Route 64. It started modestly in 1926 from Capulin, New Mexico to Conway, Arkansas. Over the years the route was extended to its current length of 2332 miles (11th longest in US) from Nags Head, North Carolina to Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. Long portions of the route in Tennessee and Arkansas follow on the pathways known as “The Trail of Tears”. This illustrated travelogue will cover the history and geography of US Route 64.

Sidewalks, Sandstone & Sense of Place 

Jessica L. Canfield – Kansas State University

To experience a city is to experience pavement. The design and materiality of pavement can give identity to an urban district, contribute to an overall attractive image for a city, and create a sense of place. However, unlike buildings, pavement is far less discussed, prized, and protected. In areas with historic pavement, like stone or brick, necessary improvements may lead to a change in material, which could mean the loss of historic character and memory of a city’s urban origins. While wandering the sidewalks in Denver, Colorado’s oldest neighborhoods, one experiences stretches of rose-colored sandstone underfoot. Primarily installed during the City Beautiful movement of the early 1900's, this historic pavement is now threatened by a city program aimed at creating a well-maintained network of sidewalks citywide. Non-compliant flagstones can either be releveled or replaced, with another flagstone or with concrete. In many cities, including Denver, sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of adjacent property owners, even when the sidewalk sits on city property. By allowing individual property owners to choose a replacement pavement material, neighborhoods’ historic character and visual identity could be threatened. In telling the story of Denver's sandstone sidewalks, this paper argues that the design and materiality of pavement is critical in fostering a sense of place and memory in urban landscapes.

Giving Voice to the Forgotten Victims of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot: The Bessie Black Story

Chelsea Coates, Floyd Mansberger, and Christopher Stratton – Fever River Research, Springfield, IL

On August 14, 1908, racial tensions in Springfield ignited over allegations of the rape of a white woman by a Black man. A large crowd gathered at the county jail demanding “justice.” Fearing trouble, the sheriff secretly whisked his prisoners out of the jail and to safety. The crowd outside the jail erupted into violence resulting in two days of rioting, which ultimately resulted in the lynching of two innocent black men, as well as the destruction of many downtown businesses and homes. Soon after this horrific weekend of violence, and incensed by the fact that this event had taken place in the hometown of the Great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln, a group of social reformers came together in February 1909 and formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Archaeological testing in 2014 resulted in the discovery of the well-preserved remains of five mid-nineteenth century houses destroyed by fire that August 1908 weekend by the angry mob. Archaeological excavations of these houses was undertaken in 2019, and has resulted in new insights into the structure of this particular neighborhood at the turn-of-the century, and the quality of life of the inhabitants that called this neighborhood home and who experienced firsthand this historical event. The current paper focuses primarily on the results of the excavations of the house at 325 North Tenth Street (House E) believed to have been occupied by a young Black woman named Bessie Black. The remarkably well-preserved contents of a dresser and trunk were recovered, and document this young woman’s life immediately prior to the August 1908 event. Besides documenting a lifestyle contrary to the perception of the “typical” Black occupants burned out of their homes that fateful evening, the excavations have also raised questions as to the decision made that evening by Bessie, whether to stay and fight, or to flee — a decision which probably saved her life that night.   

Nebraska’s Exaggeration Postcards: Giant Grasshoppers andTwo-Ton Potatoes Along with Other Facts about the Plains

Jason Combs, University of Nebraska, Kearney, Department of Geography

In the first few decades of the early 1900s, the United States was postcard crazy. Thousands of cards were exchanged daily. Many of the cards were simply a form of “self-congratulation,” often demonstrating signs of development and progress — churches, libraries, prominent residential districts, and schools, for instance. For many, postcards boastfully declared “I belong here,” “This is my place,” and “This is my kind of place.” This project examines Nebraska postcards, specifically not just postcards but exaggeration postcards. For Nebraska, exaggeration cards fall into two categories — the natural world (ducks, fish, grasshoppers, and rabbits) and the so-called developed or “cultured” world (carrots, corn, onions, pumpkins, and wheat). Postcards were not only used for communication and entertainment, but in the case of exaggeration cards they also promoted and “sold” Nebraska to a larger audience. This study begins by evaluating trade cards and the history of postcards, then transitions to focus on the importance of Nebraska exaggeration cards.

Disappearing Landscape Legacies: Harvey Houses as the First American “Chain” Restaurant

Gary Gress – University of Oklahoma, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability

Since 1876, stretching eventually from Kansas to California along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe rail line, Harvey Hotels and Restaurants were a staple for travelers. Respectable women during this era worked mainly as domestic servants or as teachers. Fred Harvey, however, ahead of his time, chose to employ women and paid impressive salaries to those who sought non stereotypical work. At the peak of its popularity, there were 84 Harvey Houses. Today, only a handful remain. In this session, we will explore this phenomena, the impact on American culture and the eventual demise of this unique enterprise.

Placing Weather: Oklahoma Weather Forecasters and the Designated Market Area

Victoria Johnson – University of Oklahoma, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability and Center for Spatial Analysis

Oklahoma's frequent experience with severe weather has established a sense of cultural identity for many Oklahomans, and efforts by the local media influence Oklahoman's cultural outlook of severe weather risks. After the devastating severe weather outbreak in Oklahoma and surrounding states on 20-22 May 2019, it seemed appropriate to study the way broadcast meteorologists communicate severe weather risks to various communities, as there appeared to be a noticeable break in traditional televised coverage. This paper examines where broadcast meteorologists focus their attention geographically, and why, specifically by analyzing how they utilize their designated market area (DMA) to provide adequate and consistent reporting to specific communities within their DMA. Broadcast meteorologists (n = 20) across the State of Oklahoma were surveyed about their decision-making processes and perceptions of their DMA, and this was compared to actual 2017-2018 DMA regions. A qualitative GIS-based methodology was then used to produce a thematic analysis containing cartographic illustrations showing broadcast meteorologists' spatial knowledge. Results found that broadcast meteorologists have varying discernments of the places within their DMA and that they delineate specific geographical areas as focal points during their live severe weather coverage. Additional factors were influential, such as their beliefs about their viewer's weather knowledge and geographical awareness. Lastly, their decision to provide televised coverage relied considerably upon their perception of the storm's intensity and trajectory within the DMA, the populations that may be affected, and the programming on-air at the time. By understanding geospatial relationships among broadcast meteorologists, this research provides a scientific basis for improved communication efforts both before and during severe weather events. Further, this work identifies potentially vulnerable populations in an area where the weather is very much a part of Oklahoma's culture.

Route 66 Landscapes in Missouri: Revisiting Bob Waldmire’s Postcards

Morgan Hurt and Douglas A. Hurt – University of Missouri, Department of Geography

Prolific artist and Route 66 explorer Bob Waldmire promoted famous attractions along the Mother Road through his artwork, as he provided information about the physical environment and the history of sites with his drawings and accompanying textual descriptions.  We studied how Route 66 in Missouri is portrayed in five of Bob Waldmire’s postcards from his “Old Route 66 Scenes!” series, published between 1990 and 2002.  We visited each location in May 2021, looking for both aspects of landscape change and elements of continuity.  Overall, these Route 66 locations show the need to preserve locations along the highway, since a substantial portion of the landscapes drawn by Waldmire have disappeared over the past twenty to thirty years.  If property owners are unable to adapt and create new uses for their historic locations, many iconic Route 66 scenes may be unrecognizable in several additional decades.

The Spirit of Canyon Camp BSA: A Look Into Sense of Place & Alumni Memory

Seth Kannarr – University of Missouri, Department of Geography

Canyon Camp is a ‘Scouts BSA’ summer camp operated by the Blackhawk Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Located just west of Stockton in Northwest Illinois, Canyon Camp has been providing a lifetime of memories for hundreds of Scouts nearly every summer since 1936. In 2021, Canyon Camp celebrated its 85th anniversary and hosted the ‘Canyon Camp 85th Alumni and Friends Reunion’ to bring together Staff Alumni and others who wish to share in camaraderie and revisit the one special place that evokes ‘The Spirit of Canyon Camp’ for them. Prior to the reunion, a ‘GeoSurvey’ was published to garner responses from our Staff Alumni in recording geographic information about their hometown origins and current residence, which spans across the United States. 198 total complete responses were recorded across 31 U.S. States and three other nations. The maps and statistics produced from this data showcase the geographic extent to which one local place can leave a lasting influence upon former Staff Alumni across all generations and over great distances. Additionally, contemporary research on reunion tourism geography helps to enlighten the value and significance of reunion events of this type. 

A Case Study on Flooding Events in Norman, Oklahoma

Rose Nordhues – University of Oklahoma, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability and Center for Spatial Analysis

The 2020 Census indicates Norman, Oklahoma’s, population has increased roughly 12% since 2010, which equates to roughly 125,000 full-time residents. This population growth has led to expansive new urban development, which also comes with the addition of impervious surfaces such as driveways, parking lots, and new buildings – especially ones intended to house students attending the University of Oklahoma. As a result, flooding events and flash floods have been more frequent in Norman in recent years because drainage system modifications have not kept pace with development. The City of Norman acknowledges these potential affects in the 2020 city plans, stating they will “address future population growth and infrastructure problems and offer solutions to solve these problems before they occur.” The city has indeed put policies in place to mitigate this hazard, like requiring permits to build in a floodplain, deeper pipelines in a riverbed, and breakaway fences to allow increased water flow. With these changes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain boundaries have also been redrawn for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) of which Norman is a participant. These new boundaries are based on model predictions and not real-life events, yet these mapped boundaries can adversely impact homeowners, especially if they carry a mortgage, living within these zones. In my larger project, I aim to understand the demographics of those affected by floodplain boundary changes, their perceptions of the changes, and the impacts they have felt because of them. This presentation examines cultural landscape changes because of flooding using repeat photography around Norman.

Oklahoma City Tourist Guidebooks: A Window to See the Impact of Entrepreneurial Urbanism

Adam Payne – Auburn University, Department of Geosciences

Tourist guidebooks have long been used to sell regions and attractions to prospective tourists. Narratives in these guides often shift to reflect the changing economics, politics, and culture of a region or city. More recently, the rise of entrepreneurial urbanism has been one of those factors that have impacted tourist guidebooks. The (re)construction of a place image through entrepreneurial policies results in the promotion of a select package of facilities or highlighting specific attributes associated with that place. Entrepreneurial urban projects and policies can directly shape a city’s tourist promotions. I use Oklahoma City as a case study to explore these impacts and to understand the changing narratives of the city in light of entrepreneurial urban policies. More specifically, I show that Oklahoma City officials shifted tourist narratives from overt Old West constructs to constructs rooted in cosmopolitanism in light of entrepreneurial agendas, like the Metropolitan Area Projects and business improvement districts.

The Lucky Dragon’s Very Unlucky Experience: Understanding Atomic Weapons Fallout through Museum Space and Place

Rex J. Rowley - Illinois State University, Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment

Museums can be a powerful means of evoking a sense of place. Such a sense of place derives both from our experience in the space of the museum and our ability to understand the events and locations that are portrayed in that space. Museums can reflect a sense of place for a location to which exhibition topics relate. They can create a sense of place themselves, as visitors are bound to the space and content of a museum. Museums can also become a place that is a reflection of human experience of people in locations and moments in history that are distant or inaccessible to a visitor. It is in this latter role that I analyze the space and presentation within the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) Exhibition Hall in Tokyo, Japan. A step-by-step telling and interpretation of this museum’s space, artifacts, and spatial context tells the story of a Japanese fishing vessel caught unawares downwind of the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated by the United States and the resulting events and impacts of nuclear fallout. Significantly, the museum’s location and use of space also places the visitor in times and locations that impacted the relationship between two countries who just fought a war that ended with atomic weapons, and that influenced the relationship between humans an atomic weapons on a global scale.  

¡Salud!: How Tequila Labels Represent the Spirit of Mexico

Blake Taylor – University of Oklahoma, Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability

The use of place and geography in the marketing of wine, beer, and spirits has increasingly been documented. However, despite tequila’s growing popularity, it has not been given the same treatment. Tequila has a long-standing reputation of using flashy and otherwise unique bottle designs that draw on Mexico’s rich cultural heritage to appeal to consumers. In this study, I examine the emergent themes utilized by the tequila industry to represent place and geography in their marketing. I utilize qualitative content analysis to evaluate the robust selection of tequilas on the sommelier website Tequila Matchmaker, focusing on brands’ use of graphics and bottle designs. My analysis reveals the predominant themes present on tequila labels that represent a concrete connection between the spirit and its location. Of particular interest is the geographic scale that place associations occur. Rather than representing more regional identities belonging to tequila’s denomination of origin, tequila brands have largely opted to represent a broader Mexican sense of place.

Interpreting the Narratives and Themes in the Memorials and Markers Commemorating the Santa Fe Trail

Michael Terhune - University of Missouri, Department of Geography

Between March and July 2021, I traveled the routes of the Santa Fe Trail from Franklin, Missouri, to Santa Fe, NM, documenting the memorials and markers placed to commemorate the trail’s use from 1821 until 1880. I took photographs of the markers and memorials, recorded their location with GPS coordinates as well as assessed their relationship with the surrounding environment.  Finally, I extracted the written information found on the memorials and historic markers to identify the common themes visible to tourists. Four major themes emerged: Physical Landscape, Government Involvement, Trade Enterprises, and Manifest Destiny. Physical Landscape refers to the documentation of physical features which affected the routing, traversing, and hardships endured on the trail. Government involvement was significant in conducting trade operations on the Santa Fe Trail beginning with the recognition that trade with a newly independent Mexico had immense value to a United States that was floundering in a recession in 1821. Military operations played a significant role in establishing and protecting the trail throughout its years of operation. Trade Enterprises are a common theme because the trail was not only primarily used for trading operations, but also in reference to the countless industries that were created to support the logistics as well as the creation of settlements to support trail movement. Manifest Destiny is a commonly seen theme that refers to the spirit of the pioneer during westward expansion as well to the interaction between cultures that was unavoidable in this endeavor. I will briefly explore each theme and their implications for how we remember the past along the Santa Fe Trail.

Emancipation in the Sandbox—Creating Communal Space through Play

Tamar Zinguer – University of Oklahoma, Gibbs College of Architecture

When in 1885, Marie Zakrzewska, a pioneering woman doctor in the U.S., saw sand hills in the public gardens in Berlin, where children of all economic backgrounds played, she immediately wrote a recommendation to the Massachusetts authorities. Her letter resulted in the placement of the first heap of sand in Boston in 1886; and following its enthusiastic reception ten more heaps were placed by the following summer, and additional ones were permanently established the following years. In 1891, the first sandbox was incorporated in the design of a public park, Charlesbank in Boston, designed by F.L. Olmsted. Screened by dense shrubs, children could play under the watchful eye of a matron; while their mothers exercised on the brand-new women-only jungle gym nearby. The sand-court greatly improved these working mothers’ quality of life. It was with similar support and financial backing by women philanthropists, that the ‘sand-court’ was introduced to a broader public, at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis Missouri. The sandbox as a tool of emancipation, started to gain global recognition. ‘Anthropology’ — then a new field — was showcased at the sFair or the first time, “to show each half of the world how the other half lives.” Adjoining the women’s pavilion was the playground where, daily play sessions were organized for the Papuan, Esquimaux and Arabian children, who were shown, in photographs, sharing the sandbox. The paper shows how, instituted by women for the neighborhood and the city, the sandbox — a supportive ground for acts of socialization — was gradually recognized as a ‘community builder’ worldwide. It was a feminist space, a practical experiment in material culture that led planners and architects to consider a woman’s life in their designs. In the puritan male space dominated by values of work, women carved a public place for themselves through play.

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