Making the Frontier Home: Stories from the Steamboat Bertrand

The Ties That Bind

Despite the hardships and isolation faced by emigrants to the western territories, pioneer families found ways to recreate a domestic sanctuary that still fulfilled Victorian ideals. Steamboat transportation facilitated these efforts by providing the material culture associated with these values. Domestic goods served as physical connections to the 'civilized' world left behind and mediated the harshness of life in mining and marginalized communities. The remnants of such artifacts, notably those preserved from the Steamboat Bertrand, allow glimpses into the consumer culture of these frontier towns. However, when combined with primary accounts, it becomes evident that the preservation of domestic happiness relied primarily on people and the strength of affection between familial bonds, regardless of the available material culture. The frontier presented families with a rich opportunity to establish a home, both physical and abstract, that was entirely theirs and to create a legacy that would serve their family for generations to come.

“Our house is very comfortable and looks more homelike than any place we have ever had, and is Our Own.” (191) Excerpt from the journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford

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