Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Karen Dandurand, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James Cahalan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ronald Shafer, Ph.D.


Newspaper publisher Samuel Bowles set out on a trip in the early summer of 1865 to see and write about the United States of America. A leading figure in journalism and in political discourses before and after the Civil War, Bowles shared his experiences in a series of thirty-two letters, addressed to the readers of his influential Massachusetts newspaper, the Springfield Republican. The letters were subsequently compiled into a book, Across the Continent: A Summer’s Journey to the Rocky Mountains, the Mormons, and the Pacific States, with Speaker Colfax, and constitute an engaging narrative of adventures from the plains of Kansas to Salt Lake City, Utah, through the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Coast and the Pacific Northwest. The letters resonate with the personality of the author and bring textual snapshots of 1865 America to life. Although Bowles’s letters may, in other contexts, be dismissed as ephemeral newspaper articles, the Across the Continent letters suggest something more enduring, something more important to the often disparate studies of journalism, literature, and American nationality. This study, therefore, bridges these discourses to establish Bowles as a literary journalist writing in the form of the newspaper travel letter with implications for an ideology of nationalism that was only just emerging in the wake of the Civil War. It is the first critical study of Bowles’s Across the Continent letters to adopt a literary perspective. Chapter One provides historical background and contemporary commentary on Bowles to establish his influence in 1865. Building on existing approaches to letters and letter-writing, known as epistolary theory, Chapters Two and Three introduce and explore the form of epistolary journalism, using Bowles’s letters of Across the Continent to illustrate and support my critical model. Chapter Four then suggests that many of the same qualities that make Samuel Bowles’s letters function as epistolary texts also place Bowles within a tradition of early literary journalism. Finally, Chapter Five examines ways that Bowles’s Across the Continent letters articulate the new ideology of nationhood emerging in the wake of the Civil War.