The Aimless Life

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The Aimless Life

Music, Mines, and Revolution from the Rocky Mountains to Mexico

Leonard Worcester Jr.
Introduced, edited, and annotated by Andrew Offenburger

186 pages
18 photographs, 2 maps, 1 table, index

Paperback

July 2021

978-1-4962-2290-9

$19.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In early March of 1915 news broke in El Paso that Leonard Worcester Jr., a leading mining executive in the border region, was being held in a Chihuahua jail without trial or release on bond. Officials loyal to Francisco “Pancho” Villa had accused Worcester of defrauding a Mexican company related to a shipment of zinc, a charge without merit. While struggling to convince Mexican officials of his innocence, Worcester found himself in the middle of a maelstrom of economic interests, foreign diplomacy, and revolution that engulfed the U.S.-Mexico border region after 1910.

Worcester’s 1939 memoir of his “aimless” life describes an important period in U.S. and Mexican history from the perspective of an American miner, musician, and entrepreneur—running counter to the bombast of boosters promoting Manifest Destiny. Introduced, edited, and annotated by Andrew Offenburger, Worcester’s first-person account details the expansion of the American West, mining and labor in Colorado, the formation of reservations in Indian Territory, the Great Depression, and the everyday nature of the Mexican Revolution in Chihuahua.

Worcester’s memoir, one of the few written by an American living in the Mexican borderlands during this important historical era, provides a snapshot of the capitalist development of the American West and borderlands regions in the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.


 

Author Bio

Leonard Worcester Jr. (1863–1939) was the son of Presbyterian missionaries and the grandson of the famous Samuel Worcester, who fought against Cherokee dispossession. Andrew Offenburger is an assistant professor of history at Miami University. He is the author of Frontiers in the Gilded Age: Adventure, Capitalism, and Dispossession from Southern Africa to the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands, 1880–1917.

Praise

“Leonard Worcester Jr. lived across interesting times and places and, thankfully, he wrote about a lot of what he experienced. Here is the everyday set against the backdrop, and occasionally the foreground, of world-shaping events. Andrew Offenburger knows this terrain well but he lets the story unspool with a light touch, always helping us frame Worcester’s story in context and circumstance. The result is pitch perfect: the life and the times of a historical figure whom history would otherwise hide from view.”—William Deverell, director of the Huntington–USC Institute on California and the West

“This beautifully edited tale of a jack-of-all-trades adrift in the U.S. West and Mexico in an age of empire and revolution captures the spirit of its border-crossing time, opening a portal into the wider horizons of North American borderlands history.”—Samuel Truett, author of Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

“The itinerant Leonard Worcester Jr. had a knack for being in big places at big times, from the mining towns of Leadville and Cripple Creek to revolutionary Mexico. Edited adeptly by Andrew Offenburger, Worcester’s memoir offers a compelling glimpse into many familiar stories of the turn of the twentieth century—and as much into what Worcester neglects as to what he describes.”—Derek R. Everett, author of Creating the American West: Boundaries and Borderlands.
 

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction
Timeline
Principal Locations in the Life of Leonard Worcester, Jr., 1880-1905
Principal Locations in the Life of Leonard Worcester, Jr., 1905-1939
Chapter 1: Childhood and American Transformations, 1863-1881
Chapter 2: A Pragmatic Professional, 1881-1893
Chapter 3: Colorado, 1893-1905
Chapter 4: Borderland Mining and the Early Revolution, 1905-1914
Chapter 5: Business in the Borderlands, 1914-1939
Chapter 6: Coda
Acknowledgements
Notes
Index

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