Astoria is Peter Stark’s epic telling of the establishment of what was intended to be the base of John Jacob Astor’s Pacific fur trading empire. The harrowing journeys that led the settlers — by sail, canoe, or overland — to the mouth of the Columbia River are almost beyond belief. The obstacles they faced included not just the many natural barriers of an unmapped continent — sand bars, river canyons, and mountains — but also the self-defeating vices they brought with them: greed, paranoia, murder, and war. Stark doesn’t shy away from the fact that the bravery of the explorers was all in service of the desire to exploit the sea otters and Native peoples that already inhabited the area, and while Astor’s empire ultimately wasn’t built off the Pacific, that exploitation came nevertheless. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of The Lost City of Z and Skeletons in the Zahara, Astoria is the thrilling, true-adventure tale of the 1810 Astor Expedition, an epic, now forgotten, three-year journey to forge an American empire on the Pacific Coast. Peter Stark offers a harrowing saga in which a band of explorers battled nature, starvation, and madness to establish the first American settlement in the Pacific Northwest and opened up what would become the Oregon trail, permanently altering the nation's landscape and its global standing.
Six years after Lewis and Clark's began their journey to the Pacific Northwest, two of the Eastern establishment's leading figures, John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson, turned their sights to founding a colony akin to Jamestown on the West Coast and transforming the nation into a Pacific trading power. Author and correspondent for Outside magazine Peter Stark recreates this pivotal moment in American history for the first time for modern readers, drawing on original source material to tell the amazing true story of the Astor Expedition.
Unfolding over the course of three years, from 1810 to 1813, Astoria is a tale of high adventure and incredible hardship in the wilderness and at sea. Of the more than one hundred-forty members of the two advance parties that reached the West Coast — one crossing the Rockies, the other rounding Cape Horn — nearly half perished by violence. Others went mad. Within one year, the expedition successfully established Fort Astoria, a trading post on the Columbia River. Though the colony would be short-lived, it opened provincial American eyes to the potential of the Western coast and its founders helped blaze the Oregon Trail.
"A thrilling true-adventure tale….A breathtaking account of an expedition that changed the geography of a young nation and its place in global commerce and politics." Booklist
“Astoria is a scintillating corrective to the "guts and glory" school of American history and economics….Grandiose visions…..have consequences, and Peter Stark's depiction of the body count that results from this one unfolds with the inevitability of a fine tragedy and comedic zing of a good action flick.” David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why
"A page-turning tale of ambition, greed, politics, survival, and loss." Publishers Weekly
"Stark vividly writes of fur trader John Jacob Astor's capitalist quest….[a] fascinating account....that never loses its focus." Library Journal
About the Author
Peter Stark is a historian and adventure writer. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Astoria, along with The Last Empty Spaces, Last Breath, and At the Mercy of the River. He is a correspondent for Outside magazine, has written for Smithsonian and The New Yorker, and is a National Magazine Award nominee. He lives in Montana with his wife and children.