Filmic Context:  Print -- Online

With Daniel Boone Thru the Wilderness is an obscure film.  It is also a very early silent film.  As a result, not much, if anything, has been written directly about the film itself.  Not much has actually been written about the genre of Daniel Boone films either.  Most of the films are based on the Boone legend propagated by the series of Boone hagiographies written throughout the years.  Other Boone films are explored on the Comparison Films page, while the hagiographies can be found under Print Resources.  Much has been written in relation to these novels, and an annotated list of this material can be found on the Historical Context page.

Print Resources

The Hagiographies:

“The elevation of Boone was the triumph not only of the times, but of five Americans who fostered his reputation.  John Filson, Timothy Flint, James Fenimore Cooper, Lyman Draper, and Dan Beard were largely instrumental in establishing him as a major American hero.”
                                                                                                                               -Marshall William Fishwick

Several other writers soon followed suit, and before long, a plethora of Boone literature had sprung up in America.  The list of Boone biographers and novelists includes, but is not limited to, the following compilation.

Beard, Dan. American Boy’s Handbook.
Dan Beard was the founding father of The Boy Scouts of America, an organization emulating the life and methods of Daniel Boone.  This was The Official Boy Scout Handbook that taught millions of kids what it meant to be a man in 19th century America.  Later editions of The Official Boy Scout Handbook were always modeled after Beard's work.  Beard and his vision of the ideal man helped to create the Boone-crazy society that eventually pushed the borders of the United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  This book teaches children, primarily young boys, what sort of attire to wear (deerskins and coonskin caps), how to tie knots, how to make animal traps, how to build a fire with no matches, and so on.

Draper, Lyman Copeland.  King’s Mountain and Its Heroes. 1833.
King’s Mountain and Its Heroes is a detailed history of all the people and events related to the battle at King’s Mountain.  This book gives mention of the short buffalo hunting trip on which Boone’s brother, Edward, was shot by Indians the night before the battle.  Daniel Boone is actually only mentioned 6-7 times throughout the 600 pages, though they are easy to find because of the index.  Most of the people in this book, however, probably knew Daniel Boone either first- or second-hand.  Draper, who would eventually write The Life of Daniel Boone, one of the most detailed Boone biographies ever, gives a good account of the lives and attitudes of many of Boone’s compatriots.  Notably, Boone’s reputation as a remarkable leader and frontiersman was already flourishing at the time of the King’s Mountain battle in 1780.

Draper, Lyman Copeland.  The Life of Daniel Boone.  Ed. Ted Franklin Belue.  Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania:  Stackpole Books, 1998.
This hard-to-find book was written in 1833 and is often hailed as one of the most detailed biographies of Daniel Boone ever written.  Though fictions and half-truths sneak their way into his work, very little would be known about Daniel Boone were it not for the efforts of this early historian and Boone archivist.

Filson, John. The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke.
John Filson, Boone’s first hagiographer, wrote this narrative as an appendix to a larger work.  Despite his claim of Boone's authorship, most likely the uneducated Boone did not speak with this level of eloquence and, thus, did not write it.  Nonetheless, Filson's narrative was the first to document a portion of Boone's life, and helped to turn Boone, a simple pioneer, into an American legend.  In this first-person narrative, Boone (i.e. Filson) describes his explorations into "Kentucke," as well as many fights with the Indians in which several of Boone's companions were killed.  "Boone" also tells of twice being captured by the Indians, the second time living as an adoptee in an Indian family for awhile.  While living with the Indians, Boone learns of an impending Indian attack on Boonesborough, a settlement he helped to build, and escapes in time to warn the settlers of the attack.  The most interesting, and perhaps most fabricated, aspect of this narrative is the fact that Boone is represented as very philosphical in nature.  He repeatedly muses over the significance of his actions, and always comes to the conclusion that his decision to explore "virgin land" is worth whatever loss may accompany that decision, even when the loss includes the death of a brother and two sons.  This narrative seems to be trying to sell the reader on westward expansion, barely mentioning the negatives, such as having fingers chewed off by Indian captors, while glorifying any possible benefit.

Filson, John. Kentucke and the Adventures of Col. Daniel Boone, with an Introduction by Willard Rouse Jillson.

Flint, Timothy. The Biographical Memoir of Daniel Boone. . . Edited for the Modern Reader by James K. Folson.

Flint, Timothy. First White man of the West, or the Life and Exploits of Col. Daniel Boone, the First Settler of Kentucky.

Cooper, James Fenimore.  The Last of the Mohicans.

Secondary Hagiographies:

Imlay, Gilbert. A Topical Description of the Western Territory.
This book is an indispensable resource for historians.  It gives accounts of early pioneers, excursions, and settlements concerning much of the 18th century frontier.  The Filson narrative, The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke, is included here, complete with Filson’s Appendix including The Adventures of Daniel Boone.  Filson was the “grand-daddy” of Boone biographers, with this narrative being the first to bring Boone’s story to print.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Peck, John, Mason. Life of Daniel Boone, the Pioneer of Kentucky.
written by John Mason Peck
 ed. Jared Sparks
This is one of the most detailed accounts of Daniel Boone’s life in existence.  Nearly every factual and fictitious story concerning Boone is included in this early biography.  Although not entirely historically accurate, Peck and Sparks have a sense of the discrepancy between the legend of Daniel Boone and the actual man.  Peck and Sparks point out several instances of fabrication and exaggeration concerning Boone’s life.

White, Stuart Edward. Daniel Boone: Wilderness Scout.
Full title: Daniel Boone: Wilderness Scout. The Life Story and True Adventures of the Great Hunter Long Knife Who First Blazed the
Wilderness Trail Through the Indian's Country to Kentucky
By Stewart Edward White for the Boy Scouts of America

This book is a good representation of the many early 20th century novels that continued the tradition of glorifying Boone and the pioneer spirit.  Meant as companion reading to the Official Boy Scout Handbook, this work is no different than the previous dozens that depict Boone as the fearless, moral hero, the ideal man.  In short, Boone is cast as a role model for young boys.  The significance of this book lies with the fact that   a) It proves that the distortions inherent within the Daniel Boone legend and Manifest Destiny were still a major force in American ideologies in 1922, and   b) This book was used by The Boy Scouts of America to teach millions of children how to be and what to think.  Although Daniel Boone: Wilderness Scout may be difficult to find, a serious Boone student may find it worth checking out .

Abbott, John Stevens Cabot.  Daniel Boone, Pioneer of Kentucky.

Bakeless, John Edwin.  Daniel Boone: Master of the Wilderness.
The 1936 film, Daniel Boone, was based on this book.

Bogart, William Henry.  The Border Boy: and How He Became the Great Pioneer of the West: A Life of Daniel Boone.

Bogart, William Henry.  Daniel Boone, and the Hunters of Kentucky.

Boone, Nathan. My Father, Daniel Boone: The Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone.  Ed. Neal O. Hammond.

Ellis, Edward Sylvester.  The Life and Times of Col. Daniel Boone, Hunter, Soldier, and Pioneer.  Philadelphia:  Porter and Coates, 1884.

Hawks, Francis Lister.  Daniel Boone, His Own Story, by Daniel Boone; and the Adventures of Daniel Boone, the Kentucky Rifleman, by F.L. Hawks.
Hawkes' pseudonym: Uncle Phillip

Jones, John Beaucamp. Wild Western Scenes:  A narrative of Adventures in the Western Wilderness.

McClung, John. Sketches of Western Adventure.

Metcalf, Samuel Lytler.  A Collection of some of the Most Interesting Narratives of Indian Warfare in the West, Containing an Account of Colonel Daniel Boone.

Norton, Frank Henry.  The Days of Daniel Boone Boone: a Romance of "The Dark and Bloody Ground".

Seymour, Charles C.B.  Self-Made Men.

Weber, Charles Wilkins.  The Hunter-Naturalist: Romance of Sporting; or Wild Scenes & Wild Hunters.

Williams, William Carlos.  In the American Grain.

Woodworth, Samuel.  Hunters of Kentucky.
This is a poem that inspired a once well-known folk-song.

Online Resources

Daniel Boone Biography by Theodore Roosevelt.

This site contains the text of an essay concerning Daniel Boone written by Theodore Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was a huge supporter of Boone, and often wrote letters and essays relating to this frontier hero.  Nothing earth-shattering is written here.  The importance of these essays stem from the fact that one of America's best loved presidents often publicly extolled the merits of Daniel Boone.  The effects that such endorsements can have on a country should be obvious.

Copyright © 2000 by Matt Sparks, Undergraduate at Lehigh University

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of the U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the author is notified and no fee is charged for access.  Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other  terms, in any medium, requires consent of the author.