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John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier

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John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier
By Albert L. Hurtado. (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman: 2008. Pg. xvii, 412. B & W Photos, Maps, Tables.) ISBN: 978-0-8061-3929-6.

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - October 24, 2008

The California Gold Rush and John Sutter are almost synonymous, but how much do you really know about John Sutter other than that gold was found at Sutter's fort? After reading John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier, you'll discover that there was much more to Johann August Sutter than just his anglicized name and his connection to the California Gold Rush.

Written by Albert L. Hurtado, a professor of Modern American History at the University of Oklahoma, John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier is an engaging biography of this enigmatic man. Sutter (1803-1880) a German born Swiss citizen, immigrated to the United States from Switzerland in 1834, leaving behind a wife and five children. After pursuing various ventures in the United States, he eventually settled in the Sacramento Valley of California, where he established New Helvetia and set about carving out a personal empire. As history remembers, he was also intimately involved in the Californian Gold Rush. His impact on the Gold Rush, and the Gold Rush's impact on Sutter's life and empire are adroitly chronicled in Hurtado's book.

Within the pages of this compelling biography, Hurtado provides an in-depth overview of Sutter's life and impact on Californian history. The book not only delves into the general aspects of Sutter's life from his birth through his death, and the legacy he left behind, but also takes a look into the physiological factors that motivated Sutter, his numerous financial dealings and failures, as well as the more intimate aspects of his life including his alleged habit of co-habiting with multiple, native, concubines.

In addition, the author interweaves Sutter's story within that of the greater story of the American West, providing a greater context through which to understand Sutter's life and his historical importance.

John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier includes numerous black and white photographs, maps, and tables. Also included are copious endnotes and a detailed bibliography that will be enabled interested readers to delve deeper into Sutter's life and impact on American history.

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