Advertisement

Commemorative Custer Place Names on the American Landscape

  • Gerald R. WebsterEmail author
Reference work entry

Abstract

The geographic distribution of place names on the landscape reflects the power of different groups vying for control of a locale at different points in history. They further generally present a one-sided version of history from the perspective of those holding power. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the geography of place names in the United States using the surname “Custer.” General George Armstrong Custer was controversial during his life and continues to be so 140 years after his death. In spite of the controversy surrounding his life, his death at the Little Bighorn in 1876 elevated him to the status of a national hero. As a result he was memorialized by the widespread naming of streets and other landscape features “Custer” in the years after he was killed. This project has identified 557 streets and 221 human and physical landscape features named after him including counties, cities, mountains and water bodies. Using cartographic analysis, this chapter finds that Custer features are most plentiful in the American West, with fewer in the South and Northeast. Arguably, Custer’s success as a Union General in the Civil War limited the density of Custer place names in the Confederate South, and his popularity waned in the Northeast after he led the Seventh Cavalry in a massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on the Washita River in 1868. Notably, some the highest concentrations of Custer place names are found in the locales where Custer undertook some of his most controversial actions.

Keywords

Place names Street names George Armstrong Custer 

References

  1. Alderman, D. H. (2000). A street fit for a king: Naming places and commemoration in the American South. The Professional Geographer, 52(4), 672–684.Google Scholar
  2. Alderman, D. H. (2002). Street names as memorial arenas: The reputational politics of commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. in a Georgia County. Historical Geography, 30, 99–120.Google Scholar
  3. Alderman, D. H. (2006). Place names. In B. Warf (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human geography (pp. 358–360). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Ambrose, S. E. (1975). Crazy horse and Custer. New York: Pocket Books.Google Scholar
  5. Associated Press. (2015, July 14). At a crossroads: Tribes seek to change name of devil’s tower. Laramie Boomerang, p. A8.Google Scholar
  6. Azaryahu, M. (1986). Street names and political identity: The case of East Berlin. Journal of Contemporary History, 21, 581–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Azaryahu, M. (1996). The power of commemorative street names. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 14, 311–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Azaryahu, M. (1997). German reunification and the politics of street names: The case of East Berlin. Political Geography, 16(6), 479–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Azaryahu, M. (2009). Naming the past: The significance of commemorative street names. In L. D. Berg & J. Vuolteenaho (Eds.), Critical toponymies: The contested politics of place naming (pp. 53–70). Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  10. Bar-Gal, Y. (1989). Naming city streets – A chapter in the history of Tel-Aviv, 1909–1947. Contemporary Jewry, 10(2), 39–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berg, L. D., & Kearns, R. A. (1996). Naming as norming: ‘Race’, gender, and identity politics of naming places in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 14, 99–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brill, C. J. (1938). Custer, Black Kettle, and the fight on the Washita. Norman: University of Oklahoma. Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, S., & Kliot, N. (1992). Place-names in Israel’s ideological struggle over the administered territories. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 82, 653–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Conedera, M., Vassere, S., Neff, C., Meuer, M., & Krebs, P. (2007). Using toponymy to reconstruct past land use: A case study of ‘Brusada’ (burn) in Southern Switzerland. Journal of Historical Geography, 33, 729–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Custer, E. B. (1961). Boots and saddles. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  16. Custer, E. B. (1967). Following the Guidon. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  17. Custer, E. B. (1994). Tenting on the plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  18. Custer, G. A. (1962). My life on the plains or, personal experiences with Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  19. Davis, J.H. (2015, August 30). Mount McKinley will again be called Denali. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/us/mount-mckinley-will-be-renamed-denali.html?_r=0
  20. Deloria, V. (1969). Custer died for your sins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  21. Donovan, J. (2008). A terrible glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn. New York: Back Bay Books.Google Scholar
  22. Elliot, M. A. (2007). Custerology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham, W. A. (2000). The Custer myth. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books.Google Scholar
  24. Greene, J. A. (2004). Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867–1869. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hatch, T. (2002). The Custer companion. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books.Google Scholar
  26. Hutton, P. A. (Ed.). (1992). The Custer reader. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jackson, D. (1966). Custer’s gold: The United States cavalry expedition of 1874. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  28. Kelman, A. (2013). A misplaced massacre: Struggling over the memory of Sand Creek. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Kraft, L. (2011). Ned Wynkoop and the lonely road from Sand Creek. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  30. Langellier, J. P. (2000). Custer: The man, the myth, and the movies. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books.Google Scholar
  31. Leckie, S. A. (1993). Elizabeth Bacon Custer and the making of a myth. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  32. Miller, E. J. W. (1969). The naming of the land in the Arkansas Ozarks: A study in culture processes. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 59(2), 240–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Monmonier, M. (2006). From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How maps name, claim, and inflame. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mort, T. (2015). Thieves’ road: The Black Hills betrayal and Custer’s path to Little Bighorn. Amherst: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  35. Philbrick, N. (2010). The last stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the battle of the Little Bighorn. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  36. Randall, R. R. (2001). Place names: How they define the world – and more. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar
  37. Room, A. (1997). Placenames of the world: Origins and meanings. Jefferson: McFarland.Google Scholar
  38. Rose-Redwood, R. S. (2008). From number to name: Symbolic capital, places of memory and the politics of street renaming in New York City. Social and Cultural Geography, 9(4), 431–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sandoz, M. (1966). The battle of the Little Big Horn. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stewart, E. I. (1955). Custer’s luck. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  41. Stewart, G. R. (1975). Names on the globe. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Stewart, G. R. (1995). Names on the landscape: A historical account of place-naming in the United States. New York: New York Review Books.Google Scholar
  43. Stiles, T. J. (2015). Custer’s trials: A life on the frontier of a New America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  44. Taft, E. (1992). The pictorial record of the Old West: Custer’s last stand – John Mulvany, Cassilly Adams and Otto Becker. In P. A. Hutton (Ed.), The Custer reader (pp. 424–462). Norman: University of Oklahoma.Google Scholar
  45. Urwin, G. J. W. (1992). Custer: The civil war years. In P. A. Hutton (Ed.), The Custer reader (pp. 7–32). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  46. Utley, R. M. (1994). Little Bighorn battlefield. Washington, DC: National Park Service.Google Scholar
  47. Van de Water, F. F. (1934). Glory-hunter: A life of General Custer. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  48. Warren, L. S. (2005). Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West show. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  49. Waterman, T. T. (1922). The geographical names used by the Indians of the Pacific Coast. Geographical Review, 12(2), 175–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. West, R. C. (1954). The term ‘Bayou’ in the United States: A study in the geography of place names. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 44(1), 63–74.Google Scholar
  51. Whitbeck, R. H. (1911). Regional peculiarities in place names. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 43(4), 273–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Whittaker, F. (1993a). A complete life of General George A. Custer, volume 1: Though the civil war. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  53. Whittaker, F. (1993b). A complete life of General George A. Custer, volume 2: From Appomattox to the Little Big Horn. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wittenberg, E. J. (Ed.). (2001). At Custer’s side: The civil war writings of James Harvey Kidd. Kent: Kent State University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Wright, J. K. (1929). The study of place names: Recent work and some possibilities. Geographical Review, 19(1), 140–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zelinsky, W. (1967). Classical town names in the United States: The historical geography of an American idea. Geographical Review, 57(4), 463–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

Personalised recommendations