Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1852–1944) led an exuberant life that seemed to embrace the entire nation and its times. Wood remembered seeing Abraham Lincoln, he knew Chief Joseph, Clarence Darrow, and Lincoln Steffens, and he survived to the dawn of the atomic era. Among his acquaintances he counted Mark Twain, Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Woodrow Wilson, Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound, and Ansel Adams. He fought in the Indian campaigns of the post–Civil War era; he represented wealthy businessmen as an attorney in Portland, Oregon, during the Gilded Age; he befriended the political and cultural radicals of New York in the early twentieth century; and he became a central figure among the West Coast artists of the 1930s. He was, in short, a man of extraordinarily wide—and often conflicting—impulses and talents.
In this captivating, highly readable biography of Wood, Robert Hamburger presents both the life and the times, Wood’s work and the intellectual, political, and cultural crosscurrents of his era. Hamburger ably captures Wood’s many contradictions yet unearths the enduring essence of the man: his rebelliousness, his hatred of social and economic inequalities, his unbounded appetite for life, beauty, and pleasure.