Snoopy once said there were not more than three or four world famous grocery clerks, and that's probably true regarding world famous landscape architects. But Frederick Law Olmsted is about as close as you can get. Among more than a hundred or so parks, recreational areas, or landscapes that Frederick designed were New York's Central Park, Washington's National Zoo, and a number of college campuses including Stanford University and the University of Chicago.
But American history buffs know Frederick as the author of several volumes of travel literature from the 19th century. As a young man this New Yorker journeyed across the ante-bellum south from the eastern seaboard to Texas, recording the trials and tribulations of journeying in an era where travel was slow, arduous, and at times dangerous. Contracted by the New York Times to provide an ongoing series of articles of his wanderings, Frederick recorded his impressions, thoughts, and what he saw as he met and spoke with the people of the South, both free and slave.
Like most northerners, Frederick was opposed to slavery, but - again like most northerners - he was not an active abolitionist. Instead his feelings against that "peculiar institution" were more economic than moral and were quite similar to arguments advanced by a gentleman named Abraham Lincoln. Although the views of Frederick and Abraham today strike us (and the abolitionists) as rather wishy-washy, they insured Frederick's observations are about as accurate as you could get. On the other hand, he was a tourist, and except on one or two occasions he did not witness the more sordid or brutal sides of slavery.
For a little more about Frederick and his travels, you can read his books, all of which are available in reprints or on-line at various websites. Or you can read a little more by clicking here.