Splendid on A Large Scale: The Writings of Hans Peter Koch, Montana Territory, 1869-1874
Edited by Kim Allen Scott and Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch
University educated and inherently studious, Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch looked at the frontier as a great riddle of opportunity that required only unrelenting perseverance to answer, and even when his determination flagged from time to time as he worked the puzzle, he applied himself to the task as a scholar prepares for a final examination.
When he decided in 1869 to seek his fortune in Montana Territory, Peter embarked on an arduous physical quest to transform his dream of prosperity into reality. His intellectual point of view differed significantly from most of the hide hunters, miners, cattlemen, and farmers among whom he sojourned, and although he spent many months in isolated locales, Peters frontier was primarily an urban experience.
This intriguing book presents the diaries and letters of a highly educated Danish immigrant who made significant contributions to the emerging EuroAmerican culture on the Montana frontier.
Known as Peter, the young man quickly grew enthusiastic on the subject of Montana, her beauties and resources, and his writings offer a wonderfully articulate account of his first years in a new country as an unlikely frontiersman, often reluctant businessman, aspiring naturalist, avid bookman, and yearning lover.
He wrote the bulk of his letters to his betrothed, Laurentze, whom he would wed in 1874. Whether he was painting a picture of the home he hoped to build for his bride-to-be, lamenting the absence of good books, chronicling his efforts to trade with the Crow Indians, or describing the lynching of a murderer by vigilantes, Koch brought a sensitivity and astuteness to the task that belies his concern that the frontier might render him rough and unpolished.
His passion for education and book culture led him to start the Bozeman public library, but it was as co founder of the Agricultural College of the State of Montana, today Montana State University in Bozeman, that he left his most lasting mark.
In his public spiritedness and as the compelling, moving, driving force behind the movement for a newer education, Peter possessed, in the words the intelligence of an aristocrat and the heart of a democrat.
Edited and annotated by historian Kim Allen Scott, Splendid on a Large Scale includes not only Peter s diaries and letters, but also an extensive introduction and afterword, Peter s vivid account of his experiences as a trader at Fort Musselshell in 1869 through 1870, an essay on his extraordinary collection of the literature of western exploration, and an inventory of the most significant titles in that library.
The book is designed by Peter Rutledge Koch, great-grandson of Hans Peter Koch and one of America’s foremost letterpress printers and book artists.
Published in collaboration with Bedrock Editions.