Former St. Louis Mercantile Director Gets Drunk, Pens Camping Manual, Ends Up in Ken Burns Documentary


It’s a great time of year to hit the woods, or, if the woods are too muggy, to read about the outdoors.

Horace Kephart was a brilliant scholar and came from pioneer stock.  He loved the outdoors and, at 28, became director of St. Louis’s prestigious Mercantile Library.  But when his marriage fell apart, he turned to booze, and lost his job.  Naturally–no pun intended–he turned to the wilderness to start over.   He moved to a cabin in the woods and went on to write a still-relevant wilderness manual, Camping and Woodcraft. This is exactly the book you’ll need on your iPad when civilization collapses. He also crusaded for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

-ed scripsi

Published in: on August 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. When I was a kid my fondest wish was to grow and be a forest ranger. Well I grew up and did a tour in Viet Nam which had the effect of tamping down those wishes considerably. I look forward to downloading this book on Kindle (if they have it) and reading it here surrounded by steel, glass, masonry and pavement, grinning.

  2. I have his camping manual “Camping and Woodcraft” and “Our Southern Highlanders” in my personal collection. I was quite fascinated on reading the introduction to Camping and Woodcraft to learn of Kephart’s librarianship… and involvement in a more Easternly Mercantile. I’m glad my copy doesn’t require batteries. Those will be more useful to power the flashlight I’ll need to read my first editions when the electric grid finally fries out during the long collapse of the American Empire. Cheers!

  3. Delta, I was dead set on becoming a forest ranger too. Life has an annoying habit of intervening. Kephart’s Camping and Woodcraft is downloadable for Kindle from at

    Funny you should mention Our Southern Highlanders, Justin. I was just reading a passage from that on, about a man Kephart met in the woods, bedraggled and lost, who had walked all the way from Cincinnati. “Page 63” at

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