Rothman, Hal (K.) 1958-
ROTHMAN, Hal (K.) 1958-
Born August 11, 1958, in Baton Rouge, LA; son of Neal Jules (a professor) and Rozann (a professor; maiden name, Cole) Rothman; married Lauralee Paige (an x-ray specialist), August 13, 1989. Education: University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, B.A., 1980; University of Texas—Austin, M.A., 1982, Ph.D., 1985. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: "I'm noted as a prizewinning green chili cook."
Educator and author. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and Los Alamos, visiting assistant professor, 1985-86; Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, assistant professor of history and director of Program in Public History, 1987-92; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, associate professor of history and public administration, 1992-97, professor, and department chair, 1997—. Editor, "Development of Western Resources" series, University Press of Kansas; editor, Environmental History, 1996—; editorial board, New Mexico Historical Review, 1997. Has appeared on numerous television programs and networks, including CBS Sunday Morning, CBS Evening News, Dateline, Primetime, and CNN International, and radio networks, including National Public Radio, Voice of America, and Public Radio International. Futurepast: The History Company, Spokane, WA, associate, 1984-86, senior vice-president, 1986-87; contract historian for National Park Service, Southwest Region, Santa Fe, NM, 1985-86; team supervisor of New Mexico Literacy Project, Espanola and Sandia Pueblo, NM, 1986; director of public history collection for Western Historical Quarterly, beginning 1989. Member of board of trustees of Old Cowtown Museum, beginning 1988; member of Kansas Eisenhower Centennial Commission, beginning 1988; consultant to Bandelier National Monument. Chair, Aldo Leopold Prize Committee, 1992-93.
National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1986; award from Public Historian, 1987, for article "Forged by One Man's Will"; G. Wesley Johnson Award, 1987; William Morris Award for excellence in scholarship, College of Arts and Letters, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1992; Marjorie Barrick research scholar, University of Nevada—Las Vegas, 1996, and distinguished scholar, 2001; Spur Award for Best Contemporary Nonfiction, Western Writers of America, 1999, for Devil's Bargains; Award of Merit for Best Book in Texas History, Texas Philosophical Society, 2001, for Our Heart's Home; Alumni Association Distinguished Scholar Award, University of Nevada—Las Vegas, 2001; Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association, and Southwest Books of the Year Award, Tucson-Pima County Library, both 2003, both for The Culture of Tourism, the Tourism of Culture: Selling the Past to the Present in the American Southwest.
(Contributor) T. Allan Comp, editor, A Balm and a Hope: Perspectives on Western Parks and American Culture, Howe Brothers Press, 1986.
The Bandelier National Monument: An Administrative History, National Park Service (Santa Fe, NM), 1989.
Preserving Different Pasts: The Antiquities Act of 1906 and the National Monuments, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1989.
(Contributor) Michael G. Schene and Steven Mehls, editors, A Reader of National Park Service History, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1989.
Navajo National Monument: A Place and Its People; An Administrative History, Southwest Regional Office, Division of History (Santa Fe, NM), 1991.
Managing the Sacred and the Secular: An Administrative History of Pipestone National Monument, Hal K. Rothman and Associates (Henderson, NV), 1992.
On Rims and Ridges: The Los Alamos Area since 1880, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 1992.
America's National Monuments: The Politics of Preservation, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1994.
"I'll Never Fight Fire with My Bare Hands Again": Inland Northwest Foresters of the Early Twentieth Century in Their Own Words, University of Kansas Press (Lawrence, KS), 1994.
The Greening of a Nation?: Environmentalism in the U.S. since 1945, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY), 1997.
Out of the Woods: Essays in Environmental History, University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1997.
(Editor) Reopening the American West: Environment and Culture in the Western Past and Present, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1998.
Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1998.
Saving the Planet: The American Response to the Environment in the Twentieth Century, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2000.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Historic Resource Study, United States Department of the Interior (Omaha, NE), 2000.
LBJ's Texas White House: "Our Heart's Home," Texas A&M University Press (College Station, TX), 2001.
(With Daniel J. Holder) The Post on the Marmaton: An Historical Study of Fort Scott National Historic Site, United States Department of the Interior (Omaha, NE), 2001.
Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with Mike Davis) The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.
The New Urban Park: Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Civic Environmentalism, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2003.
(Editor) The Culture of Tourism, the Tourism of Culture: Selling the Past to the Present in the American Southwest, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2003.
(With Sara Dant Ewert) Encyclopedia of American National Parks, M.E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 2004.
Columnist for Window, 1982-85, and Austin Chronicle, 1984-85. Contributor of articles and reviews to history journals. Contributor of article to periodicals, includingLos Angeles Times, Las Vegas Mercury, Steamboat, Urban Ecology, and Providence Journal. Contributing editor of Window, 1982-85.
A professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Hal Rothman has focused on the American West and Southwest in his research and writings. His books chronicle and explicate topics from the opening of the West to the creation of national monuments, environmental issues, tourism, and the history and deeper meaning of Las Vegas. After earning his doctorate from the University of Texas—Austin, Rothman worked for a time in private industry and for the National Park Service before becoming an instructor at Wichita State University. In 1992 he took a position at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he became professor of history and editor of the journal Environmental History. He once commented: "I became interested in the national park system after finding camping in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks unbearable because of chainsaws, bicycles, and Winnebagos. National monuments were not as crowded but every bit as nice, and I wondered why. My interest in western environmental issues grew from there. My work with the Park Service helped them better understand the historical context of the issues they faced. On Rims and Ridges: The Los Alamos Area since 1880 is an outgrowth of that work. It looks at the incommensurable comparisons of resources that human societies make and the implications of these decisions for people and institutions. Archaeology, modern physics, range management, the Wilderness Act of 1964, and a host of other factors play roles in this book."
Rothman's subsequent books have provided an eclectic collection of not only regional but also global themes. In The Greening of a Nation?: Environmentalism in the U.S. since 1945 and Saving the Planet: The American Response to the Environment in the Twentieth Century, he examines the impact of the environmental movement. The effects of tourism on the American West and Southwest are presented in Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West and The Culture of Tourism, the Tourism of Culture: Selling the Past to the Present in the American Southwest.
With his 2001 title LBJ's Texas White House: "Our Heart's Home," Rothman narrows his focus to create an "interesting study" of President Lyndon Johnson's ranch, according to Lewis L. Gould, writing in the Journal of Southern History. Gould went on to note that Rothman "explores the personal, political, and cultural uses that the president made of his property" in the Texas Hill Country while he was in office. For Gould, one weakness of the book, however, was Rothman's "failure to do legal research" in those same counties; having done so, Lewis thought, Rothman would have found discrepancies in LBJ's stories of his father's impoverished status. According to Melvin Small, writing in the Journal of American History, "Rothman views the ranch as the key 'symbol' for Johnson, an outward manifestation of Johnson's more progressive Western roots instead of his conservative Southern past." Despite reservations about creating an entire book around the history of a house, Small still found that Rothman "offers a useful approach to understanding the always fascinating Lyndon Johnson." For Elisabeth Bumiller, writing in the New York Times, this study of LBJ's ranch puts "into sharper relief Mr. [George W.] Bush's ranch and the more solitary rhythms of his presidency." According to Bumiller, both Johnson and Bush needed their respective ranches "to establish their Texas credentials."
Rothman turns his attention to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he teaches, in two further titles. Working with Mike Davis, he examines the city with an insider's eye in twenty-one collected articles in The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas. Instead of viewing Las Vegas as the metaphor of global gambling and postmodern kitsch as many researches have, Rothman and Davis try to find the reality of the place in the town behind the famous facade. According to Paulina Raento, reviewing The Grit beneath the Glitter in Geographical Review, the book provides a "critical assessment of the literary and cinematic image of Las Vegas," as well as a discussion of the "key concerns regarding urbanization in southern Nevada," such as water and other infrastructure difficulties brought about by the city's desert location. The "favorite essay" of a contributor for the American Journal of Economics and Sociology was Rothman's own "Colony, Capital, and Casino," an investigation of the Mafia financing of the resorts in the city. For Jonathan Kirsch, writing in the Los Angeles Times, the book "at its most ambitious moments… can be approached as a corrective to half a century of mystification and myth-making" about Las Vegas, a city viewed by some as a Disney-like mecca, and by others as an experiment still underway in urban planning.
Rothman again tackles the topic of Las Vegas in Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century, a "relentlessly upbeat chronicle of America's capital of glamour, sin, money-laundering, and heavyweight boxing," as a critic for Kirkus Reviews described the book. The same reviewer found such an approach "surprising," coming from a professor with obvious environmental concerns. For Rothman, Las Vegas "symbolizes America," as he wrote in his book. The place is, again according to Rothman, "our sociopsychological promise to ourselves to be eternally young writ large." Rothman examines Las Vegas from the early casino days to the transformation of the city's image from one controlled by the Mafia to a more corporate image in the 1980s. He also investigates the changing population of the city occasioned by such a shift in economy, and additionally looks at the infrastructure problems of the sprawling city. The Kirkus Reviews writer found an "aggressive, boosterish tone" to the book.
Paula R. Dempsey, however, writing in Library Journal, called Neon Metropolis a "thoughtful study… [and] a detailed history of a uniquely American city." According to Dempsey, a central argument of the book is that Las Vegas has learned to survive by adapting to the sources of income available to it, be it military or gambling. It is this very "malleability," as Dempsey interpreted Rothman, that should inspire "the future of all U.S. cities." John Hannigan, reviewing the same work in Urban Studies, noted that while Rothman "never strays too far into [the] darker side of Vegas, nevertheless, he does provide a superbly written profile of suburban life beyond the glitter of casino row." Hannigan further called Rothman's book an "intoxicating brew of journalism, Western history and urban sociology," and one not only written for "a broad audience" but also "crammed with shrewd observations." Booklist's David Siegfried also had praise for Neon Metropolis, concluding that "Rothman gets inside the psyche of the Vegas mystique." Noting the popular appeal of the book in Business History Review, Michael S. Green commented that Rothman uses plentiful personal anecdotes in the book and that Rothman "offers much food for thought about Las Vegas" in this "important study." And David Thomson in the New York Times Book Review commented that Neon Metropolis "will teach you something startling on nearly every page."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Rothman, Hal, Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century, Routledge (New York, NY), 2002.
American Journal of Economics and Sociology, April, 2002, review of The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas, pp. 595-597.
Booklist, February 15, 2002, David Siegfried, review of Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century, p. 989.
Business History Review, spring, 2003, Michael S. Green, review of Neon Metropolis, p. 153.
Geographical Review, October, 2002, Paulina Raento, review of The Grit beneath the Glitter, pp. 617-619.
Journal of American History, March, 2003, Melvin Small, review of LBJ's Texas White House: "Our Heart's Home," p. 1611.
Journal of Southern History, May, 2003, Lewis L. Gould, review of LBJ's Texas White House, p. 485.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of Neon Metropolis, p. 92.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Paula R. Dempsey, review of Neon Metropolis, p. 128.
Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2002, Jonathan Kirsch, review of The Grit beneath the Glitter, p. BR2.
New York Times, August 12, 2002, Elisabeth Bumiller, review of LBJ's Texas White House, p. A10.
New York Times Book Review, September 15, 2002, David Thomson, review of Neon Metropolis, p. 20.
Urban Studies, June, 2003, John Hannigan, review of Neon Metropolis, pp. 1377-1378.
University of Nevada—Las Vegas Web site,http://www.unlv.edu/ (November 3, 2003), "Hal Rothman."