A touch of the cowboy at old Jack London ranch

Posted on April 5, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Dude ranching, that classic cowboy-style vacation, got its start in the 1880s and by the end of World War I there were dude ranches all over the West, including Sonoma County. Local historian Lynn Downey will recount those dusty days, including a dude ranch at the old Jack London homestead, in an illustrated lecture on Saturday, April 10.

The backstory of this little-known side of County history, presented by the Sonoma Valley Historical Society, begins online at 2 p.m. To request a link, email [email protected]

A fifth-generation Sonoman, Downey is a historian, consulting archivist, and writer. Among her six bo0ks are A Short History of Sonoma, and the award-winning Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women. Her novel Dudes Rush In was published last year.


Lynn Downey served for 25 years as the in-house historian for Levi Strauss & Co.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the dude ranch,” Downey said, the Western-style vacation that began with guided pack trips in 1880s Wyoming. “For over a century dude ranching has also shown up in movies, books, music lyrics, and clothing styles.”

She is working now on the book  A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West: A Cultural History of the American Dude Ranch, to be published next year.


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