Author William L. Bird Speaks in Palm Desert

Date: Friday, February 16, 2024

Time: 6 p.m., PST

Where: Portola Community Center, 45480 Portola Ave, Palm Desert, CA

William L. Bird Jr., author of In the Arms of Saguaros, will speak at the Historical Society of Palm Desert. He will show slides and explore the saguaro’s growth into a western icon from the early days of the American railroad to the years bracketing World War II, when Sun Belt boosterism hit its zenith and proponents of tourism succeed in moving the saguaro to the center of the promotional frame. Bird is a curator emeritus of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. His interests lie at the intersection of politics, popular culture, and the history of visual display.  

About the book:

In the Arms of Saguaros shows how, from the botanical explorers of the nineteenth century to the tourism boosters in our own time, saguaros and their images have fulfilled attention-getting needs and expectations. This book explores how the growth of tourism brought the saguaro to ever-larger audiences through the proliferation of western-themed imagery on the American roadside. The history of the saguaro’s popular and highly imaginative range points to the current moment in which the saguaro touches us as a global icon in art, fashion, and entertainment.


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