Posts tagged ‘american history’

A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME….

Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World

Written by Jeffrey Marshall

Annieoakley,picI picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. Of course I had heard of Annie Oakley, but I did not expect to find there was so much more than a wild, undisciplined sharpshooter. Sure got a surprise when I started reading this account which is not a biography but rather a colorful portrait of the highlights in Annie’s illustrious career and her fifty year marriage with Frank Butler.

Annie was born in 1860 to a poor Quaker farm family living in Ohio who named her Phoebe Ann Moses. One of seven children, at the age of six her life soon became even more difficult when her father died. By the age of eight, Annie had learned to shoot small game which she sold to help support her family. Before Annie hit her teens she was competing with men in shooting competitions. During one of these she met sharpshooter Frank Butler; Annie won the competition by one point. Fifteen year old Annie promptly fell in love and married the man with whom she would soon perform in the vaudeville circuit.

A few years later the couple would join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Bill Cody. They traveled throughout the country and later on to Europe. Annie wanted her name to match her frontier image; the name Oakley actually was taken from a town near her farm. When it became clear that Annie was the star feature, Frank graciously decided from that point on he would be her manager instead of her shooting partner.

Marshall does a good job of describing their whirlwind life on the tour circuit, They witness the construction of the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe Island, attend the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Queen Victoria, meet General Sherman, P.T. Barnum, and Kaiser Wilhelm. The couple sail the canals in Venice and walk the streets of Paris. Annie appears in stage plays and gets invited to participate in one of Thomas Edison’s first moving picture ventures.

After an unfortunate train wreck in 1901and a bad automobile accident in 1907, Annie and Frank open up sharpshooting training centers to teach their skills to others. Though they never had children, Annie and Frank gave generously to orphanages and children’s hospitals. Ironically, Annie died of pernicious anemia, which may have been cause by her constant exposure to the lead of the bullets that she used to shoot. Frank lived less than three weeks after her passing.

The author weaves an exciting story depicting Annie’s strong pioneer spirit of determination and stubbornness, a love story, history, adventure, and travel. Annie presents a strong female character well ahead of her time willing to take on the challenges of one whose life spanned the era from the Civil War through the end of World War I. This book can be enjoyed by readers ten and older. Teachers can certainly use it as a tool as a window to life during that era as well as a woman ahead of her time.

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PRESIDENTIAL PHANTOMS

Haunted Presidents:Ghosts in the Lives of the Chief Executive

Written by Charles A. Stansfield, Jr.

HauntedPresidentspic

This book presents portraits of the lives of the first forty presidents in US history and the possibility of hauntings or paranormal events associated with them and their families. While the author has written other books on the paranormal, he has also taught and written books on cultural and regional geography. Here he has ventured into the world of history as well, and while I have not double checked all the historical background which is sketchy in spots, it appears to be fairly well researched.

In his introduction, Stansfield informs the reader that ghosts are bipartisan and universal. Because the presidents are in a unique position to influence history, it makes sense that they might become restless spirits unable to leave our world. According to public opinion polls ten to forty percent of Americans believe they personally have had contact with a deceased person. Obviously some presidents have had more influence than others and it is the same with ghosts or the likelihood of ghost stories being associated with them.

Stansfield believes the relative degree of interest in a presidential ghost story is related to what he calls the “Three C’s.” These are character, charisma and circumstances. Presidents like Lincoln, Washington and Theodore Roosevelt have strong character that embody virtues like courage, perseverance and integrity. First ladies such as Dolley Madison and Jackie Kennedy possessed extraordinary charisma. Circumstances in one’s life often influence the legends like the strong influence in spiritualism displayed by Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary. President Woodrow Wilson was driven to despair because he was unable to succeed in achieving his dream of world peace.

The place where ghosts appear is usually based on a location that was especially significant to that person’s life. One example is the funeral route of Lincoln’s final train ride. Another is the Key West Cottage where Harry Truman and his wife often stayed. The White House is probably our country’s most famous haunted house. One of the most unusual stories is that of the demon cat which appears in the basement and crypt of the Capitol building. At first it seems to be a kitten, but soon evolves into a huge, snarling cat. Believers claim that this cat materialized shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of JFK, and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Ghosts of past White House Staff open and close doors and lights. Even Winston Churchill and a British Queen have reported seeing the ghost of Abraham Lincoln in his former bedroom.

Whether you are a skeptic or not, you will enjoy reading about tidbits of historical information like the fact that Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were sure they saw UFO’s and the fact that George Washington appeared on a horse with a flaming sword at the Battle of Gettysburg to encourage the Union forces on to victory. The ghost of John Adams is said to haunt the former Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol building where he defended fifty three Africans who revolted against their slave captors on the Amistad and sailed to an American port seeking freedom and return to Africa.

The book can be read in chronological order or used as a reference to a certain period of history. Its story line is appropriate for young adult and adult audiences. Classroom teachers might want to use the paranormal aspect to encourage more interest in presidential facts and historical events. Certainly an interesting way to view American history.

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WAR AND PEACE

History for Kids: The Sioux

by Charles River Editions

The Siouxpic

This children’s history is a reminder of the constant struggles and accommodations that took place among the Sioux as the white settlers pushed further into their territory. In this approximately fifty page volume, the editors describe the tribal structure, the Sioux leaders, the army leaders, and major confrontations between the two groups.

Trouble first began in 1849 when gold was discovered. Two years later the American government offered the Sioux tribes money for allowing the settlers to pass through Native American lands. As whites began to settle down on their lands, disputes followed. Things got worse when the railroad was built and more army forts followed to protect white settlers.

The US government divided the Sioux into “Treaty and Non-Treaty Indians.” The distinction meant little because the tribes were decimated by disease or forced to live on reservation land chosen by the Americans and act appropriately according to the white man’s standards. Both sides broke their promises.

I found the discussion of Sioux history and tribal structure particularly interesting. Originally Sioux tribes farmed squash and beans. When weather did not permit that, they hunted animals for meat and ate wild berries. They eventually came to rely on the buffalo both as food and a sacred animal. As early as the 1760’s they began trading for horses and learned to ride them. Sioux used a travois, which is a triangular wooden frame, to transport their goods and possessions. These were pulled by dogs at first but later by horses. They also used their horses to trade for items they could not make like iron goods. The leaders of the tribes were named Naca Ominicia. These men decided when and where to hunt, make camp or declare peace and war.

The history describes the three major wars between the Sioux and the Americans: the Dakota War in 1862, Red Cloud’s War 1866-68, and the Black Hills War 1876-77. One of the most famous battles in American history took place in 1876. Two years before, gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The Americans tried to buy back the land they had previously given to the Sioux in a peace treaty. They refused. Soldiers moved in and the Sioux allied with the Cheyenne. On June 21, General Custer led troops of the 7th Cavalry along the Little Bighorn River. The Native Americans surprised them killing 250 soldiers and wounding 50. But the Native Americans soon tired of fighting as more troops were sent in and one year later Crazy Horse was arrested and killed. His father retrieved his body, but no one knows where Crazy Horse is buried. Sitting Bull took his people to Canada, but they could not survive the cold winters. He joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for a time but was eventually killed by American soldiers. The last confrontation took place in 1890 when more than 350 Sioux, mostly women and children were massacred by the cavalry at Wounded Knee.

If you read the history, you will find many more details about the leaders on both sides. You will discover the tragedies that the two groups had to endure. This book is written in clear simple language with few errors appropriate for ages seven plus. Children will gain a fair amount of knowledge. Real photographs and portraits enhance the text. Teachers and homeschooling parents will find it relevant to many studies of people and places of mid to late nineteenth century America and a good starting point for many discussions and comparisons in American history.

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STEP INTO THE WAR OF 1812

Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812

by Hope Irvin Marston

SackettsHarborPowderMonkey

Hope Irvin Marston has written more then thirty books for children. Sackets Harbor: Powder Monkey will not disappoint. This book has value on several levels. It is based on real historical events carefully researched and developed. The book reveals a glimpse into the life of families who lived there. Last, but certainly not least, the story is an adventure tale that tweens, teens and adults will not be able to put down.

The story begins with a ten year old boy named Rankin sneaking out of bed to catch a glimpse of the warship sent to guard Lake Ontario from imminent attack by the British. The embargo forbids the local farmers from trading with the Canadians preventing the Americans from smuggling potash in for sale. Rankin, his brother Will, and his Pa risk arrest every time they cross the river. Rankin is enthralled by the warship and is determined to find a way to enlist in the fight. Will convinces his parents to allow them to try. Captain Woolsey is impressed with the boys’ enthusiasm and astounded that they can write. Rankin will become a powder monkey, which means he will be transporting the gun powder to the cannons. Will, who had been an apprentice with a gunsmith, will be an armourer working with weapons aboard the ship.

Marston does an excellent job of portraying the emotions of these two boys. The glamor soon wears off as Rankin must swab the bilge and Will spends hours cleaning rust off the old cannons. Much to their dismay, their ship is dispatched to catch smugglers; friends and family trying to sell potash just as they had done. Rankin is becoming despondent. Finally, one year later in 1812, war is officially declared.

Their ship, the Oneida, is no match for the British fleet. How will they and the hard working families of Sackets Harbor face the overwhelming odds?  Can they succeed in defeating the British?

The author provides lots of resources to help the reader fully comprehend the historical events. There is a map of the area, a list of the historical characters, a glossary of time period and naval terms, an annotated bibliography including internet resources, how to visit the battlefield, and even the local folklore associated with it. Teachers and homeschooling parents will be able to take this story and use it as a springboard for discussion and activities in many other areas of the curriculum.This book is so well written that most children and adults will want to read it in one sitting. Even though there are no illustrations within the story itself, the text is large and double spaced making it easy to read and follow for those with vision or learning disabilities. The main characters are male, but I do not see it as a “boy’s ” book. Authentic period language words like “Huzzah” and “Thankee” make it easy to imagine yourself being there. The spirit of camaraderie in battle displayed by the settlers will make you want to stand up and cheer them on to succeed. This book is targeted for a middle grade audience, but adults will find it equally enjoyable and informative. If you choose to read this book, you won’t be disappointed!

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