American History

Daughters of the Samurai

May 22, 2015

In Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West, Janice P. Nimura tells the story of three young girls, ages eleven, ten and six, whom the Japanese government sent to the United States in 1871 as part of the westernizing reforms of the Meiji Restoration that transformed Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. The […]

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Running on Railroad Time

April 21, 2015

I was recently reading an excellent new book on the Battle of Waterloo* in which the author made an off-hand comment about the difficulty of synchronizing accounts even when sources give exact times for events because there was no standardized time. Until the rise of the railroads in the mid-nineteenth century, time was essentially local. […]

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On The Shores of Tripoli

April 10, 2015

In my seventh grade music class, we regularly sang the anthems of the various branches of the United States’ armed services.*  Three days a week, the caissons rolled, bones sank to Davy Jones, planes sailed into the wild blue yonder, and the Marines fought from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.  It […]

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From The Archives: Why I Want To Go To Omaha

March 1, 2015

I currently have my head down trying to finish a big project that I’m excited about. Instead of driving myself crazy trying to write blog posts at the same time or, worse, “going dark” I’ll be running some of my favorite posts from the past for the next little while. Enjoy. And I’ll see you […]

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Lincoln’s Greatest Case–Sort Of

February 17, 2015

Brian McGinty (The Oatman Massacre) uses his skills as both attorney and historian in Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, The Bridge and The Making of America. In May, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton hit a pillar of the Rock Island Bridge–the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi. Both steamboat and bridge caught fire. The Effie […]

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Woodrow Wilson in Love

February 14, 2015

In honor of Valentine’s day, I want to share one of my favorite stories about President Woodrow Wilson, reported by Secret Service agent Edmund Starling in his memoir of the Wilson White House:* En route to his honeymoon destination with his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the president was seen dancing a jig by […]

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1814: The Year in Review

December 23, 2014

I wish I could tell you that 1814 was a year of peace compared to 1914–but it wouldn’t be true. In fact, the two years look an awful lot alike–emphasis on the awful. The allied powers of Europe fighting an aggressive empire. A generation of young men damaged by war. Belgian fields trampled into mud […]

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A History of America in 36 Postage Stamps: A Review and a Giveaway

November 18, 2014

In A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps, Chris West took the concept of micro-history to a new degree of micro, using a chronological series of postage stamps as “tiny rectangular time machines”.   In his newest work, West uses the microscopic lens of the postage stamp to examine American history. West cleverly opens A […]

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Road Trip Through History: A Little Piece of the Great River Road

October 21, 2014

A while back, My Own True Love and I had to abandon our plans to take a three week drive down the Great River Road, which winds from Minnesota to Louisiana along the Mississippi.  This last weekend we treated ourselves to four days and the brief stretch of the river that runs along the edge […]

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Déjà Vu All Over Again: Contagion, Quarantine, Fear

October 14, 2014

Listening to a recent news report on the quarantine and eventual death of Thomas Eric Duncan, who died last week from ebola in Dallas, the aspect of the story that struck me most was how a single individual stands at the center of a circle of contacts—and possible contagion—many of whom never knew the infected […]

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