Saturday, August 2, 2014

A pair of fabulous old U.S. history textbooks

Here are two more books that I picked up at this summer's oft-mentioned Book Nook Bonanza. Old school textbooks have interested me for decades, really. I have memories of leafing through discarded textbooks designated for the dumpster at my elementary school in Clayton, New Jersey, in the late 1970s. I think I was born this way.

These two stately hardcovers are from the 1940s. They are in top-notch condition. (Which means, alas, that it's unlikely anyone paid much attention to them over the decades. The covers aren't worn. There are no notes or scribbles on the inside pages. Nobody has learned from these books. Yet. Hope springs eternal.)

Here's a closer look at these United States history books from about 70 years ago...

First up is America Yesterday and Today. This edition was published in June 1943 by The Macmillan Company. The authors were Roy F. Nichols, William C. Bagley and Charles A. Beard. Drawings were done by George M. Richards.

A sampling of chapter titles gives you a sense of the course it takes through American history. They include:

  • Establishing the Thirteen Colonies
  • The War for American Independence
  • Moving Westward
  • Industrial Development and Improved Transportation
  • The Beginnings of Free Education
  • Danger
  • The Blue and the Gray
  • Changing Conditions in the New Century
  • The Return to Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Panic
  • The New Deal
  • The Challenge of Today

There is a wonderful color map outlining the territorial growth of the United States in the front endpapers. And a few other robust color illustrations, too.

But the front and back covers of this tome are my favorite things about it. Here they are, in all their glory.

The second U.S. history volume is titled The Building of Our Nation. It was published in 1943 by Row, Peterson and Company of Evanston, Illinois. The three authors were college professors Eugene C. Barker, Henry Steele Commager and Walter P. Webb.

A neat thing about this book is that it was a promotional copy directed at teachers and principals. Pasted down to the inside front cover is a two-page brochure labeled "Check These Features of The Building of Our Nation (Grade 7-8)." It touts the textbook's organization, interpretative treatment, emphasis on the growth of democracy, "vivid one-idea maps," pronunciation guide for proper nouns and integration of geography, literature and science into a U.S. history framework.

The price of the textbook in 1943 was $1.92 and the companion student notebook was available for 48 cents. Of course, there would be the "usual discounts to schools."

While I don't find the cover of this textbook quite as visually impressive as the cover of America Yesterday and Today, I think The Building of Our Nation wins in the category of interior illustrations. Almost all of the photographs and drawings dotting the pages are in full color, with great reproduction. It's a joy to leaf through.

As a final note, I here's a description of newspaper journalists from page 472 of The Building of Our Nation:
"How the news is collected. Daily newspapers employ their own staffs of local reporters to gather and write the news. In the old days, reporters had to do much 'footwork.' They walked from place to place to get reports of the doings of the city government, the police court, the fire department, public meetings, and social receptions. Now they can collect much of the news by telephone."

No comments:

Post a Comment