Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book cover: "Life in America:
The Midwest"

  • Title: Life in America: The Midwest
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 144
  • Author: Walter Havighurst
  • Illustrator: No credit listed for cover illustration.
  • Publisher: The Fideler Company
  • Year: First published in 1951. This edition is copyright 1960.
  • Notes: The first half of the book takes on the history of the U.S. Midwest, with chapter titles such as "The Coming of the Pioneers," "The People of the Midwest," "Products of the Midwestern Factories" and "Recreation in the Midwest." The second half of the book has separate chapters detailing eight different Midwest states. ... Author Havighurst (1901-1994) was a college professor who wrote more than 30 books and left a bequest that created The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami (Ohio) University. ... According to a preface, this book is designed for three reading ability levels: "slow learners, children with average abilities, and students with superior minds." ... The first group, according to this preface, will probably only look at the pictures and maps, but that's OK. Teachers were still encouraged to order a whole bunch of copies for their classroom. (The minimum recommendation was one copy for every six students.) ... The picture maps are credited to Jessie Miersma. That might include this map, which gives an interesting snapshot of land use in the middle of the 20th century (it would be interesting to overlay this with a current map featuring the same information).

  • Excerpt from Chapter 1: "The Midwest has a history of about three hundred years, but people lived in this region long before history began. The first explorers found Indians living in wigwams and hunting in great forests. They also found mysterious man-made mounds, so old that huge trees were growing on them. The Indians were here long before the white men. The Mound Builders were here before the Indians and may have been their ancestors. From buried skeletons and tools, we know that people have lived in the Midwest for perhaps twenty thousand years. We are not sure when the first Europeans came to the Midwest. About sixty years ago, a farmer near Kensington, Minnesota, found a large stone on his land. His ten-year-old son noticed some curious scratches on the flat surface. Now these scratches have been translated. They tell how a party of Norsemen reached the Midwest in the year 1362."

Um. That would be the Kensington Runestone. It's a fascinating story, but quite possibly a hoax and most likely not something that belonged in a fact-based 1950s-era history textbook.

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