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School Library JournalGr 8 Up
Between 1850 and 1875, government bureaucracy expanded and began detailed, systematic record keeping, providing "the first three-dimensional picture of the American people that far transcended the economically driven decennial census reports." Civil War-related statistics were not the only numbers collected; also documented were such aspects of life as religion, education, cost of living, and travel accidents. The 20 chapters here provide these statistics and accompanying essays on topics including climate, natural disasters, Native American life, politics, cities, "Representative Americans" (brief biographies of famous people of the time), architecture, science, the arts, popular culture, crime, and violence. The final chapter provides commentary on and excerpts from 12 important documents of the period, including literature such as Leaves of Grass and Mary Chestnut's Civil War Diaries ; legislation, such as the Homestead Act; and a reproduction of pages from Montgomery Ward & Company's mail-order catalog of January 1874. Numerous black-and-white reproductions of paintings, maps, photographs, and illustrations fill the pages. But the heart of the volume is the charts. The numbers are fascinating, such as the weekly grocery bill for a Richmond family, 1860 versus 1863; pauper population of the United States by race, 1870; annual college expenses at some leading U.S. schools, mid 1800s. A tremendous amount of data is presented in small-print, two-columned pages, and sometimes in pallid document reproductions. Nonetheless, the volume will have wide appeal, intriguing students with an endless tale of numbers that reflect a burgeoning Americancharacter.
—Patricia Ann OwensCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.