Secret Heroes: Everyday Americans Who Shaped Our World [NOOK Book]


Not all American heroes appear in the standard history texts. Their achievements aren't celebrated like the monumental exploits of presidents, generals, and founding fathers. But for as long as this great nation has existed, ordinary citizens have done extraordinary things. In Secret Heroes, author Paul Martin spotlights thirty overlooked Americans, all of whom had an impact on their world and ours, including:

Hercules Mulligan, the New York ...

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Secret Heroes: Everyday Americans Who Shaped Our World

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Not all American heroes appear in the standard history texts. Their achievements aren't celebrated like the monumental exploits of presidents, generals, and founding fathers. But for as long as this great nation has existed, ordinary citizens have done extraordinary things. In Secret Heroes, author Paul Martin spotlights thirty overlooked Americans, all of whom had an impact on their world and ours, including:

Hercules Mulligan, the New York tailor and spy who saved George Washington's life . . . twice!

Jimmie Angel, the gold-seeking bush pilot who, in 1933, discovered the world's highest waterfall in Venezuela.

Carl Akeley, a pioneering taxidermist who killed a leopard with his bare hands and inspired Africa's first national park.

Eliza Scidmore, who convinced the government to plant cherry trees in Washington, D.C. . . . after twenty-four years of lobbying!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Figuring enough ink has been spilled writing up the usual suspects of American heroism-like Paul Revere, Martin Luther King Jr., Betsy Ross, and others-Martin, the executive editor of National Geographic Travel, provides readers with a medley of unsung heroes and their compelling stories. Self-sacrifice and determination abound in the tales of folks like Joseph Dutton, who moved to a leper colony in Hawaii at the end of the 19th century to devote the rest of his life to the ostracized community; Madam C.J. Walker, née Sarah Breedlove, a daughter of former slaves, who went from earning $1.50 a day as a laundress to becoming "one of the country's first self-made female millionaires" by selling her "hair grower" preparation as the African American beauty market expanded; and Hedy Lamarr, already known as a "silver screen goddess," who went largely unheralded for inventing a "a new technology that could be used to create a more accurate torpedo," for which she received a patent in 1942. Meticulously researched, Martin holds his subjects in deserved high-esteem. However, the brief chapters (separated into Voyagers, Innovators, and Humanitarians), while providing for an easy reading experience, might leave some readers wanting for more. Agent: Erin Malone, WME Entertainment.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Martin’s life-and-work portraits, with their subjects’ pluck and pioneering spirit, will surprise and, perhaps, inspire readers.”
James Conaway
“Paul Martin creates a fascinating sub-text to American history: the literally un-sung hero who through imagination, daring, perseverance, and occasional great risk affects the shaping of democracy. This enthralling, episodic ramble’s perfect for anyone interested in how America managed to get from there to here.”
Rick Beyer
“Look who Paul Martin found hiding in the cracks and crevices of American history—a colorful cast of forgotten characters definitely worth getting to know!...From the grocery store to the battlefield, forgotten heroes who left an indelible mark on American history. An enjoyable and eye-opening read.”
Thomas C. Foster
“Endlessly entertaining…Martin introduces us to a colorful cast of saints, visionaries and occasional rogues, and he does so with style and zest. Heroes, yes, but secret no more, these are (extra)ordinary men and women well worth our attention, in a book that makes history joyous.”
Kirkus Reviews
Reverent character sketches of some unusually self-reliant Americans. The 30 men and women celebrated by National Geographic book and magazine editor Martin (Land of the Ascending Dragon: Rediscovering Vietnam, 1997, etc.) are all unique characters of diverse origins and stations in life--independent inventors, captains of industry, dogged scientists, simple humanitarians, adventurers and undercover agents. Among them: Jonathan Letterman, the father of battlefield medicine; Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones, the young farm hand who became president of the Acme Sucker Rod Company and mayor of Toledo; Kirk Bloodsworth, the first prisoner freed by DNA evidence; John Wallace Crawford, the prototypical cowboy-poet; Clarence Saunders, the founder of the first modern supermarket, Piggly Wiggly; Mary Bowser, the slave in the kitchen of Jefferson Davis who was a Yankee spy; Hercules Mulligan, Gen. George Washington's secret agent-tailor; and Hugh Thompson, the brave pilot who exposed the massacre at My Lai. Though presented as woefully unsung heroes, at least some of the individuals may still be remembered: the Great White Hunter of the Museum of Natural History, Carl Akeley, for example, or the noble last Stone Age American, Ishi. Hedy Lamarr, the clever movie-star inventor, has been celebrated in two recent biographies--Stephen Michael Shearer's Beautiful (2010) and Richard Rhodes' Hedy's Folly (2011). Martin--who has written for younger readers, an audience for whom this book will also be appropriate--taps a seemingly inexhaustible source of material; surely there are more hidden tales of independent, feisty Americans out there somewhere. Inspirational yarns of exceptional folks who made a difference--a bit corny but surprisingly entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062096050
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 631,179
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

A book and magazine editor with the National Geographic Society for three decades, Paul Martin spent the last ten years as executive editor of National Geographic Traveler. Earlier in his career, he served as a military journalist in Vietnam and was assistant editor of Outdoors magazine and managing editor of Continuing Education for the Family Physician. Martin lives near Washington, D.C. When not writing, he builds acoustic guitars. Readers can meet all thirty of the characters in Secret Heroes at

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi


The Intrepid Leopard Wrestler Carl Akeley 3

On the Wings of an Angel Jimmie Angel 13

The Explorer with the Red Umbrella Giacomo Beltrami 21

The Genetics of Truth Kirk Bloodsworth 31

The Slave Who Became a Union Spy Mary Bowser 39

The Black Swallow of Death Eugene Bullard 47

The Last Stone Age Man in America Ishi 57

General Washington's Genial Savior Hercules Mulligan 67

A Captive in Two Cultures Cynthia Ann Parker 75

An Act of Valor Denied James Parker 87

The Yank Who United Canada William Van Horne 95


Why We Are What We Eat Wilbur Atwater 107

Mythmaker of the Old West John Wallace Crawford 117

The Inquisitive Benefactor George Fabyan 129

Sealing the Victory at Gettysburg Herman Haupt 141

Keeping Eisenhower's Invasion Afloat Andrew Jackson Higgins 153

The Lovely with the Lovely Brain Hedwig Kiesler 161

Choctaw Code Talker of World War I Solomon Louis 169

A Thorn in the Side of Convention Anne Royall 179

The Man Behind the Checkout Counter Clarence Saunders 189

An Idea That Bloomed to Perfection Eliza Scidmore 197

Dispenser of Beauty and Truth Madam C. J. Walker 207


Defender of the Defenseless Grace Abbott 221

The Man Who Fed Asia Henry Beachell 233

America's Joan of Arc Inez Boissevain 241

A Saint's Unassuming Assistant Joseph Dutton 249

A Life's Labor of Love Gertrude Elion 257

The Mayor Who Just Wanted to Be Fair Golden Rule Jones 269

Healer of the Fallen Jonathan Letterman 279

Warrior with a Conscience Hugh Thompson 291

Afterword 303

Acknowledgments 305

Sources 307

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014


    Hey. *smiles*

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A great book that captures stories of America's unsung heroes!

    A great book that captures stories of America's unsung heroes!

    Some names in history are easily associated with the greatness of the acts they committed or simply by the person that they became. Other's however often go by the wayside because no one paid them much mind but their accomplishments are just as worthy as those of someone whose name is synonymous with greatness.

    In the novel, Secret Heroes: Everyday Americans Who Shaped Our World, author Paul Martin did some extensive research into the lives of people who really did have an impact on the way this great country has been so blessed. Names of people you wouldn't recognize such as Carl Akeley, Jimmie Angel, Kirk Bloodsworth, Ishi, Hercules Mulligan, Cynthia Ann Parker and even Solomon Louis. In this amazing book, Paul Martin researches 31 amazing people whose lives had a lasting impact in ways we fail to recognize and in some cases taking our own government decades before they acknowledged the sacrifices these people made.

    Ishi was the last of his Native American tribe that would rather risk death than living alone when his entire race of people were slaughters by the white man, leaving him all alone. Yet no remorse or bitterness was present when white man came to attempt to communicate with him and his story will not only make a lasting impression on your mind but on your heart as well.

    Cynthia Ann Parker, was a white girl that was abducted by the Comanche tribes and spent years becoming part of their lives until her family intervened and attempted to bring her back to freedom. In the end, it broke her heart and ultimately brought about her own death.

    We've all seen or heard about the movie Windtalkers, the men who kept our nations secrets from being discovered by the Navajo Indians during World War II, but failed to acknowledge the Choctaw Indians who began the practice in World War I, and even our own government failed to recognize their service to our country until 2008 when President George Bush finally signed the Code Talkers Recognition Act into law and authorized Congressional Gold Medals for the eighteen original Choctaw code talkers.

    As you can see this book captures some of the untold stories of true American heroes and is a must read for those who love history and the stories that went along with them to make them great. I received this book compliments of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. Being a huge lover of history I was immediately drawn to this book. There are stories about men and women, of all races and nationalities, who made huge impacts or whose stories set the precedent for greatness to follow. I easily rate this one a 5 out of 5 stars and will now find a permanent place on my library shelf for future reference. Not all of us may be recognized for our greatness but it doesn't mean that great things won't happen.

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