Witnessing America: The Library of Congress Book of First-Hand Accounts of Life in America 1600-1900

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Collected from diaries, letters, memoirs, court records, articles, tracts, pamphlets, and advertisements in the incomparable collections of the Library of Congress, Witnessing America provides the authentic and fascinating story of our country's past by using the words of those who actually lived it. Most of the firsthand accounts are those of ordinary men and women: foot soldiers and laborers, pioneer wives and schoolteachers, farmers and slaves. Interspersed with these are a few extraordinary selections from ...
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Overview

Collected from diaries, letters, memoirs, court records, articles, tracts, pamphlets, and advertisements in the incomparable collections of the Library of Congress, Witnessing America provides the authentic and fascinating story of our country's past by using the words of those who actually lived it. Most of the firsthand accounts are those of ordinary men and women: foot soldiers and laborers, pioneer wives and schoolteachers, farmers and slaves. Interspersed with these are a few extraordinary selections from such notable figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Emma Goldman, Carry Nation, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill, and others, recording what they personally saw, heard, and experienced in a growing America. Covering the period from the very earliest arrivals in the New World to the start of the twentieth century, Witnessing America contains selections on the first settlers as well as immigrants, stories about schooling, marriage and love, working, hunting, houses and housekeeping, food and drink, enduring hard times and enjoying high times, religion, the law and lawbreaking, medicine and sickness, dying, burials, and even ghosts. The result is an astonishingly varied and comprehensive portrait of America's social and cultural history and the life of its peoples from cradle to grave, handsomely illustrated throughout with unusual and rare pieces of art from the Library of Congress.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This extraordinary, vibrant compendium of the American experience stitches together hundreds of first-person accounts by ordinary as well as famous individuals. Here is Mark Twain on trying to chew tobacco at age seven under peer pressure, Thoreau on a shipwreck, W.E.B. Du Bois on teaching in rural Tennessee, Benjamin Franklin on the passions of youth, Louisa May Alcott on making ends meet, Dr. Benjamin Rush on treating a yellow fever epidemic, Plymouth, Mass., Governor William Bradford on the 1620 crossing of the Mayflower, along with testaments by Emma Goldman, Richard Henry Dana, Dorothea Dix. One hundred illustrations drawn from the Library of Congressposters, lithographs, ads, rare photographs, broadsidesfeature Jacob Riis's gritty portraits of Manhattan's Lower East Side, a McGuffey's Eclectic Primer, E.S. Curtis's photograph of a Native American wedding. Chapters cover immigrant life, schools, courtship, love and marriage, work, households, eating and drinking, enduring hard times, religion, crime, illness and death, with accounts that take us inside slave ships, sweatshops, insane asylums, Shaker communities, Pueblo Indian villages, frontier trading posts, a Ku Klux Klan cell, a funeral in a California gold-mining camp. A useful reference and a great book for browsing. Rae is former executive director of Reader's Digest Condensed Books; Billington is Librarian of Congress. 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Former executive director of Reader's Digest Condensed Books and editorial director of the Selected Reader Book, Rae has tapped the riches of the Library of Congress's vast holdings for this compilation of firsthand accounts of 300 years of life in America. Rae has organized the book around 11 themes, from arrival in the New World through the rhythms of daily life, such as working, praying, eating, and dying. The writers range from prominent early Americans such as Cotton Mather to an obscure Miss Manners of the frontier, though the focus is on the lesser known rather than the elite. Within chapters, entries are arranged chronologically and extend in length from less than a page to ten pages, each with an introduction that is usually too brief to provide adequate context. The obvious value of such a book is its accessibilityreaders can open and enjoy it at any point. They will be treated to a rich and varied mosaic of American experience before the 20th century. The editor's decision to preserve the original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, along with period illustrations, further contributes to the charm of the book. A likely candidate for all public libraries.Nicholas Burckel, Marquette Univ. Libs., Milwaukee
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670864003
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/1996
  • Pages: 576
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.64 (h) x 1.73 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 Arriving 3
2 Upbringing 53
3 Pairing 103
4 Working 161
5 Housing 223
6 Eating 267
7 Playing 309
8 Praying 355
9 Erring 407
10 Ailing 453
11 Departing 497
Bibliography 535
Index 551
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