In this era of tweets and blogs, it is easy to assume that the self-obsessive recording of daily minutiae is a recent phenomenon. But Americans have been navel-gazing since nearly the beginning of the republic. The daily planner—variously called the daily diary, commercial diary, and portable account book—first emerged in colonial times as a means of telling time, tracking finances, locating the nearest inn, and even planning for the coming winter. They were carried by everyone from George Washington to the soldiers who fought the Civil War. And by the twentieth century, this document had become ubiquitous in the American home as a way of recording a great deal more than simple accounts.
In this appealing history of the daily act of self-reckoning, Molly McCarthy explores just how vital these unassuming and easily overlooked stationery staples are to those who use them. From their origins in almanacs and blank books through the nineteenth century and on to the enduring legacy of written introspection, McCarthy has penned an exquisite biography of an almost ubiquitous document that has borne witness to American lives in all of their complexity and mundanity.
Across the Shaman’s River is the story of one of Alaska’s last Native American strongholds, a Tlingit community closed off for a century until a fateful encounter between a shaman, a preacher, and John Muir.
Tucked in the corner of Southeast Alaska, the Tlingits had successfully warded off the Anglo influences that had swept into other corners of the territory. This tribe was viewed by European and American outsiders as the last wild tribe and a frustrating impediment to access. Missionaries and prospectors alike had widely failed to bring the Tlingit into their power. Yet, when John Muir arrived in 1879, accompanied by a fiery preacher, it only took a speech about “brotherhood”—and some encouragement from the revered local shaman Skandoo’o—to finally transform these “hostile heathens.”
Using Muir’s original journal entries, as well as historic writings of explorers juxtaposed with insights from contemporary tribal descendants, Across the Shaman’s River reveals how Muir’s famous canoe journey changed the course of history and had profound consequences on the region’s Native Americans.
The keeping of journals and diaries became an almost everyday pastime for many Americans in the nineteenth century. Adeline and Julia Graham, two young women from Berrien Springs, Michigan, were both drawn to this activity, writing about the daily events in their lives, as well as their 'grand adventures.' These are fascinating, deeply personal accounts that provide an insight into the thoughts and motivation of two sisters who lived more than a century ago. Adeline began keeping a diary when she was sixteen, from mid-1880 through mid-1884; through it we see a young woman coming of age in this small community in western Michigan. Paired with Adeline's account is her sister Julia's diary, which begins in 1885 when she sets out with three other young women to homestead in Greeley County, Kansas, just east of the Colorado border. It is a vivid and colorful narrative of a young woman's journey into America's western landscape.
The Wounded Knee Massacre of December 29, 1890, known to U.S. military historians as the last battle in "the Indian Wars," was in reality another tragic event in a larger pattern of conquest, destruction, killing, and broken promises that continue to this day.
On a cold winter's morning more than a century ago, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry attacked and killed more than 260 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. In the aftermath, the broken, twisted bodies of the Lakota people were soon covered by a blanket of snow, as a blizzard swept through the countryside. A few days later, veteran army surgeon John Vance Lauderdale arrived for duty at the nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Shocked by what he encountered, he wrote numerous letters to his closest family members detailing the events, aftermath, and daily life on the Reservation under military occupation. He also treated the wounded, both Cavalry soldiers and Lakota civilians. What distinguishes After Wounded Knee from the large body of literature already available on the massacre is Lauderdale's frank appraisals of military life and a personal observation of the tragedy, untainted by self-serving reminiscence or embellished newspaper and political reports. His sense of frustration and outrage toward the military command, especially concerning the tactics used against the Lakota, is vividly apparent in this intimate view of Lauderdale's life. His correspondence provides new insight into a familiar subject and was written at the height of the cultural struggle between the U.S. and Lakota people. Jerry Green's careful editing of this substantial collection, part of the John Vance Lauderdale Papers in the Western Americana Collection in Yale University's Beinecke Library, clarifies Lauderdale's experiences at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Frank Kearns was the go-to guy at CBS News for danger- ous stories in Africa and the Middle East in the 1950s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. By his own account, he was nearly killed 114 times. He took stories that nobody else wanted to cover and was challenged to get them on the air when nobody cared about this part of the world. But his stories were warning shots for conflicts that play out in the headlines today.
In 1957, Senator John Kennedy described America’s view of the Algerian war for independence as the Eisenhower Administration’s “head in the sand policy.” So CBS News decided to find out what was really happening there and to determine where Algeria’s war for independence fit into the game plan for the Cold War. They sent Frank Kearns to find out.
Kearns took with him cameraman Yousef (“Joe”) Masraff and 400 pounds of gear, some of which they shed, and they hiked with FLN escorts from Tunisia, across a wide “no-man’s land,” and into the Aures Mountains of eastern Algeria, where the war was bloodiest. They carried no passports or visas. They dressed as Algerians. They refused to bear weapons. And they knew that if captured, they would be executed and left in unmarked graves. But their job as journalists was to seek the truth whatever it might turn out to be.
Sarah Gillespie Huftalen led an unconventional life for a rural midwestern woman of her time. Born in 1865 near Manchester, Iowa, she was a farm girl who became a highly regarded country school and college teacher; she married a man older than either of her parents, received a college degree later in life, and was committed to both family and career. A gifted writer, she crafted essays, teacher-training guides, and poetry while continuing to write lengthy, introspective entries in her diary, which spans the years from 1873 to 1952. In addition, she gathered extensive information about the quietly tragic life of her mother, Emily, and worked to preserve Emily's own detailed diary.
In more than 3,500 pages, Sarah writes about her multiple roles as daughter, sister, wife, teacher, family historian, and public figure. Her diary reflects the process by which she was socialized into these roles and her growing consciousness of the ways in which these roles intersected. Not only does her diary embody the diverse strategies used by one woman to chart her life's course and to preserve her life's story for future generations, it also offers ample evidence of the diary as a primary form of private autobiography for individuals whose lives do not lend themselves to traditional definitions of autobiography.
Taken together, Emily's and Sarah's extraordinary diaries span nearly a century and thus form a unique mother/daughter chronicle of daily work and thoughts, interactions with neighbors and friends and colleagues, and the destructive family dynamics that dominated the Gillespies. Sarah's consciousness of the abusive relationship between her mother and father haunts her diary, and this dramatic relationship is duplicated in Sarah's relationship with her brother, Henry, Suzanne Bunkers' skillful editing and analysis of Sarah's diary reveal the legacy of a caring, loving mother reflected in her daughter's work as family member, teacher, and citizen.
The rich entries in Sarah Gillespie Huftalen's diary offer us brilliant insights into the importance of female kinship networks in American life, the valued status of many women as family chroniclers, and the fine art of selecting, piecing, stitching, and quilting that characterizes the many shapes of women's autobiographies. Read Sarah's dairy to discover why "all will yet be well."
John W. Davis (1873-1955) was the most important national politician to call West Virginia home. Nominated for president by the Democratic Party in 1924, Davis lost to the incumbent Calvin Coolidge. This diary is an engaging day-by-day account of Davis's service as U.S. ambassador to England at a pivotal point in modern history. The recent World War and Russian Revolution, the new thirst for oil, the old strife in Ireland, and the final days of the Wilson presidency fill this diary with enduring significance. Davis also offers a look at the personalities which shaped the post-war world and describes the pageantry and social life of America's most coveted ambassadorial assignment.
Journals and letters, translated from the original French, bring Michaux’s work to modern readers and scientists
Known to today’s biologists primarily as the “Michx.” at the end of more than 700 plant names, André Michaux was an intrepid French naturalist. Under the directive of King Louis XVI, he was commissioned to search out and grow new, rare, and never-before-described plant species and ship them back to his homeland in order to improve French forestry, agriculture, and horticulture. He made major botanical discoveries and published them in his two landmark books, Histoire des chênes de l’Amérique (1801), a compendium of all oak species recognized from eastern North America, and Flora Boreali-Americana (1803), the first account of all plants known in eastern North America.
Straddling the fields of documentary editing, history of the early republic, history of science, botany, and American studies, André Michaux in North America: Journals and Letters, 1785–1797 is the first complete English edition of Michaux’s American journals. This copiously annotated translation includes important excerpts from his little-known correspondence as well as a substantial introduction situating Michaux and his work in the larger scientific context of the day.
To carry out his mission, Michaux traveled from the Bahamas to Hudson Bay and west to the Mississippi River on nine separate journeys, all indicated on a finely rendered, color-coded map in this volume. His writings detail the many hardships—debilitating disease, robberies, dangerous wild animals, even shipwreck—that Michaux endured on the North American frontier and on his return home. But they also convey the soaring joys of exploration in a new world where nature still reigned supreme, a paradise of plants never before known to Western science. The thrill of discovery drove Michaux ever onward, even ultimately to his untimely death in 1802 on the remote island of Madagascar.
Lucy Pier Stevens, a twenty-one-year-old woman from Ohio, began a visit to her aunt’s family near Bellville, Texas, on Christmas Day, 1859. Little did she know how drastically her life would change on April 4, 1861, when the outbreak of the Civil War made returning home impossible. Stranded in enemy territory for the duration of the war, how would she reconcile her Northern upbringing with the Southern sentiments surrounding her?
Lucy Stevens’s diary—one of few women’s diaries from Civil War–era Texas and the only one written by a Northerner—offers a unique perspective on daily life at the fringes of America’s bloodiest conflict. An articulate, educated, and keen observer, Stevens took note seemingly of everything—the weather, illnesses, food shortages, parties, church attendance, chores, schools, childbirth, death, the family’s slaves, and political and military news. As she confided her private thoughts to her journal, she unwittingly revealed how her love for her Texas family and the Confederate soldier boys she came to care for blurred her loyalties, even as she continued to long for her home in Ohio. Showing how the ties of heritage, kinship, friendship, and community transcended the sharpest division in US history, this rare diary and Vicki Adams Tongate’s insightful historical commentary on it provide a trove of information on women’s history, Texas history, and Civil War history.
Well traveled and gently reared, Elizabeth (Lily) Benton Frémont found herself heading for the rough-and-tumble West when her father, John C. Frémont, was named governor of Arizona Territory. In his shadow and that of her grandfather, U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, her life on the frontier would have gone largely unremarked but for one thing: Lily kept a diary.
Here, in rich detail, her day-by-day narrative and the editor's annotations bring to life Arizona's territorial capital of Prescott more than one hundred years ago. Lily gives us firsthand accounts of the operation of territorial government; of pressure from Anglo settlers to dispossess Pima Indians from their land; and of efforts by the governor and the army to deal with Indian scares. Here also, underlying her words, are insights into the dynamics of a close-knit Victorian family, shaping the life of an intelligent, educated single woman. As unofficial secretary for her father, Lily was well placed to observe and record an almost constant stream of visitors to the governor's home and office. Observe and record, she did. Her diary is filled with unvarnished images of personalities such as the Goldwaters, General O. B. Willcox, Moses Sherman, Judge Charles Silent, and a host of lesser citizens, politicians, and army officers.
Lily's anecdotes vividly re-create the periodic personality clashes that polarized society (and one full-fledged scandal), the ever-present danger of fire, religious practices (particularly a burial service conducted in Hebrew), and attitudes toward Native Americans and Chinese. On a more personal level, the reader will find intimate accounts of John Frémont's obsession with mining promotion, his complicated business dealings with Judge Silent, and his attempts to recoup his family's sagging fortune. Here especially, Lily outlines a telling profile of her father, a man roundly castigated then and now as a carpetbagger less interested in promoting Arizona's interests than his own.
For students of western history, Lily Frémont's diary provides a wealth of fresh information on frontier politics, mining, army life, social customs, and ethnicity. For all readers, her words from a century ago offer new perspectives on the winning of the West as well as fascinating glimpses of a world that once was and is no more.
Finalist for 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the Holocaust category
David Koker's diary is one of the most notable accounts of life in a German concentration camp written by a Jew during the years of the Holocaust. First brought to attention when the Dutch historian Jacob Presser-Koker's history teacher in high school-quoted from Koker's diary in his monumental history, published in English as The Destruction of the Dutch Jews (1968), the diary itself became a part of the Dutch literary canon when it was published in 1977 as Dagboek geschreven in Vught (Diary Written in Vught). It has remained in print ever since, and is notable for its literary qualities, weaving poetry and powerful observations of the emotional life of a camp prisoner, including reflections after an in-person visit by Heinrich Himmler. Surprisingly, the book has never before been translated into English.
During his time in the Vught concentration camp, the 21-year-old David recorded on an almost daily basis his observations, thoughts, and feelings. He mercilessly probed the abyss that opened around him and, at times, within himself. David's diary covers almost a year, both charting his daily life in Vught as it developed over time and tracing his spiritual evolution as a writer. Until early February 1944, David was able to smuggle some 73,000 words from the camp to his best friend Karel van het Reve, a non-Jew.
With an informative introduction, annotation, and list of dramatis personae by Robert Jan van Pelt, At the Edge of the Abyss offers an immediate and wholly original look into the life of a concentration camp prisoner.
This one-of-a-kind, lavishly illustrated anthology celebrates Audubon’s connection to the sea through both his words and art.
The American naturalist John James Audubon (1785–1851) is widely remembered for his iconic paintings of American birdlife. But as this anthology makes clear, Audubon was also a brilliant writer—and his keen gaze took in far more than creatures of the sky. Culled from his published and unpublished writings, Audubon at Sea explores Audubon’s diverse observations of the ocean, the coast, and their human and animal inhabitants. With Audubon expert Christoph Irmscher and scholar of the sea Richard J. King as our guides, we set sail from the humid expanses of the American South to the shores of England and the chilly landscapes of the Canadian North. We learn not only about the diversity of sea life Audubon documented—birds, sharks, fish, and whales—but also about life aboard ship, travel in early America, Audubon’s work habits, and the origins of beloved paintings. As we face an unfathomable loss of seabirds today, Audubon’s warnings about the fragility of birdlife in his time are prescient and newly relevant.
Charting the course of Audubon’s life and work, from his birth in Haiti to his death in New York City, Irmscher and King’s sweeping introduction and carefully drawn commentary confront the challenges Audubon’s legacy poses for us today, including his participation in American slavery and the thousands of birds he killed for his art. Rounded out by hundreds of historical and ornithological notes and beautiful illustrations, and with a foreword by distinguished photographer and conservationist Subhankar Banerjee, Audubon at Sea is the most comprehensively annotated collection of Audubon’s work ever published.