Witnessing America: 1the Library of Congress Book of First-Hand Accounts of Public Life

Noel Rae, Editor, James H. Billington, Introduction by
Noel Rae, Editor, James H. Billington, Introduction by Viking Books $29.95 (576p) ISBN 978-0-670-86400-3
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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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 Congress--posters, lithographs, ads, rare photographs, broadsides--feature 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.)
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