Author

Ralph Waldo Emerson Mark Twain O. Henry Robert Frost Charles Dickens
Audie Murphy Jane Addams Marcus Garvey Sam Houston Petticoat Spies

 

Self-Reliance: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson

      A typical day in the Emerson household began with a simple breakfast, prayers, and recitation of Bible verses by every family member. After that, their mother went to her room to meditate. The children knew not to disturb her. Each day also had its own special routine. For example, Thursday was the day when their father could bring a guest, perhaps a fellow minister, to dinner. Three days a week, the children had hot chocolate and plain toast for breakfast. The Saturday meal always consisted of salt fish, vegetables, melted butter, and pork scraps.
     The Sabbath began on Saturday evening. At that time, all work ceased and the family did not go anywhere or have any visitors. The children put away their toys and laid out their Sunday clothes. The next day, everyone went to church to attend Sunday school and to hear their father preach at two services. They spent the rest of the day quietly until a full twenty-four hours had elapsed since the Sabbath began.

Buy Self-Reliance: The Story of Ralph Waldo Emerson now at Amazon.


 

 

A Great and Sublime Fool: The Story of Mark Twain

      As a child, Sam Clemens sat for hours watching the activity on the Mississippi River, listening to the waves lapping against the wharf, and daydreaming. He dreamed of becoming a riverboat pilot: to Sam, a pilot was the only �unfettered and entirely independent human being that lived on the earth.� One day, desperate for that freedom, Sam slipped aboard a docked riverboat. When the steamboat edged out of the harbor, Sam crept out of his hiding place to watch the water and the passing scenery. Suddenly, a downpour soaked him, and he scrambled to get back into his hiding place. He was not completely successful, and a crew member saw Sam�s legs sticking out. The Captain put Sam ashore at the boat�s next stop in the town of Louisiana, Missouri, where some of his mother�s relatives lived. They took Sam home, where his father punished him for running away. But the desire for freedom, and for an escape never left him.

Buy A Great and Sublime Fool: The Story of Mark Twain now at Amazon.


 

 

Writing is My Business: The Story of O. Henry

      William Porter began to use the pen name �O. Henry� while he was in prison in the Ohio State Penitentiary. During his incarceration Porter began to write and sell stories to support his daughter. He needed a pseudonym because he did not want publishers to know he was a convict.
     A number of different stories suggest how Porter chose the alias. Some say it was because Orrin Henry was the name of a guard at the prison where Porter served three years for embezzling bank funds. Others claim the name was an abbreviated version of the prison�s name itself, the Ohio State Penitentiary. Yet another explanation has to do with a cat taken in by the Harrells, a family Porter lived with as a young man. He and the two Harrell sons found the little flea-infested black-and-white stray along the edge of the creek. They tried for months to become friends with the cat, but it only became wilder. Will Porter would put food on a stone in the middle of the creek and hide in the bushes. Eventually, the cat would creep out onto the rock and gulp down the food, ready to dart away at the first sound.

Buy Writing is My Business: The Story of O. Henry now at Amazon.


 

 

Deep Woods: The Story of Robert Frost

      In 1915, after two and a half years abroad, the Frosts finally returned to Amercan soil. The family stayed at a New York hotel while they made plans for the future. Frost stopped at a newsstand in the city, where he idly leafed through a copy of the The New Republic, a journal whose circulation had grown to over 14,000 in its first year of publication. To his surprise, Frost discovered a lengthy review of North of Boston by the American poet Amy Lowell. The wealthy, prominent socialite and poet was well entrenched in Boston as a literary leader, belonging to the same family line as the noted poet James Russell Lowell. Her brother was president of Harvard University. She called the book "the most American volume of poetry which has appeared for some time."

Buy Deep Woods: The Story of Robert Frost now at Amazon.


 

 

Best of Times: The Story of Charles Dickens

      Cut the paper, cover the pot, tie the string, paste a label. Cut the paper, cover the pot, tie the string, paste a label. Paying little attention to the crowd watching him through the window of Warren's Blacking Factory, Charles Dickens forced himself to focus on the monotonous task of preparing pots of black shoe polish. If he slapped and pasted the labels on fast enough and loud enough, he could ignore the squeaking and scuffling sounds of gray rats that swarmed in the cellar of the tumbledown old house that had been converted to a factory. And if he pushed himself to finish more pots today than yesterday, he could avoid thinking about his father, John Dickens, who had been taken to Marshalsea, London's debtors' prison. According to the custom of the times, his mother and his younger brothers and sisters had moved into the prison with Mr. Dickens. But twelve-year-old Charles had been left to take care of himself.

Buy Best of Times: The Story of Charles Dickens now at Amazon.


 

 

American Hero: The Audie Murphy Story

     One American tank destroyer continued to advance after it received a direct hit and began to burn. With the Germans less than one hundred yards away, Audie climbed on the burning tank destroyer. He knew that the smoke offered him a good screen as he climbed onto the tank turret. Shoving away the bodies of two dead American soldiers, he ignored the dangerous possibility of either the fuel or several cases of ammunition exploding at any minute. Audie fired the machine gun at the enemy as they assaulted him from three sides with 75 mm. shells that bounced off the tank destroyer�s armor. He killed so many of the Germans that the others wavered in their attack. With no infantry to support them, the enemy tanks fell back.
     For a full hour, the Germans tried every kind of weapon to stop Audie, but he held his position. When an enemy squad crept up on his right side to within ten yards of him, he swung around and mowed them down, stacking their bodies in a neat pile. Even though he had received a leg wound from shell fragments, he kept firing as long as the ammunition held out. When Audie�s field telephone went dead, he folded his map, picked up the dead telephone, and slid off the hot, burning tank. He limped back to the forest �too scared and exhausted to care whether I was shot or not.� Just as he reached the woods, he heard the tank blow up. By himself, Audie had killed or wounded fifty of the enemy.

Buy American Hero: The Audie Murphy Story now at Amazon.


 

 

Waging Peace: The Story of Jane Addams

     The first time she caught a glimpse of the two-story red brick mansion she knew that it was the one. The dirty structure needed work, but its white wooden pillars and broad porches appealed to Jane. But that night, as she described the house to Ellen Starr, Jane realized that she had not made a note of its exact location. After that, each time she went out in her carriage, she searched both sides of the street for the house, but she could not find it again. Halstead Street was the longest straight street in the world and it took several outings before Jane finally found the house again, on the corner of Halstead and Polk Streets.
     Built in 1856 by a real estate speculator, Charles J. Hull, the house had escaped the Great Chicago Fire. Now a rental property sandwiched between a saloon and a funeral home, much of the building was already occupied. Another saloon and a furniture factory occupied most of the first floor while several families lived on the second floor.
     In the neighborhood, there was a superstitious belief that the house was haunted. The people living on the second floor kept a pitcher of water on the stairs leading to the attic, believing ghosts were unable to pass through water. Helen Culver, who had inherited the property from Charles Hull, rented Jane all of the unoccupied rooms. Undisturbed by ghost stories, Jane moved into the house with Ellen and their housekeeper, thirty-year-old Mary Keyser.

Buy Waging Peace: The Story of Jane Addams now at Amazon.


 

 

Marcus Garvey: Black Nationalist

     Garvey often received visitors who came to New York to meet him. In October 1919, he heard someone demanding to see him. Stepping out of his office at 56 West 135th Street, he walked to the head of the stairs and asked if someone was looking for him. The man at the foot of the stairs yelled back: "You Garvey? Well I come to get you." He pulled out a gun and started to fire. Garvey ducked as the first shot went wild. The second shot scraped his temple, missing his right eye by only a small margin, and the third one hit his leg. Seeing the black leader fall down, the gunman thought he had killed Garvey.
     The attacker started to run away, but several people, including Garvey's secretary, Amy Ashwood grabbed him. They held him until police officers arrived and arrested him. The gunman identified himself as George Tyler...An ambulance took Garvey to Harlem Hospital. Newspapers picked up the story of the shooting but received incorrect information. They reported that Garvey was near death, with a gunshot wound in the head.

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An American in Texas: The Story of Sam Houston

     Houston gave the order to advance but made his soldiers hold their fire until they got within sixty yards of the Mexican line of defense. The soldiers did not know that Santa Anna and his troops were asleep after an all-night forced march and that before going to sleep, the Mexicans had stacked their guns instead of keeping them nearby because the Mexican general had not believed the Texans would attack.
     Caught by surprise, the Mexicans tried to respond to the sudden shouts and bugle calls. About forty yards from the Mexican line, Houston's huge white stallion, Saracen, went down. Houston landed on his feet and grabbed a riderless horse. Then a three-ounce copper ball hit him just above his right ankle. The second horse was shot from under him with at least five musket balls in its chest. Houston mounted his third horse of the day. The battle itself lasted less than twenty minutes with only two Texans killed and another twenty-four wounded, six of whom later died. In the surprise onslaught, 630 Mexicans died, 208 wounded, and 730 were taken prisoner.

Buy An American in Texas: The Story of Sam Houston now at Amazon.


 

 

Petticoat Spies

     Emma [Sarah Emma Edmonds] next planned to disguise herself as an Irish female peddler. She would pretend to follow the army to sell cakes and pies to the soldiers. She packed her clothes and props in a cake and pie basket. Then she crossed the Chickahominy River on horseback because the bridges had not been completed. She reached the other side and sent the horse back across the river to a waiting soldier. All of the contents in her basket had become soaked when she crossed the river. That night Emma had only a wet patchwork quilt to wrap around herself as she slept on the ground. Severe chills shook her body during the night. As her temperature rose, she talked wildly. For two days and two nights Emma suffered from fever and chills. She had no food, no medicine, and little strength. The pies and cakes needed for her disguise had all spoiled. She determined not to starve to death though. She put on her disguise, left the swamp, and headed for enemy lines. Emma hoped to present herself as a fugitive fleeing from the approaching Yankees.

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