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The Book that Taught Frederick Douglass and Abraham

Details: In 1830 and 1831, a 12-year-old Maryland slave and a 22-year-old backwoods store clerk picked up the same book – the Columbian Orator. Published by a New England school teacher, it taught Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln how to become two of the …

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The Real People Behind Little Women

Details: The book, an instant hit, allowed the Alcott family to live in comfort. When a stroke killed Louisa at age 55, she left an estate of $200,000, about $5 million in today’s money. Little Women has never been out of print , and an estimated thousand copies are sold every month.

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William Gordon is Finally Silenced – By Himself

Details: The reasons were revealed in the book Principles and acts of the Revolution in America: or, An attempt to collect and preserve some of the speeches, orations, & proceedings, with sketches and remarks on men and things, and other fugitive or neglected pieces, belonging to the men of the revolutionary period in the United States written by

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Over the River and Through the Wood: 7 Fun Facts

Details: The book went through 33 printings in 25 years. According to Child’s biographer, Carolyn Karcher, a majority of women in the 1830s read it. The book popularized shucked oysters and the one-crust pumpkin pie later celebrated in Over the River. The Childs never had children and separated for a while, but eventually reconciled.

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Rose Wilder Lane, the Secret Behind the Little House Books

Details: In 1931, 44-year-old Rose Wilder Lane saw a manuscript of a book called Pioneer Girl. It told the story of a homesteader during the great westward expansion, from Wisconsin across Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, the Dakota Territory and back again to Missouri. Rose had been flying high as one of the best paid journalists of […]

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The Great Fannie Farmer Cookbook Controversy

Details: It was 1965, and foodies followed with delight the catty controversy over the updated version of Fannie Farmer’s seminal cookbook. Two other important cookbooks had also been updated: The Settlement Cook Book and The Joy of Cooking.The three books — ‘the culinary trinity upon which, for better or worse, the gospel of American cooking has been built,’ were the subject of the review.

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New Hampshire Legend: Ocean Born Mary

Details: In 1939, children’s book author Lois Lenski published a book of fiction about 10-year-old Ocean Born Mary and her adventures in Portsmouth, N.H. The author had help in her historical research from local historian Dorothy Vaughan , who for many of her 99 years was a reliable source of Portsmouth history.

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The Green Book Guides African-Americans to Safety in New

Details: During the Jim Crow era, the Green Book was the Bible of black travel. Today it is a guide to a past that hasn’t completely vanished. In the 1949 Green Book, for example, listings for the African-American neighborhood in Boston’s South End include eight hotels and guest houses, nine restaurants, a couple of barbers, the Savoy Nightclub (where Malcolm X once shined shoes) and a half-dozen

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Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Little Lady who Started the

Details: The story most often associated with the book today is that Abraham Lincoln, when introduced to Stowe in Washington, D.C., in 1862 said, “So this is the little lady who started this Great War.” While scholars find it doubtful that Lincoln actually said that, Uncle Tom’s Cabin prodded the American conscience on the issue of slavery. The

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May Alcott, Forever Shadowed by Older Sister Louisa

Details: May Alcott, the real Amy March in Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel Little Women, struggled all her life to win success as an artist. She stood on the cusp of fulfilling her dream as a successful artist when she died before turning 40. She had …

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The Heroic Rescue of the Pendleton Crew, 1952

Details: Based on the book The Finest Hours, the film came out on Jan. 29, 2016. To see a video about the rescue, click here. Another tremendous rescue at sea took place 13 years earlier and about 100 miles to the north. Read about it here. Photo of the Pendleton stern by Richard C. Kelsey, Chatham; courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Six Beautiful Buildings Designed by Asher Benjamin

Details: The book arose from his dissatisfaction with the large, lavish and expensive handbooks imported from England that most builders relied on. In writing the book, Asher Benjamin popularized a new style of architecture known today as the Federal style. Charles Bulfinch and Thomas Jefferson had adopted it …

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Was Fannie Farmer a Good Cook

Details: When Fannie Farmer approached Little, Brown & Co., to publish her cookbook in 1896, the company made her pay for printing the first 3,000 copies. They didn’t think the cookbook would sell. Little, Brown’s skepticism about the enormously popular Boston Cooking-School Cookbook made Fannie Farmer rich, because she kept the copyright. The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook succeeded because […]

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Eunice Williams, The Unredeemed Captive

Details: Vaudreuil quietly approached the Indians with his offer and they accepted, writes Demos in his award-winning book, The Unredeemed Captive. On the night of Feb. 28, 1704, a band of Abenaki and Mohawk Indians attacked Deerfield. They killed 39 people, including small children.

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Teddy Roosevelt Humiliates Dr. Seuss

Details: Dr. Seuss lived much of his life in California and New York, but never really left Springfield, Mass., where he was born on March 2, 1904. The timeless children’s books of Theodor Seuss Geisel originated from his boyhood in the western Massachusetts city.

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Dorothy West Gets Rediscovered by Jacqueline Onassis

Details: The book won critical acclaim but sold poorly. The Wedding. In the 1960s she began work on The Wedding, a portrait of Oak Bluffs’ black aristocracy and its preoccupation with skin color and social class. She stopped working on it because of the rise of the radical black power movement. She worried the Black Panthers would denounce the book.

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When Connecticut Went in for Comic Book Burning

Details: On Feb. 26, 1955, a small group led by Mrs. Charles B. Gilbert of Norwich, Conn., posed for a photographer in front of a pickup truck filled with comic books. Two cute kids tossed more books into the back of the truck. The caption said the smiling Mrs. Gilbert planned a dramatic comic book burning […]

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Louisa May Alcott: 'Never liked girls or knew many, except

Details: The book was based on her mother, her three sisters and herself. She wrote her improvident father, Bronson Alcott, out of the story, sending him away to the Civil War. In June she sent 12 chapters to her publisher, who thought it dull. She vowed to work away, because ‘lively, simple books are very much needed for girls.’

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Disaster in Rhode Island Waters: The USS Bennington

Details: Leo Caisse, the author of this story, passed away in 2020. He published the book, The Civilian Conservation Corps: A Guide to Their Works in Rhode Island. Leo also published a number of historical articles, including Ears On the World in America in World War II Magazine, October, 2017. He earned a B.A. and M.A. in American History from

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A Brief History of the Boston Brahmin

Details: The Brahmins loved its book reviews, music criticism, college sports page, bridge department and genealogy column. In 1935, the Atlantic magazine printed a critique of the Brahmin by S. Foster Damon.

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Six of New England's Most Famous Writers Houses

Details: New England is dotted with famous writers houses, a testament to the Puritan ideal of literacy and the region’s many publishing houses. Some writers, like Rudyard Kipling, were born elsewhere, but wrote prolifically while living in New England. Some, like Robert Frost, made use of their surroundings in their work. It wasn’t easy to select […]

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Six Fun Facts About Henry Adams

Details: In 1880, Adams published a book called Democracy: An American Novel. An immediate best-seller, it prompted speculation about who wrote it and on whom did the author base his characters. People thought maybe Adams’ friends, John Hay and Clarence King, wrote it. Or perhaps Clover Adams did it.

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How the Real Miss Rumphius Decorated Maine With Lupines

Details: There was a real Miss Rumphius who lived in Christmas Cove and secretly planted lupine seeds to adorn Maine’s roadsides and meadows. The fake Miss Rumphius was the subject of a 1982 children’s book written by Barbara Cooney. The real Miss Rumphius is at least partly responsible for the gorgeous show of lupines throughout Maine’s […]

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Robert Roberts Tells All – About How To Be a House Servant

Details: Robert Roberts moved comfortably among Boston’s Brahmin class, not as an equal but as an African-American servant.. He was good at his job, and in 1827 he published a manual on how to do it. The House Servant’s Directory: A Monitor for Private Families was the first book written by an African-American published by a commercial publishing house. The book, reprinted twice, was also a must

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Alice Bishop, Pilgrim Murderess, Kills her 4-Year-Old

Details: Donna A. Watkins in her book Diverse Gashes: Governor William Bradford, Alice Bishop, and the Murder of Martha Clarke, Plymouth Colony, 1648, explores the reasons Alice Bishop may have slashed her four-year-old daughter’s throat.

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The MTL Insanity File of Robert Todd Lincoln Discovered

Details: Robert Todd Lincoln burned most of his papers and correspondence before he died. Most, but not all. He saved a collection of papers he called the MTL Insanity File. Fifty years after Robert Lincoln died, Abraham Lincoln’s last descendant discovered the MTL Insanity File tucked away in a cupboard in his Vermont mansion. The discovery […]

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The Northampton National Bank Heist, the Biggest in U.S

Details: A short book published in 1876 tells the story of the Northampton National Bank Heist. It describes how robbers overpowered the cashier, forced him to give them the combination to the safe and then made off with $1.6 million in cash, bonds and other securities. The haul in …

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The Cover-Up of the Connecticut Witch Hysteria of 1647-63

Details: Mary Barnes’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter, Bernice Telian, spent five years writing a book titled, My Grandmother Mary Was Hanged. She was part of the effort to get Connecticut to clear the names of the 11 people unjustly executed for witchcraft. So was Patricia Borris, the great-granddaughter, 10 generations back

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The Story of Love Story: How Erich Segal Won Fame and Lost

Details: Critics trashed the book, Yale denied him tenure and students at the Ezra Stiles College, where he lived as a resident scholar, campaigned to eject him. But Love Story also made him a world-famous millionaire who hobnobbed with celebrities. Erich Segal, Author of Love Story. He was born June 16, 1937, in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of three boys.

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Jennie Cramer – New Haven’s “Beautiful Victim” of 1881

Details: Jennie Cramer and her mother Christina had an awful fight on Thursday, August 4, 1881. Jennie and her friend Blanche Douglass had been dating two of the Malleys – members of one of New Haven’s wealthiest families – and they hadn’t come home the night before. If she didn’t stop her scandalous behavior, Christina threatened, […]

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Obadiah Holmes, The Baptist Martyr The Puritans Should

Details: The Puritan leaders of Massachusetts viewed Obadiah Holmes as a loathsome Baptist, and they ordered him whipped 30 times in public. They probably should have thought twice about doing so. In Puritan eyes, crimes against their religion were far worse than crimes against property. They punished blasphemy with the whip, the Bilbo, the brand or […]

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Black Husband, White Scientist: The Secret Double Life of

Details: In 1888, Clarence King started to lead two secret lives, one on each side of the Brooklyn Bridge. In Manhattan, he was the blue-eyed, blonde-haired toast of the town: geologist, best-selling author, art collector and raconteur. But in Brooklyn, he called himself James Todd, a black Pullman porter and traveling steelworker. He did it for […]

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The Woman Suffrage Cook Book Prints Recipes for Subversion

Details: Putting together the first woman suffrage cook book in 1886 must have been a lot like herding cats for Hattie A. Burr of 12 Wayne St., Boston. The cookbook raised money for the Woman Suffrage Association. It included recipes from famous suffragists, Boston Brahmins, a governor’s wife and prominent women doctors, ministers and journalists.

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The Liberated Wife Who Really Was Wonder Woman

Details: Elizabeth Holloway Marston was one-half of the inspiration for Wonder Woman, the superheroine who first appeared in comic books the month Pearl Harbor was attacked. Olive Byrne made up the other half of Wonder Woman’s inspiration. Both women lived with the Wonder Woman creator, William Moulton Marston. Each woman bore two of his children.

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Timothy Dexter, the Ridiculous Millionaire Who Sold Coals

Details: Timothy Dexter was considered a lucky fool for selling coal to Newcastle and bed warmers to the tropics – and somehow making money on the ventures. He rounded up the stray cats of Federalist Newburyport, Mass., shipped them off to the Caribbean – and made money. He wrote a semiliterate book without any punctuation – […]

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16 Fun Facts About Noah Webster, the Dictionary Writer Who

Details: Noah Webster was an odd duck, a famously fussy lexicographer who not only Americanized the English language but created the idea of American patriotism. He wrote the first real American dictionary, called, appropriately, An American Dictionary of the English Language, which took him 28 years to finish. His goal: to standardize American speech.

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Before Dunkin', New England Had the Waldorf Lunch System

Details: Before New England gave the world Howard Johnson’s, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s and Subway, it invented the Waldorf Lunch. The Waldorf Lunch System emerged in 1904 as one of the earliest chain lunch rooms. It was a time when all kinds of quick lunch spots emerged: lunch wagons, coffee-and-cake saloons and temperance spas. Schrafft’s, an offshoot […]

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Silent Spring Author Rachel Carson Falls in Love

Details: The book, translated into 32 languages, stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for 81 weeks. In 1952, she bought a piece of waterfront property on Southport Island near Boothbay. She had a simple summer cottage built on the island and moved to it in 1953.

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Johnny Tremain Inspiration: John Adams’ Boyhood Friend

Details: The classic young adult book Johnny Tremain is still popular 80 years after Esther Forbes first wrote it (despite Walt Disney’s treatment). National Park Service guides say tourists tell them the book was the reason they came to Boston.. As devotees of the book know, Johnny Tremain was training to be a silversmith but burned his hand badly and had to leave his apprenticeship.

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P.T. Barnum’s Grandson, Herbert Barnum Seeley, Throws the

Details: Herbert Barnum Seeley inherited a large portion of his grandfather P.T. Barnum’s estate, but none of his common sense. In December of 1896, Clinton Barnum Seeley was getting married. His brother, Herbert Barnum Seeley, decided to send him off with a bachelor party worthy of the grandson of Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum. Grandpa Barnum, circus […]

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In 1650, William Pynchon Tweaks the Puritans

Details: Given their intolerance it’s surprising it took so long, but in 1650 the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts banned their first book. They also ordered all copies of a book by William Pynchon analyzing Christian doctrine burned on Boston Common. The Puritans, and time, got all the copies but four. Pynchon, one of the original founders […]

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BFFs: John Singer Sargent and Isabella Stewart Gardner

Details: In her book My Love Affair with Modern Art, Kuh recalled her mother taking her as a young girl to Boston and tipping the maître d’ heavily to get a table near them.Kuh wrote: Sargent was handsome and elegant, Mrs. Gardner severely bent and dressed in what always looked to me like layers of cheesecloth …Their conversation appeared more sporadic than spirited, but there was a quiet

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The Real Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man

Details: The real Burt Dow was an oceangoing man who lived in a Maine fishing village, liked kids and animals and was handy around the house. He wasn’t exactly the kind of person you’d expect to be immortalized in a book and an opera. He was friendly, though, with children’s book …

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