Donn Piatt -- Gadfly of the Golden Age by Peter Bridges, Kent State UP '12, $45, 288 pages, ASIN #1606351168. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
I had not heard the name Donn Piatt before coming across Peter Bridges's biography of this late 19th century polymath, and I suspect many History Wire readers hadn't either. But as Bridges writes, the gifted Ohioan "was a diplomat, historian, journalist, judge, lawyer, legislator, lobbyist, novelist, playwright, poet, and politician -- and a well-known humorist, once called on to replace Mark Twain "when Twain's humor failed him."
This abolitionist served as an American diplomst in France in the 1850s, campaigned for Abe Lincoln in 1860, won national notice by editing a Washington newspaper, The Capital, attacked President Grant and Congress "fearlessly," and his newspaper ran witticisms and criticisms in his and other newspapers. "He ridiculed both the Democratic and Republican parties, says Bridges, "but his own ethics came into question after he became a Washington lobbyist while remaining a journalist." Through it all, he lived through much of "the corruption and injustice of the Gilded Age."
Author Peter Bridges holds degrees from Dartmouth College and Columbia University, has authored a memoir of his experiences as American ambassador to Somalia, and has published more than 70 articles and essays dealing with history and foreign affairs.
American Phoenix -- The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, a Man who Turned Disaster into Destiny by Sarah S. Kilborne, Free Press '12, $28, 437 pages, ASIN #1451671792. Index, select bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w glossy images.
A brief excerpt from American Phoenix:
"As the train slowed in its approach to the depot at the northern end of Skinnerville, one of Skinner's employees, John Ellsworth perhaps, awaited him on the platform. The depot was about a quarter mile from the house along a dark, unlit road. Thus when Skinner stepped down from the car and into the cold night air, he would have found both driver and horse all ready for the short jog home.
"The trip and this day were almost over, the anniversaries behind him, and a new year in the life of his marriage, his family, and his work was about to begin on the morrow. He was forty-nine years old, and the fabric of his existence had never been stronger. As he walked up the steps to his front door, there in the middle of Skinnerville, with the river flowing reliably behind him, the mill at rest across the way, the houses of his neighbors and employees all around, and a reunion with his wife and his children just seconds ahead, there wasn't one clue, nor any sign, that the very next morning nearly everything in his world would be swept away."
Sarah S. Kilborne is a writer, historian, musician, and editor with a degree in philosophy from Yale University. Her grandfather, R. Stewart Kilborne, was the last president of William Skinner & Sons, one of the oldest family-run textile companies in American history.
Family Values in the Old South, Edited by Craig Thompson Friend and Anya Jabour, UPress of Florida '09, 257 pages, ASIN #0813036763. Index, contributors, no bibliography, chapter endnotes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the back cover:
"Family Values in the old South presents some of the best recent scholarship in southern, family, and women's history in the 19th century American South.
"Editors Craig Thompson Friend and Anya Jabour have assembled essays from a range of diverse and innovative historians on such topics as cross-plantation marriages among slaves, white orphanages, childhood mortality, miscegenation and inheritance, household production, same-sex relationships, mourning practices, farming practices, tavern life, political loyalties, and interracial marriages.
"This collection enhances a vibrant dialogue on how our ancestors shaped their lives and their families and how their efforts created historical and moral precedents."
Craig Thompson Friend teaches history at North Carolina State University and has written or edited other books. Anya Jabour teaches history at the University of Montana and has written or edited several other works.