History Matters
June 1 to June 15, 2020

He was known as “the Sultan of Swat” and “the Bambino,” but whatever they called him, George Herman Ruth Jr.–one of the greatest players in the history of baseball–retired on June 2, 1935.

“Babe” Ruth signed with the Baltimore Orioles when he was 19, but the law—then–required a legal guardian to authorize his contract. Jack Dunn, the team’s owner, took on the responsibility, and soon Ruth became known–among his teammates–as “Dunn’s new babe.”

And the legendary Babe Ruth was born.

He played six seasons with the Boston Red Sox; afterwards, he was purchased by the New York Yankees for $125,000, but by then, Ruth had distinguished himself to the point where the Stadium became known–and still is–as “the House that Ruth Built.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Wilborn Hampton’s Babe Ruth (Up Close)—especially for people who love baseball.

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On June 3, 1965, Major Edward H. White II became the first American to walk in space–less than three months after Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov. It was in the midst of the Cold War; the Russians had been flexing their mental muscles any which way to get an advantageous edge over America in the space race, but Major White’s tour de force flattened the competitive gap.

In fact, Leonov may have been the first human in space, but his 12-minute extravehicular feat did not go as planned. He had so much difficulty re-entering his Voskhod capsule that he almost did not make it; the spacecraft malfunctioned, and he had to make an emergency landing, hundreds of miles off course.

White, by contrast, had an uneventful 20-minute spacewalk; he returned in his Gemini 4 command module without any complications. That finesse foreshadowed the subsequent success of the Apollo missions, which put a man on the moon—first.

The story of White’s walk is told, well, in David J. Shayler’s Gemini 4: An Astronaut Steps into the Void.

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It is said that the flag of the United States — the Stars and Stripes — was designed by Betsy Ross, a seamstress who lived in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. Whether it is true or not, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution declaring that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white…the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” And so, it came to be that our Grand Old Flag became official, based on the Continental Army’s banner.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Kevin Keim’s and Peter Keim’s A Grand Old Flag: A History of the United States Through its Flags.

 

 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters
May 15 to May 31, 2020

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded in 1927 to be the film industry’s official trade organization; two years later–on May 16, 1929—the first Academy Awards were presented, but it wasn’t until 1939 that the golden statuettes became known as the Oscars. According to Hollywood lore, Margaret Herrick, executive director of the Academy, apparently said they looked like her Uncle Oscar. The moniker stuck, and today, the annual event lures viewers from all over the world, who set aside an evening to observe televised glamor — American style.

The movie industry has told — and re-told — the story of America in films of adventure, comedy, and history, which have nabbed millions of imaginations, and transformed the country into a powerful, worldwide messenger of culture.

For more information about Hollywood, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Gregory Paul William’s The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History.

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On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs Board of Education that racial segregation in the nation’s schools was unconstitutional. Civil Rights attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who would become the first African-American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 13 years later, led the team that argued the case for Linda Brown, who was denied entry into a local Topeka, Kansas school because of the color of her skin. A year later, the Court issued new rules, ordering all public schools to integrate.

For a better understanding of the case, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests Susan Goldman Rubin’s Brown vs Board of Education: A Fight for Simple Justice.

 

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On May 28, 1958 baseball fans in New York learned that their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, and New York Giants, were leaving town. There was no joy in Mudville that day. “Dem bums,” as the Dodgers were affectionately nicknamed, were headed to a new hometown — Los Angeles– and Big Blue or “the jints” were about to become the San Francisco Giants.

According to the New York Daily News, the Dodgers had played baseball in Brooklyn since 1871, and the Giants—originally known as “The Gothams” had formed their team in 1883 but were renamed in 1885. Legend has it that their manager, Jim Mutrie, entered the locker room after a particularly satisfying win over the Philadelphia Phillies, shouting to the players: “My big fellows! My giants!”

The rest is history.

For more information about the intricate relationship between baseball and America, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lawrence S. Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It.

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

The scourge of COVID-19 vs the Pox Americana of 1775, ‘a pestilence that walketh in Darkness’

The Colonies were humming along in the New World—and then—during the American Revolution–a disabling epidemic mangled the masses. The dreaded disease of that time was smallpox; it had a 30% mortality rate.

In July of 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, a Founding Father, and America’s future second president, “Tis a pestilence that walketh in Darkness.”

Ironically, it was already a well-known condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC], “smallpox is thought to date back to the Egyptian Empire around the 3rd century BCE; inoculations were available by the Revolutionary War, but they worked by inducing a milder, but “still sometimes deadly” variety of it.”

Despite the dangers, John Adams had his “as a young man prior to his marriage, and long before the practice had become more acceptable in the Colonies. He had suffered greatly during his three-week recuperation in a hospital ‘with headaches, backaches, knee aches, gagging fever and eruption of pock marks’,” said historian Feather Schwartz Foster in her Presidential History Blog.

The first known cases associated with the Revolutionary War occurred in 1775; then, it opened up–from the Atlantic to the Pacific–and within eight years–decimated the colonies, the British, the slaves, and the Native Americans; it slithered to Mexico City, and slammed Westward—to what is now Washington State.

Historian Elizabeth Fenn, author of Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, wrote in her account of the event that “the epidemic took five times as many lives as the war did, hitting Native American populations especially hard: While the American Revolution may have defined the era for history, epidemic smallpox nevertheless defined it for many of the Americans who lived and died in that time.”

Medicine was then just a primitive science, but the COVID-19 pandemic faces a fist of formidable enemies: a worldwide network of doctors, scientists and epidemiologists– with skills and access to technologies–undreamt of in the time of John and Abigail Adams, and “Pox Americana.”

 

 

The Grateful American Book Prize is an award offered for excellence in writing and storytelling of adolescent historical fiction, and non-fiction, based on the events and persons that have shaped the United States since the country’s founding. Judges for the 2020 Prize are now reviewing submissions. Works published between August 1, 2019 through July 31, 2020 are eligible.

History Matters
April 15 to April 30, 2020

Who doesn’t love a story about the Old West? Particularly, a good, historical depiction about what it was like to domesticate the wild American frontier. Take buffalo hunter, army scout, gunfighter and lawman, Bartholomew “Bat” Masterson. His last shoot out was on the streets of Dodge City, Kansas, on April 16, 1881. Masterson was in Tombstone, Arizona when he received word that his brother, Jim, who also lived in Dodge, was in trouble. Jim had had a falling out with a business partner; gunfire was exchanged, and although Jim was not hurt, he feared for his life, and sent for Bat. Masterson made the 900-mile trip, came to the aid of his brother, and confronted his assailants in a gunfight—that turned out to be his last.

Masterson wasn’t killed, nor were any of the other participants in the skirmish, but when it was over, he decided to give up his “wild bunch” existence and spend the rest of his life practicing less dangerous pursuits.

As the History Channel put it: “the Dodge City shootout and his other exploits ensured Masterson’s lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. The old gunfighter finally died of a heart attack in October 1921 at his desk in New York City.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends the very engaging, Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend by Robert K. DeArment.

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The Patriots’ anger was blazing, and by April 19, 1775, the British knew it. The colonists wanted to be free and independent of them; at dawn, a detail of 700 British troops set out to capture–and detain–the leaders of the upstart American rebels in Lexington, Massachusetts. Awaiting them were 77 armed minutemen under the command of Captain John Parker.

The American Revolution was begun.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Minute Boys of Lexington by Edward Stratemeyer.

 

 

 

 

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The Founding Fathers understood the importance of learning and understanding; education was critical to the success of the new nation. And so, on April 24, 1800, President John Adams signed a bill to provide $5,000 [the equivalent of $102,650 in 2020 dollars] to establish the Library of Congress, an institution which has experienced truly difficult times over the centuries. During the War of 1812, the British burned it—along with its 3,000 volumes, but three years later, Thomas Jefferson, owner of the largest book collection in the country, came to the rescue; for $23,950 he sold 6,487 of his books to the Library, and the institution was re-invigorated.

Another fire in 1851 caused the Library to lose two-thirds of its books; today, it is comprised of three large buildings in Washington, DC, and 110,000,000 books, documents, works of art, and electronic media.

Books–about books– may not seem exciting and engaging, especially for young readers, but the Grateful American Book Prize says John Cole’s America’s Greatest Library: An Illustrated History of the Library of Congress, is full of fascinating facts, images, and little-known stories about the nation’s past.

 

 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters
April 1 to April 15, 2020

On April 2, 1513, Ponce de Leon arrived in the New World, focused on finding the elusive Fountain of Youth. He landed near what is now of St. Augustine, FL, and claimed it on behalf of the Spanish monarchy. Because his arrival coincided with Easter he named–what he thought was an island–La Florida, or “Land of Flowers”.

He returned eight years later to establish a Spanish colony, but the Native Americans wouldn’t have it, and de Leon immediately set sail for home. It wasn’t until 1565 that Spain was able to create the settlement of St. Augustine and, begin to colonize it.

By 1819, the entire territory was ceded to the U.S. under the terms of the Florida Purchase Treaty between Spain and America.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends the exciting, 1513: Ponce de Leon Discovers Florida by E. H. Haines.

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In the 1850s, it took nearly a month for a letter to reach California; the Pony Express was created to hasten postal service.

On April 3, 1860 the inaugural relay team of horsemen–Pony Express riders—was assigned the task of delivering packets of mail: a bundle from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA—and another—traveling the same route, but in the opposite direction. It took the group headed for California ten days to make their delivery; the eastbound riders required twelve.

America in its “adolescence” was a particularly important period, says the Grateful American Book Prize; the panel suggests Pony Express: The Great Gamble by Roy S. Bloss.

 

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John Rolfe was a tobacco planter who married a Native American princess named Matoaka, on April 5, 1614.

She is better known by her nickname: Pocahontas. And, their story was full of love, adventure and excitement.

The first English settlement in America was Jamestown, founded in May of 1607 along the shores of the James River in Virginia. The 100 colonists who settled there, survived famine, disease, and attacks by the Powhatan confederacy of 30 local Native American tribes under the leadership of Chief Powhatan, but the swashbuckling John Smith, came to the rescue, before he was taken prisoner–and then released– when Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, took a liking to him.

But the hardships continued for the English settlers, and Smith, ailing from injuries suffered in a fire, eventually returned to England, while Pocahontas developed friendships among the settlers, and often provided them with gifts of food.

In 1610, John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, to build a tobacco plantation. Three years later he met Pocahontas, who had been taken hostage by the British as a bargaining chip with the Native Americans. They fell in love and married. It was a union that brought peace between the tribes and the British colonists.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Camilla Townsend’s page turner, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma.

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters Special Edition: The Spanish Flu, Polio and COVID-19

The past is prologue to the future, and–here we are–102 years later, in the midst of another calamitous pandemic. The Spanish Flu reached the U.S. in March of 1918; now, just after another Ides of March, the country is plagued—literally—by another deadly influenza.

This one is COVID-19.

We’ve come far since the Spanish Flu surprised the world a century ago; little was known about how to defend against–or rub out–a disease. And so, it tore through the country for more than a year:

“In 1918, as scientists had not yet discovered flu viruses, there were no laboratory tests to detect, or characterize these viruses. There were no vaccines to help prevent flu infection, no antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with flu infections,”
according to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC].

Now, the world is far more intricate. Shortly after the early cases of COVID-19 were reported, cities, states, and the federal government, asked people to adopt nonpharmaceutical interventions to avoid a possible infection, while laboratories–the world over–ramped up research—to somehow–reveal a vaccine.

In 1918, it took America’s public health officials nine months to educate the populace about the dangers of unprotected coughing and sneezing; the public was told to bend its routines and avoid crowds. Now, prevention from four generations back is in vogue.

No doubt, the Spanish Flu whipped up a destructive pandemic. “The Runner Up” goes to poliomyelitis, a viral disease that caused paralysis, mostly in children. During the polio epidemic of 1916, 27,000 were reported, but it didn’t peak until 1952 at 57,000.

A year later, Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, announced that he had successfully developed a vaccine. After clinical trials to prove its effectiveness, a national inoculation campaign was begun in 1955; the number of cases consistently declined through 1979—the year the disease was declared: eradicated.

For a better understanding of the Spanish Flu, Polio, and COVID-19 pandemics, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends, Makila Lucier’s novel, A Death-Struck Year, and Jeffrey Kluger’s Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio.

 

History Matters
March 15 to March 31, 2020

Irish Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. The first, in 1601, was in St. Augustine, FL—then a Spanish colony. The town’s vicar was of Irish descent; the occasion was religious, but ubiquitous secular observance of the day–replete with parades and other festivities– didn’t come until more than 100 years later– in Boston and New York City, led by Irish soldiers serving in the British army.

The Irish immigrated to the U.S. to escape famine and oppression. Eventually, St. Patrick’s Day—along with its customs– were “absorbed” into America’s story, and it became an unofficial national holiday.

For more information about the role of Irish immigrants in America, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests Michael Coffey’s The Irish in America.

 

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On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry’s voice boomed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” He delivered a rousing speech at the Second Virginia Convention, less than a month before the start of the American Revolution. Henry’s words ramped up the militia’s might, and Virginia’s venom; it was the largest American colony in favor of defying British rule. Henry’s plea resonated with his audience, all the other colonists—and–succeeding generations.

Henry’s story is an inspiration for young learners, says the Grateful American Book Prize, which recommends Thomas S. Kidd’s Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots.

 

 

 

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Poliomyelitis has plagued mankind for centuries. It is a disease that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis. In 1952 more than 58,000 new cases of polio were reported in the United States; of those, 3,000 died. Medical scientists were desperately seeking a vaccine. Finally, on March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, reported that he had devised a way to immunize the population against the scourge that favored children.

For more information the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Jeffrey Kluger’s Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio.

 

 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters
March 1 to March 15, 2020

On March 3, 1913, 5,000 suffragettes– including the legendary journalist, Nellie Bly, and Helen Keller, took to the streets in Washington D.C. to fight for the right to vote. An unruly crowd of onlookers tried to shout them down; it looked as though a riot was about to break out, but a contingent of soldiers under the orders of Secretary of War Henry Stimson, restored order. The commotion occurred the day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson who, according to the Smithsonian Magazine, was not in favor of giving women the right to vote, noting that “it gave him a chilled, scandalized feeling.”

It took six more years to happen– for Congress to pass the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Winifred Conkling’s Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot.

 

 

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The U.S. Congress–or legislature–is one of the three branches of government, where the federal laws that govern the nation are made. It is comprised of the Senate, and the House of Representatives; they convened–for the first time–under a newly adopted U.S. Constitution, in New York City, on March 4, 1789.

Eight years earlier–on March 1, 1781–and two years prior to the end of the American Revolution–the Articles of Confederation– predecessor to the Constitution–established Congress as the sole governing body of the soon-to-be independent American nation.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Lee H. Hamilton’s How Congress Works and Why You Should Care.

 

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Medicine has progressed considerably since the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. When it reached America, about a third of the population caught the flu, and more than 600,000 died from it; globally, it is estimated that 20 million to 50 million people perished from the illness.

These days, a less deadly variety of flu is commonplace in the fall and winter, but the surety of death is usually held in check by modern medicine.

The Spanish Flu was cause for alarm, but it also incited a rush to discover a prevention. A good read about the outbreak is Makiia Lucier’s novel, A Death-Struck Year.

 

 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters
February 15 to February 29, 2020

On February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship, Maine, blew up, and sank in Havana Harbor. Two hundred sixty of the nearly 400 American soldiers aboard perished. The ship had been dispatched to protect U.S. interests during a time when Spanish rule was being challenged by Cuban rebels. A U.S. Naval Court ruled that a mine had caused the explosion. The aftermath of rage connected to the incident, and the suppression of the Cuban freedom fighters escalated into war.

Seventy-eight years later, naval investigators revamped their conclusion: the disastrous explosion was not from a mine; it was likely caused by an on-board fire which ignited a stockpile of ammunition.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Sinking of the USS Maine: Declaring War Against Spain by Samuel Willard Crompton.

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On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and America was pulled into World War ll. Two months later, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which required all Americans of Japanese descent living on the Pacific Coast, to report for mandatory relocation to a detainment camp.

The prisoners were not released until December 17, 1944.

For more information about the controversial decision, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Monica Hesse’s novel, The War Outside.

 

 
 

 

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America’s first spaceship was Friendship 7; John Glenn was the first astronaut to experience the void of space. He was launched into orbit February 20, 1962, circled the planet three times, and returned to earth approximately five hours later.

America became quite taken with Glenn, and his six Project Mercury compatriots, and, soon, President John F. Kennedy was moved to “promise” a U.S. moon landing within a decade.

Seven years later– on July 20, 1969– NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft entered lunar orbit with Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong boarded his Lunar Module, the Eagle, and the country watched, transfixed, as he became the first man—ever– to set foot on the moon.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves by NASA’s seven original astronauts: John H. Glenn, M. Scott Carpenter, Gordon L. Cooper, Virgil I. Grissom, Walter M. Schirra, Alan B. Shepard, Donald K. Slayton.

 

 

 
 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

History Matters
February 1 to February 14, 2020

The Supreme Court was established by Article three of the Constitution, which was ratified in 1788. Six justices, a Chief Justice, and five Associate Justices — all named by the President of the United States — were to serve for life. George Washington selected John Jay to be the country’s inaugural Chief Justice, while John Rutledge of South Carolina, William Cushing of Massachusetts, John Blair of Virginia, Robert Harrison of Maryland, and James Wilson of Pennsylvania were chosen to be the Associate Justices. On February 1, 1790, the Court convened for the first time at the Royal Exchange Building in New York.

By 1869, the Bench was comprised of nine justices.

For additional reading, the Book Prize recommends Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor.

 

 

 

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On April 25, 1846, Mexican forces attacked American troops—and killed twelve–in a disputed section of land along the Rio Grande. When the Mexican army laid siege to an American fort, the U.S. declared war. Two years later, the hostilities ended, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, and the Rio Grande morphed into America’s new southern border; Texas was annexed, and for $15 million, Mexico sold Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and California to the United States.

For further reading, The Grateful American Book Prize suggests John DiConsiglio’s The Mexican American War.

 

 

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The 15th and 16th Amendments to the Constitution were ratified on February 3, 1870. The 15th Amendment guaranteed the right of citizens to vote regardless of race, and the 16th granted Congress the power to collect income taxes.

Reading the Constitution might hold the interest of some adolescents, but William Martin’s mystery, The Lost Constitution, is a more exciting choice.

 

 

 

 
 

 

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Gangsters George “Bugs” Moran and “Scarface” Al Capone — a pair of notorious criminals – were in charge of 1920s Chicago. They were out to get revenge on each other—in any way possible. At one point, Moran led a six-car convoy of his thugs past Capone’s hotel headquarters in Cicero, Illinois, opened fire with Thompson submachine guns that sprayed 1,000 bullets, but failed to kill him.

On February 14, 1929, Capone and his henchmen, entered Moran’s base of operations dressed as police, lined up seven of his gunmen against a wall, and shot them. The bloody incident, which came to be known as the St. Valentine’s Massacre, is considered an important piece of crime history during the so-called Roaring Twenties.

Al Capone’s Devil Driver, by George H. Meyer, Chaplain Ray and Max Call, is an in-depth account of the Chicago gang wars.

 

 

 

 
 

 


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

 

 

Contact

Inquiries from authors, publishers and the media should be directed to:

John Grimaldi      917.846.8485