American History: Colonial Craftmenship

colonial-craftsmen-iWhile my current focus of American History is on what many call, “The American Civil War” (1861-1865), I am also interested in the beginnings of the American Industry. I am thoroughly fascinated with colonial craftsmanship. From time to time while studying the civil war, I often mark and file research material that relate for other stories I have a mind to write about or explore. On Amazon I came across, Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry by Edwin Tunis and was thrilled! I have been looking for something like this for a while.  I have added it to my wish-list research pile of books I want to purchase next year or the years after. For all you American History enthusiast, I thought this might be of interest of you.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Description:

The vanished ways of colonial America’s skilled craftsmen are vividly reconstructed in this superb book by Edwin Tunis. With incomparable wit and learning, and in over 450 meticulous drawings, the author describes the working methods and products, houses and shops, town and country trades, and individual and group enterprises by which the early Americans forged the economy of the New World.

In the tiny coastal settlements, which usually sprang up around a mill or near a tanyard, the first craftsmen set up their trades. The blacksmith, cooper, joiner, weaver, cordwainer, and housewright, working alone or with several assistants, invented their own tools and devised their own methods. Soon they were making products that far surpassed their early models: The American ax was so popular that English ironmongers often labeled their own axes “American” to sell them more readily. In the town squares a colonist could have his bread baked to order, bring in his wig to be curled, have his eyeglasses ground, his medicine prescription filled, or buy snuff for his many pocket boxes. With the thriving trade in “bespoke” or made-to-order work, fine American styles evolved; many of these are priceless heirlooms now―the silverware of Paul Revere and John Coney, redware and Queensware pottery, Poyntell hand-blocked wallpaper, the Kentucky rifle, Conestoga wagon, and the iron grillework still seen in some parts of the South. The author discusses in detail many of the trades which have since developed into important industries, like papermaking, glassmaking, shipbuilding, printing, and metalworking, often reconstructing from his own careful research the complex equipment used in these enterprises.

The ingenious, liberty-loving artisans left few written records of their work, and only Mr. Tunis, with his painstaking attention to authentic detail and his vast knowledge, could present such a complete treasury of the way things were done before machines obliterated this phase of early American life.

Book Review: Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister

girl-in-disguiseWith no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My Thoughts:

The Pinkerton Agency is widely known for their pursuit of Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. What is not commonly known is the agency hired the first female Detective-Kate Warne- in the U.S. during the mid-1850’s. The founder Allan Pinkerton immigrated to Chicago from Scotland in the early 1840’s and joined the Chicago police department and soon after opened the first Pinkerton Agency. Before reading, Girl in Disguise, I had not known about Kate, so I was delighted when I discovered this book on NetGalley.

Kate Warne is an extraordinary woman-especially someone as independent as she was in the 1800’s. During those times it was unheard of for women to do what was considered a “Man’s job”. Allan Pinkerton was hesitant-if you will-to hire her but in his knowledge of undercover work, he knew that often times it was not easy for males to gain access to the people they were pursuing. With strong intellect and determination, Kate quickly proves herself to be invaluable and gains the trust of Pinkerton.

Kate’s talent for gathering information is well displayed in this story and gives you great insight into detective work and I found this highly fascinating to read about. As the story developed further, the Pinkerton Agency flourished and you really get a sense of the character’s will to fight for justice.

The second half of the story focuses on the American Civil War and the agencies role. This is where I learned some new things about the agency I had not realized before. I did find a few scenes disjointed and there is a brief romance that just seem to appear and I was not sure-at first- how that would play out in the story. In the end I believe it worked and really helped Kate’s motivation for the actions she took. I do question Kate’s ability to travel freely on her own while the war was raging and I’m not sure that was believable to me. Nonetheless it did not entirely distract me from enjoying the story.

After finishing the story, I tuned to the author’s notes and I was glad I did. I developed a deeper appreciation for the story from having read it and I highly recommend that readers take the time to do so.

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Cover Crush: Glory, Passion, and Principle by Melissa Lukeman Bohrer

The heroism of the females of the American Revolution has gone from memory with the generation that witnessed it, and nothing, absolutely nothing, remains upon the ear of the young of the present day. — Charles Francis Adams

glory-passion-and-principleThe Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution:

John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin — these are the names we typically associate with the American Revolution. But was American History solely written by men? Were there no influential women? No women who had an impact on the founding of America in its crucial, formative years, in its fight for independence? Indeed, there were — although their contributions have been overlooked or ignored for over two hundred years. Until now.

Glory, Passion, and Principle is an extraordinary journey through revolutionary America as seen from a woman’s perspective. Here are the lesser-known stories of eight influential females who fought for freedom — for their country and themselves — at all costs. Whether advising prominent male leaders in political theory (Abigail Adams), using their pens as swords (Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren), acting as military spies (Sybil Ludington, Lydia Darragh), or going to battle (Molly Pitcher, Deborah Sampson, Nancy Ward), these women broke free of the limitations imposed upon them, much as our forefathers did by resisting British rule upon American soil…and laying the groundwork for the United States as we know it today.

My thoughts on the premise, title and cover jacket:

Often times throughout history, women were overlooked in the roles they played and the impact they had. It’s writers like, Melissa Lukeman Bohrer who bring to light strong women in our history. For those of you who have studied in-depth about the American Revolution, you know the part many women were involved in. Which was a big part! Glory, Passion, and Principle honors women mentioned above in the book description.

The title of the story REALLY stands out to me. Glory, passion and principle were among the strong traits of people during that time who had a belief in freedom, a pursuit of happiness of faith, family, and their country.

What can I say about the cover? It speaks for itself in many ways. Look how the woman is standing strong and showing her fight for the cause she believes in. I love the richness in the colors used and dramatic feel. The cover really gives you a sense of the period. Nicely done.

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.Be sure to check out her latest cover crush by clicking on the link provided.

Take a look at these other great book bloggers who cover crush:

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-Coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

A War So Terrible and The Reconstruction of the South

me-iiOne of the writing projects I am working on is an historical thriller that takes place in the present and the past in Atlanta and Madison, Georgia. The story of the past centers around the town of Madison and two families shortly after the civil war, continuing through the new century. This era is known as the Reconstruction of the South. The present story is of a young woman who lives in Atlanta and is connected to those two families of the past in more ways than she could have ever imagined.

My research has not only taken me to the Reconstruction era but many years prior to the civil war. The deeper I go the more I am discovering about how this war is so much more complex than many have ever explored.

Though my story is a work of fiction, I will have many themes and content in the story that are factual. Often times those themes will be uncomfortable but one I am hoping will bring to light to the many attitudes of that period that people today do not want to face or talk about. My research is to understand and my writing is to explore the motivations and the human condition during the hardships from all of the people. 

The books below are the current research books I will be diving into this week.

the-woman-of-the-south-in-war-times-by-matthew-page-andreasWomen of the South in War Times by Matthew Page Andrews

It may truly be said of the Southern women of 1861-1865 that the simple narrative of their life and work unfolds a record of achievement, endurance, and self-sacrificing devotion that should be revealed and recognized as a splendid inspiration to men and women everywhere. The stories contained in this volume depict the life of the Southern people, particularly the women, within the lines of the Confederacy during the four years of its turbulent existence.

when-i-was-a-slave-memoirs-form-the-slave-narrative-collection-edited-by-norman-r-yetmanWhen I was a slave (Memoirs from the Slave Narrative Collection) Edited by Norman R. Yetman

In an effort to provide unemployed writers with work during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States Government, through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), funded the Federal Writers’ Project. One of the group’s most noteworthy and enduring achievements was the Slave Narrative Collection, consisting of more than 2,000 transcripts of interviews with former slaves, who, in blunt, simple words, provided often-startling first-person accounts of their lives in bondage. This book reprints some of the most detailed and engrossing life histories in the collection. Each narrative is complete.
Thirty-four gripping testimonies are included, with all slave occupations represented — from field hand and cook to French tutor and seamstress. Personal treatment reported by these individuals also encompassed a wide range — from the harshest and exploitative to living and working conditions that were intimate and benevolent.
An illuminating and unique source of information about life in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, these memoirs, most importantly, preserve the opinions and perspective of those who were enslaved. Invaluable to students, teachers, and specialists in Southern history, this compelling book will intrigue anyone interested in the African-American experience.

on-the-threshold-of-freedom-by-clarence-l-mohrOn the threshold of Freedom by Clarence L. Mohr

In this enlightening study, Clarence L. Mohr follows the demise of chattel slavery in one state of the Confederate South. Like the slavery regime itself, Mohr’s story is biracial in character, embracing the perspectives of both blacks and whites as they struggled to comprehend the approach of black freedom within a framework of attitudes and assumptions shaped by decades of mutual exposure to Georgia’s peculiar institution. By exploring in detail the changing patterns of black-white interaction that preceded legal emancipation in 1865, On the Threshold of Freedom defines central tendencies within Georgia slavery and suggests important links between antebellum life and the events of early Reconstruction.

Cover Crush: The Widow’s War by Sally Cabot Gunning

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the-widows-warMarried for twenty years to Edward Berry, Lyddie is used to the trials of being a whaler’s wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket, Massachusetts—running their house herself during her husband’s long absences at sea, living with the daily uncertainty that Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realized, she finds herself doubly cursed. She is overwhelmed by grief, and her property and rights are now legally in the hands of her nearest male relative: her daughter’s overbearing husband, whom Lyddie cannot abide. Lyddie decides to challenge both law and custom for control of her destiny, but she soon discovers the price of her bold “war” for personal freedom to be heartbreakingly dear.

Includes the fascinating “story behind the story” of The Widow’s War, a map of colonial Brewster, and a driving tour of the village of Satucket.

My thoughts on the title, cover and premise:

I’ve said this before and I will say it again. I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of books and I must admit I first judge a book by its cover.

I am really into American History and love discovering Historical Fiction writers tell stores in this genre. All scopes of our history fascinates me. Especially 17th,18th and 19th Century America.  There is a really great conversation going on in the Historical Novel Society Facebook Group about American Historical Fiction at the moment. There IS a readership for and many wish to see more US Publishers pick up the genre. There is no doubt our history is exciting and has impacted the world. In my wish-list post coming up next week, I will talk more about that.

The title, The Widow’s War first captured my attention and I began to closely observe the cover art. Of course it shows this story is a period piece of a woman who name could be Lyddie-like the protagonist in the story. You can sense her struggles but see her strengths.

I really like the use of colors in the cover art and the subtle dramatic feel to it. This book is on my wish-list and I look forward to reading it soon!

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush: 

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

More cover crushes over at indieBRAG!

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Announcement! Good Time Coming by C.S. Harris

me-iiI have an interview with bestselling, award-winning author C.S Harris that will be posted on December 1st here at Layered Pages! We will be discussing her upcoming novel, Good Time Coming. This story is the most important works of fiction of the American Civil War I have read this year. Harris gets real about the complexities of the what southern women and children endured during the war. Mark your calendars! You won’t want to miss this!

****Be sure to check out my review of Good Time Coming below****

Writing is a time honored moment. When the writer breathes life into the characters and gives them a place in the reader’s heart. Characters capture us in their embrace and we take refuge in their lives in a world of uncertainties.

The art of writing a good review is to build a bridge between the book and the reader.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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good-time-coming-ii“A powerful tale of the survival of the women and children left behind during the American Civil War by the author of the Sebastian St Cyr mysteries.”

It’s the beginning of the American Civil War and the Union army is sailing down the Mississippi, leaving death and destruction in its wake.
The graceful river town of St. Francisville, Louisiana, has known little of the hardships, death, and destruction of the War. But with the fall of New Orleans, all changes. A Federal fleet appears on the Mississippi, and it isn’t long before the depredations and attacks begin.
For one Southern family the dark blue uniform of the Union army is not the only thing they fear. A young girl stops a vicious attack on her mother and the town must pull together to keep each other safe. But a cryptic message casts doubt amongst the town s folk. Is there a traitor in the town and can anybody be trusted?
Twelve-year-old Amrie and her family have never felt entirely accepted by their neighbors, due to their vocal abolitionist beliefs. But when Federal forces lay siege to the nearby strongholds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the women and children of St. Francisville find themselves living in a no man s land between two warring armies. Realizing they must overcome their differences and work together to survive, they soon discover strengths and abilities they never knew they possessed, and forge unexpected friendships.

As the violence in the area intensifies, Amrie comes to terms with her own capacity for violence and realizes that the capacity for evil exists within all of us. And when the discovery of a closely guarded secret brings the wrath of the Federal army down on St. Francisville, the women of St. Francisville, with whom Amrie and her mother have shared the war years many deprivations and traumas, now unite and risk their own lives to save them.

**********

Good Time Coming constitutes far more than a work of fiction. It is not often talked about- the southern women’s struggle during the American Civil War. The shelling of towns, churches and homes, burning, destruction, plundering, murder, rape and sheer terror commented by the union soldiers against women of the south. Not only that but the starvation they experienced. It’s not a comfortable subject and most of the time no one wants to be honest and open about it, but it is a reality that needs to be told. Women and children (black and white), poor and rich were unprotected, brutalized, starved and often left homeless. More times than not, they received no mercy from the union army. That is a fact. The story, Good Time Coming focuses on many of these things and what a telling it is! Harris has meticulously researched for this story and has brought to life, the voices of the past.

I feel so connected to the characters and their life. This story has touched my soul and impacted me in such a way that has taken me to an era gone by. There were so many emotions running through me while reading this story.

Harris truly captures the diversity of people and social standing and shows different views of the war. Her prose is often times lyrical and she really brings you to the heart of these characters and their plight.

I want people to realize how important stories like this are and how we need to openly talk about what really went on.

An American novel of the war between the states everyone should read. This by far is the best book I have read this year and the best of C.S. Harris work.
Rated this book five stars.

c-s-harrisAbout C.S. Harris

Candice Proctor, aka C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham, is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than a dozen novels including the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series written under the name C.S. Harris, the new C.S. Graham thriller series co-written with Steven Harris, and seven historical romances. She is also the author of a nonfiction historical study of the French Revolution. Her books are available worldwide and have been translated into over twenty different languages.

Candice graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude with a degree in Classics before going on to earn an MA and Ph.D. in history. A former academic, she has taught at the University of Idaho and Midwestern State University in Texas. She also worked as an archaeologist on a variety of sites including a Hudson’s Bay Company Fort in San Juan Island, a Cherokee village in Tennessee, a prehistoric kill site in Victoria, Australia, and a Roman cemetery and medieval manor house in Winchester, England. Most recently, she spent many years as a partner in an international business consulting firm.

The daughter of a career Air Force officer and university professor, Proctor loves to travel and has spent much of her life abroad. She has lived in Spain, Greece, England, France, Jordan, and Australia. She now makes her home in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, retired Army officer Steve Harris, her two daughters, and an ever-expanding number of cats.

C.S. Harris Website

Cover Crush: The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins

The Tory WidowI absolutely adore American History and how this great nation was founded. I am really looking forward to reading this book and I LOVE the book cover! I think it’s perfect for the story and I am delighted to see a picture of a woman without her entire head missing from the layout! Okay, okay… I have to admit something. This book falls under the Genre-Romance as well as 18th Century Literature. I am not a fan of romance stories. Having said that, because of the cover and the historical influence of the story, I’m willing to give it a go.

Book Description:

On a bright May day in New York City, Anne Peabody receives an unexpected kiss from a stranger. Bringing news of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of Liberty, abruptly sweeps Anne into his arms, kisses her-and then leaves her to her fate of an arranged marriage…

1775: Nearly ten years have passed and Anne, now the Widow Merrick, continues her late husband’s business printing Tory propaganda, not because she believes in the cause, but because she needs the money to survive. When her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, Anne once again comes face to face with Jack and finds herself drawn to the ardent patriot and his rebel cause.

As shots ring out at Lexington and war erupts, Anne is faced with a life-altering decision: sit back and watch her world torn apart, or stand and fight for both her country’s independence and her own.

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Flashlight Commentary’s latest cover crush here

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon