The view from our morning walk
Things we read today:
• Landmark History of the American People. I love this book. The chapters on the rise of the American political parties, which we read a couple of weeks ago—fascinating, engaging, even funny in parts, and of course highly relevant to current events, ahem. We’ve read big chunks of Landmark in years past, but never the whole book in one go; it’s a lot to take in. Finished up the Civil War section last week and are just about ready to head into the Antebellum era. Going to hold off a bit, though, until we catch up to 1865 in our American lit readings. Which brings us to…
• Anne Bradstreet. Read about her, read a couple of poems.
• The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. Just came out. We procured a copy yesterday and it was immediately devoured by the first two sisters in line. Today was Beanie’s turn. All other events come to an immediate halt when a new Heroes of Olympus book crosses the threshold.
• Also I’m seeing
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (Mysterious Benedict Society prequel) The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma [edited because I should learn to read book titles] in a different set of hands every time I turn around. Scott picked up a copy after my booksigning on Saturday. (This is the peril of bookstore appearances. Any royalty income you might eventually see from the books sold at the event is spent before you leave the shop. Basically, I write books to feed my bookbuying habit.)
• To Huck and Rilla: Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? and Katy and the Big Snow. Ahhh….
• Wonderboy is hooked on Calvin & Hobbes. His favorite bedtime reading. He falls asleep under a collection every night.
Other today things:
• This morning was finally cool enough (which is not to say cool, just not broiling) for me to plant the treasures we picked up at last week’s City Farmers outing. I even did a little weeding. In a San Diego October (our crispy season), that feels like a Herculean feat. (Speaking of the Heroes of Olympus.)
• Thursday means Thicklebit!
• In the made-my-day category, there’s this lovely review of The Prairie Thief by Amy at Hope is the Word:
Thankfully, I was alone when I read the denouement of this lovely little middle grade tale; anyone who watched while I was reading would surely have wondered how I could derive so much enjoyment (as evidenced by the broad grin on my face) out of what is obviously a children’s story. This one is pure enjoyment.
Yay! So happy.
If you follow my daily learning notes blog, you know that Jane and I have been reading and discussing a book called The Landmark History of the American People by Daniel Boorstin.
I picked it up about four years ago, when Jane was around eight years old. At the time, it didn’t really click with her and I laid it aside.
We picked it back up last year and this time, the fit was right. It’s a history text, but it isn’t like any other history book I’ve seen. Instead of following events strictly chronologically, Boorstin tracks trends and movements: how the general store gave way to the department store, for example, or how a snake oil salesman repurposed his product for lamp-lighting and greased the way, so to speak, for Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Empire.
Boorstin, who was appointed Librarian of Congress when President Ford was in the White House, is an engaging storyteller, and he ropes you in with descriptions of the charismatic personalities that have been American movers and shakers. Jane reads each chapter eagerly and then passes it to me, entertaining the babies so I can have my turn. I’m learning as much as she is.
There is much here to fire the imagination:
(Jane, reading over my shoulder: “Do the bit about the shot tower, Mom!”)
The second problem [with building tall buildings; the first problem, how to get people up to higher floors, was solved by the elevator]—how to hold up the building—began to be solved when James Bogardus and others had used cast iron for their Buyers’ Palaces. No longer was it necessary to build a tall building like a pyramid, with thick supporting walls on the lower floors. Cast-iron construction helped the department stores keep the lower floors wide open, with broad vistas and narrow pillars, allowing attractive show windows in between. But iron construction also made it possible to build higher and higher. Soon an eight-story building like Stewart’s Cast Iron Palace would seem small.
Bogardus himself constructed one of the first buildings of true skyscraper design. Its frame was a tall iron cage. If the cage was strong and rigid, and solidly anchored at the bottom, then the building could go up high without needing thick walls at the bottom. This was ‘skeleton’ construction. The building was held up, not by wide foundations at the bottom, but by its own rigid skeleton.
The first time Bogardus actually tried this, his structure did not have any rooms at all. It was a skeleton-framed tower for an ammunition factory. In those days lead shot was made by pouring molten lead through a sieve inside a high tower. The little liquid balls of lead dripped through, a few at a time. As these plummeted down through the air they became naturally rounded. And as they fell into the tank of water at the bottom they hardened into their rounded shape—ready for use in a rifle or a cannon.
In 1855, when the McCullough Shot and Lead Company needed a new shot tower in New York City, Bogardus gave them his radical new design. He built them an octagonal iron tower eight stories high. A tall iron cage, it needed no filled-in, weight-bearing walls to hold it up. Yet it was strong. When the openings in the iron frame were covered with brick, it served just as well as any heavy column of stone.
There is ample fodder here for the “ideas to ponder and discuss” part of our Rule of Six!
The edition I have contains both volumes of Boorstin’s text, with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution sandwiched between them. Several Amazon marketplace sellers have listed older editions of the book—most of them, I think, are offering the individual volumes. Volume 1 is “From Plymouth to Appomatox” and Volume 2 is “From Appomatox to the Moon.”
Another great history read is Jennifer Armstrong’s The American Story, but that’s a subject for another review!