Monthly Archives: May 2013

America’s Forgotten Hisitory

I lived in Lynchburg, Virginia during the 1960s while in high school and college. I left after graduating from Lynchburg College in 1968. I returned eleven years later for a brief four years. During those four years I discovered things about Lynchburg’s history that I was unaware of while living there in the sixties.

I did not know, for example, that Thomas Jefferson’s summer home, Poplar Forest, was located in one of the city’s western suburbs. Neither did I know that a large house up on one of the hills overlooking the city was once the home of the doctor who gave Patrick Henry a fatal dose of mercury medicine. Dr. George Cabell warned Henry that it might be fatal, but Henry insisted on taking it. He died.

Both Popular Forest and Point of Honor are now tourist attractions; neither was when I lived in the area. My point is simply this. We often live near locations of historical significance without knowing it, often because no one ever bothered to erect a marker.

Andrew Carroll‘s very interesting book, HERE IS WHERE: DISCOVERING AMERICA’S GREAT FORGOTTEN HISTORY (New York: Crown Archetype, 2013), brings to light many interesting, and often overlooked, individuals and events in America’s history. Carroll does so by visiting the sites associated with the people and events. Often those living nearby were unaware of what took place there until Carroll showed up asking questions.

The stories uncovered by Carroll are more interesting than they are of historical importance. A visit to some “lush green bean fields” in western Indiana is the setting for an account of Horace Greeley’s involvement in an attempt to establish the utopian community known as the Grand Prairie Harmonical Association. Like other such attempts in America, and there were quite a number, GPHA failed. Nothing is left of the community, or should we say commune, except bean fields.

Not everyone would be happy with Carroll’s reviving memories of individuals or events many Americans, especially those living in their shadow, would rather remain hidden in the back of history’s closet. One example is Carroll’s visit to California’s redwoods in search of any tribute to Madison Grant, one of America’s early conservationists.

Given the popularity of environmental issues today, it is remarkable that almost no one is aware of the fact that one of the three men responsible for saving the giant redwoods of California was a man named Madison Grant. In fact, there is only a small bronze plaque in California’s Redwoods State Park that pays tribute to this great conservationist and defender of America’s natural beauty. There are three names listed on the plaque. They are Madison Grant, John C. Merriam, and Henry Fairfield Osborn, founders of the Save-the-Redwoods League.

Most of those who by some accident happen to see the plaque and read it have no idea who any of the three men were. A few do, and some of them are aghast at any mention of Madison Grant, especially in a favorable light. Why? Not only was Grant a conservationist, he was also the author of a very popular book advocating the now discredited pseudoscience known as eugenics. Eugenics was an attempt of give scientific credibility to the idea of breeding a “master race.”

Madison Grant’s book, THE PASSING OF THE GREAT RACE (1916) was not only widely read in America, but also in Germany. Many Nazi leaders and intellectuals used Grant’s book, as well as Henry Ford’s THE INTERNATIONAL JEW (1920), to give respectability to their racist theories.

HERE IS WHERE includes a great many little known historical points of interest. Not everyone will find every article equally interesting, but there is more than a little here for anyone who enjoys reading about one of the most interesting of topics, history.

HERE IS WHERE: DISCOVERING AMERICA’S GREAT FORGOTTEN HISTORY is an easy and most enjoyable read. Thank you Mr. Carroll.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.

Another Novel About Zelda Fitzgerald

The May 1, 1920 issue of The Saturday Evening ...

The May 1, 1920 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, the first time Fitzgerald’s name appeared on the cover of the magazine to which he contributed for much of his life. Fitzgerald’s short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair appeared in this issue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was for me a mistake to read Erika Robuck’s CALL ME ZELDA (New York: New American Library, 2013) after having read Therese Flower’s Z: A NOVEL OF ZELDA FITZGERALD (2013). Whereas Z kept me turning the pages, CALL ME ZELDA kept me wondering if I should continue reading. A hundred pages into the novel all I could utter is “ho hum.”

CALL ME ZELDA is the sort of novel that is enjoyed by ladies who want a somewhat romantic story to pass the time while enjoying a good cup of coffee. It is a good story, well written, but only that.

Zelda Fitzgerald is merely a supporting character in a story about Anna Howard, a nurse in a psychiatric clinic. Zelda Fitzgerald, a patient in the clinic, plays a supporting role to Anna. Other characters, like Zelda’s husband the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, move in and out of the story.

CALL ME ZELDA is a bit of light fiction, a notch or two above the cheap paperback romance novels that are cranked out like newspapers. There is really nothing to communicate to the reader any feeling of the Jazz Age. Unlike Flower’s Z, I felt that I knew nothing more about the Fitzgerald’s or the world they so colorfully inhabited than when I began reading.

In the end, I am left with the feeling that this is just a story, one in which the characters are given names that enables it to capitalize on the renewed interest in F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, an interest stirred up by the remake of the movie, THE GREAT GATSBY. Change the names of the characters, and the story would be the same.

Until next time, be good to all God’s creatures and always go under the mercy.