Monday, October 01, 2007

#64 - One Night Stands with American History by Richard Shenkman

I enjoy historical anecdotes, especially when they are about little things I was taught were true, that actually aren't. Richard Shenkman has written several collections of historical tidbits, and I really enjoyed this one.

This version of the book has been updated to contain some anecdotes from the last 30 years, including the fact that former President Carter once appalled the British Queen Mother by kissing her on the lips instead of the cheek. It also has a few little bits about the first President Bush and President Clinton, but mostly deals with American history from the 1700's to the 1960's.

Not all of the historical accounts in this book are about politics though. One non-political tidbit is: The ice cream soda was invented by accident in 1874 when Robert M. Green ran out of sweet cream and substituted vanilla ice cream in sodas he was selling at the semicentennial celebration of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. And, the average life expectancy of Americans in 1876 was about 40.

Of course, there are plenty of political anecdotes as well. While president, Grant was arrested for speeding in his horse carriage. The first black man elected to congress was Hiram Nevels from Mississippi. Prior to Nevels, the seat was held by Jefferson Davis.

This book was an enjoyable, quick read.

50 Book Challenge 2007: 44/50


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