History in Review
Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805
By Eric Sloane. (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 128. 72 Illustrations.) ISBN: 0-486-43666-7.
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 3, 2005
Noah Blake was a real-life American boy who lived on a farm in rural New England. On March 25, 1805 he began keeping a diary in a book given to him by his parents on the occasion of his birthday - he was fifteen years old. He kept up his diary entries in this book through December 24, 1805. Eric Sloane has used Blake's diary as the foundation of his book, Diary of an Early American Boy: Noah Blake 1805. This innovative book contains the text of Blake's diary along with seventy-two illustrations by Sloane that illuminate the diary entries and which help to bring Blake's world to life for the modern reader. Moreover, Sloane has also annotated Blake's diary entries with explanatory text that helps to clarify the entries that might seem cryptic to modern readers.
For example, in his entry from April 25, 1805, Blake mentions that "Mr. Thomas came by with a new rope from his walk." (Pg. 20). Sloane explains what a walk was, in this case a place to make rope, and he further expands upon the subject by explaining how rope was made in the early 1800's. While the diary entries and Sloane explanatory text makes for fascinating reading, I found that it is through Sloane's illustrations that you really get a feel for early American country life. Sloane's illustrates just about everything from the process of raising a bridge to how to fold a piece of canvas in order to make a bucket out of it. Sloane's also illustrates a range of common work tools, furniture, farm structures, building techniques, wagons, and more. Many of these illustrations explain how various items were made or used, as well as describing how common farm tasks were performed such as making maple syrup, grinding grain, chopping wood, pulling stumps, splitting planks, and so much more. The book is a virtual treasure trove of old time woodworking and farming techniques.
Combined, the text and illustrations of this fascinating book provides an extraordinary glimpse into every day, Early American rural life. This book will delight readers of all ages, and it will help satiate the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered about what life was like before electricity, indoor plumbing, automobiles, and the various other devices and luxuries that we now take for granted. Suitable for all ages, this book will be particularly relished by young adults, writers' searching for a sense of realism to add to their stories, and anyone with an interest in old-time woodworking and farming. It also serves a wonderful nostalgic trip back in time for anyone who grew up, or worked on, a subsistence farm.
The American Family in the Colonial Period, by Arthur W. Calhoun.
A sociological study of colonial American family life and how Old World attitudes and family dynamics and traditions were adapted to meet the conditions encountered in the New World.
Greasy Luck: A Whaling Sketchbook, by Gordon Grant.
This book contains sixty-four annotated illustrations that exemplify what life was life for a whaler on a typical whaling voyage.
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