Old Books

GeographyOld books are intriguing, not only for their content but for the persons who may have owned them.
          One such book on my shelves is Natural Elementary Geography. It was published by the American Book Company, copyright 1897. My copy appears to be a later printing since it reports 1900 census data. Authors are Jacques W. Redway and Russell Hinman
          The Preface page notes the book is “designed for a pupil’s first text-book in the subject, and is intended for a two-year’s course between the beginning of the third and the end of the fifth school year.” You might expect this to be quite a thick volume to occupy students for two years. The 8”x 10” book has only 144 pages and there are lots of illustrations.
          Another Preface note states, “…one of the most important functions of elementary geography is to teach the names, locations, and characteristics of the countries into which man has divided the earth.”
          While the purpose was to prepare students for more intense study in higher grades, it also offered basic knowledge for “the large proportion of pupils who leave school at an early age.” (Between 1900 and 1919, half of the U.S. student population did not get to eighth grade, according to a 1995 study by Tyack & Cuban.)
          The boy who used this book wrote his name on the fly page: Raleigh Louis Poppe. He apparently had a crush on a girl named Isabella Murphy. He wrote her name beside his own several times in the front of the book.
          The back of the book offers two pages of world population data circa 1900.
          The United States had only 45 states. Arizona, District of Columbia, New Mexico and Oklahoma were territories, along with “Indian Territory.” The total population of the United States was 75,994,575.
          In addition, 91,219 people were listed as “Persons in U.S. service abroad.” (Today over 160,00 active-duty U.S. military personnel are deployed in more than 150 countries around the world.)
          Alaska, Hawaii, Porto (sic) Rico, Philippine Islands, Guam, Wake, and Tutuila, were listed as “Outlying Territories.”

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