A fun sequel offers more recondite tidbits of American history.
With 50 states, there are plenty of details about border controversies for this mildly titillating follow-up to screenwriter Stein’s How the States Got Their Shapes (2008), which in turn inspired the History Channel’s eponymous documentary. The personalities behind the disputes take center stage: Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who were actually a pair of highly accomplished English surveyors of the Royal Society possibly hired by Benjamin Franklin to establish impartially the disputed 300-mile Pennsylvania-Maryland-Delaware boundary. “Asking Mason and Dixon to survey a boundary in America,” writes the author, “was… akin to asking Mozart to play at a prom.” Thanks to Ethan Allen (“not a furniture maker”) and his motley posse of Green Mountain Boys, the homesteads making up the future Vermont were saved from rapacious New Yorkers. It is largely due to the zeal (or wealth) of John Hardeman Walker who “put the boot heel on Missouri” in order to keep his land from sinking into Arkansas. Under the presidency of James K. Polk, America’s borders increased greatly, incorporating Texas, the Oregon Territory and everything in between the Rockies and the Pacific, creating a massive befuddlement for lawmakers; bright lights such as Sam Houston, Brigham Young and John Sutter would all wield profound influence on the shape of the states affiliated with their names. Stein includes contributions by important women, including proto-feminist Clarina Nichols, who moved her family to Kansas for the purpose of creating an anti-slavery majority in 1854, and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, who attempted tirelessly to win statehood for the District of Columbia. Overall, the author provides plenty of good stuff for tournament quizzes and Jeopardy questions.
Bright, readable and accessible for all ages.