Category Archives: History Scrapbook

A could-have-been historian’s notes. And so forth.

Appalachian Passage by Helen Hiscoe: a review

The Hiscoe family’s relationship with the local Mine Workers leadership was odd. In most cases the personal relationships were quite friendly, but it’s pretty clear that some of these friends were working against the Doc behind the scenes. The hows and whys are never satisfactorily uncovered, and in the end the family decides it’s better to leave than to sort out the problems. It would be interesting to see a similar account of the year from a mining family’s perspective, as it’s clear that the author wasn’t privy to some of the discussions.

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Ill. State Playoffs Cancelled (1947)

There will be no playoff series in the Illinois State League after all. Directors of the circuit called off the post-season games on the final day of the season, at a time when President Howard Millard was preparing to release the playoff schedule to the wire services

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Howard V. Millard

Howard Millard, the president of the Midwest League’s predecessor Illinois State League in 1947 and 1948, was sports editor for the Decatur (Illinois) Review (later the Herald and Review) from 1920 through 1958. For his entire tenure in Decatur Millard wrote a column called “Bait for Bugs.” He was good at his job, but covering the Three-I League for The Sporting News didn’t bring him national fame. He was unusually active in Illinois, however, founding and presiding over the Illinois Associated Press Sports Editors Association.

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Branch Rickey by Jimmy Breslin

This is an odd book. It’s more a “Scenes from a Life” than a proper biography, and it largely concentrates on Rickey’s efforts to integrate baseball and his relationship with Jackie Robinson. There’s too little about Rickey’s other major impacts on the game, as the development of the minor league farm system is only lightly touched and Rickey’s involvement in the Continental League is only barely mentioned. Nor is there any serious discussion of the way Rickey actually assembled and administered baseball teams.

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The Dream Machine by Mitchell Waldrop: a short review

This is a terrific book. The writing is lucid, the research–though predominantly from secondary sources–is excellent. If you plan to read one book about the ARPA computing effort, this should be that book.

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The Copper Mines of Lake Superior by T. A. Rickard: a review

Rickard examined the mining practices of most of the major mines on the range, with the significant exceptions of the Calumet and Tamarack mines, where non-employee mining engineers were not welcome. For the mines he did examine, he highlighted what they did best, the roots of their technical preferences, and any glaring weaknesses he identified in their processes. He then did the same for the associated mills (including, interestingly, the C&H mill on Torch Lake). There’s a wealth of technical detail, and enough economic detail that one could estimate the entire cost of production for many of the mines.

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The Copper Empire, volume 1, by Mike Forgrave: a review

Roughly fifty maps of towns and mining locations on the Keweenaw peninsula, with only a minimal amount of text. These are sort of idealized maps, actually, showing each town/mine’s main features but not tied to specific dates. So (according to the author/mapmaker) some of the maps include structures which not only are no longer there but which never coexisted on the specific site. The result is that each map locates both current (2009) buildings and construction which was dismantled 70 years ago.

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Michigan State Ferries, by Les Bagley: a review

This is, I imagine, the sort of book Arcadia’s business model intends: A well thought out picture book whose captions actually tell a coherent story. Nicely done.

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Authority and Disorder in Tudor Times, 1485-1603 by Paul Thomas: a short review

This reads for all the world like a well-polished set of class notes for a college course with the book’s title. One would assume the course to be intended for sophomores or juniors.

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History of the Express Business by Alexander Lovett Stimson: a short review

I’ve seen this book described as “indispensable.” It might well be that, but it’s odd. There is, indeed, a history of the express companies in here, which covers the territory in great detail, including long lists of key players and word portraits of the communities served by the agencies. Stimson was amazingly well-connected, and interested in everything about the trade. The narrative is constantly interrupted, though, by not-very-relevant asides, and he’s prone to offering political opinions. Stimson’s also thoroughly convinced that the express agencies played a major role in the settlement of the American west–an opinion with some validity, to be sure, but not to the degree this author claims. The long lists he likes to compile often seem pointless. The author’s also prone to word play, to a degree that’s positively annoying. And the book ends with over a hundred pages of miscellaneous material.

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