This book is a companion to Eggleston's well-known Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans. While the former volume focused mainly on statesmen, soldiers, and inventors, this volume contains thirty fascinating stories from America's early years that do not relate to political history. Instead they are drawn to reflect the adventures and unusual incidents of explorers, colonists, sailors, townsfolk, and regular citizens.
This book is intended to serve three main purposes.
One of these is to make school reading pleasant by supplying matter simple and direct in style, and sufficiently interesting and exciting to hold the reader's attention in a state of constant wakefulness; that is, to keep the mind in the condition in which instruction can be received with the greatest advantage.
A second object is to cultivate an interest in narratives of fact by selecting chiefly incidents full of action, such as are attractive to the minds of boys and girls whose pulses are yet quick with youthful life. The early establishment of a preference for stories of this sort is the most effective antidote to the prevalent vice of reading inferior fiction for mere stimulation.
But the principal aim of this book is to make the reader acquainted with American life and manners in other times. The history of life has come to be esteemed of capital importance, but it finds, as yet, small place in school instruction. The stories and sketches in this book relate mainly to earlier times and to conditions very different from those of our own day. They will help the pupil to apprehend the life and spirit of our forefathers. Many of them are such as make him acquainted with that adventurous pioneer life, which thus far has been the largest element in our social history, and which has given to the national character the traits of quick-wittedness, humor, self-reliance, love of liberty, and democratic feeling. These traits in combination distinguish us from other peoples.
Stories such as these here told of Indian life, of frontier peril and escape, of adventures with the pirates and kidnappers of colonial times, of daring Revolutionary feats, of dangerous whaling voyages, of scientific exploration, and of personal encounters with savages and wild beasts, have become the characteristic folklore of America. Books of history rarely know them, but they are history of the highest kind,—the quintessence of an age that has passed, or that is swiftly passing away, forever. With them are here intermingled sketches of the homes, the food and drink, the dress and manners, the schools and children's plays, of other times. The text-book of history is chiefly busy with the great events and the great personages of history: this book seeks to make the young American acquainted with the daily life and character of his forefathers. In connection with the author's "Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans," it is intended to form an introduction to the study of our national history.
It has been thought desirable to make the readings in this book cover in a general way the whole of our vast country. The North and the South, the Atlantic seaboard, the Pacific slope, and the great interior basin of the continent, are alike represented in these pages.