This collection of American biographies tells the stories of four dozen heroes, including statesmen, patriots, inventors, religious leaders, suffragettes, businessmen, and philanthropists. About half of the subjects are quite famous but many others, such as Robert Morris, George Peabody, and Peter Cooper, contributed greatly to America life but are not as well-known.
MONTICELLO, THE HOME OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.
In the history of every nation there is much more going on than wars and revolutions. These are brief in duration and rapid in effect, but in the long intervals between the years of strife the work of peace goes steadily forward, producing its changes more deliberately but with equal utility. The pioneer and the warrior are not the only figures that stand prominent in national archives, not the only individuals that rise to the surface of things. There are many persons who attain heroic proportions not as results of bold adventure or military skill and daring, but through aid to the progress of mankind in less showy but equally important ways. The careers of these workers for good usually present little of the striking or dramatic. Their histories are not of the coruscating order and their lineaments and proportions not those usually given to the heroic figure. Yet they are often heroes in the noblest sense, and do more for the advancement of mankind than he who draws the sword in his country's defence or plunges into the untrodden wilderness in efforts to extend the borders of his nation's dominion.
Broad are the realms of peace and many paths are open to those who traverse its confines. There are the highroads of statesmanship, of invention, of scientific research, of benevolent activity, of moral earnestness, and many besides, and on all these at times heroic figures appear to dwarf the forms of ordinary men, the heroes of thought and devotion to a great purpose as opposed to the heroes of the embattled field. "Our own history brings up to our mental vision many men and women of this kind, heroic in act and effort though no banners waved over them and no trumpets heralded them on their quiet course. It is deemed appropriate here to put on record the life stories of the more prominent among these, to tell in which field of effort they excelled, what new paths they opened, to what form of supremacy they owed their fame. The tale of these lives is often plain and simple, not marked by the telling events and striking deeds that give spice and variety to the biography of the soldier and the pioneer. It is often what they were rather than what they did that makes their characters great and notable. Their lives were given to the advancement of their country among the nations of the earth or to the benefit of their fellow citizens, and this in every field of quiet and persistent human effort. With a valor and self-sacrifice equal or superior to those of the warrior they led us up to nobler heights and planted the banner of achievement on loftier altitudes than those usually reached by the pathway of the sword.
In the uplifting of the United States to its present high level many men of many parts have borne a share. First came the discoverer and the pioneer, the daring traversers of unknown seas and savage wilds. Then, as occasion arose, came the fighter by land and sea, striking for liberty and union and sowing the land "with memories of valiant deeds. But during our whole history heroes of daily life or national development have arisen, cementing the edifice of our government, issuing in thunder tones the call for right and justice, working in various ways for the happiness and benefit of their fellows. There are many of these. We have been obliged to confine our attention to those of chief prominence and to deal with these but briefly. But we trust that the records of noble life and useful achievement here given may prove interesting and inspiring to readers, and serve to show that the heroes of mankind are of many types, and that the conqueror is not only he who leads victorious armies over prostrate realms, but also he who faces hostile circumstances or braves threatening situations, winning through sheer force of energy and intellect where men of ,smaller mould would have shrunk back in dismay. Of such stuff are made the heroes of peace and progress, and we here present some of the chief among those:who have nobly helped to make the United States great among the nations of the earth.