Life Stories for Young People

Translator: George P. Upton
Publisher: A. C. McClurg & Co., Chicago
Dates: 1904–1914

The Life Stories Series is a collection of short biographies written for intermediate students (5th through 9th grade), that were originally published in Germany. At the time, the German national school system was widely admired by educational reformers in the United States, and many of its features were incorporated into the American public school system.

The subjects of these books are mostly European, but they cover a wide variety of personalities and interests. There are a number of famous national heroes, of course, such as William the Silent, Frederick the Great, and Eugene of Savoy. But there are also explorers, musicians, and legendary heroes. At least five of the books in the collection are written primarily from the point of view the queen or Empress of a prominant European monarch, rather than principle ruler himself. A number focus on the childhood of famous personages, rather than their political career. In all cases, an effort has been made to maximize the interest for younger students in the lives of the subjects, rather than to emphasize political lessons.

The original German for many of these books were published in the 1880's and 1890's but the American translations, done by the Chicago Music critic, George P. Upton, were not completed until 1907 through 1914. The collection was very well received, and was gaining popularity in children's libraries when the first world war broke out. Because of anti-German sentiment, however, publication was stopped during the First World War and never resumed. The following advertisement appears in the back of many of the books in this series.

"The books in this series are translated from the German, because in that country a specialty is made of really desirable reading for the young. . . . Their simplicity and accuracy make them very useful for every school library in the elementary grades. For parents who feel disposed to give their children books that provide a mild element of historical information, as well as first-class entertainment, the little books will prove a veritable find. . . .

"The "life-stories" retain the story form throughout, and embody in each chapter a stirring event in the life of the hero or the action of the time. The dramatis personae are actual characters, and the facts in the main are historically correct. They are therefore both entertaining and instructive, and present biography in its most attractive form for the young."

Herman and Thusnelda   by George Upton
Hermann was a chieftain who defeated the Roman army at the battle of Teutoburg Forest, a defeat which ultimately drove the Romans from Germany. This story of his life is based on historical accounts but also romanticizes the Norse gods and legends that animated the German heroes. 41 credits

Gudrun   by George Upton
Gudrun is a major character in Norse mythology and is loosely based on Kriemhild, wife of Siegfried. Her story, however, ends cheerfully as her faithfulness is ultimately rewarded by a reunion with her knightly lover. Her story is a romance of the old heroic period, written by a German poet of the thirteenth century and after the Nibelungen Lied, is the foremost of the German epic poems.46 credits

Nibelungs   by George Upton
The Nibelungs is the most famous Epic in Norse mythology and is said to be based on the Royal family of Burgundy. The story begins when the wealth of the Burgundians falls into the hands of Siegfried. After helping King Gunther woo Brunhild, Siegfried marries Kriemhild, Gunther's sister. Ultimately, a row between the Queens leads to the death of both Siegfried and Kriemhild, and the loss of the treasure. 64 credits

Undine   by George Upton
This famous German romance is based on 18th century story of a water spirit who marries a human in order become mortal. It is full of mischief, treachery, and drama. It was made into a very popular Opera by Hoffman and was emblematic of the 19th century rebirth of German romantic culture. 46 credits

Johann Sebastian Bach   by George Upton
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Beethoven   by George Upton
This children's biography of Beethoven focuses on the youth of the great composer, a period of hardship due mainly to the abuse his family suffered at the hands of his talented, but violent and alcoholic father. Beethoven's genius was apparent from an early age, and he received support from friends and admirers, yet his life included many struggles and much sadness. His tremendous achievements were a result of prodigious effort, resolve, and courage as well as talent, and this short biography covers just those dramatic episodes most likely to be of interest to young people. 38 credits

Mozart's Youth   by George Upton
This story tells only of the youth of Mozart, who already at fifteen was considered a genius and protegy. The emphasis is on his early experiences and character formation rather than his short but brilliant career. 36 credits

Josph Haydn   by George Upton
Haydn was one of the most important and original composers of the 18th century. Although born in Austria, Haydn made many trips to England and was extremely popular throughout all of Europe. He was also a close friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven. He lived an exemplary life and was universally admired. 57 credits

Barbarossa   by George Upton
Barbarossa was one of the greatest of the Holy Roman Emperors, and one of the most famous of the Crusaders. The Holy Roman Empire was in disarray, but Barbarossa did much to consolidate power and form alliances. He campaigned in Italy as well as Germany, and did much to rebuild the Empire to its former prestige. After much conflict with the Pope and his Italian allies, Barbarossa agreed to lead a Crusade but died enroute to the holy land.55 credits

Swiss Heroes   by George Upton
This romance is based on historical events and set in the days of Charles the Bold. It involves intertwined stories of several Swiss heroes who fought for Swiss rights by joining the forces in Europe allied against the tyrant Charles the Bold. 43 credits

William Tell   by George Upton
The legend of William Tell, the Swiss patriot who shot an apple off the head of his son, is based on a true story. This book tells the story of the freedom loving Swiss and their efforts to combat the Austrian tyranny. Tell's heroic actions embolded all his countrymen who eventually won their independence from Austria. 36 credits

Charlemagne   by George Upton
There is no greater hero of the middle ages than Charlemagne, king of the Franks. He was great in war and great in peace—a conqueror, law-maker, scholar, organizer, and civilizer. He subdued savage nations, introduced learning, extended religion, encouraged the arts and sciences, and established one of the mightiest empires of the olden times. 30 credits

Eric the Red   by George Upton
This book records the stories of Eric the Red and his son Lief Ericson, the Norsemen credited with discovering North America in the 11th century. The adventures of other Norsemen, such as Thorwald, Thorfinn, and Finnboge, whose stories are related in the Nordic sagas are also told, along with other Pre-Columbian Nordic explorers.40 credits

Maximilian in Mexico   by George Upton
The tragic story of Maximilian of Mexico is one of political opportunism and rank treachery. Maximilian and his lovely wife Carlotta, who were pampered European royalty, were in no way prepared for the back-stabbing treachery from both Mexicans and Europeans which confronted them when they accepted the crown of the Mexico. 42 credits

Louise - Queen of Prussia   by George Upton
Louise, Queen of Prussia is one of the most heroic figures of the Napoleonic war era. She rallied the country to resist Napoleon and did everything in her power to maintain Prussian rights under the tyrannical regime of Napoleon. Her son William I became the first Emperor of Germany, and she was a beloved Prussian heroine for over a century. 39 credits

Elizabeth - Empress of Austria   by George Upton
Elizabeth of Austria was an romantic heroine of the 19th century rather than an important political personage. Beautiful and well educated, she distained court life, and spent much of her life traveling in western Europe. Although graced with every advantage, her personal life was filled with disappointments and tragedies including the suicide of her son, Rudolf the Crown Prince, and her own tragic assassination.48 credits

Eugenie - Empress of the French   by George Upton
The story of Napoleon III Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870 is well told through the life story of Eugenie, his Empress, whom he married for love, rather than political connections. Although their 20 year reign included many triumphs, it ended disastrously as a result the Franco-Prussian War. Eugenie outlived her husband by nearly 50 years and saw France through a difficult and tumultuous half-century. 50 credits

Prince Eugene   by George Upton
Eugene of Savoy, although French born, was one of the greatest generals in Austrian history and a gentleman of excellent character. Eugene's career spanned over fifty years and he served three Emperors, defending Austrian interests from both the Ottomans and the French. From his first great victory over the Ottomans at Zenta to the battle of Belgrade, he protected Christian Europe and held together the Hapsburg empire.50 credits

Maria Theresa of Austria   by George Upton
Maria Theresa was Archduchess of Austria for forty years, spanning much of the 18th century. The Austrian Empire was large and diverse, and Austria was surrounded on all sides by dangerous foes, most significantly Frederick the Great of Prussia who spent much of his career expanding the borders of Prussia at the expense of Austria. This book draws a sympathetic portrait of one of the most interesting and powerful women in European history.43 credits

Emperor William First   by George Upton
This biography of William the First, the first Kaiser of Germany was written before the First World War, and in retrospect appears fawning toward its subject. At the time it was written however, Prussia was greatly admired throughout much of the west for its technical achievements and its progressive, secular government, and the Emperor was highly regarded. 40 credits

Frederick the Great   by George Upton
This book focuses mainly on the event-filled Seven Years War, rather than the full life of Frederick the Great. Its focus on the period of greatest conflict and drama permits the most significant events of Frederick's life to be told in detail. It is an excellent companion book to Theresa Maria of Austria, which covers many of the same events from the Austrian, rather than the Prussian point of view.50 credits

William of Orange   by George Upton
William of Orange was the mastermind and driving force behind the Netherlands rebellion against the tyranny of Philip II. Although William was at first a Catholic and favored religious toleration, when the Spanish governors redoubled their persecutions, he became a leader of the Protestant rebels. He gave his life, his fortune, and his whole being to the cause--losing many family members in the process, and is one of the most inspiring heroes of the Protestant cause. 41 credits

Youth of the Great Elector   by George Upton
The Great Elector of Prussia was an ancestor of Frederick the great, but the main events of this book focus on the Thirty Years' War, which occurred during his youth. Son of Calvinist monarchs, in a Lutheran country, governed by a Catholic minister, the young Frederick was witness to all the intrigue and excesses of the tragic war which laid waste to great swaths of Germany during his lifetime.53 credits

Little Dauphin   by George Upton
This book tells the story of the French revolution from the point of view of the crown prince of France, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. After the execution of his parents, the seven-year-old boy was taken from his family and kept prisoner for three years, during which time he was tortured, beaten and abused. His story, told with enough discretion to make it suitable for young people, provides a dramatic and pathetic insight into the cruelties and viciousness of the French revolution. 46 credits

Marie Antoinette   by George Upton
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Maid of Orleans   by George Upton
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Frithjof Saga   by George Upton
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