Makers of American History
The Rollo Books
Other Fiction, Educational, and Christian Living Books
by Jacob Abbott and John S. C. Abbott
Makers of History
These are now being reprinted by PrestonSpeed Publications!
The Makers of History series was published in a number of formats, most with lovely engravings, first by Harper Brothers in red and maroon covers and later by other publishers in a variety of cover styles. The first example, above, is part of Altemus' Young People's Library published in 1900. These were also published as "Famous Characters of History," "Histories of Celebrated Sovereigns," and, some, as "Famous Queens of History."
Although the 33 books in this series were written as textbooks, they read like the adventure stories they are! I have really enjoyed my set--and often find myself somewhat unwilling to put the books down!
Jacob Abbott (whose biography you can read first here and then, by his son, here) believed that children needed to begin their history studies with living stories of the men and women who made history. He wrote the following in his Preface to Cyrus the Great:
"One special object which the author of this series has had in view, in the plan and method which he has followed in the preparation of the successive volumes, has been to adapt them to the purposes of text-books in schools. The study of a general compend of history, such as is frequently used as a text-book, is highly useful, if it comes in at the right stage of education, when the mind is sufficiently matured.... Without this degree of maturity of mind, and this preparation, the study of such a work will be, as it too frequently is, a mere mechanical committing to memory of names, and dates, and phrases, which awaken no interest, communicate no ideas, and impart no useful knowledge to the mind.
"A class of ordinary pupils, who have not yet become much acquainted with history, would, accordingly, be more benefited by having their attention concentrated, at first, on detached and separate topics, such as those which form the subjects, respectively, of these volumes. By studying thus fully the history of individual monarchs, or the narratives of single events, they can go more fully into detail; they conceive of the transactions described as realities; their reflecting and reasoning powers are occupied on what they read; they take notice of the motives of conduct, of the gradual development of character, the good or ill desert of actions, and of the connection of causes and consequences, both in respect to the influence of wisdom and virtue on the one hand, and, on the other, of folly and crime. In a word, their minds and hearts are occupied instead of merely their memories. They reason, they sympathize, they pity, they approve, and they condemn. They enjoy the real and true pleasure which constitutes the charm of historical study for minds that are mature; and they acquire a taste for truth instead of fiction, which will tend to direct their reading into proper channels in all future years."
Of the characters chosen, Jacob Abbott wrote, in his preface to Alfred the Great,
"It is the object of this series of histories to present a clear, distinct, and connected narrative of the lives of those great personages who have in various ages of the world made themselves celebrated as leaders among mankind, and, by the part they have taken in the public affairs of great nations, have exerted the widest influence on the history of the human race. The end which the author has had in view is twofold: first, to communicate such information in respect to the subjects of his narratives as is important for the general reader to possess; and, secondly, to draw such moral lessons from the events described and the characters delineated as they may legitimately teach to the people of the present age...."
While Abbott recognizes and describes the moral lessons taught by history, the books do not attempt to contrive a moral lesson for every historical event. They are not overtly "preachy," but their approach to history is distinctly Christian. The books are not a set of 33 sermons, but a set of well-written, exciting, Christian history stories of men, both good and evil, who were providentially used to bring forth history.
For example, of Hernando Cortez, John Abbott wrote,
"The career of Hernando Cortez is one of the most wild and adventurous recorded in the annals of fact or fiction, and yet all the prominent events in his wondrous history are well-authenticated. All truth carries with itself an important moral. The writer, in this narrative, has simply attempted to give a vivid idea of the adventures of Cortez and his companions in the Conquest of Mexico. There are many inferences of vast moment to which the recital leads. These are so obvious that they need not be pointed out."
In his account of Alfred the Great, Jacob Abbott wrote,
"There was a certain Saint Neot, a kinsman and religious counselor of Alfred...[who] often rebuked Alfred in the severest terms for his sinful course of life, predicting the most fatal consequences if he did not reform, and using language which only a very culpable degree of remissness and irregularity could justify. 'You glory,' said he, one day, when addressing the king, 'in your pride and power, and are determined and obdurate in your iniquity. But there is a terrible retribution in store for you. I entreat you to listen to my counsels, amend your life, and govern your people with moderation and justice, instead of tyranny and oppression, and thus aver if you can, before it is too late, the impending judgements of Heaven.'
"Such language as this it is obvious that only a very serious dereliction of duty on Alfred's part could call for or justify..... The noblest human spirits are always, in some periods of their existance, or in some aspects of their characters, strangely weakened by infirmities and frailties, and deformed by sin. This is human nature. We like to imagine that we find exceptions, and to see specimens of moral perfection in our friends or in the historical characters whose general course of action we admire; but there are no exceptions. To err and to sin, at some times and in some ways, is the common, universal, and inevitable lot of humanity."
Of the Pilgrims John Abbott wrote,
"Thus the explorers on the land and in the boat passed the first part of this dismal night. At midnight, however, those in the boat, unable longer to endure the cold, ventured to land, and, with their shivering companions, huddled round the fire, the rain still soaking them to the skin.
"When the morning again dawned, they found that they were in the lee of a small island. It was the morning of the Sabbath. Notwithstanding their exposure to hostile Indians and to the storm, and notwithstanding the unspeakable importance of every day, that they might prepare for the severity of winter, now so rapidly approaching, these extraordinary men resolved to remain as they were, that they might "remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." There was true heroism and moral grandeur in this decision, even though it be asserted that a more enlightened judgment would have taught that, under that circumstances in which they were placed, it was a work of 'necessity and mercy' to prosecute their tour without delay. But these men believed it their duty to sanctify the Sabbth; and, notwithstanding the strength of the temptation, they did what they thought to be right, and this is always noble. To God, who looketh at the heart, this must have been an acceptable sacrifice. For nearly two hundred years all these men have now been in the world of spirits, and it may very safely be affirmed that they have never regretted the scrupulous reverence they menifested for the law of God in keeping the Sabbath in the stormy wilderness."
Of New England, John Abbott wrote,
"...nothing is more conspicuous than the spires of the churches--those churches of a pure Christianity to which New England is indebted for all her intelligence and prosperity. It was upon the Bible that our forefathers laid the foundations of the institutions of this New World; and, though they made some mistakes, for they were but mortal, still they were sincere, conscientious Christian men, and their Christianity has been the legacy from which their children have derived the greatest benefits."
Of the Crusades, Jacob Abbott wrote,
"He [Richard the Lion-Hearted] could there satiate himself, too, with the luxury of killing men without any misgiving of conscience, or, at least, without any condemnation on the part of his fellow-men, for it was understood throughout Christendom that the crimes committed against the Saracens in the Holy Land were committed in the name of Christ. What a strange delusion! To think of honoring the memory of the meek and lowly Jesus by utterly disregarding his peaceful precepts and his loving and gentle example, and going forth in thousands to the work of murder, rapine, and devastation, in order to get possession of his tomb."
As you search for "The Makers of History" series, be aware that the titles vary somewhat from printing to printing, For example, for the first book, I have seen the titles, Alexander, Alexander the Great, and The History of Alexander the Great.
Margaret of Anjou
Mary, Queen of Scots
Peter the Great
William the Conqueror
Makers of American History
I have not read from this series, yet, but I assume that it is similar in tone and content to "The Makers of History." Mary recently found this set at a book sale and has graciously sent me the title list, along with publisher descriptions for the books.
(...reveals to us the West Indies, and gives a narrative of wonders unsurpassed in fact or fable.)
(...conducts us to Florida, and leads us through scenes of romance, crime, blood and woe-through many Indian tribes,across the continent, to the Mississippi, where he finds his melancholy grave.)
(...and his heroic companions, traversed thousand of miles of majestic lakes and unknown rivers, and introduces us to innumerable barbaric tribes. There is no other writer, who, from his own personal observation, can give one so vivid an idea of life in the Indian village and wigwam.)
(...was the Captain of the Pilgrims. He conducts us in the May Flower, across the Atlantic, lands us at Plymouth, and lands us at Plymouth, and tells the never to be forgotten story of the heroism of our fathers in laying the foundation of this great republic.)
(...and the Buccaneers, reveal to us the awful condtion of the North and South America, when there was no protecting law here, and when pirates swept sea and land, inflicting atrocities, the narrative of which causes the ear which hears it to tingle.)
(...takes us by the hand, and introduces us to the Dutch settlement at the mouth of the Hudson, conveys us, in his schooner, up the solitary river, along whose forest-covered banks Indians villages were scattered; and reveals to us all the struggles, by which the Dutch New Amsterdam was converted into the English New York.)
(...should chronologically take his place here. There is probably not, in the compass of all literature, a biography more full of entertainment and valuable thought , than a truthful sketch of the career of Benjamin Franklin. He leads us to Philadelphia, one hundred and fifty years ago, and makes us perfectly familar with life there and then. He conducts us across fthe Atlantic to the Court of St. James, and the Court of Versailles. There is no writer, French or English, who has given such vivid sketches of the scenes which were witnessed there, as came from the pen of Benjamin Franklin. For half a century Franklin moved amid the most stupendrous events, a graphic history of which his pen has recorded.)
Thomas Jefferson (...was written by James Scholler, but is part of this same series.)
(...has no superior. Humanity is proud of his name. He seems to have approached as near perfection as any man who ever lived. In his wonderful career we became familiar with all the struggles of the American Revolution. With a feeble soldiery, collected from a population of less than three millions of people, he baffled all the efforts of the fleets and armies of Britain, the most powerful empire upon this globe.)
(...was the Cowper of the wilderness; a solitary man loving the silent companionship of the woods. He leads us across the Alleghanies to the fields of Kentucky, before any white man's foot had traversed those magnificent realms. No tale of romance could ever surpass his adventure with the Indians.)
(...was the child of the wilderness. He was by nature a gentleman, and one of the most lovable of men. His weird-like life passed rapidly away, before the introduction of railroads and steamboats. His strange, heroic adventures are ever read with astonishment, and they invvariably secure for him the respect and affection of all who become familiar with his name.
(...was one of the purest patriots, and perhaps the most heroic navel hero, to whom any country has given birth. He has been so traduced, by the tory press of Great Britian, that even the Americans have not yet done him full justice. This narrativ of his astonishing achievements will,it is hoped, give him rank, in the opinion of every reader, with Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Lafayette.)
(...was a unique man. There is no one like him. Under no institutions but ours could such a character be found. From a log hut more comfortless than the wigwam of the savage, and without being able either to read or write, he enters legislative halls, takes his seat in Congress, and makes the tour of our great cities, attracting crowds to hear him speak. His life is a wild romance of undouted truth.)
The Rollo Books
This series is another one I have not read or seen. It was Jacob Abbott's attempt to clothe practical instruction in the fictional stories of Rollo.
Rollo at Play
Rollo at School
Rollo at Work
The Rollo Code of Morals, or The Rules of Duty for Children, Arranged with Questions for the Use of Schools
Rollo in Geneva
Rollo in Holland
Rollo in London
Rollo in Naples
Rollo in Paris
Rollo in Rome
Rollo in Scotland
Rollo in Switzerland
Rollo Learning to Read, or Easy Stories for Children
Rollo Learning to Talk
Rollo on the Atlantic
Rollo on the Rhine
Rollo Story Book: Blueberrying, Halo Around the Moon or Lucy's Visit, Labor Lost, Georgie, The Freshet, Two Wheelbarrows. (Most or all of these were originally part of Rollo at Play and Rollo at Work.)
Rollo's Philosophy Air, Fire, Water, and Sky
Other Fiction, Educational, and Christian Living Book
Some of these were published as part of a multi-volume set or series: "Harper's Story Books: A Series of Narratives, Dialogues, Biographies, and Tales for the Instruction and Entertainment of the Young."
Adventures of a Country Boy
Alcove, Containing some Further Adventures of Timboo, Mark, and Fanny
The August Stories: August and Elvie
Aunt Margaret, or How John True Kept His Resolutions
Boy on a Farm, at Work and at Play
Bruno, or Lessons of Fidelity, Patience, and Self-Denial Taught by a Dog
Caleb in the Country, a Story for Children
Caleb in Town
Carl and Jocko, or The Adventures of the Little Italian Boy and His Monkey
Congo, or Jasper's Experience in Command
Cousin Lucy series (for girls): Cousin Lucy among the Mountains, Cousin Lucy at Play, Cousin Lucy at Study, Cousin Lucy on the Seashore, Cousin Lucy's Conversations, and Cousin Lucy's Stories; Story's Told to Rollo's Cousin Lucy, When She was a Little Girl
Dialogues for the Amusement and Instruction of Young Persons
Elfred, or The Blind Boy and His Pictures
Emma, or The Three Misfortunes of a Belle
Florence Stories: Grimkie, Excursion to the Orkney Islands, The English Channel, Visit to the Isle of Wight, Florence and John, Florence's Return
Franconia Stories (for girls), 10 volumes: Agnes, Beechnut, Caroline, Ellen Linn, Malleville, Mary Bell, Mary Erskine, Rodolphus, Stuyvesant, Wallace
Franklin, The Apprentice Boy
Friskie, the Pony, or Do No Harm to Harmless Animals
The Great Elm, or Robin Green and Josiah Lane at School
Hoaryhead and M'Donner: Hoaryhead and the Valleys Below, or Truth through Fiction and M'Donner, or Truth through Fiction
Jasper, or The Spoiled Child Recovered
John True, or The Christian Experience of an Honest Boy
Jonas Stories, related to Rollo and Lucy, includes Jonas on a Farm in Winter; Jonas on a Farm in Summer; Jonas a Judge, or A Law Among Boys
Judge Justin, or The Little Court of Morningdale
Juno series (for girls): Juno and Georgie, Mary Osborne, Juno on a Journey, and Hubert
Lapstone, or The Sailor Turned Shoemaker
Little Paul, or How to Be Patient in Sickness and Pain
Marco Paul's Voyages and Travels/Marco Paul's Adventures in Pursuit of Knowledge (Marco Paul's Travels on the Erie Canal, Marco Polo in the City of New York, Marco Paul in [the State of] Vermont, Marco Paul at the Springfield Armory, Marco Paul in the Forests of Maine, Marco Paul in the City of Boston, there may have been more.)
Minigo, or The Fairy of Cairnstone Abbey
New Shoes, or Productive Work by Little Hands
Orkney the Peacemaker, or The Various Ways of Settling Disputes
The Schooner Mary Ann
Stories of Rainbow and Lucky, 5 volumes (including Rainbow's Journey, The Three Pines, Handie, and Selling Lucky)
Summer in Scotland
Timboo and Fanny, or The Art of Self-Instruction
Timboo and Joliba, or The Art of Being Useful
Viola and Her Little Brother Arno
Virginia, or A Little Light on a Very Dark Saying
Willie and the Mortgage, Showing How Much May be Accomplished by a Boy
Abbott's Addition Columns, for Teaching the Art of Adding with Facility and Correctness from the Mount Vernon Arithmetic
The Abbott's Great Work by John, Jacob, and Lyman Abbott
American History, 8 volumes (Aboriginal America, Discovery of America, The Southern Colonies, The Northern Colonies, Wars of the Colonies, Revolt of the Colonies, War of the Revolution, Washington)
China and the English, or The Character and Manners of the Chinese, as Illustrated in the History of the Intercourse with Foreigners to which is Added and Account of the Late War
Description of the Mount Vernon School in 1832, Being a Brief Account of the Internal Arrangements and Plans of the Institution, Addressed to a New Scholar
Duties of Parents, in Regard to the Schools Where Their Children are Instructed, A Lecture Delivered to the American Institute of Instruction [16 page pamphlet]
Engineer, or How to Travel in the Woods
The French Flower, or Be Kind and Obliging to Your Teacher
Gibraltar Gallery, Being an Account of Various Things Both Curious and Useful
Harlie's Letter, or How to Learn with Little Teaching
Harper Establishment, or How the Story Books are Made [Abbott wrote for Harper Brothers.]
Harper's School History, A Narrative of the General Course of History from the Earliest Periods to the Establishment of the American Constitution, Prepared with Questions for the Use of Schools and Illustrated with 150 Maps and Engravings
Harper's Story Books [There were others. This is the three volume history set.]: Story of American History, From the Earliest Settlement of the Country to the Establishment of the Federal Constitution; Story of Ancient History, From the Earliest Periods to the Fall of the Roman Empire; Story of English History, From the Earliest Periods to The American Revolution
History of Maine [by John S. C. Abbott]
Hunter and Tom
Inquiries Concerning the Intellectual Powers and the Investigation of Truth--This was by John Abercrombie and was "adapted to the use and work of schools and academies" by Jacob Abbott.
John Gay, or Work for Boys (This is probably in 4 volumes like Mary Gay.)
Lecture on a Moral Education, Delivered before the American Institute of Instruction [22 page pamphlet]
The Little Learner series: Learning to Think, Learning to Talk, Learning about Common Things, Learning about Right and Wrong
Little Louvre, or The Boys' and Girls' Gallery of Pictures
Little Philosopher, or The Infant School at Home, Designed to Teach Children to Think and to Reason about Common Things, and to Illustrate for Parents and Teachers Methods of Instructing and Interesting Children, 5 volumes
Mary Gay, or Work for Girls: four volumes: Work for Spring, Work for Summer, Work for Autumn, and Work for Winter (These are books of handicrafts.)
Memoirs of the Holy Land
The Mount Vernon Arithmetic
The Mount Vernon Reader, A Course of Reading Lessons, Selected with Reference to their Moral Influence on the Hearts and Lives of the Young. Designed for Junior Classes
New England and Her Institutions by One of Her Sons
Prank, or The Philosophy of Tricks and Mischief
Rambles among the Alps
Science for the Young, Fundamental Principles of Modern Philosophy Explained and Illustrated in Conversations, Experiments, Narratives of Travel, Etc. The volumes include: Heat, Light, Water and Land, Force
The Sea-shore, or How to Plan Picnics and Excursions
Studio, or Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Drawing for Young Artists at Home
Teacher, Moral Influences Employed in the Instruction and Government of the Young, Intended Chiefly to Assist Young Teachers in Organizing and Conducting their Schools
Water and Land
Conversations on the Bible
Every Day Duty
Fireside Piety, or The Duties and Enjoyments of Family Religion Containing PART ONE: Come to Prayer and PART TWO: Home Made Happy
Gentle Measures in the Management and Training of the Young, or The Principles upon which a Firm Parental Authority May Be Established and Maintained
Primer of Ethics
Right and Wrong or Familiar Illustrations of the Moral Duties of Children]
Strait Gate, or The Rule of Exclusion from Heaven
The Way for a Child to be Saved, Written for the Children's Fireside Series
The Young Christian Series of Three Books: The Young Christian, or A Familiar Illustration of the Principles of Christian Duty [HTML format]; Cornerstone, or A Familiar Illustration on the Principles of Christian Truth [later editions "greatly enlarged"]; The Way to Do Good, or The Christian Character Mature
Note: As you search for books by "Jacob Abbott," note that this is not the same man as the Jacob Bates Abbott who did wonderful nature illustrations in the mid-twentieth century.
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