By Carl Bode
Through his selection and organization of, and commentary on, the documents and illustrations in this anthology Carl Bode gives his readers a vivid picture of American civilization and popular culture of the 1850s. The twenty-eight selections from contemporary documents and thirty illustrations are divided into seven sections covering various aspects of the American experience- the character of the people and country, home life, work, education, religion, pleasures of life, and slavery.
Americans in the 1850s,the documents show, were worse off physi cally and better off mentally than they are today. They felt more secure because they had more absolutes than we do today. Men in the earlier era trusted in God and in the great social institutions of church, family, school, and country. Yet the 1850s were by no means a bucolic interlude before the Civil War, as Bode makes clear, and the revealing look at the period given here is both rich and rewarding.