The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, as Told by Themselves

The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, as Told by Themselves

The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, as Told by Themselves

The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans, as Told by Themselves

Synopsis

Hamilton Holt, editor of The Independent, collected these touching autobiographies of ordinary people--new immigrants and sharecroppers, cooks and fishermen, women and men working in sweatshops, in the city, and on the land. First published in 1906, and reissued a decade ago, this new edition of Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans is expanded to include lives Holt did not include in his original selection, as well as a new preface by Werner Sollors.

Excerpt

by Werner Sollors

AMERICANS ALL! shouted the slogan of a famous poster of the last century. Who were these “Americans” of a hundred years ago? How can we get a sense of the many kinds of lives that native-born and immigrant men and women of different races and classes lived in this country? Few single books give us as vivid a picture of life in the United States as does the remarkable collection The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans As Told by Themselves, originally put together by the reformist newspaper editor Hamilton Holt in 1906. In the brief autobiographies he collected, “lifelets” as they are here called, we hear the voices of immigrants from many lands, including not only European countries but also Syria, China, and Japan, as well as African American, Native American and Anglo-American stories of success and failure, of dreams and harsh realities, of saving and spending, of progress and loss. Their pasts go back to four continents; and their futures are not all tied to that of the United States.

Holt was the editor of the New York Independent, to which he gave a slant toward issues of “labor, social and government reforms,…politics, socialism, women’s rights, simplified

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