Dick Johnson forwarded this newspaper article about a new book on U.S. State Quarters: A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America--One State Quarter at a Time . -Editor.James Noles is a West Point graduate and a Birmingham attorney who has created a second career for himself, not as a novelist in the now overcrowded tradition of John Grisham, but as an independent historian.
Noles published 'Hearts of Dixie,' short portraits of 50 Alabamians including the hugely famous like Paul Bryant and Helen Keller and the not-so-famous like Erskine Hawkins and Carrie Tuggle.
This book, 'A Pocketful of History,' is organized very much like 'Hearts of Dixie.' In fact there are 50 short chapters telling the story behind each of the images on the new U.S. state quarters.
Noles reports that Maine's quarter, with a rendering of the Pemaquid Point lighthouse and the three-masted schooner Victory Chimes, is thought most aesthetic. Michigan, with an outline map of the state and lakes, 'most boring.'
Here in Alabama, we have put Helen Keller on the state quarter. Noles tells his readers that not only was Miss Keller a genius, blind and deaf, but able to learn to read and write not only English and Braille but also French, German, Latin and Greek. This some Alabamians knew, but Noles reminds his readers that Miss Keller was a socialist, supported Eugene Debs, fought for safer conditions in factories, favored women's suffrage and was in support of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Noles omits commentary of Keller's 'private' life, but interested readers may consult the same source Noles did, Dorothy Herrmann's Helen Keller: A Life. In fact, any of these brief entries might spur a reader to more extensive exploration of the topic.
The pattern in each entry is essentially the same. The story of the Statue of Liberty on the New York coin is briefly told. For South Dakota it is the carving of the faces on Mt. Rushmore. Sometimes the reader will know this story already, sometimes not. The very first entry, Delaware, was one of my favorites. It's the story of Cesar Rodney, who, having lost the left side of his face to skin cancer, got up out of a sick bed and traveled 80 miles in the rain to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to vote for independence. This entry, like many, was educational and inspirational.
This review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio.
To read the complete article, see: Author shares history of images on nation's quarters (http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20080720/NEWS/
Wayne Homren, Editor
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