Once again here are the books we’ve been using in our homeschool. This time the topic is the Gilded Age, that gaudy but peaceful era at the end of the 1800s.
Living Books on the Gilded Age
Our spine book (the one I read aloud to all the kids) was once again from Henry Steel Commager’s series The American Destiny. Volume 9 is on the Gilded Age.
Among other things, the gilded age is the age of invention. Books on inventors and inventions abound. For the elementary crowd, check out Robert Quackenbush’s books. I had my 5th grader read Ahoy! Ahoy! Are You There? A Story of Alexander Graham Bell and Along Came the Model T! How Henry Ford Put the World on Wheels. We also read another book on the Model T, Peter Spier’s Tin Lizzie which follows the life of one particular car.
Still on the topic of inventors, my 10th grader read Robert Silverberg’s Light for the World: Edison and the Power Industry. The bits of how Edison went about inventing were quite interesting.
Another big Gilded Age topic on which you’re sure to find a lot of books: Immigration. We read some picture books on the subject: Rosemary Wells’ Streets of Gold and Eve Bunting’s Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story which tells the journey of the first children to pass through Ellis Island. I also had my youngest read R. Conrad Stein’s The Story of Ellis Island from the Cornerstones of Freedom series (but see this post on avoiding the newer version of the series).
Our next big topic is factories. Again there are a lot of books available. We chose The Lowell Mill Girls: Life in the Factory which uses some letters to tell the story of life in the factories and The Mill Girls by Bernice Selden which tells if three girls living in the factory system. I read Kids during the Industrial Revolution by Lisa Wroble to my two youngest. It is a simple book and I would not call it living. My 9th grader read Albert Marrin’s Fesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy. I love Marrin’s books. Like most of his, this one focuses on one event but manages to tell quite a lot in the process. Plus it was an interesting read.
Another Marrin book that I wish we have had time to get to but didn’t: The Spanish-American War. This one is probably high school level.
With industrialization come the titans of business. My 6th grader read Andrew Carnegie by Clara Ingram Judson. It seemed like quite a good book and was middle school level.
The Gilded Age seems to have had m0re than its share of tragedies. I read my younger two Robert Quackenbush’s There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight about the Great Chicago Fire (sorry, I don’t know why that one picture insists on being upside-down). It is a poetic account. My 10th grader read about the Chicago fire as well in Peter Charles Hoffer’s Seven Fires: The Urban Infernos that Reshaped America. I consider this book a find. You can tell the author loves his subject. The last inferno is 9/11. I think we will get it again for that when the time comes.
If you like art, you might want to check out Shirley Glubok’s The Art of America in the Gilded Age. It is a relatively short, easy to read book, but I had my 9th grade art lover read it.
Finally, we move on to life in the Gilded Age.
My 5th grader read Anna, Grandpa, and the Big Storm by Carla Stevens. It is a chapter book on a blizzard that hit New York City unawares. It is more of a 2nd-4th grade level. She also read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes about a Polish girl in Connecticut and The Green Ginger Jar by Clara Ingram Judson, a mystery story set in Sa Francisco’s Chinatown. If you have time, you can check out Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. If you are pressed for time, there is a very abridged version for kids, The Boy’s Ambition. Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry doesn’t quite fit. It is about life on a Polynesian Island but you can use it to talk about the Hawaiian islands which the US acquired at this time. Lastly, I had my 9th grader read Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes about Norwegian immigrants in San Francisco.