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Bill Thayer

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This is the preface to
Mace's Primary History:
Stories of Heroism

William Mace

published by
Rand McNally & Company
New York, 1909.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find one, please let me know!


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first chapter
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p. vii  The Preface

The mind of the child begins with the world as a unit — an undivided and undifferentiated whole. Where in this whole do the beginnings of history lie? When the child first discovers the difference between a smile and a frown on its mother's face, the first step in the study of history has been taken. From this time on until the appropriate grade in school is reached, the child is engaged in the observation of man in his local surroundings and unconsciously is a student of both history and geography. From this sensuous contact with things political, religious or ethical, educational or cultural, industrial or social he is gradually laying up a store of material out of which he will picture the mighty past, the great present, and the unseen future.

In the first few years of school life the pupil is busy with the Fairy Story, the Myth, and the Legend. These stories serve the purpose of a reading lesson, a language lesson, or it may be a lesson in literature. They also serve another purpose. The characters in these stories act, and their acts or deeds serve as signs of what they think and of how they feel. They thus prepare the way for a better understanding of the study of history.​a Again there are characters doing good deeds, and characters doing bad deeds. These are in conflict. This conflict becomes a great source of interest and is an important means of moral growth to the pupil. These stories are clearly both literary and historical.

In the fourth or fifth grade the real historical person appears. By their own observations of man in his local surroundings and by the study just described the pupils are prepared for this man of flesh and blood.

The aim of this book has been to bring before the mind of the pupils a series of great historical characters. These men do interesting things from the beginning to the end of life. Because their deeds are concrete and physical they are easily pictured in imagination. To this end the author has endeavored to make the language used simple, vivid, and picturesque. Nothing should stand in the way of the imagination, for, as a rule, that which the pupils cannot picture they cannot understand and cannot remember.

 p. viii  Not only are the deeds of these men interesting but they are also dramatic. They are dramatic because there is in each story the elements of a collision — a conflict. The overcoming of great obstacles constitutes one kind of conflict. This is particularly illustrated in the careers of Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. Another kind of conflict is seen in the struggle of one man against another man or body of men — the collisions between Drake and the Spaniards, between William Penn and social prejudices of the English, between Montcalm and Wolfe, between Washington and the rival British generals, between Jackson and his opponents, and between Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee. In these conflicts are found the pupils' chief interest. He pursues the story with zest and watches its outcome with unflagging interest. He forms his opinions as to who was right, who was wrong, or who mistaken. This is the teacher's opportunity to draw out the ethical qualities of the pupils. Herein lies the power of Biography.

In this book the biographies are grouped according to Periods. Each period should suggest certain related facts to the pupils. These stories have their idea or lesson which is suggested by the group headings. For instance: "The Men Who Made America Known to England" — Cabot, Drake, and Raleigh. This was their common contribution. By means of this idea the pupils bind these three men together. The individual heading gives the key to the story as a whole. Under Drake is put the idea of "Sailing the Spanish Main and Singeing the King of Spain's Beard.' These ideas can be obtained from Drake's story as a whole. Any one, especially the teacher, can see how valuable is such a grouping of characters and how it leads the pupils thus early to look for easy and correct meanings, far beyond the details of the story.

The author wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to the following persons who by their careful readings of the text and the many valuable suggestions they offered have been of great service to him:

E. P. Tanner, Associate Professor of History, Syracuse University; P. P. Claxton, Professor of Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; W. W. Black, Supervising Principal, Third Division of the Public Schools of the District of Columbia; W. A. Furr, Superintendent of Schools, Jacksonville,  p. ix  Illinois; W. F. Chevalier, Superintendent of Schools, Muscatine, Iowa; Maurice Francis Egan, Professor of English Language and Literature and Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C.; W. D. Lewis, Department of English, Syracuse High School, Syracuse, New York; Franklin L. Riley, Professor of History, University of Mississippi; S. H. Dodson, Head of the Department of History, East Portland High School, Portland, Oregon; Anna C. Gilday, Director of the Department of History, Civics, and Economics, Manual Training School, Kansas City, Missouri; George O. Moore, Professor of History and Spelling, Cortland State Normal and Training School, Cortland, New York; Charles E. White, Principal of the Franklin School, Syracuse, New York; James R. Burns, Teacher of Civics, History, and Commercial Law, Erie High School, Erie, Pennsylvania; C. E. Patzer, Professor of History, State Normal School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Claude S. Larzelere, Professor of History and Civics, Mount Pleasant, Michigan; James A. Shea, Principal of the Lincoln School, Syracuse, New York; Raymond G. Patterson, Professor of History, State Normal School, Mayville, North Dakota; G. R. Miller, Professor of History and Sociology, State Normal School, Greeley, Colorado; John Spencer Bassett, Professor of History, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; Samuel H. Heidler, Principal Converse School, Springfield, Illinois; G. O. Virtue, Professor of History and Political Economy, Winona State Normal School, Winona, Minnesota.

William H. Mace

Syracuse University,


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Thayer's Note:

a A very old idea, of course; but it is so strikingly similar to a passage in Strabo's Geography, though (I.2.8), that I'm very tempted to believe that Prof. Mace had it in mind.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 10