Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People Behind the Borderlines By Mark Stein


Was Roger Williams too pure for the Puritans, and what does that have to do with Rhode Island? Why did it take Augustine Herman ten years to complete the map that established Delaware? How did Rocky Mountain rogues help create the state of Colorado? All this and more is explained in Mark Stein's new book.


Mark Stein’s first book, How the States Got Their Shapes, answered a number of questions that have puzzled people for years. Why does Missouri have that little boot heel on its southeast corner? Why does Oklahoma have a panhandle? Why do we have Delaware? In discovering the answers, some very colorful individuals involved in establishing our borders come to life, some of whom the original book briefly mentioned, but all of whom had fascinating stories. In Stein’s latest, How the States Got Their Shapes Too: The People Behind the Borderlines, their stories come to life.

How the States Got Their Shapes Too follows How the States Got Their Shapes in looking at American history through the lens of its borders, but, while How The States Got Their Shapes told us why, this book tells us who. This personal element in the boundary stories reveals how we today are like those who came before us, and how we differ, and most significantly: how their collective stories reveal not only an historical arc but, as importantly, the often overlooked human dimension in that arc that leads to the nation we are today.

The people featured in How the States Got Their Shapes Too lived from the colonial era right up to the present. They include African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, women, and of course, white men. Some are famous, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster. Some are not, such as Bernard Berry, Clarina Nichols, and Robert Steele. And some
are names many of us know but don't really know exactly what they did, such as Ethan Allen (who never made furniture, though he burned a good deal of it).

In addition, How the States Got Their Shapes Too tells of individuals involved in the Almost States of America, places we sought to include but ultimately did not: Canada, the rest of Mexico (we did get half), Cuba, and, still an issue, Puerto Rico.

Each chapter is largely driven by voices from the time, in the form of excerpts from congressional debates, newspapers, magazines, personal letters, and diaries. The book is written in the same lighthearted style of How the States Got Their Shapes, but packs serious supporting research. Endnotes provide citations for all the primary and scholarly sources.

About the author:

MARK STEIN is a playwright and screenwriter. His plays have been performed off-Broadway and at theaters throughout the country. His films include Housesitter, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. Stein has also taught writing and drama at American University and Catholic University. His previous book, How the States Got Their Shapes, a New York Times bestseller, was the basis for The History Channel's documentary of the same name.

About the book:

Title: How the States Got Their Shape: The People Behind the Borderlines
Author: Mark Stein
On-Sale Date: 6/7/2011
Price: $24.95 / Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1-58834-314-7
Smithsonian Books