Tuesday 15 May 2012

Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald - Book Review

Title: Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked
Author: Mary Miley Theobald
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: June 2012
Pages: 145
Format: E-Book - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley

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Every day stories from American history that are not true are repeated in museums and classrooms across the country.  Some are outright fabrications; others contain a kernel of truth that has been embellished over the years.  Collaborating with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Mary Theobald has uncovered the truth behind many widely-repeated myth-understandings in our history including:

·Hat makers really were driven mad. They were poisoned by the mercury used in making hats from furs.  Their symptoms included hallucinations, tremors, and twitching, which looked like insanity to people of the 17th and 18th centuries—and the phrase “mad as a hatter” came about. 

·The idea that portrait painters gave discounts if their subjects posed with one hand inside the vest (so they didn’t have to paint fingers and leading to the saying that something “costs an arm and a leg”) is strictly myth.  It isn’t likely that Napoleon, King George III, or George Washington were concerned about getting a discount from their portrait painters. 

·Pregnant women secluded themselves indoors, uneven stairs were made to trip up burglars, people bathed once a year, women had tiny waists, apprenticeships last seven years – Death by Petticoat reveals the truth about these hysterical historical myth-understandings. (Goodreads Synopsis)

This was a book that caught my interest when I saw it on NetGalley because I love finding out about the origin of myths. A few of the ones in this book were familiar to me while others, being particular to America, were not. All were fascinating though and offer an insight into how such stories come about as fact blurs with fiction.

This is a fairly short book and easy to skim through in a evening. I liked the inclusion of images to illustrate the myths as they provided added interest. This is a book you can read cover to cover or dib into at your leisure. It is perfect for anyone looking for an informative yet humorous read - one for history buffs and the general reader alike.

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