The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock

“I do not want anyone with me but you, and I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you.” ~Theodore Roosevelt’s letter to John Muir, March 14, 1903.

Back in the days (1903) when a president could actually go off on a camping trip alone with a famous author and naturalist, President Teddy Roosevelt (Teedie) asked naturalist John Muir (Johnnie) to take him on a camping trip, and the rest was history. After Teedie’s and Johnnie’s journey through Yosemite, President Roosevelt became more than an outdoorsman; he “turned . . . into one of nature’s fiercest protectors. Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass laws saving the wilderness. He failed at first, but that didn’t stop him. He created national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and national forests.”

“Teedie” Roosevelt is my favorite president, and this story of his encounter with Johnnie Muir and the wilderness of Yosemite is a colorful and fascinating introduction to Roosevelt’s ideas and his personality. (“Bully!” said Teedie, stretching. “What a glorious day!”) It also introduces children to the concept of nature conservation and even the political concept of changing the president’s mind and direction by a little well-placed lobbying for a good cause. (Maybe someone needs to take our current president on a camping trip?)

There’s a touch of generalized “spirituality” in the imagined dialog between Teedie and Johnnie: “Everywhere nature sang her melody. Can you hear it?” And, of course, Muir adheres to the tenets of “old earth” geology: “a massive river of slow-moving ice carved the rock beneath them millions of years before.” Teedie is said to depend on “John Muir’s spirit as his guide” as the president goes about his work in preserving American parks and wildlife. However, these are minor and personal quibbles, things I would have worded differently, that don’t spoil the overall beauty and message of the book at all.

If you or your child is a fan of TR or John Muir or just a nature lover or even a wannabe naturalist, this book serves up a great slice of American history. The imagined dialog is taken from Muir’s books and from newspaper accounts of the famous camping trip.

Caught by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Caught, The Missing, Book 5 by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

I have enjoyed all of the books in this series about time-traveling children who were kidnapped from their proper places in history and given to adoptive parents in the twenty-first century, but Caught may be my favorite of all the books in the series. In this installment, Joshua and his sister Katherine go back to the early twentieth century to prevent the unraveling of Time by the unwitting interference of the super-intelligent Albert Einstein and his wife Mileva and to rectify the kidnapping of Mileva’s and Albert’s first, secret daughter, Lieserl.

The story uses the true story of a daughter that Einstein and his first wife hid because of her illegitimacy and takes that piece of historical information to create a novel that asks all of the old time travel questions and deals with the mind-bending answers in a fresh and thought-provoking way. You could start with this fifth book in the series, but I’d suggest starting at the beginning with Book 1, Found, and continuing on if you like the first one. I do think the books get better as the series progresses.

“If you’d asked me back in the time cave, back at the beginning of all this—when it began for you, I mean—I would have said that I understood time travel perfectly. . . I knew that the past was set in stone, and had to be kept that way, to prevent any paradoxes or cause-and-effect catastrophes. But I thought that the present–my present–was open and flexible and free for me to use however I wished. I thought my contemporaries and I had free will, but everyone in history was locked into . . . well, shall we call it fate?”

I’m writing this review on the day after election day in the U.S., and the above quote sounds quite prescient and analogous to my thought processes and those of many of my friends:

“If you had asked me back six months ago, I would have said that I understood God’s purposes in this election perfectly. I knew that Obama had to be defeated to prevent more abortions and the re-definition of marriage and confiscatory taxation and other evils. I thought that my vote and everyone else’s was free and we had free will, but that God would do just as I thought He should and make sure that The Good prevailed.”

J.B., a “time agent” in the Missing series, then quotes Albert Einstein:

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filed with books in many languages. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”

Or as C.S. Lewis put it more succinctly, using the name “Aslan” for God, “He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

God is working His own purposes out, and we see through a glass very dimly. I have moved from reviewing to “meddling”, but these are the thoughts I had as I read about Einstein and his wife and Time and relativity and fate and the foolishness of the most intelligent of human beings. I’m called to “try to help people” the best I can and “have fun (joy) while I still can.” Oh, and always Read Good Books. The rest is mostly beyond my capacity for understanding.

Some post-election scriptures:

“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; upon them he has set the world.” I Samuel 2:8

“Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” Daniel 11:35.

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” Daniel 2:20-22

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I Timothy 2:1-2.

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17.

1903: Art and Music

“In the Good Old Summertime” was a popular song of 1903, first published in 1902 with music by George Evans and lyrics by Ren Shields. Sheet music, player piano, and even recordings were all ways to buy and enjoy popular music in the early twentieth century. Sousa’s band recorded “In the Good Old Summertime” in 1903.

In the good old summertime, in the good old summertime.
Strolling through the shady lanes with your baby mine.
You hold her hand, and she holds yours,
and that’s a very good sign.
That she’s your tootsie-wootsie,
in the good old summertime.

Artist Paul Gauguin died in Hua Oa, the Marquesas Islands on May 8, 1903. He left France to live in Tahiti, then in the Marquesas, because, he said, “After the disease of civilization, life in this new world is a return to health.” More images of Gauguin’s paintings.

'Gauguin' photo (c) 2006, Tore Urnes - license:

Later in the year, artists American James Whistler (July 17) and Impressionist Camille Pissarro (November 12) also died. The art world was moving from Impressionism to new schools and forms, including Art Nouveau, Fauvism, Cubism,and Die Brucke (The Bridge) in Germany, but the Impressionists were still quite influential.

1903: Events and Inventions

'New York City, Lower Manhattan, Financial District, Wall Street, NYSE, New York Stock Exchange' photo (c) 2011, vincent desjardins - license: 5, 1903. The Turkish Ottoman Empire and Germany sign an agreement to build the Constantinople-Baghdad Railway. Germany is trying to make an easily accessible way for German trade to the Far East. Britain, Germany’s rival, shows concern about German expansionism.

April 22, 1903. The new New York Stock Exchange building at 18 Broad Street opened to fanfare and festivity. The Exchange building is considered one of architect George B. Post’s masterpieces and is a national landmark.

June 11, 1903. Serbian King Alexander Obrenović and Queen Draga are assassinated.

June 16, 1903. Henry Ford, along with 12 investors, forms the Ford Motor Company. Their first car, produced in 1903, was the Ford Model A.

July 1, 1903. The Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycling race, begins in Paris.

September, 1903. Turkish troops massacre thousands of Macedonian/Bulgarian rebels and civilians in retaliation for the St. Elijah’s Day Uprising, or Ilinend Uprising.

November 4, 1903. With the encouragement of the United States, Panama proclaims itself independent from Colombia. The U.S. wants Panamanian independence so that we can build a canal through the isthmus of Panama. On November 18, The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty is signed by the United States and Panama, giving the U.S. exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone.

December, 1903 Pierre and Marie Curie win the Nobel Prize for their work with radium and radioactivity.

December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, NC, Orville and Wilbur Wright pioneered the first successful powered human flight. For all practical purposes, they invented the airplane.

Sometime in 1903: The first box of Crayola crayons was made and sold for five cents. It contained eight colors; brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and black.

For insight into the state of the nation and travel in 1903, watch Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip, a Ken Burns documentary about Horatio Jackson who attempted a cross-country drive From San Franciso to New York City in a cherry-red Winton automobile. (available on Netflix).

1903: Books and Literature

Nobel Prize for Literature: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Norwegian poet and playwright.

Fiction Bestsellers:
1. Mary Augusta Ward, Lady Rose’s Daughter
2. Thomas Nelson Page, Gordon Keith
3. Frank Norris, The Pit Wheat speculation and the commodities market in Chicago.
4. Alice Hegan Rice, Lovey Mary Orphan girl Lovey Mary runs away to the Cabbage Patch (see #6 below).
5. Owen Wister, The Virginian
6. Alice Hegan Rice, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch
7. James Lane Allen, The Mettle of the Pasture Set in Kentucky and written by a Kentucky author who also wrote The Choir Invisible.
8. George Horace Lorimer, Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son
9. Thomas Dixon Jr., The One Woman Dixon was a Baptist preacher turned novelist, and this novel in particular was a sermon on the evils of socialism.
10. John Fox Jr., The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come Another book with a Kentucky setting, this book takes place during the Civil War. It was made into a movie in 1961.

Critically Acclaimed and Historically Significant:
W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
John Dewey, Studies in Logical Theory
Jack London, Call of the Wild
Bertrand Russell, Principles of Mathematics
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh I have this book on my Kindle, but I haven’t started it yet. Should I?
Henry James, The Ambassadors
Helen Keller, The Story of My Life
Erskine Childress, The Riddle of the Sands. I read this book on my Kindle not long ago, and I found it quite confusing. It does indicate the deep mistrust and rivalry that existed in the early twentieth century between the British and the Germans, both trying to build their empires at the expense of the other.

I’m surprised, not at how many of the books I haven’t read, but at how many of the best-selling authors I’ve never even heard of. I don’t know the details of how the list was compiled early in the twentieth century, but it was published in Publishers Weekly after 1912. Before that, it is unclear to me where the lists came from. And, of course, these are the best-sellers in the United States. Who knows what they were reading in other English-speaking countries?

Christmas at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 1903

Western Union telegram, December 17, 1903, sent to Bishop Milton Wright in Ohio:

Success four flights thursday morning
all against twenty one mile wind started from Level with engine power alone
average speed through air thirty one miles
longest 57 seconds
inform Press
home Christmas.
Orevelle Wright

“This historic telegram was sent from the Kitty Hawk weather station to the weather station at Norfolk, Virginia, then relayed by telephone to the local Western Union office. During transmission, two errors were made: 59 seconds became 57 seconds, and Orville’s name was misspelled.”
~From The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman.