After I posted this morning about libraries, I received the following from Will Fitzhugh, who is publisher of The Concord Review. The Concord Review has been publishing exemplary history papers by high school students for many years. You never know what students will get interested in, what they will pursue on their own, what passion they will develop.


David McCullough, Truman

New York: Touchstone, 1992, p. 58
He grew dutifully, conspicuously studious, spending long afternoons in the town library, watched over by a white plaster bust of Ben Franklin. Housed in two rooms adjacent to the high school, the library contained perhaps two thousand volumes. Harry and Charlie Ross vowed to read all of them, encyclopedias included, and both later claimed to have succeeded. Harry liked Mark Twain and Franklin’s Autobiography. He read Sir Walter Scott because Scott was Bessie Wallace’s favorite author. The fact that the town librarian, Carrie Wallace, was a cousin to Bessie may also have influenced the boy’s show of scholarly devotion.
“I don’t know anybody in the world ever read as much or as constantly as he did,” remembered Ethel Noland. “He was what you call a ‘book worm.’”
History became a passion, as he worked his way through a shelf of standard works on ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. “He had a real feeling for history,” Ethel said, “that it wasn’t something in a book, that it was part of life—a section of life or a former time, that it was of interest because it has to do with people.” He himself later said it was “true facts” that he wanted. “Reading history, to me, was far more than a romantic adventure. It was solid instruction and wise teaching which I somehow felt I wanted and needed.” He decided, he said, that men make history, otherwise there would be no history. History did not make the man, he was quite certain.
His list of heroes advanced. To Andrew Jackson, Hannibal, and Robert E. Lee were added Cincinnatus, Scipio, Cyrus the Great and Gustavus Adolphus, the seventeenth-century Swedish king. No Jeffersons or Lincolns or Leonardos were part of his pantheon as yet. Whatever it was that made other boys of turn-of-the-century America venerate Andrew Carnegie or Thomas Edison, he had none of it. The Great Men by his lights were still the great generals.
Few boys in town ever went to high school. The great majority went to work. High school, like piano lessons, was primarily for girls. In Harry’s class, largest yet at the new high school, there were thirty girls and just eleven boys. [Class of 1901]