American Stories follows the evolution of our founding stories and myths and how they spread far and wide throughout our history. The story of the cherry tree, for example, tells us nothing about George Washington’s actual childhood, but surely it tells us something about what Americans wanted in the father of their country—an incorruptible leader of the people.
Along the same lines, the story of Betsy Ross’s flag tells us nothing about how the Stars and Stripes came to be, but does tell us something about what Americans wanted in a founding mother—it is no coincidence that the Ross story, featuring a traditional woman’s role of sewing at home, was first told in 1870, one year after Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony challenged these roles by founding the National Woman Suffrage Association.
There’s another reason these stories spread, and that provides another reason to follow their evolution. From Dodge City to Deadwood, and from Bunker Hill to San Juan Hill and beyond, these stories all have one thing in common: they are all a lot of fun to read.
Paul Aron is an editor and writer for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Previously he was a reporter for The Virginia Gazette, an executive editor at Simon and Schuster, and an editor at Doubleday.
His previous books are Unsolved Mysteries of American History (Wiley, 1997), Unsolved Mysteries of History (Wiley, 2000), Count The Ways (Contemporary, 2002), More Unsolved Mysteries of American History (Wiley, 2004), Did Babe Ruth Call His Shot (Wiley, 2005), Mysteries in History (ABC-Clio, 2006), We Hold These Truths (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), Why The Turkey Didn’t Fly (University Press of New England, 2013), and Founding Feuds (Sourcebooks, 2016).
He lives in Williamsburg, VA.