Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Category Archives: History

In Praise of Children’s Librarians

When I was a boy, elementary schools did not have libraries. We didn’t know what we were missing because our town had a Carnegie Library. Beginning in 1889, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built homes for books. Eventually his philanthropy erected 2,509 public libraries, two-thirds of which were in the United States. The one in my […]

Royal Thirds

In 1762, just 14 years before his American Colonies declared their independence, England’s George III heard news of Peter III’s accession to the Russian throne. George III declared, “Well, there are now nine of us in Europe, [each] the third of our respective names.” He was referring to: George III, King of England Mustafa III […]

North Korean Unicorns: Lost in Translation?

Last week, the official North Korean news agency (KNCA) released a report stating: “Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences have recently reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom (B.C. 277-A.D. 668).” The Western press took this as another in the continuing […]

Promontory Summit & the Golden Spike

I stand astride America’s Transcontinental Railway, looking east, then west. Initiated by Lincoln, overseen by Johnson, and completed under Grant, the undertaking called for the Union Pacific Railroad to work westward from Omaha and the Central Pacific, eastward from Sacramento. They met, as most schoolchildren learned in my day (do they study this anymore?), at […]

The Market Falls–Then and Now

I glance at the headline of an old newspaper that had been used to insulate one of the old log cabins that make up the museum in Frisco, CO. “Bankers Blame Tax Laws for Securities Drop” (The Denver Post…November 7, 1937). The Great Depression had been ongoing for over eight years. Yesterday the Dow fell […]

Craft vs. Creativity

“With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, craftsmanship dissolved miserably into creativity.” In his shop beside the flour mill, the cooper spoke flatly and firmly, with no correction possible. It was Colonial Williamsburg, and my daughter Emily and I were breaking our cross-country drive with a hot summer’s day walk into 18th-century Virginia.

Clarence Darrow and Hawaii’s Massie Affair

A letter I wrote to The New Yorker about Hawaii’s infamous Massie Affair, a sordid episode in American race relations, was printed in the June 27, 2011, issue and is at the bottom of this page. I wrote the letter because: (a) I had recently read three thought-provoking books about racism in America during the […]

A Captain and the Majors

Time and situation award only a few in each generation with an opportunity to take a place in history. How much smaller is the number who are twice-touched by fate. Today’s post is about one such man. It starts with the differences between North and South and ends with the thin line that separates fair […]

Henry VIII for a Five-Year-Old

One of my daughters, a medieval history scholar and expert on European royalty, recently acquired a Henry VIII mug with images of his six wives surrounding him. Appropriately, when the Queens get into hot water (e.g., tea or coffee), their heads disappear. What she hadn’t anticipated was how fascinated her five-year-old daughter would be with […]

What Would MLK Do?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I’ve been to the mountaintop" speech, Memphis, April 3, 1968 Just a few days ago, Jeh C. Johnson, general counsel for the Department of Defense, gave a speech at the Pentagon in recognition of Martin Luther King Day. Toward the end of his talk, Johnson mused about what the non-violent […]