I’ve been getting ready for the launch of my upcoming book, American Treasures (St. Martin’s Press, August 30, 2016). Considering the subject matter, it seemed appropriate to write as we approach the Fourth of July weekend — the 240th anniversary of July 1-4, 1776, the four most momentous days in American history.
First, I want to extend my thanks for your ongoing interest, encouragement, and support — whether you’ve attended or organized one of my presentations; purchased or reviewed one or more of my books; sent me a letter or email; been a faithful bookseller or a member of a loyal book club; or in some other way connected with me about books, writing, research, or history (or all of the above!) I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and I’m grateful and humbled by your support.
Now, onto news about the book:
Since my last update, the subtitle of American Treasures has been changed and improved. The new (and final) subtitle is “The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.” My publisher and I agreed that these documents (the Constitution includes the Bill of Rights) are the most important in American history and form the core of the book’s key themes. I’m thrilled with this decision; I feel that American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address captures the compelling nature of the narrative.
To recap, the book is written in a “braided narrative” format, alternating between: 1) the never-before-told story of how these documents and thousands of others were relocated from the Library of Congress to other places for safekeeping in 1941 and 1942, when U.S. political and military leaders feared an attack on Washington D.C. in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor; and 2) key moments throughout American history in which the documents were debated, created, threatened, rescued, preserved, and indelibly stamped upon the national psyche. To my knowledge, American Treasures is the only book that tells the story of all three documents as part of the overall tapestry of American history. Here’s the book-jacket text for American Treasures:
On December 26, 1941, Secret Service Agent Harry E. Neal stood on a platform at Washington’s Union Station, watching a train chug off into the dark and feeling at once relieved and inexorably anxious. These were dire times. Hitler’s armies were plowing across Europe, seizing or destroying the Continent’s historic artifacts at will, and three weeks earlier Japan unleashed its devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. American officials now feared an enemy attack on Washington, D.C.
So, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set about hiding the country’s valuables. On the train speeding away from Neal sat four plain-wrapped cases containing the documentary history of America — including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address — guarded by a battery of agents and bound for safekeeping in the nation’s most impenetrable hiding place.
American Treasures charts the creation and little-known journeys of these priceless American documents. From the risky and audacious adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to our modern Fourth of July celebrations, American Treasures shows how the ideas captured in these documents underscore the nation’s strengths and hopes, and embody its fundamental values of liberty and equality. Stephen Puleo weaves exciting stories of freedom under fire-from the smuggling of the Declaration and Constitution out of Washington days before the British burned the capital in 1814, to their covert relocation during WWII-crafting a sweeping history of a nation united to preserve its democracy and the values embodied in its founding documents.
I’m honored by the book’s pre-publication blurbs and reviews from the Archivist of the United States, bestselling authors, and key publications. Here’s a sampling:
“Stephen Puleo once again educates, enlightens, and entertains us, this time through the history of the most important documents of our democracy. A tour de force based on exhaustive research into both primary and secondary sources, he tells the miraculous stories of the survival of the most precious evidence of our freedom thanks to, until now, the unsung heroes and heroines of our past.” — David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States
If you yearn for a book that sweeps you through time, forging fresh new connections between past and present while reinforcing universal truths about our national aspirations, read American Treasures. It’s a rich and resonant narrative history, surging with character and incident, the kind of book that you will devour for the depth and breadth of its erudition and, more simply, because it’s a terrific tale, told by a fine historian who also happens to write like a seasoned novelist. — William Martin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Lost Constitution and The Lincoln Letter
“Stephen Puleo has written an extraordinary and truly innovative book on a subject on which hundreds of books have been written: the great American documents, most important among them the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Gettysburg Address. Puleo weaves together the fascinating story of how the documents were created, how they came to be protected in times of national crisis, and how as a result they have become ever more priceless.” — Richard R. Beeman, Author of Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution
“There are not many secrets left in our country’s storied history, and here Stephen Puleo has uncovered a true gem. American Treasures takes readers on an incredible journey filled with mystery and surprise. American Treasures is an American treasure.” — Doug Most, Author of The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway
“Weaving together a riveting narrative of the effort to keep America’s founding documents safe from harm during World War II with a stirring recap of the origins of the Declaration, Constitution and other precious American treasures, this is a wonderful tale. Not only does Stephen Puleo recount the little-known heroics of Archibald MacLeish, the Librarian of Congress, in a post Pearl Harbor climate of fear, he also reminds us of how these “Charters of Freedom” are what truly make America exceptional.” — Kenneth C. Davis, Author of Don’t Know Much About History, America’s Hidden History
“A novel perspective on American history that focuses on the story of the country’s founding documents and the Americans who composed, safeguarded, and preserved them for the benefit of future generations. A fast-moving presentation and solid retelling of an inspiring story.” — Kirkus Reviews
“An engrossing account of the creation, consecration, and conservation of the documents that defined American democracy. Readers will take away a new appreciation for the vision and savvy of government officials in finding ways to ensure such treasures would survive.” — Library Journal
The audio book agreement for American Treasures is complete! Tantor media (audio publisher) has selected Eric Michael Summerer to narrate – and his voice sounds great. Very excited about this agreement, and the fact that the audio book is slated to be available around the same time as the hardcover.
Wikipedia is a pervasive part of our digital age, so I’m also pleased to report that American Treasures has now been referenced to Wikipedia to improve search engine optimization and overall recognition of the book. It’s now included on pages for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
My publisher, St. Martin’s Press, is sponsoring an American Treasures Bookplate Sweepstakes that makes you eligible to receive a bookplate (signed by me) for your purchased copy of the book. You can follow this link for more information.
Finally, many of you who follow me on Facebook have written to say how much you’ve enjoyed my posts commemorating our 240th anniversary of the adoption and signing of the Declaration of Independence — and with it, all that the year 1776 entails in American history. Look for several posts this weekend that describe the remarkable four days in Philadelphia in which the Continental Congress declared America’s independence and approved the Declaration.
I’ll be in touch as the publication of American Treasures gets closer. Once again, thanks so much for your support.