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Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked
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Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked

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3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  168 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Every day stories from American history that are not true are repeated in museums and classrooms across the country. Some are outright fabrications; others contain a kernel of truth that has been embellished over the years. Collaborating with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Mary Miley Theobald has uncovered the truth behind many widely repeated myth-understandings in...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
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Birgit
Were long skirts and petticoats likely to catch fire thus being a leading cause of death in woman of Colonial America? In Death By Petticoat Mary Riley Theobald sets out to expose historical myths which are apparently still widely believed in today.
Presenting a wild collection of myths - all set in Colonial up to Victorian times on the North American continent - it was interesting to see how some of them are also familiar in European context while others have been completely new to me. While a q...more
Amanda
This history book has assembled the most often-repeated myths of US History and one-by-one debunks them.

Short (only 63 myths). No citations (except for images). A complete disappointment from this history buff's point of view.

The cover is cute though.

Check out my full review (Link will be live on June 10, 2012).

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Sharon Tyler
Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked by Mary Miley Theobald, with the support of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is schedule for release on June 5 2012. This book explores sixty-three myths about Colonial America that are often repeated in schools, trivia games, and even historical homes or museum. The truth of the myth, how it might have come about, and why it is still repeated is given for each. There are also full color photographs to illustrate some of the myths. Some of...more
Dawn
"Death by Petticoat" is a cute, rather fluffy piece with all of the serious, scholarly weight of the Reader's Digest.

And that's why it works.

Theobald writes in the kind of voice you expect to hear over a kitchen table, amused with just a touch of sarcasm. Clearly enjoying her task of putting paid to some of the sillier legends that pepper American history, she goes after some of the things I'm sure tour guides and curators roll their eyes at on a regular basis. Closet taxes. Quilt codes. The j...more
Rebecca Reid
I greatly enjoy American history so I was excited to read Mary Theobald’s Death By Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked (Andrews McNeel Publishing, June 2012). I ended up leaving it a bit disappointed because of the lack of depth behind the book. It was an amusing and quick read, and I did learn some trivial facts from American history, but because I had expected a more detailed examination of myths and reality, I was disappointed in the superficiality of Ms Theobald’s offering.

Note: I rea...more
Jerelyn
I love books like this, fun facts that no doubt will prove useful at some point. It was very well done, and really very informative. I couldn't believe how many of these myths I thought were fact. If your interested in early American history the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation really is the place to go for such information and it was entertaining.

Thanks to Net Galley and to the publishers for my review copy.
Life-in-death
This is one of the worst books on a historical subject I have ever read. Supposedly Ms. Theobald has an advanced degree in American history yet somehow never learned how to cite her sources. She mentions "reports" and "studies" many times throughout the book but never actually lists them. How can a reader know if this is more than just more anecdotes or myths without some indication as to where she got her information from.

I would have given this book more than one star because some of it was am...more
Kerry
This is not the type of book that you can sit down and become thoroughly engrossed in, nor would any adult want to. Only one page is dedicated to each myth, occasionally using only 4-5 sentences in order to debunk the popular tales. Theobold is not one to go into detail or produce thorough explanations. The reader is simply made aware of a myth and immediately told "Nope, not true." There is not even a list of references in this book or citations concerning where Theobold pulled her information...more
Bookworm1858
I love the idea for this book-it is right up my alley as a history major who specialized in US history. I love collections of truths and myths that break them down in easy-to-read ways and this looked like the perfect quick read for me.

And it was a quick read. Each entry is only about one page and includes a picture to further illustrate the point. The writing was easy to read and due to the shortness, you can very quickly read this book. I think it would be fun to pick it up and read an entry o...more
Jillian
{ I received this as an ebook from NetGalley. Review originally posted to my blog, PidginPea's Book Nook. }

Death by Petticoat is a collection of fun, brief explanations of historical myths. Each myth is covered in a few paragraphs, making for a sufficient explanation, but I wouldn't have minded a little more depth. Some of the explanations ended a little abruptly, leaving me wishing there was more to it. But the short style makes it perfect for picking up here and there whenever you have a momen...more
Lis Carey
This little book covers a collection of popular, oft-repeated myths of American history, both the completely fabricated and those with a grain of truth vastly over-inflated to make a better story.

The title refers to the claim that long skirts and petticoats were so likely to catch fire that "death by petticoat fire" was the second leading cause of death for colonial American women, with only childbirth beating it out. In fact the leading cause of death for colonial American women was disease--an...more
Donna Brown
I live with - am married to - a history buff, so of course a little of it rubs off. That said, I've always been pretty interested in history myself, especially some of the everyday details, so Death by Petticoat was an exciting book choice for me. I loved the idea of debunking some of the myths, such as petticoats catching fire being a major cause of death!

The premise of the book is simple: it examines a myth and how it came about and quickly approves or debunks it, explaining why it was or wasn...more
Andrea Dubnick
This one comes out of Colonial Williamsburg, so it has a decidedly 17th- and 18th-century slant. But so many of the myths pertain to earlier centuries as well as the 19th (and later, I suppose; I am not involved in historical interpretation later than about 1910).

The "Petticoat Death" of the title refers to the conviction by many folks (myself included, at least before I read this book) that the second-commonest cause of death in historical women resulted from long skirts catching fire from out...more
Bibliotropic
I'm always interested in historical trivia, so this book seemed right up my alley. It was simple, quick to read, and more than striving to explain the truth behind some of the myths, it also opened my eyes to some of the more ridiculous things that people actually believe about not just Colonial America, but North American history in general.

This isn't the sort of book that a hardcore historian might want on their shevles, though. It breezes through things, relying more on dispelling eneral myth...more
Karla V
read complete review here:http://notjustnonsense.blogspot.com/2...

The author is highly amusing in her way to expose silly and absurd myths and the truth behind them, but it's too bad there were so little of them and such short explanations. The book made them clearer and easier to comprehend, but in the end they came out sounding a bit trivial, without very much depth into actual history. But I'm not a historian, so I had fun and learned quite a few things.

It's a great book for when you need to...more
thelifepursuit
Very funny discussion of historical myths, I laughed out loud for quite a bit of the book. This would make a good gift.

Most of the myths are debunked using common sense that makes you wonder why you thought it was true at all, like the fainting couches and the removal of ribs in Victorian times. It encourages you to think more closely about and apply logic to things that you hear.

Like another reviewer pointed out, I'm dubious about China being the birthplace of ice cream because all the time I w...more
Nicki Markus
This was a book that caught my interest when I saw it on NetGalley because I love finding out about the origin of myths. A few of the ones in this book were familiar to me while others, being particular to America, were not. All were fascinating though and offer an insight into how such stories come about as fact blurs with fiction.

This is a fairly short book and easy to skim through in a evening. I liked the inclusion of images to illustrate the myths as they provided added interest. This is a...more
Melyssa
I picked this book up at the gift shop at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. It was a quick, fun read. Many of these myths were unfamiliar to me, but it was fun/interesting to read how crazy myths came to be believed as fact.

Examples: People would get their portraits painted with one hand inside their vests to avoid paying extra to have the fingers painted; beds were short b/c people slept sitting up or they were shorter then; and some women had ribs removed to wear smaller corsets. The ti...more
Kari
I ended up skimming the book. It just wasn't interesting enough to read all the way through. History buffs would probably enjoy this one.
Amelia Elizabeth
[I received a eBook copy from NetGalley]

I enjoy history books but they have to have an interesting twist or a really great author. This book has both, I loved that it was a series of myths and brief information about each one and it was a quick and enjoyable read. It really was a great way to get a quick American History lesson.

The pictures were very helpful with some of the myths. Example: Myth #35 which mentions a Corner Chair. A What? I had never heard of one or seen one, it's quite an intere...more
Megan
This is cute, quick, with lovely pictures. Some of these myths I knew were not true, and some I do not remember ever hearing. There were a few that enlightened me however, and set me straight. The sale of Manhattan Island, for instance, going for beads. Apprenticeships lasting 7 years. Portrait discounts for hiding one's hand in one's coat. Quilts as underground railroad or with "humility squares". This book is a curiosity, just for fun, but packed with information. It would be fun to share with...more
Heather
The author compiles an interesting collection of commonly-told myths from American history and explains both the real stories and how the myths may have arisen. I didn't find any of the truths terribly surprising, but some of the myths made me wonder "Someone actually believes that?" I was hoping for more startling revelations, but it was an interesting read. Because each myth takes up only one or two pages, this would be a good one for sharing in a classroom or with a family. And I imagine ever...more
rameau
This is a quick and interesting glance at the mythical American history. With a pair of common sense spectacles the author picks apart each folk tale and shows how it originated and why it couldn't possibly be true–even if a kernel of truth might exist.

As an European I doubt I enjoyed it as much as an American who has grown up hearing about these legends would. Still it is a good read for anyone interested in such misconceptions and truths.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from t...more
Carol Hall
i had never heard of some of these myths.
Terri
(this is actually a 3.5 star rating)

I actually read the enhanced e-book version, which includes photos and videos. I only sorta like e-books to begin with and have never read an enhanced e-book, and I have to say...enhanced e-books are AWESOME! For the first time, I truly see the power of e-books. Having photos, diagrams, and videos embedded right in the text to illustrate points was really awesome and definitely informative!

This was a short, fun, and informative read - quick and easy, and I enj...more
Suzannah
Such a fun book for history buffs! I love the layout and illustrations in this little book of myths--one photo or drawing for each myth, some very helpful to explain the concepts. I enjoyed this book so much. I learned quite a few things about colonial America, about which I don’t know much, but also learned a few things to throw into the fashion shows I deliver at civil war events where I reenact! I am excited to pass this book along to my mom and cousin, who also reenact.
Heather
A quick read, with nice photographs included. I read it over the course of maybe an hour yesterday on the train, so if you're looking for something substantial, this isn't it. But the author's background in museum studies shows. Many of these myths I've heard repeated at public history locations, and unfortunately I've repeated a few of them. I think further explanation would have been good for some of these myths, but it would have detracted from the book's format.
Miss Pippi the Librarian
Death by Petticoat is a quick trivia read about early American History. The text rotated between formal and informal which isn't my favorite style, but the facts hold strong. I read this version without photos, so the offical publication will boast of better appeal with such illustrations.

This book was slotted for adult non-fiction. I would also hand it to interested teens.

Reviewed from a NetGalley copy. Thank you, NetGalley and Andrews McMeel
Publishing!
Kristi
This quick-to-read book sets readers straight on 63 American history myths that are perpetuated in popular tradition, house museums, and classrooms. For each myth there is a paragraph or two of text, and an illustration. My rating reflects my enjoyment of the book, but I am disappointed that there are no footnotes or citations for the evidence that Theobald uses to debunk the myths. The reader must take her authoritative word for it.
Tracy
A quick and interesting read about American history myths. I liked learning that there was no such thing as a fainting couch, closet tax or that the Dutch didn't buy Manhattan from the Indians for $24 of worthless beads. However I wish the author had inserted a bibliography or footnotes throughout. She writes that all these myths are just myths but why should I believe her? She gives credit to the images but what about the text?
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Mary Miley Theobald is a historian and free-lance writer specializing in history, travel, and business topics. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the College of William and Mary, worked for Colonial Williamsburg for many years, and taught American history and museum studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Writing as Mary Miley Theobald, she has written ten nonfiction books and 200 articles f...more
More about Mary Miley Theobald...
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