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Sunday, September 04, 2005

New Books for 2005

I've long searched for authentic Native American Stories and have remembered for a number of years the story told in Mistakes That Worked
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Paperback - 48 pages (1994) / Doubleday--Recounting the fascinating stories behind the accidental inventions of forty familiar objects and products.
That story told of a Native American George Crum who invented the potato chip. I had hoped that someone might write a story about him -- and now someone has:

The Greatest Potatoes
by Penelope Stowell, Sharon Watts (Illustrator) / Hardcover: 36 pages / Jump At The Sun (2005) Who knew that potato chips were invented in an attempt to cook the worst-tasting potatoes on Earth? This dynamic picture book is based on the true story of George Crum.

But the author Penelope Stowell chose to refer to George Crum as AFRICAN AMERICAN. At first I wondered how such a "mistake" could have been made.

Well it turns out that its all in the perspective. It seems that George Crum's father was Abraham Speck (an African-American Jockey) but during his career as a horse jockey he used the name "Crum." Eventually Abraham came north to Saratoga Springs, New York, married Catherine, a woman from the Huron tribe. George was born and although his legal name was George Speck, he used the name George Crum (as his father had done). He lived a pretty colorful life. For a period of time he was an Indian Trader but by 1853 he was employed at a plush lodge in Saratoga Springs. That is where the episode in Stowell's book takes place. In 1860 he opened his own restaurant -- and some say the reason he could do so is he had the cheap labor of his multiple wives (some say 5). So was George Speck "Crum" African-American or Native American? It seems that few credit both heritages -- preferring to select one or the other.

His restaurant survived until 1890 (thirty years). Crum died in 1914 at the age of 92.

Look for more information in Stowell's book and on this web page:
Such fun!

In other news - the University of Iowa's Festival of Children's Books will be held Saturday, September 10, 2005. Handouts for the What's New 2005 session can be found linked on my curriculum page on my main site. It was that presentation that found me exploring Stowell's book about George Crum and the potato chip.

1 comment:

  1. I am so excited to learn about the book & life of George Crum..My ancestor! My dad was born in Saratoga Springs,Ny in 1910. the Speck(Crum)family are my dad's g.g.grandparents.Can't wait to read the book ,& to give the book to my children & grandchild! Thank you so much! Beverly Brown