Need a good book to read? How about this: “Secret Heroes: Everyday Americans Who Shaped Our World,” by Paul Martin. This book is a remarkable collection of stories that spotlight 30 unknown champions, explorers, inventors, and innovators who were forgotten in the pages of American history textbooks.
Instead of George Washington, we learn about the tailor who saved his life…twice. The overlooked Americans in Secret Heroes all had an impact on their world (and the modern world), says the author, former Executive Editor of National Geographic Traveler. The illuminating stories include:
- Hercules Mulligan, the New York tailor and spy who saved General Washington.
- Jimmie Angel, the gold-seeking bush pilot who, in 1933, discovered the world’s highest waterfall in Venezuela (now called Angel Falls).
- Carl Akeley, a pioneering taxidermist who killed a leopard with his bare hands and inspired Africa’s first national park.
- Eliza Scidmore, who – after twenty-four years of lobbying –convinced the government to plant thousands of cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
Some other characters Martin brings to life include Henry Beachell, whose invention of “miracle rice” fed and supported Asia; Cynthia Ann Parker’s steadfast endurance of 24 years of Native American captivity and Jonathan Letterman, whose medical organization on the battlefield revolutionized the treatment of wounded soldiers and saved countless lives during the Civil War.
“There really are two large categories of heroes,” Martin said of his book’s title. “Most of us think of someone as a hero who risks his or her life when there is some immediate danger — a soldier rescuing a fellow on the battlefield. But the other type of hero is one who simply perseveres, who overcomes overwhelming odds, even if it might take an entire lifetime.”