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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lowe and Jacobson - Nathan Hale - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" 

Don't you wish famous extemporaneous speeches from the past had been taped or at least recorded by someone trained in shorthand?  Plato and Xenophon each have their own version of the last speech by Socrates.  Are the Beatitudes exactly as Jesus said it?  (Other speakers of the past can't claim Divine Inspiration for how they were recorded.)  Did a soldier have either an advance copy or write down Queen Elizabeth's Spanish Armada speech?  If famous speeches fascinate you, go to Emerson Kent's Famous Speeches in History, you can even get an audio track or video clip of some speeches.  That site covers people, wars, maps, documents, timelines and much more under the delightful tag line of "History for the Relaxed Historian."

Wikipedia tries to be "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."  Their "anyone can edit" feature on Nathan Hale looks skeptically at those famous words along with other facts known or believed about him.  Perhaps you might prefer this article by Mary J. Ortner, Ph.D. about Captain Hale for the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, since he was most certainly a Connecticut Son of the American Revolution.  (Scroll down on the page to get to her article.)

1810 depiction of the boxer, Richmond
When looking into the facts about the end of this legendary American patriot, we know, for example, that Hale was 21, but did you know many believe a 13 year-old former slave and Loyalist named Bill Richmond was one of the hangmen?  That name is common enough that the Wikipedia article on him debates if it was the same as the former slave of that era who became a famous boxer in England.  Either way, can you imagine being 13 years old and doing that?  Even the character of the man in charge of Hale's hanging, Provost William Cunningham, is debated.  I looked unsuccessfully in Wikipedia under his official name only to stumble upon "Major 'Bloody Bill' Cunningham", which talks about his switch from membership in South Carolina's 3rd Regiment of Rangers to the British army.   There he was known for violent, ruthless raids.  There's plenty of reasons this man, called by rebel soldiers and South Carolinians a villain, continues to fascinate historians.

That cast of characters and the contrast of known facts and controversies could easily enrich this story which gives enough to bring the legend of patriot Nathan Hale alive beyond those words which rallied soldiers and is commonly given when talking about the American Revolution.  It comes from Fifty Famous Stories by Samuel E. Lowe and Viola E. Jacobson.  May it enrich your celebration of the Fourth of July.

This idealized bronze statue honors the heroism of Yale College graduate Nathan Hale. Hale’s defiant last words, inscribed on the statue’s base, made him a national hero, and his legend remained powerful over a century after his death when alumni donated this monument. Unable to afford the renowned Gilded Age sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, they commissioned the piece from his former assistant, Bela Pratt, who had studied at the Yale School of the Fine Arts under John Ferguson Weir. Combining dignity and beauty with a traditional martyr pose, Pratt’s statue stands beside Connecticut Hall, where Hale lived as a student.
A gift to Yale College by graduates and friends, 1914

I'm sure that sculpture and the artwork on the postage stamp which opened today's posting, even though Wikipedia cautions us about guessing at his appearance, lets us put a reasonable image in mind of Hale.  Speaking of reasonable images, the bindings of old books fitting our "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" are fragile.  As a result images here may be less satisfactory, with slight blurring or crookedness, than I might like when I scan them.

That said, here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
           - David K. Brown -
           - Karen Chace -
           - Richard Martin -
           - Spirit of Trees -
       - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at and put in in the search box.  I recommend using the latest "snapshot" on November 2016
           - Tim Sheppard -
           -  World of Tales -

You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  For an example of using the "Wayback Machine", list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is gone, but using the Wayback Machine you can still see it.  At the Wayback Machine I put in his site's address, then chose 2006 since it was a later year and clicked until I reached the Library at  

Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.

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