Foreword Reviews

A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History

It could be alleged—no insult intended—that Tim Grove, who has worked in the most prestigious history museums in the United State, is a rewriter of history.

Take the case of Betsy Ross. Every school kid knows she sewed the first stars and stripes. Wrong. There were rumors about the flag when Grove was at the National Museum of American History. He tracked them down and discovered that the flag was actually sewn by another Philadelphia seamstress, Mary Pickersgill. “For over twenty years my goal has been to help history haters change their minds,” he says in the introduction.

One of his first projects, when he was at Colonial Williamsburg in 1994, was to help reenact a slave auction. The NAACP was not pleased, and neither were area whites. Both groups were fearful it would open old wounds. The organizers, despite a few protesters, held to their rubric of historical accuracy, and since then, reenactments have become more ambitious.

Grove is something of a museum vagabond. Presently, he is chief of museum learning at the National Air and Space Museum. He started at the National Portrait Gallery before it became part of the Smithsonian, a confusion of nineteen museums, which traces it roots to a British scientist, James Smithson, who never set foot in the United States.

Then he took a job with the Missouri Historical Society, developing a traveling exhibition of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which, inevitably, calls to mind Sacagawea, the mythical Indian maiden. “Who was she, Grove?” But he can’t answer the question. Tribal lore claims she was Clark’s lover, but while there is no evidence to support the claim, it does add spice to a myth that figures to the present day in commercials.

As for the titular reference to the grizzly in the mail? It’s a gory tale.

Reviewed by Thomas BeVier

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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