Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked

Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked


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 From famous legends to embellished truths to outright fabrications, Death by Petticoat debunks myths from American history in witty, entertaining narratives that shed light on the real truth about the past.  

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 our history in Death by Petticoat including:

* Hat makers really were driven mad. They were poisoned by the mercury used in making hats from furs. Their symptoms included hallucinations, tremors, and twitching, which looked like insanity to people of the 17th and 18th centuries--and the phrase "mad as a hatter" came about.

* The idea that portrait painters gave discounts if their subjects posed with one hand inside the vest (so they didn't have to paint fingers and leading to the saying that something "costs an arm and a leg") is strictly myth. It isn't likely that Napoleon, King George III, or George Washington were concerned about getting a discount from their portrait painters.

Pregnant women secluded themselves indoors, uneven stairs were made to trip up burglars, people bathed once a year, women had tiny waists, apprenticeships lasted seven years--Death by Petticoat reveals the truth about these hysterical historical myth-understandings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449418533
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication date: 06/05/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 254,952
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Mary Miley Theobald has taught history, works at a historical foundation, writes and blogs about historical myths, and pens historical fiction books. In short, she likes history. She is the author of seven nonfiction books as well as several historical fiction novels.


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Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
GHott More than 1 year ago
Colonial Williamsburg is one of my favorite places. I love history when it’s hands on a fun – not so much the technical kind with just names and dates. In that respect this was an awesome book for me! When we went to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown on our honeymoon eons ago, we learned so many odd facts and stories that I was enthralled. This book captured those stories and added many more! This was one of those books that I read a myth or two and then shared them with the family thereby giving us all a fun way to learn and something that interested the entire family – from 5 to 60!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JMTDiva More than 1 year ago
Amazing how much we have all heard was 'true' and it turns out it wasn't. Would recommend for a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
naher More than 1 year ago
First time I ever purchased an enhanced book so I didn't know what to expect. Interesting and informative as it debunks many colonial myths plus some videos. Enjoyed the videos but the first one on petticoats only works once in a while. The others work good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love reading about the various myths and how they originated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Death By Petticoat is poor all around. Not worth your time or money. It is poorly research and perpetuates more myths then it debunks.In listening to and reading articles and books from noted early American historians it is obvious many of her assessments either miss the mark all together or begin to deconstruct a myth and don't actually provide an answer or thwart the misnomer. Vocational preservation tradesmen and women are another incredible resource- listening to their explanation of their historic trade or industry in early America will also strike a picture completely different then that painted by Theobald. It is apparent that the author cherry picked her sources and that her time spent in the museum with experts like trades people at Colonial Williamsburg wasn't well managed or thorough. This hurried and truncated synopsis has left us with a document which makes it harder to get good history across to the public. In very few instances the author begins to debunk a myth correctly and then leaves the analysis hanging without following through to a logical and rational conclusion. Unfortunately for public historians and historical sites, Theobald has created a labyrinth of problems which we must work through and continue to dispell. Given to a elementary school student or middle school student it might inspire them to read more about history- maybe then it would inspire them to read more, but thats the only positive I have been able to find with this publication. No I was not expecting a major academic work but a useful guide book. There are no sources or citations which leads one to question if her work is original and also leads one to question whether or not she is even correct in her "debunking." Instantly this book is as antiquated in its interpretation. It is in the same vein as those by Alice Morse Earle, whose works in the 19th century were a testament to her opinion on the 18th but not grounded in the reality of the period. I think the comments by this Colonial Williamsburg Employee- really tell the tale: "Theobald's true stories are as entertaining as the folklore." -Dennis Montgomery, Editor, CW Journal- Entertaining-it doesnt say accurate or helpful- entertaining.