Grateful American Book Prize

March 1 — March 15, 2024

History Matters

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future

In February 1692, two girls from Salem, Massachusetts took ill, and a local doctor surmised they were suffering from the effects of witchcraft. The following month, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne and – Tituba, a slave from Barbados – professed to be the cause of the nascent epidemic.

According to, “with encouragement from a number of adults in the community, the girls, who were soon joined by other ‘afflicted’ Salem residents, accused a widening circle of local residents of witchcraft, mostly middle-aged women but also several men and even one four-year-old child. During the next few months, afflicted area residents incriminated more than 150 women and men from Salem Village and the surrounding areas of Satanic practices.”

For more about the witches of Salem, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials by Ann Rinaldi.

The Crucible (1996)

In March of 1876 — three days after receiving his patent — Alexander Graham Bell made the world’s first telephone call to his assistant, Thomas Watson.

According to, Bell emigrated to the United States in 1871. Then, he “went to Boston to demonstrate his father’s method of teaching speech to the deaf. The next year, he opened a school in Boston for training teachers of the deaf … In his free time, Bell experimented with sound waves and became convinced that it would be possible to transmit speech over a telegraph-like system. He enlisted the aid of a gifted mechanic, Thomas Watson … the two spent countless nights trying to convert Bell’s ideas into practical form to transmit speech vibrations electrically between two receivers. In June 1875 [he] tested [the] invention.”

Now, American processes approximately 2.4 billion cellphone-based calls each day; 27% come from landlines.

For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell by Charlotte Gray.

Bell on the telephone in New York (calling Chicago) in 1892

America’s first baseball pro–Harry Wright–started as a cricket player. On March 15, 1869, he organized–and played for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team.

According to, “the Red Stockings finished the season with a 57-0 record — 64-0 with exhibitions included. Baseball was still in the underhand-pitch iteration … so the team routinely scored dozens of runs in games. The Red Stockings defeated the Buckeyes of Cincinnati … Wright, given roughly $10,000 to assemble the best team money could buy, signed his younger brother, George, to a team-high $1,400 salary.” [$31,748,78 in 2024 dollars].

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Stephen D. Guschov’s The Red Stockings of Cincinnati: Base Ball’s First All-Professional Team and Its Historic 1869 and 1870 Seasons.

Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869

History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

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