Books: Gift-Wrapped History

THE AMERICAN PAST (476 pp.)—Roger Butterfield—Simon & Schuster ($10).

The American Past is history gift-wrapped for readers who ordinarily find the subject unattractive. A picture story of U.S. politics and personalities from 1775 to 1945, the book is presumably (at $10) a carriage-trade item, but Publishers Simon and Schuster expect it to sell like crêpes suzettes.

The book contains 1,000 admirably selected photographs and cartoons, 125,000 words of text. The text and captions are in a lively, LIFE-like manner (Butterfield is an ex-LiFE editor).

The American Past combines the well-documented events of U.S. history with their human underpinnings: Washington borrowing money to make...

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