American minister and public speaker Russell Conwell was one of the most fascinating figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among many other accomplishments, Conwell composed one of the most popular essays of the period, "Acres of Diamonds," which he went on to deliver as a speech more than 6,000 times in locations all over the world. He also founded Temple University. This short biographical sketch of Conwell outlines his life and contributions.
In his facile, chatty way the author tells of the city's marvelous growth, taking us from the Loop through that Olympus of Chicago, the Lake Shore Drive to Oak Park and South Chicago. The landmarks of the early settlers and the "beauty spots" of the modern city are all described in such a manner that they cannot fail to appeal to even the most conservative of Easterners. Mr. Shackleton in all his books of the cities, shows each one distinctly; its characteristics, institutions, literary traditions, landmarks, and its people. Nothing is too small for him to chronicle—their habits of speech, their eating, ancestor worship. In each city he manages to discover many odd corners not found by the usual sightseer. His is a sympathetic, clear-eyed, often humorous interpretation of the city in each case.
The book of Philadelphia is a title suggestive of a large task. Philadelphia is complex, old, still growing, and he who understands her and writes of his understanding so that others may share it must have energy, insight, and skill. Mr. Shackleton's book bears ample evidence of his powers as an interpreter; his previous efforts at baring the souls of New York and Boston have given him a penetrating vision and a sureness of touch that ﬁnd full scope in his book of Philadelphia. He has given us far more than a guidebook for the tourist or casual sojourner; his observations and comments have a character that should make the book even more valuable to Philadelphians than to outsiders.
The Book of New York is full of delightful reminiscences and intimate descriptions of one of the most individual cities of the world. It is really a literary excursion, on foot, to various localities, new and old, which are a vital part of the big metropolis and its environs. One wanders at will through illuminated pages to the Bowery, Wall Street, City Hall Park; through the tenement districts, Madison Square, Union Square, Riverside Drive and, last but not least, that motley place of modern dreamers, Washington Square and Greenwich Village. One breathes the atmosphere of Peter Stuyvesant's old haunts, of the famous Fraunces Tavern, the romance of the Little Church Around the Corner.
Mr. Shackleton ﬁnds Boston a “very human city, with pleasantly piquant peculiarities.” Of course he tells interestingly the things to be seen in Boston, but he deals still more with that Boston which is “a state of mind”—the literary tradition of the city, its lecture habit, its ancestor worship, the “Boston Bag” and the “Sacred God"—and the things that make it a “woman's city.” This is not only a guide to Boston sights—it's a pilot to Boston prejudices and ﬁne beliefs. Sprinkled with anecdote and ﬂavored with personal adventure, it is a book to cherish, to lend, to read aloud.
Books about the national capital are always in order. Those written almost one hundred years ago might already be out of date, as regards many significant features of the city's growth and development. But Mr. Robert Shackleton, after an extended experience in describing such cities as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, has at last written a comprehensive "Book of Washington"—not a guide or handbook merely, but an intelligent summary and review of the past and present attractions of the city.