American flag, 1800s books

1800s Books on the War of 1812, the Star Spangled Banner, Mountain Men

US History Project Ideas

The big themes for 1800s books seem to start with the War of 1812. And that includes books on the Star Spangled Banner, and the story of the how & why behind the American National Anthem.

With that in mind, be sure to look at Peter Speier’s The Star Spangled Banner for a great read for the elementary level. His illustrations give meaning to the words & history behind our National Anthem that most kids wouldn’t grasp on their own.

Moving on in 1800s books, we get to the 1820’s, and there is a real variety of book choices. One of our favorites is the fascinating story behind one of history’s more famous mountain men, Hugh Glass. This book’s reading level is appropriate for upper elementary, but the story is great even for adult reading. The grit, determination, and survival skills exhibited when this man was faced with certain death are amazing! You don’t want to miss this one…even adults!


An American Army of Two by Janet Greeson. 1992. E
Based on a true story, 2 sisters trick the British army and help the American cause during the War of 1812.

The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier. Doubleday. E+
Peter Spier’s illustrations are in a class all their own. Fun, and gives excellent visuals to help children understand the song and the history behind it.

Oh Say! Can You See? by Francis Scott Key & by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.


Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg, illus. James Daugherty. UE

Conestoga Wagons by Richard Ammon, illus. Bill Farnsworth. Holiday House, 2000. E-UE
Between 1750 and 1850, the Conestoga wagons were part of the American story. This book tells you what made them so special & how they were used, giving you a glimpse into the transportation challenges of early America.

The Erie Canal by Peter Spier. K-E
Peter Spier’s illustrations are in a class all their own. Fun!

Hugh Glass, Mountain Man: Left for Dead by Robert M. McClung. Morrow Junior Books, 1990. UE+
A true adventure story of a frontiersman traveling West with a fur company who gets mauled by an 800 lb. grizzly bear, and is left for dead in the wilderness. Sheer grit and determination help him survive and travel alone the 200 miles to the nearest post. Especially appealing for boys. Recommended. Now may be a good time to read Jim Bridger: Man of the Mountains (Discovery Biography) (E-UE) since he is mentioned in the Hugh Glass novel.

If You Grew Up With Abraham Lincoln by Ann McGovern, illus. George Ulrich. Scholastic, 1966. E
Describes the typical childhood in the early 1800’s in the Midwest—similar to what Abe Lincoln may have experienced.

Josefinas Story Collection (The American Girls Collection): The set includes these books: Meet Josefina, an American Girl (American Girls Collection), Josefina Learns a Lesson: A School Story (American Girls Collection), Josefina’s Surprise: A Christmas Story (American Girls Collection), Happy Birthday, Josefina!: A Springtime Story (American Girls Collection), Josefina Saves the Day: A Summer Story (American Girls Collection), and Changes for Josefina: A Winter Story (Amrican Girls Collection) by Valerie Tripp. The Pleasant Co. 1997. E-JH
Based on the life of a fictional American girl in the southwest in 1824, and written especially for girls.

The Story of the Erie Canal, Cornerstones of Freedom series, by R. Conrad Stein, illus. Keith Neely. Children’s Press, 1985. UE+
Easy to read, includes line, one-color drawings, and keeps interest level high.

Timmy O’Dowd and the Big Ditch: A Story of the Glory Days on the Old Erie Canal by Len Hilts (Great Episodes series). Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. UE+
Timmy’s family’s life revolved around the Erie Canal, but it was all new to his cousin from the city. This story provides an incredible wealth of information about the daily use and upkeep of the Erie Canal, its construction, and its impact on New York State.

Welcome to Josefina’s World 1824: Growing Up on America’s Southwest Frontier (American Girls Collection). Pleasant Co. UE-JH
Expanding on the Josefina series, this book illustrates and explains many facets of the typical way of life of her time period and location.

Young Abe Lincoln : The Frontier Days, 1809 – 1837 by Cheryl Harness. National Geographic Society, 1996. E-UE
Short paragraphs and full-page, color illustrations tell of Abe’s growing up days until just before his political career. Sequel is Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington 1837 – 1863.

Do you have a favorite book that would fit in this 1800s books list?
Be sure to let us know!

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