Harper's School Geography is both a physical and a political geography with an emphasis on commerce. While most of it is devoted to the United States, all of the continents are described and analyzed. In keeping with the colonial perspective of the era, the discussion of political Africa is divided into two parts: "Caucasian Africa" and "Negro Africa" (pages 118-119). There is an Appendix entitled “Geography of the North Central States,” which includes a more detailed treatment of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. There are 128 pages, numerous maps and illustrations, most in black and white, and an appendix.
There are several inscriptions identifying the names of previous owners. These include Frank A. Neal, 1881; B. H. Neal; Mary Neal; Minnie Wiltmarth, Hamilton, Minnesota. The tan front cover contains an illustration of European explorers landing on a tropical beach with a supplicant native greeting them. This is most likely a depiction of Columbus arriving in Hispaniola. This theme is continued on the back cover with similar illustrations of Europeans and native peoples. The back cover also contains a list of other Harper & Brothers textbooks.
German authors Carl Ritter (1779-1859) and Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) were instrumental in establishing geography as an academic discipline focused on the study of earth as the home of mankind. Ritter's most significant contribution is his identification of geography as a scientific discipline in which the interaction of humans and nature is of paramount interest. Von Humboldt provided the basic method of scientific geographic inquiry still in use by modern geographers and other scholars.
The firm that became Harper & Brothers was established in New York in 1817, first called J. & J. Harper until the founding brothers James and John were joined by their younger brothers and the name was changed in 1833. The firm led the early industrialization of book publishing and shaped American mass culture with the creation and widespread distribution of Harper's New Monthly Magazine and Harper's Weekly in the 1850s. The company had its greatest influence in the three decades after the Civil War, when Harper textbooks became a mainstay in schools and homes. The name again changed to Harper & Row, upon its merger with Row, Peterson & Company of in 1962. Following other mergers and reorganizations, the firm continues today as HarperCollins, one of the largest publishing houses in the world.
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