The Innovation of Robert Fulton: Making Much Out of Little

Robert Fulton: Boy Craftsman by Marguerite Henry

Fulton-steamboat“Even as a boy he was the kind to see a way to improve things. He always finished up whatever he set out to do, too, and he made a fine job of it. Bob was never happy unless he was making something – something according to a plan.”


Do you have a child who’s always coming up with ideas or working on projects? My middle child is one of those. As a toddler he was always on the go, exploring things, opening doors, flipping switches, then a little later, taking things apart and fixing things. He made a pneumatic airgun that shot potatoes, a two-octave PVC pipe instrument (think Blue Man Group), a didgeridoo, a dulcimer, and a Tesla coil (from scratch, btw). It’s no surprise to those who have known this boy from childhood that his major in college is electrical engineering, and that he is currently working on a couple of patents at his job. (Please excuse my brief but shameful parental bragging.) Continue reading “The Innovation of Robert Fulton: Making Much Out of Little”

The Quaker Boy who became a Royal Painter: Benjamin West

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
by Marguerite Henry

This is a charming book about the real Quaker boy who became the royal painter to King George III. The story is set in mid-18th century in Pennsylvania. At this time, Quakers believed art to be worldly and vain. While Benjamin secretly practices his drawing skills, he is aided by local Indians who teach him how to make colors out of things found in nature. Benjamin also shows his resourcefulness and determination when he “borrows” fur from his cat’s tail to make paintbrushes. Benjamin respectfully works to persuade his parents and church to recognize his talent and to permit him to receive art training. Benjamin West became a famous and influential painter as a result and is known as The Father of American Painting. After reading this story, my kids were excited when we visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena and saw a couple of West’s paintings hanging in the art gallery. The story of Benjamin West encourages children to be persistent in developing their talents and not to give up on something if they truly have a passion for doing it. The story also lends itself to supplemental lessons or research about the Quakers, William Penn, and West’s art. Kids and adults of all ages will love this book!