Was Sir Alexander Coming a charlatan, an opportunist, a madman, or a hero? Having inherited a baronetcy but little money, Cuming came to the New World to make his fortune, in a dream it had been revealed to his wife that he was to undertake a bizarre mission. He set out for hostile Indian territory in the rugged Appalachian mountains, a journey that seemed destined to attract incident--starting with the packhorse drivers’ getting drunk. Eventually and single-handedly Cuming coaxed the fragmented Cherokee tribe into declaring loyalty to the Crown of England. In the process, he so charmed the belligerent Indians that he was offered the Cherokee Crown of Tannassy, a construction of dyed opossum fur.
With crown in hand and seven Indian braves accompanying him, Cuming sailed onto England to report his triumph to the King. The delegation was finally received while George II was dining, but, according to royal custom, they were not invited to eat. The Indians were incensed--in their culture not to offer food was an insult.
Furthermore, London society of 1730 reacted to Cuming's adventure with incomprehension and indifference. The Indians, however, became curiosities, objects of insensitive adulation--"taken up" for the social season.
This fascinating history of Cuming’s exploits and the clash of two cultures is based on his diary, works by contemporaries, and London newspaper accounts--woven together in a lively manner by William 0. Steele, noted author of historical fiction for young readers. Steele’s venture into non-fiction to tell of this absorbing incident will be enjoyed by all ages.
Steele has won many awards or his books, including the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award and the William Allen White Children’s Book Award, and has been runner-up for a Newbery Medal. Steele finds the historical research for a new book exciting. "The people who made up the American past were brave and resourceful, wicked and stubborn, full of love and curiosity, and dreams and stratagems. I have tried to put into my books something of this vitality.”
Steele lives on Signal Mountain near Chattanooga with his wife, Mary, also a writer, and their three children.