In this extraordinary account, the curtain rises in 1901 on the Pan American Exposition’s big tragedy and its lesser-known scandals, on both notorious and forgotten figures. In a story that is by turns suspenseful, heartrending, and triumphant, this non-fiction narrative reveals the power struggles that not only marked the Buffalo fair but shaped the twentieth century.

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

Early Reviews

“An extraordinary portrait of the event… great storytelling and painterly in its color and detail.”

Mark Goldman, historian and author of High Hopes and City on the Edge

“Margaret Creighton does for Buffalo in 1901 what Erik Larson did for 1893 Chicago in The Devil in the White City. Creighton’s book is a propulsive, edge-of-your-seat ride: she creates a vivid panoply of daredevils, hucksters, suffragists, and civil rights champions, conjuring up the very aromas and tastes of America at the turn of the last century.”

Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and And After the Fire

“Attending this illuminated extravaganza at the start of the new century, we absorb the pomp and pageantry, travel backstage to enter the lives of impresarios and performers, witness the assassination of President McKinley, and meet the assassin. This is a story of American democracy and American imperialism, of modern wonders intertwined with disillusionment and exploitation all unfolding in utterly electrifying prose.”

Martha Hodes, author of Mourning Lincoln

“Absolutely first rate… A fascinating account of how a major American city attempted to assert itself at the turn of the twentieth century with the Pan American Exposition…A great pleasure to read.”

A. R. Gurney, Buffalo-born playwright and novelist

“In her electrifying account of this electrifying fair, Margaret Creighton reveals how the 1901 Pan-American Exposition heralded the dawn of the ‘American Century.’”

Robert W. Rydell, author of All the World’s a Fair

The Colors of Courage overturns the conventional story of this celebrated battle. This powerful account of African American and women civilians, along with immigrant soldiers, challenge how we have defined this momentous event, and what we mean by the word “courage.”

Runner up: The Lincoln Prize
Top Five: The Wall Street Journal’s Best Books on Gettysburg


“This is a wonderful…story of human beings caught up in the greatest battle fought in the Western Hemisphere”

Ken Burns, filmmaker

“Margaret Creighton has done what I thought impossible — …[These are pages] which every student of the Civil War should read.”

James McPherson, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“Invaluable….I am both horrified [by the history] and amazed”

Henry Louis Gates, historian, filmmaker

“Exciting, intelligent and provocative.”

Chicago Tribune

“Dramatic, thought-provoking… perceptive and masterly”…

Journal of American History

“Groundbreaking and profoundly moving”

The Civil War News

Drawing on over a hundred diaries and logs of sailors, Rites and Passages explores the contours of whaling life in the mid 1800s. It describes shipboard rituals, relations between sailors at sea and women ashore, and looks at the brutal and colorful world of men who took to living on vast ocean reaches for up to five years at a time.


“…artful and engaging….in this well-written and beautifully illustrated book, Creighton has done as much to open up the lost world of American whaling as any author since Melville.”

Simon P. Newman, The PA Magazine of History and Biography

“In her informative, engaging book, Creighton…offers valuable insight into the existence of real-life Ishmaels and Ahabs at the height of the American whaling industry….”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Margaret Creighton has written a fascinating book on the world of whalemen in whaling’s golden era.”

E. Anthony Rotundo, author of American Manhood

“a superb book”

Daniel Vickers, American Historical Review

“… an essential reference”

Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., Nautical Research Journal

“… a valuable and important book in a field that remains dominated, at least obliquely, by the genius of Melville.”

Stephen Innes, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“A lively book, and remarkable drawings.”

Labour History Review