Breastplate and Buckskin, by George E. Tait, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1953. The book went through 31 printings and was also published in the US by Chas. A. Bennett Co., Peoria, Illinois. Breastplate and Buckskin is the story of the conquistadores, the explorers, the fur traders and the earliest settlers of the Americas. The 1953 Fall Catalogue of Ryerson Books states, “Told in the easy style of a man who knows what children expect of a story, each chapter is full of drama and adventure. A time chart and suggestions for activities are included. There are over fifty illustrations and ten maps printed in two-colours – all of which have been prepared by a specialist in the field of children’s art – Vernon Mould, Art Master, Upper Canada College.”
The book is a model of how to present educational material. Breastplate and Buckskin was used by three generations of students in many Canadian Provinces and American States. A note at the beginning of the book states, “To the Boys and Girls who Read this Book: From time to time you will find words which may be new to you underlined like this. So that you may learn what they mean, you will find these words listed under “Things to Know” on pages 225 to 234 with a full explanation.”
George E. Tait was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1910. He was educated in Ontario Schools at St.Catharines and Watford, and later graduated from the Universities of Western Ontario and Toronto. He began teaching soon after graduation. In 1941, during the Second World War, Tait and his wife Reginae, also a teacher, were asked by Canadian External Affairs to open the Anglo-American School in Bogota, Columbia. They stayed for three years. Upon their return in 1944, Tait was appointed Inspector of Public Schools in Huntsville and Welland, Ontario. In 1950 George Tait became Associate Professor of Elementary Education, University of Toronto, and remained at the U of T until his retirement as Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education.
George Tait produced over 20 books including The Saddle of Carlos Perez, The Silent Gulls, Wake of the West Wind, The Eagle and the Snake, The World was Wide, One Dominion and Fair Domain. The Silent Gulls was dramatized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Tait travelled widely and on one trip to the Arctic, his team came across a stash of food left by the men of the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845.
In 1978, George Tait received the McGraw-Hill Ryerson Special Book Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian education. He was presented to the Queen on two occasions, once at Buckingham Palace and once at St. James’ Palace. George Tait was also an accomplished amateur painter.
George Tait died in 2000 and is buried in his home town of Watford, Ontario.