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Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip Hardcover – July 8, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Technological revolution makes the unthinkable routine-and what could be more quotidian than an automobile trip across America? Yet at one time such a notion seemed about as likely to succeed as jumping Niagara in a barrel. Burns and Dayton are responsible for the upcoming PBS film about the adventurous first-ever car trip from coast to coast; this is the picture-packed print companion. Impetuously responding to a dare in May 1903, Dr. Horatio Jackson rashly wagered $50 that he could traverse the continent in 90 days. Bankrolled by his wealthy wife and accompanied by mechanic friend Sewall Crocker, Jackson set out for New York from San Francisco. Crossing a landscape devoid of paved roads, roadmaps and streetlights in a vehicle without multiple gears, roof or windshield and capable of a mere 30 mph, the two men ran into considerable problems in Northern California, Oregon and Idaho. (Meanwhile, other, corporate-backed aspirants to the distinction of being first across the country were hot on their heels.) Hardly anybody they encountered had ever seen an automobile before, so the men repeatedly became local heroes before becoming celebrities on a national scale. Few can match nationally famous PBS documentarian Burns's skill at evoking the past visually, and this book does nothing to undo that reputation. (Any picture featuring Bud, the goggled bulldog they adopted on the way, is a winner.) Meanwhile, Duncan, responsible for the research and the text, delivers a graceful, concise, engrossing account.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Dayton Duncan, writer and producer of Horatio’s Drive, is the author of seven other books about American history, including Out West: A Journey Through Lewis and Clark’s America, in which he retraced the route of the expedition. He has been involved with Ken Burns’s documentaries for more than a decade. He and Burns are now collaborating on a major documentary series about our national parks. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Ken Burns, director and producer of Horatio’s Drive, has been making award-winning documentary films for more than twenty years. He was director of the landmark PBS series The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz and executive producer of The West. His other films include the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty (also nominated for an Oscar), Lewis & Clark, and Mark Twain. His next documentary will be a biography of the prizefighter Jack Johnson. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037541536X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375415364
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #461,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J ay Wall on August 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As the great grandson of Horatio Nelson Jackson and knowing the story intimately, (Used for many a book report in school) I must say what a wonderful job done by Dayton Duncan. To see all the letters and photographs so beautifully displayed initially took my breath away. He has shared the history of the time so well and I also enjoyed his travelling experience with his own father and son. Thank you Dayton. Be sure to watch the Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan PBS movie that is scheduled to air in early October.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on July 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(Sorry about the title. I just bought a PC, so I have computers on the brain!) This book is the latest effort by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns, a tie-in to their PBS documentary. It takes us back to 1903 and tells the story of the first transcontinental automobile trip, taken by Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson (don't you just love that name?), his mechanic Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. Dr. Jackson was in San Francisco when he decided to attempt the trip- it was really a "spur of the moment" decision, made after a fellow bet him $50 that he couldn't do it. Unfortunately for Dr. Jackson, he needed to come up with a car: he had purchased one just before he made the bet, but it was in the process of being shipped across the country to the doctor's home in Burlington, Vermont. Sewall Crocker suggested the doctor should buy a "Winton,"- because it was a heavy, sturdy vehicle. These were the days before dealerships, so Dr. Jackson had to find one of the few people in San Francisco who owned a Winton. The doctor located someone who was willing to sell his $2,500 Winton for $3,000. The upshot was that four days after making the bet, Jackson and Crocker were on the road. (Bud was purchased shortly after the two men started out.) One of the best features of this book is the pictures. It is difficult for most people today to visualize what driving conditions were like in 1903. There were almost no paved roads- so Jackson and Crocker were, for the most part, following old trails. The numerous pictures give you some idea of the rough conditions. The two men frequently had to remove boulders that were blocking the trails, or get through foot-deep mud, or ford rivers and streams. The two men had to stop frequently to repair blown tires or broken axles.Read more ›
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Horatio Nelson Jackson was an intrepid explorer. His exploit should not be ranked, perhaps, with those of Lewis and Clark, or Scott, or Livingstone, but nonetheless, this year we should be celebrating the centennial of his epochal achievement. In 1903, Jackson took the first automobile trip across the United States. The commemoration will include a Public Broadcasting documentary on the trip by Ken Burns, who was persuaded to make the film by his friend Dayton Duncan. The two of them have produced a book to go along with the film, _Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip_ (Knopf), and it is a good-looking and entertaining volume. A hundred years later, anyone can take a car and perform Horatio's Drive in a few days, but in 1903, there were about 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation, and most of those did not link one town to another. Jackson was a real pioneer.
Jackson was a thirty-one-year-old doctor from Burlington, Vermont, and an automobile enthusiast. On 19 May 1903, he was with a bunch of well-to-do men at the University Club in San Francisco. A wager was made; fifty bucks said that no one could drive from San Francisco to New York in less than three months. Jackson accepted immediately; he was on the road four days later. He hired a mechanic, and acquired a mascot, a bulldog named Bud who got his own automobilist goggles. His owner said that Bud was "...the one member of [our] trio who used no profanity on the entire trip." Jackson bought a used Winton for $3,000. It had a two-cylinder, 20 horsepower engine, a chain drive, and top speed of thirty miles an hour. It had no windshield and no roof. Jackson named it the _Vermont_. They bounced along the road, losing important items sometimes, and often they were mired in thick mud.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a brief account of the first cross country automobile trip, sprinkled with photographs taken by the "automobilist" as he traversed the nation's dirt roads just after the turn of the last century. Horation Nelson Jackson bet someone $50 in a club in San Francisco that he could cross the country in an automobile he had just bought, and do it in less than 90 days. He spent over $8,000 winning his bet (though he never collected the money).

The car (something called a Winton) had numerous breakdowns. After each one, Jackson would write his wife and advise her that "the worst is over now" after which the car would inevitably break down again. Jackson and his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, spent endless days waiting for parts and jury-rigging parts for the car. After Jackson and Crocker left San Francisco, two other cars, each with its own pair of intrepid motorists, left there also, all three headed to New York City. In spite of a number of hindrances, Jackson's Winton beat out the Packard and the Oldsmobile. Jackson even picked out a dog, named Bud, who wore goggles and rode in the front seat for most of the adventure.

This is a rather short book. It took me perhaps an hour and a half to read. It's full of illustrations and has a map showing the route Jackson took. It's also very interesting, covering a part of American history that I imagine many people had never heard before. I recommend it.
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