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More Powerful Than Dynamite: Radicals, Plutocrats, Progressives, and New York's Year of Anarchy Hardcover – April 24, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0802779335 ISBN-10: 0802779336 Edition: 1st Edition, 1st Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802779336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802779335
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,219,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Jobless, homeless, hungry, desperate.  Remarkable how those words resonate through the years in the richest and most powerful country in world history.  Their significance is dramatically highlighted in this compelling and vivid portrayal of the currents that swept the country a century ago, and have come back to haunt and inspire us once again today.  More Powerful Than Dynamite is an impressive piece of work."—Noam Chomsky

"Almost exactly a century before Occupy Wall Street launched a cause and gripped a nation, a different kind of radical movement in New York City was stirring, stunning, and scaring the country. Thai Jones, a brilliant historian and breathtaking writer, tells this compelling story in MORE POWERFUL THAN DYNAMITE. In his hands, the past is indeed prologue."—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew Vs. Jew

"New York was as divided by class, race, and ideology a century ago as it is in our own time.  That the city actually exploded in 1914 is not surprising.  What is surprising is how subtly, persuasively, and imaginatively Thai Jones has interpreted the period and brought a rich cast of characters to life.  More Powerful Than  Dynamite is an exciting book."—Kenneth T. Jackson, Columbia University, editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City

"Thai Jones brings into vivid life a period of American history when the haves and the have nots were close to civil war, a fascinating recreation of people we have forgotten at our own peril.  An enjoyable and enlightening read."—Marge Piercy, poet, novelist, memoirist

"A compelling and layered portrait of a year, a nation, and a people on the verge, More Powerful Than Dynamite is filled with echoes that clamor in contemporary America. The writing itself is so rich and powerful, the selection of scenes so smart, the details so telling, that it reads like an epic novel."—Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground and author of Fugitive Day

Praise for A Radical Line: 

"[T]his book begins with an intensely dramatic scene, and continues to fascinate the reader right through to the end. We follow a group of people—especially the notorious "Weather" people—who are at the center of the extraordinary events of the Sixties. Abstractions like "radicalism", "pacifism" "violence" are given a human face, as we see the characters in this book struggle, often in troubling ways, for a world free of war and injustice." —Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

About the Author

Thai Jones is author of A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family's Century of Conscience. Formerly a reporter for Newsday, he is a graduate of Vassar College and the Columbia School of Journalism, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in U.S. History at Columbia University.

More About the Author

Thai Jones is the Herbert H. Lehman Curator for U.S. History at Columbia University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library. His work explores questions of American radicalism and dissent. His latest book, More Powerful than Dynamite: Radicals, Plutocrats, Progressives, and New York's year of Anarchy, was published by Walker and Co. in April. He is also the author of A Radical Line: From the Labor Movement to the Weather Underground, One family's Century of Conscience. He has written for a variety of national publications, ranging from the New York Times to the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Formerly an assistant professor of history at the Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching Program, he earned his PhD in history at Columbia University and is also a graduate of the Columbia Journalism School.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Mr. Jones's writing is detailed, clear and engaging.
wheat roots
This book is a comprehensive study of the period, a period also when psychology and sociology are in their infancies.
Daniel J. Lynch
I've read both Thai Jones's earlier "A Radical Line" and "More Powerful than Dynamite" and both are excellent.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chris Sevinsky on August 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I picked up my copy of More Powerful Than Dynamite at the author's reading in Albany, NY, a few months ago. One thing about this book that no one seems to have mentioned so far is the author's use of digitized resources to create (or recreate, I guess) such a vivid portrait of century-old history. One passage in particular really struck me; in an early section of the book, Jones goes into the minutest detail concerning the progress of a series of storms that ravaged New York City in January and February 1914. He begins the passage (p. 56) by describing the action of a weather bureau machine as it recorded the dropping temperatures. Looking to the end notes I see that he sourced this sentence with a paragraph of different treatises, handbooks, and textbooks concerning weather technology and knowledge of the time. A paragraph or so later he mentions in passing that wind whipped across the hundred thousand rooftops of the metropolis. For some authors this might have been a hazarded guess or a figure of speech. For Jones, there is a footnote (on p. 350) that describes an article that reported "that the greater city's 102,400 houses contained 919,000 individual apartments.

And that is just one passage.

To support his description of the New York Police Department's chief inspector, Jones' footnote is longer than the passage in the text. A full page of notes go to one single paragraph (the paragraph is on p. 137, and the notes are on p. 362), describing the officer's physique (a newspaper article and a memoir), his mustache (a photo), his eye color (a passport registration card), etc., etc.

My favorite footnote, however, is on p. 22, where Jones is cataloguing the number of traffic fatalities incurred in New York in 1914.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Darby Duff on June 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
More Powerful Than Dynamite is a triumph--gripping, empathetic, and profound. Thai Jones is a brilliant historian, and an even better storyteller. He brings his reader into a perfectly drawn world of idealistic industrialists and hunger-striking anarchists, rendering each character, from John D. Rockefeller to Upton Sinclair, in vivid, memorable detail. This is non-fiction executed with the narrative thrill and psychological complexity of a great novel. More relevant than today's New York Times, More Powerful Than Dynamite is popular history at its best, simultaneously uncovering the New York City of 1914, and shedding new light on today's world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tamara Mann on August 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thai Jones has masterfully captured the tension between political commitment and martyrdom. In his first work, "A Radical Line," Jones interrogated his own family's history of radicalism. In that haunting book, he managed to demonstrate all his grandmother, mother, and father accomplished by putting politics above careerism while tenderly exploring the resultant sacrifices borne by the family of radicals. In this work, Jones does it again. In "More Powerful than Dynamite" his characters push the limits of their ideologies, be it the value of disinterested expertise or the passionate fight for economic equity, to the margins of logic. Everyone in this impeccably researched and beautifully written history is an endearing and exasperating genius. In this book, Jones brings the reader into the middle of the major debates on industrial work, poverty, and wealth taking place in 1914 and manages to discuss this polarized politics with nuance. Thai Jones is an exceptional political thinker and a magnificent writer. This book is a must read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Having read Thai Jones' "More Powerful Than Dynamite: Radicals, Plutocrats, Progressives, and New York's Year of Anarchy" hot on the heels after reading Richard Zacks' "Island of Vice", I feel I had a bit of an advantage going into this book. Some of the personae are the same; NYPD legend Max Schmittberger is the most prominent. But it was the times in New York City--the attitude to reform, the Tammany machine lurking in the corner, the enforcement of liquor laws--all of which figured so large in Zacks' book, that are highlighted and spotlighted here, too. Zacks' book, however, focused on one man's two-year tenure as New York's Police Commissioner: Teddy Roosevelt. In "More Powerful Than Dynamite", Jones tackles--or should I say embraces--the several New Yorkers who reacted to and molded the economic and social conditions of the times. Jones successfully--very successfully--brings that New York back to life, makes its concerns still relevant, and leaves us with lingering questions about justice and freedom in our own time.

Focusing mostly on 1914, with excursions into the years immediately before and after, Thai Jones carefully and lovingly examines the "radicals, plutocrats and progressives" who affected the lives of so many New Yorkers, so many Americans. The key players, John Rockefeller, Jr., Mayor John Purroy Mitchell, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Frank Tannenbaum, etc., are given most of the real estate in the text, and deservedly so. But never EVER lost in the discussions of these personalities is the working man. Thai Jones is to be credited for keeping in focus the effects these radicals, progressives and plutocrats had on the working class, whether in New York City or in the coal mines of Colorado.
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