From Publishers Weekly
From a track in the wilderness to today's paved, commerce-filled road, U.S. Route 1, first known as the King's Highway, is unsurpassed for historic significance among American highways. Jaffe's lively, informal if undisciplined survey of its history, from Indian paths united by 17th-century settlers into one main path to the 21st-century road it has become, takes us not only down the East Coast's original main route between Boston and New York but up its original course from New Haven to Hartford, Conn. Some will read of the road's development as a history of the decline and degradation of nature, others of necessary developments as the world changed. Green is correct that the old King's Highway is a metaphor of the nation's history over almost five centuries, but side trips to canals and railroads, the newspapers that developed and were distributed along the post road, and everyone's hated I-95, aren't central to the story. Yet Jaffe's concluding personal journey along the historic way lends color to his light work of popular history. Maps. (June)
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“Early in the writing of The King’s Best Highway, Eric Jaffe tells us, an advisor warned him not to make a book about a road “boring as hell.” Never has advice been more scrupulously followed: there is not a boring word in the book, which from beginning to end is consistently surprising, entertaining, and amusing. The author deftly leads us along the road from New York to Boston, taking us past the infant stagecoach lines, the first fires of Revolution, Abraham Lincoln figuring out his Presidential campaign and the armies that followed once he'd won it, the brief hegemony and slow withering of the railroad, the decidedly mixed blessing of the interstate. On the way we encounter such diverse figures as P.T. Barnum and J.P. Morgan, Robert Moses and Franklin Roosevelt and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. It makes for a most enjoyable party. A valuable one, too, because Jaffe sets forth a persuasive case that the old Post Road runs through us all, and his scores of lively set-pieces coalesce into the tremendous story, told at once intimately and spaciously, of the rise of American civilization.”
--Richard Snow, author of A Measureless Peril
"The name of it may be the Boston Post Road but in Eric Jaffe’s hands it becomes more like the Rosetta Stone-a way of decoding American history from British colony to 21st century polyglot. “The King’s Best Highway” is a journey through the centuries as well as the miles, traveling from John Winthrop to Robert Moses. Any reader interested in history will be delighted to join Eric Jaffe on the ride." —Samuel Freedman, The Inheritance