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The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 provided a common legal and political framework to bind 13 supposedly sovereign states to a stronger federal government. But the U.S. was still more of a theoretical nation than an actual one. The War of 1812 and the Mexican War engendered surges of nationalism, but it required a Civil War to administer the death blow to the most extreme forms of sectionalism. Winchester, the widely acclaimed author, is a native of Great Britain who recently became an American citizen. His focus here is on the more subtle aspects of nation building. He examines the accomplishments of a variety of characters, some famous and some obscure, whose visions and mastery of emerging technologies drew Americans closer together as our geographic size expanded. Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an “empire of liberty” led to the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and the Lewis and Clark expedition. William Maclure, a hyperactive Scottish immigrant, provided a geological survey of vast areas of the eastern U.S. and then promoted the value of a practical education for ordinary citizens. Winchester provides a fascinating portrayal of Samuel Morse, the “man who tamed the lightning,” and the vital role of the telegraph in bridging distances. This is a finely crafted and valuable reminder that the evolution of our united nation was a process often accelerated by unlikely, sometimes eccentric men who operated outside the political sphere. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A 10-city author tour, e-book promotions, academic marketing, and an online publicity campaign round out the publisher’s push behind this celebrated author’s new book. --Jay Freeman


“Entertaining. ... A pleasure.” (New York Times Book Review)

“A rousing tribute to the alliances, agencies, and inventions - from Lewis and Clark to the Internet - that underpin our more perfect union. A stunning, highly original feast of a book.” (STACY SCHIFF, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cleopatra)

“Vivid, valuable. ... An extraordinary, propulsive tale.” (Wall Street Journal)

“An impeccably researched, erudite, well-told tale, peppered with occasional grace notes.” (Miami Herald)

“An elegantly written account... filled with fascinating information.” (Boston Globe)

“[M]esmerizing and fascinating… Mr. Winchester is a master storyteller, and all the individuals, places, and events that he passionately writes about come to life in exquisite detail.” (New York Journal of Books)

“Winchester has found a thematic way to tell this familiar story so it seems fresh and informative, even fascinating.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“Winchester provides surprising insights into our social history, further enriching his narrative with accounts of his personal odysseys around the country. The results are highly recommended for public and school libraries and all readers looking for new and stimulating perspectives on the history of America.” (Library Journal)

“A most genial storyteller” (Las Vegas Weekly)

“[I]nformative and absorbing” (The Oregonian (Portland))

“Simon Winchester never disappoints, and The Men Who United the States is a lively and surprising account of how this sprawling piece of geography became a nation. This is America from the ground up. Inspiring and engaging.” (Tom Brokaw)

“What makes this book so enjoyable is that he ties the development of these advances to some brilliant but idiosyncratic personalities.” (BookPage)

“He … freshens U.S. history by refusing to tell it through the usual suspects.” (Seattle Times)

“The subtitle promises readers a sackful of exciting tales-and the author delivers. This is a clever, engaging and original look at what would seem well-trodden historical paths; but Winchester, delightfully, breaks a fresh trail.” (The Economist)

“The tales he weaves were more engaging than most contemporary fiction.” (Zócalo Public Square)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062079603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062079602
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (260 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Simon Winchester studied geology at Oxford and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic. Simon Winchester's many books include The Professor and the Madman ; The Map that Changed the World ; Krakatoa; and A Crack in the Edge of the World. Each of these have both been New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. Mr. Winchester was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HM The Queen in 2006. He lives in Massachusetts and in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Crenwelge VINE VOICE on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A story told by a new American, about America as he sees it. Mr. Simon Winchester has actually spent more time traveling the US than I have, but he has only been a citizen for two years. Funny how immigrants can see more about the US than some of us born here. This is surely the case here.

He is very well traveled and writes like a storyteller. Mr. Winchester also utilizes a technique I have never seen used before (in a western style book). He divides his story into five sections; Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. He weaves his stories about these men (yes, mostly men) who formed the United States of America around these five important aspects of our earth. So, for example, the section about wood talks about how different men in America saw and designed uses for wood to move America forward. These gentlemen are not all common household names. There is Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Washington, Edison, Bell and other names we know. But he explains how names such as Fremont, Powell, McAdam, Judah, MacDonald, Tesla and other forgotten names should be just as important. After reading this fascinating book, I agree that these other men need recognition too.

I knew a lot of this information, but it is told in a totally different manner. Kinda like driving the same road to work, but in a different car. Same drive, but not the same drive. That is how I felt. I feel it was important for me to read Mr. Winchester's book "The Men Who United the States". Hope this helps someone.
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141 of 169 people found the following review helpful By J. Paulsonn VINE VOICE on August 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Simon Winchester's tome is an ambitious attempt to connect individuals and technologies with the physical and emotional unification of the United States using the five so-called classical elements of Eastern philosophy: wood, earth, water, fire, and metal. This ambitious project falls short, but not for want of trying.

The book begins (Part I: When America's Story was Dominated by Wood, 1793-1805) with an unfortunate choice: the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This section is superficial and unfocused, with significant errors in important details. Interested in Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery? Read Stephen E. Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West" for a more in-depth and coherent account.

A much better choice than Lewis and Clark is suggested in Winchester's own epilog about the role of a new newspaper in the unification of his small town. A discussion of the role of print (on paper made from wood pulp) in the form of newspapers, books, essays, and magazines would have met the requirements of his classical element. It would also have made the section jibe with the rest of the book in which technology plays a significant role in his theme of unification. Consider Paul Revere's propaganda engraving, "The Bloody Massacre in King-Street," March 5, 1770 advertised in newspapers across the colonies, and the availability of inexpensive paperbacks read by soldiers in World War II as ways that print technology has unified Americans.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story of the United States was once told as the history of its explorers, pioneers, and inventors, men like Benjamin Franklin, Lewis and Clark, and Thomas Alva Edison. These were experimenters, risk takers, and adventurers who weren't content to follow an easy path through life, and instead defined a new country that was different from the one they or their ancestors came from, and a new century. Sadly, that way of viewing history has fallen out of favor, at least in academic circles, in favor of a new collective myth, in which masses of immigrants brought all of their culture with them and created not so much a new kind of state as they did a buffet of old world cultures.

Perhaps that's why it fell to an immigrant to re-tell the story of America as it was once told. Simon Winchester, the author of a number of excellent popular histories, is an Englishman who, contrary to most of his contemporaries in the UK, still sees the US as the embodiment of progress, and actually became a US citizen. His history of the US begins with Thomas Jefferson, and the birth of the Corps of Discovery, that great and ambitious project that resuled in the voyage of Lewis and Clarke to the Pacific coast and back, returning with a description of the lands to the West. It ends with the story of J.C.R. Licklider, a man whose role in the creation of the Internet and interactive computing has only begin to be recognized outside of a narrow group of computer pioneers (see The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal).
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