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The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

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The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway [Hardcover]

Doug Most
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2014: While reading Doug Most’s The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway, it quickly becomes apparent that the 19th-century world was a dirty, slow-moving place. Not only were the modern cities of the world filled with horses, they were filled with their excrement, along with all the billowing smoke and caked dirt that modern industry of the time could produce. The Race Underground offers a colorful and informative description of that bygone era. Famous names surface throughout the book--men like Andrew Carnegie, Boss Tweed, and Thomas Edison. But Most ties the story together through two less famous, more essential brothers: Henry Whitney of Boston and William Whitney of New York. When the city of London built the first subway, it might have seemed only a matter of time before one was constructed in a major U.S. city. The truth is much more complicated and fascinating than that. Most shows how getting through government intransigence and payola was as daunting as getting a hole carved through the earth. It was a time when great minds turned themselves toward bettering the world they lived in, but in some ways the past seems all too familiar. --Chris Schluep


Imagine my disappointment when my college professor assigned Notes From the Underground and it turned out to be a mere existential novella. Finally, the book I wanted - The Race Underground - a history of Boston, New York and America's First Subway. Give me Doug Most over Dostoyevsky anytime. Dan Shaughnessy, author Francona, The Red Sox Years

The Race Underground is a great American tale, filled with moments of surprising drama and unforgettable characters fighting against impossible odds. Doug Most hasn't just written a book for history buffs and train lovers; he's written something wonderful for us all. Keith O'Brien, author of Outside Shot

"Two brothers. Two cities. Two subway systems. The Race Underground by Doug Most is a terrific book that makes us take a second look at our past and makes us wonder about possibilities for the future. This a love poem to the power of the human imagination."
Leigh Montville - author of Evel: The High Flying Life of Evel Knievel

Library Journal, 11/15/2013 A remarkably well-told story filled with villains, heroes, and events of the Gilded Age. Many books have been written about New York's subway. Few have documented Boston's herculean accomplishment in beating New York. This felicitous tale of American ingenuity and perseverance serves as a useful reminder of our past commitment to improving our infrastructures. Recommended for readers in American urban history and specialists in urban transportation.--Richard Drezen, Jersey City

"Most's addictive tour de force infuses a story that changed the course of American history with all the drama and excitement of a great thriller."
Seth Mnookin, New York Times best-selling author of Feeding the Monster and The Panic Virus

"The Race Underground gives us an exciting first-hand view of this transformative time in the history of two great (and rivaling) American cities."
Joe McKendry, author of "Beneath the Streets of Boston: Building America's First Subway

"Mr. Most weaves together the egos, political hurdles and other daunting challenges…in a sweeping narrative of late-19th-century intrigue." –The New York Times

"Doug Most’s meticulously researched history reveals that getting the subways built was more a collaborative than a competitive effort...Who then won the race? That would be giving away the climax of an exciting book." –The Economist

"Before last week’s back-to-back snowstorms, there was the great blizzard of 1888. With New York City at a halt, explains journalist Most, the influential Whitney brothers of NYC and Boston dreamed of a city subway system to beat bad weather. But each brother wanted his own city to be the first to finish its subway: And so the great Boston-New York subway race was on. Makes today’s Yankees-Red Sox rivalry seem tame by comparison." –The New York Post

"At first glance, a history of American public transit might sound like something you'd be forced to read in an engineering class. But the Boston Globe's Doug Most has come at the potentially dry subject from a unique and engaging angle: The story of two brothers — one in New York City and one in Boston — who each dreamed of creating America's first subway system in their respective cities. Most's narrative chronicles tackles the enormous undertaking at every level, from the high-powered political figures at the top to the "sandhogs" who created the tunnels, offering an intriguing top-down look at American transit."The Week, "18 Books to Read in 2014"

"It is a story of rapscallions and risk takers, engineers and entrepreneurs, dreamers, darers, and doers — and it is thoroughly researched and splendidly narrated by Doug Most." –Boston Globe

"Our subways are the vital lifelines of our greatest cities. They are also symbols of our indebtedness to earlier generations who through innovation and perseverance took us from horse-powered transportation to subterranean rail. Doug Most’s The Race Underground is a fascinating account of how New York and Boston tunneled their way into the future. This book proves again that American history is a treasure trove of great stories, this one filled with drama, sacrifice, loss and unimaginable success." —Ken Burns, filmmaker, creator of the PBS series The Civil War and many others

"An almost flawlessly conducted tour back to a time when major American cities dreamed big." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"[Most] delivers a fun and enjoyable read about a vital, transformative period." —Publishers Weekly

"The Race Underground tells the story of how we got there, and it's an enlightening—and surprisingly exciting--ride." –Shelf Awareness (starred review)

About the Author

Doug Most is the deputy managing editor for features at The Boston Globe. He is the author of Always in Our Hearts: The Story of Amy Grossberg, Brian Peterson, the Pregnancy They Hid and the Child They Killed. He has written for Sports Illustrated, Runner's World and Parents and his stories have appeared in Best American Crime Writing and Best American Sports Writing. He lives in Needham, Massachusetts.
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