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America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T and the Making of a Modern Nation Hardcover – November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Former Vanity Fair contributing editor Rasenberger (High Steel) provides an entertaining survey of 366 distant American days (1908 was a leap year). As the author admits, history does not fit neatly into 12-month segments, and Rasenberger frequently has to reach for benchmarks. Yes, during 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model-T: the first affordable automobile. However, he'd actually invented the horseless buggy years before. These quibbles aside, what a difference a century makes, and how easy the confidence of 1908 looks by contrast with today. The imperially ambitious Theodore Roosevelt was president, and the world seemed ripe for redemption through American innovation, exploration and colonization. All righteous patriots applauded as TR dispatched his Great White Fleet on a Friendship Cruise round the world, to show off American might. Yet, as Rasenberger shows, a different reality lurked behind the red, white and blue banners. That same year, anarchist Selig Silverstein exploded a bomb in New York City, and throughout the South blacks died at the ends of nooses hoisted by lynch mobs. Rasenberger renders 1908 as a series of snapshots, and his camera never blinks. 44 b&w illus. (Nov.)
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"Jim Rasenberger has found the perfect aperture through which to view the explosion of modernity. 1908 was indeed a big bang of a year, a year full of hope and promise but also one which presented our world with a Pandora's box of unforeseen perils. Readers will love -- and historians will envy -- the graceful simplicity of Rasenberger's singular prism. America, 1908 effortlessly transports us back to the future, to a distant time and place that seems oddly familiar."
--Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder and Ghost Soldiers
"This is a wonderful surprise of a book -- a time machine back to the year when the American Century got going full tilt. Jim Rasenberger writes in a voice as winning as Theodore Roosevelt's smile and pilots his machine with a sure-handedness that would have impressed the Wright brothers. When you finish America, 1908, you will swear you were there."
--Patricia O'Toole, author of When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt after the White House
"An exhilarating panorama of the United States as it was a century ago. The cast of characters here, from Teddy Roosevelt to Fred Merkle (the luckless batter whose mistake lost the New York Giants a still-legendary pennant race), is unforgettable. And the America that shows itself in this masterful narrative constantly reveals links to America today."
--Mark Caldwell, author of New York Night: The Mystique and Its History
"America 1908 is an intricate time machine with moving parts that mesh like a fine old gold watch, transporting the reader to a time extraordinarily like and yet unlike our own. Rasenberger, a master of detail, gives us a superb rendition of an important and fascinating American moment."
--James Tobin, author of To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Nonetheless, "America 1908" provides a great and well-researched overview of our country then, and with much that relates to our country now.
While I enjoyed learning more about the Wright Brothers and the Model T, other parts seemed more than a bit skewed towards events in New York City (the Cubs win their last World Series and it's told from the point of view of the New York Giants? The relevant games were all Cubs-Giants games!) and against rural areas and the South (the only references to the South are from newspapers mentioning events in NYC or about lynchings and attacks of corporate tobacco interests. Surely something happened that was not a lynching or some other violent act?) The author seems to suffer from the same conceit that plagues a number of New York City-based authors - a failure to realize that the rest of the country not only matters but is just as interesting as NYC. For example, when describing the NYC-Paris race he mentions they drove through Indiana but fails to mention that they were in the process of planning the massive 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (it opened in 1909) - a facility designed to show off the capibilities of automobiles in competition without having to expose them to the vagaries of open road racing.
Rasenberger's inclusion of a horrible anti-black race riot in Springfield, IL was especially thought-provoking as I watched the Obama inauguration this week. What a difference 100 years can bring in some attitudes!