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The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway by [Most, Doug]
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The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

Review

"Mr. Most weaves together the egos, political hurdles and other daunting challenges ... in a sweeping narrative of late-19th-century intrigue." Sam Roberts, The New York Times
 
"The Race Underground is a fascinating account of how New York and Boston tunneled their way into the future. Ken Burns, filmmaker, creator of the PBS series The Civil War and many others

"Who then won the race? That would be giving away the climax of an exciting book." The Economist
 
"This is a love poem to the power of the human imagination." Leigh Montville - author of Evel: The High Flying Life of Evel Knievel
 
"Most's lively history goes beyond the tracks to explore the people who built them and places where they emerged." Atlantic Cities blog
 
"Combine the propulsive energy of Devil In the White City with the meticulous detail of The Great Bridge and you get The Race Underground. " Seth Mnookin, Author of Feeding the Monsterand The Panic Virus

"Doug Most's detailed history of the journey to build an American subway primary follows the fates of two influential brothers of the era, Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York." The Daily Beast Hot Read

Product Details

  • File Size: 5007 KB
  • Print Length: 415 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (February 4, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 4, 2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EGJE39A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,599 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert C Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mr. Most had a very interesting story to tell, and if you could plow through the structural problems, it gave great insights into some of the most interesting engineering battles and accomplishments of the mid to late 1900s.

But, his convoluted paragraphs made it very difficult to follow the story. He delights in setting up an event in the first sentence, moving 400 miles away to the middle of another event, coming back to the first and then instead of concluding, jumping to an event in the past or one still to come. Finally, he completes the first sentence, perhaps only then identifying the main actor.

I just couldn't keep jumping around, even though I spent over a month taking it in 15 minute increments. Finally, I gave up after three quarters of the book -- since I have written on both systems, I know for a fact that they were completed.

Had Mr. Most just alternated the stories of the two cities, chapter by chapter, the structure would have been much more understandable and would have done justice to a marvelous engineering achievement.

Robert C. Ross
February 2014
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have always been fascinated with subway systems - their operation, their construction and their evolution. I have ridden and explored the subway systems in cities as diverse as London, Paris, Moscow, Montreal, Seoul, Singapore, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, D.C., NYC and Boston. From my first experiences as a kid riding the El from Everett to Boston Garden to see the circus right up to today for my daily commute on the Red Line, the MBTA has been a part of my life. I have known from reading the signs at Park Street that the MBTA Green Line was the first subway line in America. I had no idea how closely tied together were the stories of the construction of the NYC subways and the Boston subways. This fascinating new book tells those parallel stories in a way that brings the history to light and to life.

Two brothers from the powerful Whitney family each played a role in creating what have become Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority. These two brothers—Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York City - were at the centers of the beehives of political intrigue, financial manipulations, real estate deals and engineering innovations in a desperate attempt to help their respective cities solve the problem of street traffic that threatened to strangle both metropolises.

This true story of rivalry and cooperation reads like a Gothic novel, and is peopled with familiar figures like Thomas Edison, Boss Tweed, Grover Cleveland and Frederick Law Olmstead. The author, Doug Most, digs deep into a large storehouse of primary documents to get to the real story and subplots of how both systems came to be built.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In my twenties, I often rode the Boston subway from Arlington station to Park Street without having any idea that this short run was the first section of electric powered subway to be opened anywhere in the world. In The Race Underground, Doug Most tells this story as part of a compelling portrait of two great Gilded Age cities struggling to progress from a pre-industrial transportation system to a world powered by a newly harnessed source of energy.

New York and Boston experienced explosive growth in the 19th century. With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, New York was transformed into a hub for American imports and exports. Population grew from a pre-Canal level of 170,000 to 1.2 million by 1880. New York and Boston were the first and fourth largest American cities at the time and each grew daily as immigrants flooded into their environs. Unfortunately, transportation infrastructure changed little as this growth occurred. Horse-pulled streetcars had served for 50 years but "slowly began to cripple two great American cities."

The New York Tribune argued that a traveler could journey halfway to Philadelphia in less time than he could traverse the length of Broadway. American Architect and Building News characterized Boston's sidewalks as "jammed to suffocation." In addition to the crowding was the stench from piles of manure which could include as much as 50 pounds a day for each of the thousands of horses in both cities. "Urban transport," argues Most,"had become the single biggest civic headache. Traffic was an outright obsession of newspapers and their readers." And the only direction to look to ease the congestion was Down.

The Race Underground focuses most fully on how each city developed the public will to confront this problem.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mr. Most has written an apparently well researched study on an interesting topic, the building of the U.S.'s first subway. The Race Underground is subtitled "the incredible rivalry that built America's first subway", with the blurb stating "A Great American Saga--two rival cities, two brothers, both with plans to build a subway underground. Who will be first?" From these, the reader is naturally led to expect a tale of tension and excitement as the brothers race to build the very first American subway.

I must first confess that my preference* is for the newer trend of presenting scholarly works in a livelier, more pleasant to read, manner. (Eric Larson, Thomas Cahill and Debra Hamill, for example.) Based on the book information, I did expect The Race Underground to fall into this category and to be a captivating history of these brothers and their saga.

To my disappointment, Mr. Most presented his topic in a more conservative style, presenting facts without as much of a "story" as the blurb indicated, at time digressing unnecessarily, and in general not living up to the title of "race" or "incredible rivalry". Therefore, while I did find the subject itself interesting, I found the actual book to be a somewhat laborious read.

* To forestall any comments, I will note that this preference is that of personal taste and not due to lack of education or to an ignorance of historical subjects; I do hold a B.A. in history, though not in this particular time period.
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