Synopses & Reviews
In this remarkable evocation of the American past, David Traxel chronicles the extraordinary events of 1898--a year without rival in United States history for its extravagant adventure and far-reaching significance. Displaying a rare combination of graceful writing and authoritative scholarship, 1898 examines the lives of politicians and homemakers, outlaws and reformers, in telling the story of America's metamorphosis from a rural, isolationist society into a commanding presence on the world stage.
Traxel's account centers upon his vivid portrayal of America's first foray into international military affairs, the Spanish-American War. Spurred on by the yellow journalism of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the United States entered a war that garnered the nation Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and initiated the ascension of a little-known assistant secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt. But while the Rough Riders were capturing the nation's attention abroad, bloody battles were occurring within the nation's own borders. Coal workers and company guards fought in Illinois, while racial conflict led to bloodshed in North Carolina, and in Minnesota the last battle between Native Americans and the U.S. Army resulted in the defeat of government troops. Radical advances in technology led to less violent but equally important changes, as the production of the first gasoline-powered car heralded a new era, and the first million-dollar advertising campaign (for Uneeda Biscuits) revealed the growing importance of marketing for a country in the midst of urbanization.
Twelve months of confusion, contradiction, and crisis constituted this watershed year, and David Traxel has woven together these disparate strands into a rich tapestry of political unrest, domestic upheaval, and social change. An important contribution to the nation's cultural history, 1898 is a fascinating account of the definitive year that foretold the American Century.
A remarkable evocation, alive with the burst of national energy it chronicles, of the year that saw America's emergence as a contender among the world powers.
David Traxel takes us through the excitements of 12 months crowded with action, from U.S. victory in the war with Spain and our acquisition of Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the rush of business expansion (Uneeda Biscuits and the world's first million-dollar ad campaign) to internal conflict (coal miners versus mine owners), to technological leaps forward (the advent of the gas-powered car). It was as well the year of the Gibson Girl's apogee, of Admiral Peary's most grueling attempt to reach the North Pole, and the year when L. Frank Baum was hard at work on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Traxel's graceful, anecdotal narrative is interwoven with the voices of such 1898 luminaries as Theodore Roosevelt, Carry Nation, Jack London, Clara Barton, William Jennings Bryan, Geronimo, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The publications of the book marks the hundredth anniversry of the Spanish-American War. But it is the whole texture of American life 100 years ago that is captured here.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 341-347) and index.
About the Author
David Traxel received his B.A. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has been the recipient of Fulbright, Smithsonian, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, and is the author of An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent. Currently at work on a biography of the American journalist Richard Harding Davis, Traxel lives with his wife, Rosemary, in Philadelphia.