Synopses & Reviews
A breathtaking ride through the highs and lows of one spectacular, pivotal year in American history.
As the earth turned toward the sun on the first morning of 1908, human flight remained, for most Americans, in the realm of myth and dream. But before the darkness fell on New Year's Eve at the end of the year, the Wright brothers would be worldwide celebrities, heralded as the first people in all of human history to conquer the sky.
It was the year Teddy Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet on a voyage around the globe, Robert Peary began his courageous dash to the North Pole, six automobiles left Times Square on an epic twenty-thousand-mile race to Paris, and Henry Ford introduced an oddly shaped new automobile called the Model T.
It was a time of seemingly boundless innovation - everything was bigger, better, fast, and greater than ever before. In New York and Chicago, banks of high-speed elevators zipped through vertical shafts in the tallest buildings on earth. Pneumatic tubes whisked mail between far-flung post offices in minutes. Women cleaned their homes with amazing new devices called vacuums. And as American engineers cut a fifty-mile canal through the Isthmus of Panama, the very air buzzed with the imagined potential of new technology, including a "portable wireless telephone" that would someday allow people to talk while they walked.
Meanwhile, the New York Giants battled the Chicago Cubs in one of the most thrilling seasons in baseball history, and a reluctant William Howard Taft was elected twenty-seventh president of the United States.
By turns gripping and humorous, shocking and delightful, Jim Rasenberger's America, 1908 brings to life our nation as it was one hundred years ago, at a moment of delirious optimism and pride, a time when Americans believed that even the most intractable problems would soon be solved and that the future was bound to be better than the past.
"What will the year 2008 bring us?" pondered the New York World on New Year's Day of 1908. "What marvels of development await the youth of tomorrow?" As Thomas Edison said later that year, "Anything, everything, is possible."
Shedding new light on stories we thought we knew and telling fresh stories we can't believe we've never heard, American, 1908 is a rousing chronicle of a country on the brink of greatness - and a timely, thought-provoking glimpse at a younger America, even as we wonder what awaits us in the century ahead.
"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
About the Author
Jim Rasenberger is the author of The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America's Doomed Invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs, and High Steel: The Daring Men Who Built the World’s Greatest Skyline. He has written for The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, and The Wilson Quarterly, among other publications. A native of Washington, D.C., he lives in New York City with his wife and sons.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Leap Year
Chapter One: The Boy and the Machine
Chapter Two: Thin Ice
Chapter Three: Mysteries of the Unknown Parts
Chapter Four: Middle Earth and the Night Riders
Chapter Five: Ultima Thule
To Conquer Time and Space
Chapter Six: The Man Bird
Chapter Seven: Heat
Chapter Eight: The Color Line
Chapter Nine: A Month of Late-Summer Days
The Golden Age
Chapter Ten: The Certainty of the Future
Chapter Eleven: The Path of Deliverance and Safety
Chapter Twelve: The Modern Definition of Life
Acknowledgments and Sources