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America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race…

America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of… (2008)

by Jim Rasenberger

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Being a panoramic look at one of America's more interesting ragtime years, 1908. The author does a good job of keeping a lot of balls in the air; major themes include the voyage of the Great White Fleet, Theodore Roosevelt, basebal's Merkle game, the Wright Brothers, polar exploration, and the New York-Paris auto race. Rasenberger has a good ear for the telling anecdote and contemporary sources which will bring the year's zeitgeist alive. This book was both informative and entertaining. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Jul 31, 2015 |
I was especially interested in this book because my paternal grandparents arrived on Ellis Island in November of 1908. My grandmother remembered the shipboard announcement about William Howard Taft’s being elected president.

I thought the author did a great job of covering the year’s history by focusing on a handful of major happenings, rather than trying to make the book a comprehensive history of that age. I thought it was interesting that many of the events could be bundled under the umbrella of “transportation.” That includes the Model T, the race to the North Pole, a round-the-world auto race, the Wright Brothers, and the U.S. Navy fleet’s voyage to show off America’s prowess. Then he threw in a World Series, and the trial of an infamous murderer.

America 1908 was a breezy read, lighthearted and fun -- history writing as it should be in my humble opinion. ( )
  NewsieQ | Feb 23, 2015 |
This book came out in 2008 as a "One Century Later!" kind of book. But it's still good in 2014

The author is a teriffic story teller and he has some great stories to tell.

We celebrate 1903 as the year of the Wright Brothers first flight but forget that the 1903 Flyer could only fly straight lines and could (barely) achieve level flight.
It was the 1908 Flyer that figured out wing warping and could comfortably fly figure 8's and bank and swoop. It was the 1908 Flyer that secured the Wrights' claim to "the first practical airplane"

1908 was also the year of the first New York to Paris road race for cars. How do you get from New York to Paris in a car? Easy! Drive up to Alaska and go over on the frozen ice of the Bering Strait. (NOT!)

America was still - pre World War I - the new kid in international affairs and our author tells the story of the Great White Fleet that sailed around the world and basically threw America's hat in the ring and made people take the young country more seriously.

And the great story of "Merkle's Boner" in the 1908 World's Series and generally how baseball was played and reported back in the day.

Great book for dipping into and flipping through - or reading straight through. A lot of fun. A lot to think about. ( )
1 vote magicians_nephew | Apr 11, 2014 |
My kind of book. The kind I like to read and the kind I wish I could write. Rasenberger does a good job of weaving together the interesting story lines of 100 years ago. You can see the beginning of the modern as he tells his tales. Nicely done! ( )
  spounds | Apr 28, 2010 |
America was quite a different place one hundred years ago. There are 300 million Americans today. We drive and fly everywhere. We talk on cell phones and chat over the Internet. For the 90 million people living in the United States of 1908, life was slower but the modern age was coming on quickly. Jim Rasenberger recreates the major events of that remarkable yesteryear in his new book America 1908. He describes tit with an unfolding fascination.

Few people had heard of the Wright Brothers or had seen anyone fly when the year began, but reports trickled out of North Carolina and France in the spring and early summer. By August, hour-long public flight demonstrations made headlines around the world. The conquest of the skies changed the world in 1908, but that technological development wasn't alone. Henry Ford debuted his Model T that year, too. Automobiles, a luxurious novelty of the rich, was suddenly within reach of the middle class pocket book.

Rasenberger writes about these major cultural shifts within the context of other news stories playing out the same year. A strange around-the-world auto race (cars were still novelties) attracted crowds on three continents, two men struggled to reach the North Pole, a very popular president (Theodore Roosevelt) made way for his successor, sixteen American battleships circumnavigated the globe, a string of horrific lynchings erupted in Abraham Lincoln's home town, and a bonehead play in a contentious baseball game capped the National League pennant race.

Although the book is chronological in structure, it is narrative in delivery. The author unfolds the stories bit by bit as if you were reading them in a succession of quarterly newsmagazines. It's an effective technique. The only thing lacking is the feel for everyday life. You get small doses of what the average American experienced (the nickelodeon craze, for instance) but the focus is always on the news -- not the common life. The year's news was rich that year, however, and America 1908 is a very good account of those twelve transformative months one century ago.

Find more of my reviews at Mostly NF.
  benjfrank | Feb 11, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743280776, Hardcover)

A captivating look at a bygone era through the lens of a single, surprisingly momentous American year one century ago. 1908 was the year Henry Ford launched the Model T, the Wright Brothers proved to the world that they had mastered the art of flight, Teddy Roosevelt decided to send American naval warships around the globe, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (a feat they have never yet repeated), and six automobiles set out on an incredible 20,000 mile race from New York City to Paris via the frozen Bering Strait.

 A charming and knowledgeable guide, Rasenberger takes readers back to a time of almost limitless optimism, even in the face of enormous inequality, an era when the majority of Americans believed that the future was bound to be better than the past, that the world’s worst problems would eventually be solved, and that nothing at all was impossible. As Thomas Edison succinctly said that year, “Anything, everything is possible.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

Introduces the year 1908 as a pivotal turning point in American history marked by such events as the first flight and Peary's quest to the North Pole, in an account that explains how each spectacle contributed to the nation's growing dominance as a world power.… (more)

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