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Sunday, June 12, 2011

America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T and the Making of a Modern Nation by Jim Rasenberger

The strong points are very strong but there are flaws

America, 1908 covers some of the key cultural, political, manufacturing and just plain odd events that happened in 1908 in the United States in an easy-to-read, often fun format. These include the Race to the North Pole, the New York to Paris automobile race, the introduction of the Model T, the last time the Cubs won the World Series for more than a century, the Wright Brothers proving to the world that they really could fly (and do it for hours, not just seconds) and a series of horrible race-based lynchings.

1908 Model T Ford
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?) 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 capabilities of automobiles in competition without having to expose them to the vagaries of open road races like the NYC to Paris race.

So, to sum up, America, 1908 is a nifty piece of history, such as it is. It is hardly inclusive of America as a whole with a definite bias towards New York City-based events.

Personal note: 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! 

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model T, and the Making of a Modern Nation.

Reviewed on January 23, 2009.


  1. Know any good psychological thriller books?

  2. Shayla!

    Do you know who this is?

    And, no, for the most part I am not into the "psychological" thriller genre but let me think for a while and see what I can come up with.