Catalogue


Railroaded : the transcontinentals and the making of modern America /
Richard White.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2011.
description
xxxix, 660 p.
ISBN
0393061264 (hardcover), 9780393061260 (hardcover)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2011.
isbn
0393061264 (hardcover)
9780393061260 (hardcover)
contents note
Introduction -- Genesis -- Annus horribilis : 1873 -- Friends -- Spatial politics -- Kilkenny cats -- Men in octopus suits -- Working men -- Looking backward -- Collapse -- Strike -- Creative destruction -- Epilogue -- Conclusion.
catalogue key
7644651
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
California Book Awards , USA, 2011 : Nominated
Francis Parkman Prize, USA, 2012 : Won
Pulitzer Prize, USA, 2012 : Nominated
Spur Awards, USA, 2012 : Nominated
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2011-03-21:
The transcontinental railroads "created modernity as much by their failure as by their success," writes MacArthur fellow and Parkman Prize-winning historian White in this important and deeply researched history. Often poorly built and with no real demand for their services the railroads never paid for themselves and left chaos in their wake-e.g., displaced Native Americans, environmental disaster through encouraging the farming of nonarable land. Experienced railway men weren't interested in investing in transcontinental routes, writes White (The Frontier in American Culture), so six Sacramento businessmen (who formed the Central Pacific) and a slapdash federally chartered corporation (the Union Pacific) took the bait of money and land offered by the federal government. Their first act was to bribe Congress to increase land grants and relax restrictions on raising money. Then the race was on. Readers will be amazed, amused, and disgusted by the antics of obscure and familiar names (Stanford, Huntington, Dodge), mostly ignorant of railroading and spectacularly dishonest. White delivers an opinionated, delightfully witty but astute account of sleazy Gilded Age politics, business, and journalism, as well as the complex (but uncomfortably familiar) financial maneuvers men used to enrich themselves. Maps, charts. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-02-15:
White (American history, Stanford Univ.; The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815) takes on the task of explaining the achievements and failings of the few transcontinental railroads that spanned North America in the latter half of the 19th century. He concentrates on their financial, political, and social impact. In clear and often critical terms, he describes the corruption that made the railroad's founders wealthy but hamstrung the companies, the bribes to politicians, the antipathy between management and workers exacerbated by imported Chinese laborers, the antimonopoly movements against railroad practices, and the end of the buffalo and the way of life of Native Americans. By the 19th century's end, White explains, the transcontinentals-built poorly, heavily in debt, and fiercely competitive for sparse business-collapsed financially and brought about the nation's worst financial crisis yet with the Panic of 1893. White does credit the transcontinentals with tying together North America from east to west. VERDICT White's exhaustive study is recommended to serious students. A better choice on the topic for general readers is Walter R. Borneman's Rival Rails: The Race To Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad.-Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2012-01-01:
White (Stanford) writes about the dark side of the several transcontinental railroads that opened during the Gilded Age, including the first, the legendary Central Pacific-Union Pacific. Although the railroads were monumental construction achievements, White argues that society paid an exceptionally high price for these arteries of iron and steel. The railroads were repeatedly led by individuals who provided poor management, were personally corrupt, and became involved in a tangled mess of shady political dealings. These inept robber barons included the likes of Leland Stanford, Tom Scott, and Henry Villard. White believes that millions of federal, state, and local dollars were wasted on rail lines that would not be needed until much later, if at all. This is a controversial book that some railroad historians will surely castigate, at least in part. White writes with a polemical edge and is "politically correct," especially when he discusses environmental matters and Native Americans. The book contains an assortment of appendixes, extensive endnotes, and a variety of historic photographs and maps. White also intersperses his lively narrative with lengthy sidebars, attempting to capture the human side of Gilded Age railroading in the American West. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. H. R. Grant Clemson University
Reviews
Review Quotes
When it comes to the American West, there is no other writer like Richard White, a serious scholar with a highly original take on familiar subjects and wit and elegant prose besides. His subject, the making of the transcontinental railroads, is perhaps the pivotal story of the American West, but it's not the one most of us know from movies and mythologies. It's about the birth of all those things that most trouble us nowadays, a genesis story in which the serpent in Eden is the railroad itself writhing across the continent. A story of corporate power, industrialization, and political corruption, White tells it as it needs to be told.
This is history as dark comedy, brilliant and unsettling, puncturing facile economics and bland history alike. With ingenious research and iconoclastic perspective, Richard White recasts our understanding of a major chapter in American history. Mark Twain would be bitterly amused to learn just how gilded the Gilded Age really was.
When it comes to the American West, there is no other writer like Richard White, a serious scholar with a highly original take on familiar subjects and wit and elegant prose besides. His subject, the making of the transcontinental railroads, is perhaps the pivotal story of the American West, but it "s not the one most of us know from movies and mythologies. It's about the birth of all those things that most trouble us nowadays, a genesis story in which the serpent in Eden is the railroad itself writhing across the continent. A story of corporate power, industrialization, and political corruption, White tells it as it needs to be told.
This brilliant book will forever change our understanding of the great railroad projects of nineteenth century America. Stripping away easy assumptions of technological triumph and financial wizardry, Railroaded tells a richer and darker story of post-Civil War America. Smashingly researched, cleverly written, and shrewdly argued all the way through, this is a powerful, smart, even angry book about politics, greed, corruption, money, and corporate arrogance, and the America formed out of them after the Civil War.
There is not a historian in America with a steadier gaze than Richard White's: with him, no assumption goes unchallenged, no wisdom is ever merely received. Railroaded is a wonderful book: fresh, provocative, witty, filled with foreshadowing of our world but always true to its time, and told with the narrative force of a locomotive roaring across the empty plains.
Richard White is one of those rare historians with an unfailing ability to transform any topic he writes about, no matter how familiar that topic might seem. In Railroaded, he tells the story of the western transcontinentals as it has never been told before, with insights that speak as much to our own time as to the nineteenth-century era he explores with such wit and intelligence.
Starred Review. Excellent big-picture, popularly written history of the Howard Zinn mold, backed by a mountain of research and statistics.
There is not a historian in America with a steadier gaze than Richard White "s: with him, no assumption goes unchallenged, no wisdom is ever merely received. Railroaded is a wonderful book: fresh, provocative, witty, filled with foreshadowing of our world but always true to its time, and told with the narrative force of a locomotive roaring across the empty plains.
Railroaded is a leviathan, a provocative challenge to a major myth about the American West: that transcontinentals were a triumph of American entrepreneurship and ingenuity, and a godsend to those who invested in, worked on, rode, lived near, or encountered them. Far from it, Richard West argues in a strongly written narrative that barrels along the track as it draws on intimate vignettes of players great and small, these railroads often proved to be a disaster for all but the handful that dreamed them up and, abetted by cronyism and complacent governmental regulation, enriched themselves as they impoverished the rest. This tale of havoc is an unsettling allegory of today's financial collapse and essential reading for all unnerved by the thought that we seem doomed to repeat history whether we are aware of it or not.
Combining a robust wit with a dedication to endless labor in archives, Richard White delivers a sharp-edged new understanding of industrialization in the Gilded Age. Railroaded offers flabbergasting views of the human talent for self-justification and contradiction, provides a valuable-if unsettling-comparison to the financial troubles of our times, and shows why the best historians are compared to detectives. To readers intimidated by the topic of railroad finance: master your fears and stay on board for a very wild ride.
Combining a robust wit with a dedication to endless labor in archives, Richard White delivers a sharp-edged new understanding of industrialization in the Gilded Age. Railroaded offers flabbergasting views of the human talent for self-justification and contradiction, provides a valuable ”if unsettling ”comparison to the financial troubles of our times, and shows why the best historians are compared to detectives. To readers intimidated by the topic of railroad finance: master your fears and stay on board for a very wild ride.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, February 2011
Publishers Weekly, March 2011
Booklist, May 2011
Boston Globe, June 2011
San Francisco Chronicle, June 2011
Wall Street Journal, June 2011
Kirkus Reviews, July 2011
New York Times Book Review, July 2011
New York Times Full Text Review, July 2011
Reference & Research Book News, August 2011
Choice, January 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The transcontinental railroads of the late nineteenth century were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferating debt sparked devastating panics in the U.S. economy. Their dependence on public largess drew them into the corridors of power, initiating new forms of corruption. Their operations rearranged space and time, and remade the landscape of the West. As wheel and rail, car and coal, they opened new worlds of work and ways of life. Their discriminatory rates sparked broad opposition and a new antimonopoly politics. With characteristic originality, range, and authority, Richard White shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America. But the triumphal myths of the golden spike, robber barons larger than life, and an innovative capitalism all die here. Instead we have a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.
Description for Library
A MacArthur Fellowship and Parkman Prize winner, White reminds us that the railroads didn't just rearrange our sense of space and time but also introduced the idea of large-scale corporate culture-and the attendant greed. American history fans who don't mind some myth busting.
Bowker Data Service Summary
With originality, range and authority, Richard White shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America and presents a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. xiii
List of Maps and Chartsp. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. xxi
Genesisp. 1
First Principlesp. 3
Patriotism and Profitp. 9
The Acts of the Foundersp. 17
Building with Other People's Moneyp. 26
Golden Spikep. 37
A Railroad Life: H. K. Thomasp. 39
Annus Horribilis: 1873p. 47
Springtime in Mexicop. 51
Springtime in Canadap. 55
The Indians' Perpetual Winterp. 59
Political Storms Brewingp. 62
Information and Trustp. 66
The Long Winterp. 77
Stories of the Fallp. 84
A Railroad Life: William Hydep. 88
Friendsp. 93
The Lobbyp. 102
Antimonopoly and Party Politicsp. 109
The Southern Transcontinentalp. 118
Reform in the Gilded Agep. 130
A Railroad Life: Elias C. Boudinotp. 134
Spatial Politicsp. 140
Absolute Spacep. 142
Relational Spacep. 146
The Things They Carriedp. 152
How Railroad Rates Construct Spacep. 162
The Rise of the Octopusp. 169
Regulating Spacep. 174
A Railroad Life: Alfred A. Cohenp. 179
Kilkenny Catsp. 186
Creative Destructionp. 188
The Colton Trialp. 197
Territoryp. 203
Rationalizing Irrationalityp. 212
Superheroes of Bad Managementp. 216
A System That Did Not Bury Its Deadp. 223
Mise en Scène: Labor in Naturep. 225
Men in Octopus Suitsp. 230
The Visible Handp. 235
Men and Boys: Manhood and Managementp. 243
A Political Animalp. 252
Going Off the Tracksp. 264
A Railroad Life: William Mahlp. 270
Workingmenp. 278
Control of Workp. 282
The Knights of Laborp. 287
Contract Labor and the Chinesep. 293
Rock Springsp. 305
Workers' Marginalismp. 314
A Railroad Life: William Pinkertonp. 317
Looking Backwardp. 326
Benevolent Trustsp. 332
Waiting for Natural Monopolyp. 334
Labor's Defeatsp. 336
Bearsp. 347
The Interstate Commerce Commissionp. 355
The Interstate‐Commerce Railway Associationp. 359
Mise en Scène: The Death of Johanna Groganp. 366
Collapsep. 370
An Alcoholics Anonymous for Railroadsp. 372
Bankersp. 378
Villard and Adamsp. 382
The Second Fall of Henry Villardp. 391
The Panic of 1893p. 393
The Struggles of the Octopusp. 398
Mise en Scène: Reading the Newspapersp. 410
Strikep. 414
The Courtsp. 418
Union Pacific and Great Northernp. 422
Pullmanp. 429
The Decline of the Octopusp. 450
Mise en Scène: Following the Detectivesp. 453
Creative Destructionp. 455
Dumb Growthp. 460
Cattlep. 466
The Diverging Dakotasp. 482
Rain Follows the Plowp. 486
Mise en Scène: Wovokap. 496
Epiloguep. 499
Conclusionp. 507
Appendixp. 519
Notesp. 535
Indexp. 643
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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