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Discover A Century @ The Library

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08.10.15

Discover a Century @ the Library

What was happening in this country a hundred years ago?  Quite a lot, actually, as Jim Rasenberger tells it in America 1908: the dawn of flight, the race to the Pole, the invention of the Model T, and the making of a modern nation. 

An adolescent America was on the move in 1908, on land, on sea, and in the air, on the cusp of becoming a world superpower.  Rasenberger says that more than any other in the 20th-century's first decade, 1908 portended America's destiny.  Two Americans, Admiral Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, were in a race to reach the North Pole.  While stuntmen and automakers were engaged in an epic twenty thousand mile auto race from New York to Paris by way of the frozen Bering Strait, Henry Ford was transforming his horseless buggy into the Model T and transforming American society along with it. Teddy Roosevelt was sending forth his Great White Fleet on a worldwide “Friendship Cruise” to proclaim American naval superiority.  And the Wright brothers were in a race to prove that flight would provide a viable mode of transportation.

Not all was rosy, however, as Rasenberger makes clear.  There was the sensational Stanford White murder trial, which introduced the insanity defense, the near-collapse of Wall Street saved almost single-handedly by J. P. Morgan’s intervention, the terrible race riot in Springfield, Illinois, and southern mob lynchings, an anarchist’s exploding bomb in New York, and an election frenzy from which Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor emerged victorious. 

Rasenberger weaves many disparate-seeming threads into a fascinating tapestry, and his fast-paced writing style effectively conveys the sense of breathless excitement and unquenchable optimism of the age.  This will appeal to readers who enjoyed the wonderful time travel fantasy, Time and Again, by Jack Finney, as well as to history and technology buffs. 

2008 is the centennial of the publication of several beloved classics, including Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, set in the golden glow of Italy, was also published in 1908.  And the regional romantic classic by John Fox, Jr., Trail of the Lonesome Pine, about the discovery and development of coal in southwest Virginia, came out in 1908.

Two toothsome treats came into being in 1908: Milk Bone dog biscuits and Sunshine Hydrox cookies, which have been revived for their centenary observance.

Among well-known writers born a century ago are Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, M. F. K. Fisher, celebrated food writer, Louis L’Amour, storyteller of the American West, Edward R. Murrow, radio and television journalist, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, whose classic The Affluent Society was published 50 years ago, Roger Tory Peterson, observer of birds, Alistair Cooke, British observer of Americans, and Richard Wright, chronicler of the black experience in America.

Much has happened in the intervening years, and much of it grew from seeds sown in 1908.  Read more about our fascinating history at Tazewell County Public Library and discover how 2008 came to be!

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