“An entertaining survey” (Publishers Weekly) through the highs and lows of a spectacular, pivotal year in American history—1908.
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.”
Former Vanity Fair contributing editor Rasenberger (High Steel) provides an entertaining survey of 366 distant American days (1908 was a leap year). As the author admits, history does not fit neatly into 12-month segments, and Rasenberger frequently has to reach for benchmarks. Yes, during 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model-T: the first affordable automobile. However, he'd actually invented the horseless buggy years before. These quibbles aside, what a difference a century makes, and how easy the confidence of 1908 looks by contrast with today. The imperially ambitious Theodore Roosevelt was president, and the world seemed ripe for redemption through American innovation, exploration and colonization. All righteous patriots applauded as TR dispatched his "Great White Fleet" on a "Friendship Cruise" round the world, to show off American might. Yet, as Rasenberger shows, a different reality lurked behind the red, white and blue banners. That same year, anarchist Selig Silverstein exploded a bomb in New York City, and throughout the South blacks died at the ends of nooses hoisted by lynch mobs. Rasenberger renders 1908 as a series of snapshots, and his camera never blinks. 44 b&w illus.