Title: Nothing Like It in the World : The Men Who ...
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, U.S.A.
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Near Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Inscribed By Author
Edition: First Edition 6th Prtg
1st Ed., 6th Printing, HB/DJ, NF/F, 431 pp. INSCRIBED by Author, says: "For (name), All Aboard! S. E. Ambrose" on title page. Book has 1/2" closed tear (glued back down) at rear top board edge, and previous owner's bookplate on first almost-blank page (symbol at top), says "Happy Holidays (name) 2000." You could put your own sticker (address label size) over their name if you wish. Demco mylar cover put on DJ. This is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad, those who risked their businesses and money, the engineers and surveyors who risked (and lost) their lives, and the men, Chinese, Irish, defeated Southerners, who did the dangerous and backbreaking work on the tracks that joined the continent as a nation. Bookseller Inventory # 10792
Synopsis: The Union had won the Civil War; slavery was abolished. Lincoln, an early champion of railroads, would not live to see the next great achievment. It took brains, muscle, and sweat in quantities and scope never before ventured and required engineers and surveyors willing to lose their lives in the wilderness; men who had commanded and obeyed in war; workers from China, Ireland, and the defeated South; and capitalists betting their money for possible profit. The government pitted the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the east through Panama, around South America, or lugged across the country. The railroad was the last great building project to be done by hand: excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, blasting tunnels. Nothing like this great railroad had been seen in the world when the last spike, a golden one, was driven in at Promontory Peak, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific joined tracks. Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the nation one.
Review: Abraham Lincoln, who had worked as a riverboat pilot before turning to politics, knew a thing or two about the problems of transporting goods and people from place to place. He was also convinced that the United States would flourish only if its far-flung regions were linked, replacing sectional loyalties with an overarching sense of national destiny.
Building a transcontinental railroad, writes the prolific historian Stephen Ambrose, was second only to the abolition of slavery on Lincoln's presidential agenda. Through an ambitious program of land grants and low-interest government loans, he encouraged entrepreneurs such as California's "Big Four"--Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Leland Stanford--to take on the task of stringing steel rails from ocean to ocean. The real work of doing so, of course, was on the shoulders of immigrant men and women, mostly Chinese and Irish. These often-overlooked actors and what a contemporary called their "dreadful vitality" figure prominently in Ambrose's narrative, alongside the great financiers and surveyors who populate the standard textbooks.
In the end, Ambrose writes, Lincoln's dream transformed the nation, marking "the first great triumph over time and space" and inaugurating what has come to be known as the American Century. David Haward Bain's Empire Express, which covers the same ground, is more substantial, but Ambrose provides an eminently readable study of a complex episode in American history. --Gregory McNamee
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