From his youthful days as a delivery boy for William Randolph Hearst's Baltimore newspapers through his many years as a journalist and commentator, Russell Baker has been a keen observer of American politics and culture. Now, in these eleven essays, all originally published in The New York Review of Books, he looks back on a group of iconic public figures from his own past.Profiled here are presidents (Lyndon Johnson feuding with Robert F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon in his grasping, spectral exile), would-be presidents (Eugene V. Debs and Barry Goldwater, "gentlemen fallen among brutes"), and those who set their sights on something besides the presidency (Joe DiMaggio, and Martin Luther King, "the one indisputably great American of the century's second half"). Undeluded by the roar of what he calls "our national engines of ballyhoo, bushwah, and baloney," Russell Baker reflects on the strange fascination that these larger-than-life characters have held for the American imagination. With an elegiac yet shrewd sense of their accomplishments both enduring and ephemeral, he traces the impressions they left on twentieth-century America--and on him.
Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History
A riveting, original book about the creation of modern American thought.
The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Well Holmes, Jr., future associate justice of the United States Supreme Court; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea -- an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea. Holmes, James, and Peirce all believed that ideas are not things "out there" waiting to be discovered but are tools people invent -- like knives and forks and microchips -- to make their way in the world. They thought that ideas are produced not by individuals, but by groups of individuals -- that ideas are social. They do not develop according to some inner logic of their own but are entirely depent -- like germs -- on their human carriers and environment. And they thought that the survival of any idea deps not on its immutability but on its adaptability. "The Metaphysical Club" is written in the spirit of this idea about ideas. It is not a history of philosophy but an absorbing narrative about personalities and social history, a story about America. It begins with the Civil War and s in 1919 with Justice Holmes's dissenting opinion in the case of U.S. v. Abrams-the basis for the constitutional law of free speech. The first four sections of the book focus on Holmes, James, Peirce, and their intellectual heir, John Dewey.The last section discusses some of the fundamental twentieth-century ideas they are associated with. This is a book about a way of thinking that changed American life.
April 1865 was a month that could have unraveled the nation. Instead, it saved it. Here Jay Winik offers a brilliant new look at the Civil War's final days that will forever change the way we see the war's end and the nation's new beginning. Uniquely set within the larger sweep of history, filled with rich profiles of outsize figures, fresh iconoclastic scholarship, and a gripping narrative, this is a masterful account of the thirty most pivotal days in the life of the United States.
It was not inevitable that the Civil War would end as it did, or that it would end at all well. Indeed, it almost didn't. Time and again, critical moments could have plunged the nation back into war or fashioned a far harsher, more violent, and volatile peace. Now, in a superbly told story, Winik captures the epic images and extraordinary history as never before. This one month witnessed the frenzied fall of Richmond; a daring last-ditch Southern plan for guerrilla warfare; Lee's harrowing retreat; and then Appomattox. It saw Lincoln's assassination just five days later, and a near-successful plot to decapitate the Union government, followed by chaos and coup fears in the North, collapsed negotiations and continued bloodshed in the South, and finally, the start of national reconciliation. In the end, April 1865 emerges as not just the tale of the war's denouement, but the story of the making of our nation.
Provocative, bold, exquisitely rendered, and stunningly original, April 1865 is the first major reassessment of the Civil War's close and is destined to become one of the great stories of American history.
During the American Civil War a good map could spell the difference between and defeat. This book brings together some of the most interesting and beautiful maps of the period, from detailed renderings to rough pencil sketches drawn on horseback.
In the boomtowns of the Alaska-Yukon stampedes, where gold dust was common currency, the rarest commodity was an attractive woman, and her company could be costly. Author Lael Morgan takes you into the heart of the gold rush demimonde, that "half world" of prostitutes, dance hall girls, and entertainers who lived on the outskirts of polite society. Meet "Dutch Kate" Wilson, who pioneered many areas long before the "respectable" women who received credit for getting there first ... ruthless heartbreakers Cad Wilson and Rose Blumkin ... "French" Marie Larose, who auctioned herself off as a wife to the highest bidder, Georgia Lee, who invested her earnings wisely and became one of the richest women in the North, and Edith Neile, called "the Oregon Mare," famous for both her outlandish behavior and her softhearted generosity.
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZEDrawing on the diaries of one woman in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier. Between 1785 and 1812 a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in 27 years she attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives us an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard but of her society. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, A Midwife's Tale is a triumph of history on a human scale.
On May 7, 1877, less than a year after his overwhelming victory at Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse, the charismatic Oglala Sioux whose name had become the epitome of Indian resistance to white encroachment, surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska Territory. A young man of slight build and quiet ways dramatically at odds with his extraordinary influence and stature, he was viewed by the military as a potential civil leader of all Sioux. What happened between May 15, 1877, when, anticipating a visit to the president in Washington, Crazy Horse was sworn in as a noncommissioned officer in the U.S. military, and September 5, 1877, when he was bayoneted in the back by a military guard, is the stuff of rumor and legend. And yet, reliable accounts of the last days of Crazy Horse do exist. The interviews collected in this book describe in stark detail the surrender and death of Crazy Horse from the perspective of Indian and mixed-blood contemporaries. Supplemented by military orders, telegrams, and reports, and rounded out with dispatches from numerous newspaper correspondents, these eyewitness accounts make up a unique firsthand view of the events and circumstances surrounding this tragic episode in Lakota history. Richard G. Hardorff is the author of Hokahey A Good Day to Die The Indian Casualties of the Custer Fight and the editor of Lakota Recollections of the Custer Fight and Cheyenne Memories of the Custer Fight, also available in Bison Books editions.