Keepers of the Flame: The Role of Fire in American Culture, 1775-1925 (Princeton Legacy Library)

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9780691048093: Keepers of the Flame: The Role of Fire in American Culture, 1775-1925 (Princeton Legacy Library)


"For, Lo! We live in an Iron Age--In the age of Steam and Fire!" wrote a poet mesmerized by the engines that were transforming American transportation, agriculture, and industry during his lifetime. Indeed, by the nineteenth century fire had become America's leitmotif--for good and for ill. "Keeping the flame" was deadly serious: even the slightest lapse of attention could convert a fire from friendly ally to ravaging destroyer. To examine the cultural context of fire in "combustible America," Margaret Hazen and Robert Hazen gather more than a hundred illustrations, most never before published, together with anecdotes and information from hundreds of original sources, including newspapers, diaries, company records, popular fiction, art, and music. What results is an immensely entertaining and encyclopedic history that ranges from stories of the tragic "great fires" of the century to fire imagery in folktales and popular literature. Dealing more with technology than with fire in nature, the book provides a vast amount of information on fire manipulation and prevention in urban life. Hazen and Hazen discuss the people who worked with fire--or against it. Founders, gaffers, blacksmiths, boilers at saltworks, and housewives knew how to "read" a fire and employ it for their purposes. A few dedicated investigators inquired about the scientific nature of heat and flame. And firefighters gradually progressed from "bucket brigades" to "using fire to fight fire" with the newly invented steam engine. The colorful stories of these Americans--the risks they took and the rewards they received--will fascinate not only social historians but also a broad audience of general readers.


Originally published in 1992.


The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


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From Library Journal:

"Fire is a good servant, but a bad master." This proverb takes on new meaning thanks to these two books about the role of fire in human history. In Fire and Civilization , Goudsblom, a Dutch sociologist and author of Human History and Social Process (Univ. of Exeter Pr., 1989), has taken up the daunting task of tracing fire use from its first human control perhaps a million years ago up through the atomic age. Goudsblom argues than an increase in control over fire led to increased dependence on it, a paradox convincingly illustrated by the two great revolutions in human civilization: agrarianization and industrialization. Fire, he shows, affects how humans relate to nature, to one another, and to themselves. The biggest shortcoming of this interesting book is that its broad sweep prevents the full development of ideas and detailed examples that would lend even more support to the author's insights. Whereas Goudsblom goes for the broadest of sweeps, the Hazens have limited their focus to America between 1775 and 1925. Keepers of the Flame is therefore a much more detailed and lively portrait of the uses of fire the slave and tragedies inflicted by fire the master. The Hazens, who last collaborated on an illustrated history of brass bands ( The Music Men , LJ 6/15/87), have included over 100 illustrations, revealing the visual dimension that has always been so important to people's fascination with combustion. These two books complement each other well, and both are appropriate for academic and large public libraries.
- Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review:

"This entertaining book gives a cultural overview of the role and significance of fire in U.S. society from the founding of the Republic to the early twentieth century.... The authors have pulled together an enormous number of sources, including newspaper accounts, advertising, diaries, corporate records, scientific and medical papers, popular art, music, poetry, and drama."--The Historian

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