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Nothing Like it in the World

Ambrose, Stephen E.

ISBN 10: 0684846098 / ISBN 13: 9780684846095
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2000
New Condition: New Hardcover
From Carol's Cache (Atlanta, GA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

The story of the men who built the transcotinental railroad 1863-1869. Includes numerous pages of black and white photos documenting the construction. Jacket in mylar cover. Bookseller Inventory # 007793

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Nothing Like it in the World

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:New

Dust Jacket Condition: New

Edition: First Edition

About this title

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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