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Passage to Union: How the Railroads Transformed American Life, 1829-1929

Gordon, Sarah H.

2 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1566631386 / ISBN 13: 9781566631389
Published by Ivan R. Dee, U.S.A., 1997
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Murphy-Brookfield Books (Iowa City SE, IA, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Passage to Union: How the Railroads ...

Publisher: Ivan R. Dee, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1997

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

About this title


How the railroads transformed American life between 1829 and 1929, and why the cost of their achievements was so damaging to the social and economic life of the nation. A quite wonderful book...richly textured and intellectually stimulating. ―Elizabeth Blackmar, Columbia University. Selected by Choice as an outstanding book for 1997.


The progress represented by the railroad is often taken as an entirely positive trend in American history, but in Passage to Union, historian Sarah H. Gordon shows how the railroad's transformation of American life also exacted some great costs. She pays equal attention to technology and law, noting how the land to be crossed by the railroads all belonged to someone else; the brilliant engineering feats of early tracklaying were thus made possible in part by skillful railroad lawyers such as Abraham Lincoln. Passage to Union follows the story of American railroading from the time when the American West was untouched by tracks and the Southern states stubbornly tried to resist their entry to the decades when Pullman travel tied the nation together for good.

Besides detailing the great legal and economic themes of the railroad revolution, Gordon also pays attention to how train travel affected ordinary people, succeeding in making the great national saga of railroads a very human story. Later chapters of the book relate the details of rail travel in the latter half of the 19th century; the design of rail cars, new systems of ticketing, and even the institution of modern luggage all made rail travel a commonplace component of American life. --Robert McNamara

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