Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Over the holiday period despite the presence of three children and one beautiful granddaughter I managed to finish The Big O by Declan Burke
[review coming up in next few days] and whiz through America 1908 by Jim Rasenberger.

Anyone with even a passing interest in history and the development of the modern world would enjoy this book. I thought I knew quite a bit about the period, but still found this book fascinating.
The book is obviously not for the professional historian, but is an excellent introduction to the period and to the momentous events of that year.
For those wanting to delve deeper there is a comprehensive list of sources.

Some of the subjects covered include:

The last year of the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt
The Springfield [Illinois] Race Riot
Anarchists and the Tobacco Night Riders
Henry Ford and the Invention of the Model T
The New York to Paris Automobile Race
Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Birth of Aviation
The Unforgettable Baseball Season of 1908, and the Merkle "Bonehead" Play
Frederick Cook, Robert E. Peary and the Race to the North Pole
The Trial of Henry Thaw
The Great White Fleet
The massive Earthquake in the Straights of Messina, which killed 200,000 people

But three events from this year of stood out for me from all the others.

1) On the last day of the year Wilbur Wright flew over the skies of Le Mans, France for two hours and twenty minutes demolishing every endurance record up to that point, and beginning that giant step for mankind.

2) The manufacture of 309 Ford Model T automobiles on the third floor of the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit, Michigan. The sale price on October 3, 1908 was $850.

"I will build a motorcar for the great multitude." Henry Ford

3) The visit of the Great White Fleet to Tokyo in October 1908.

"The Japanese nation asks you to convey the message that the Japanese believe a war between Japan and America would be a crime against the past, present and future of the two countries." The Mayor of Tokyo

I am sure the people of 1908, like my grandfather who was thirty five at that time, had great hopes for the future. The advances in science, technology, medicine and social policy promised a much better world for their children and grandchildren.

Did they ever imagine what would happen to the world during the next thirty eight years?

On January 1, 1946, those who had survived must have wondered where were those dreams of a better world that they had on January 1, 1908.

What will the next hundred years bring? Much better times I hope if we can learn from history.

"There she lies, the great Melting Pot-listen! Can't you hear the roaring and the bubbling? -From The Melting Pot by Israel Zangwill: Premiered October5, 1908


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