American Railroads By John Stover 302 Pages Soft Cover 1961

American Railroads By John Stover 302 Pages Soft Cover 1961

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American Railroads By John Stover 302 Pages Soft Cover 1961
 
American Railroads By John Stover 302 Pages Soft Cover 1961
There are few more distinctively American subjects than the history of American railroads. While other nations too have had a railroad history, our nation of vast continental spaces has been decisively shaped by its means of transportation. Future historians may well divide American life since the early nineteenth century into an Age of the Railroad, followed by an Age of the Automobile, and then an Age of the Airplane.
The Age of the Railroad is perhaps the most romantic. For the automobile and the airplane have flourished in an already industrial nation, but the railroad often encountered a virgin continent. Railroads came on the American scene when Indians were still a menace to westering settlers, when large expanses of North America had not yet become accustomed to the English language or the European mode of dress. While railroads in Europe were commonly the servants of established communities, in America railroads were often their creators. For most of the nineteenth century railroads were a symbol of the anachronism which was the romance and the strength of the new nation.
But the Golden Age of the Railroads, as Mr. Stover vividly reminds us, is past. The peak in railroad mileage was reached in 1916. Since then the decline has been steady, and the process is not likely to be reversed. While that Golden Age is still a living memory, we might well try to recapture its spirit.
In this brilliantly cogent story, Mr. Stover recalls that since their appearance on the American scene railroads have played a decisive role in nearly every major movement in our history. They were important in hastening the rise of the Atlantic seaboard metropolises, in peopling and supplying the West, in attracting and transporting immigrants, in shaping the enterprises of trappers, cowboys, miners, and farmers. In the twentieth century the commuting train has helped create and perpetuate the American suburbs. Railroads helped determine the course and the outcome of the Civil War, and were essential to victory in two world wars.
The story of railroads, as Mr. Stover tells it, is a parable of the changing American economy and the changing role of government in American life. Here we see how the American economy has or has not been competitive. We see how government subsidy, regulation, and control have encouraged the rise of railroads, have shaped their maturity, and have helped make their lives difficult, feasible, profitable, or impossible. Here we see also how the American economy has been integrated, homogenized, and brought increasingly under government supervision. In this brief volume, Mr. Stover gives us a much-needed factual guide to a subject which too often overwhelms the amateur; and he draws these facts into the drama of a rising American civilization.
By placing the history of American railroads in the main stream of American history, Mr. Stover admirably serves the purpose of the "Chicago History of American Civilization," which aims to make every aspect of our past a window to all our history. The series contains two kinds of books: a chronological group, which provides a coherent narrative of American history from its beginning to the present day, and a topical group, which deals with the history of varied and significant aspects of American life. This book is one of the topical group. Eighteen titles in the series have now been published, and twenty-odd are in preparation.

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