The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
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Simon Winchester, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Atlantic and The Professor and the Madman, delivers his first book about America: a fascinating popular history that illuminates the men who toiled fearlessly to discover, connect, and bond the citizenry and geography of the U.S.A. from its beginnings.
How did America become “one nation, indivisible”? What unified a growing number of disparate states into the modern country we recognize today? To answer these questions, Winchester follows in the footsteps of America’s most essential explorers, thinkers, and innovators, such as Lewis and Clark and the leaders of the Great Surveys; the builders of the first transcontinental telegraph and the powerful civil engineer behind the Interstate Highway System. He treks vast swaths of territory, from Pittsburgh to Portland, Rochester to San Francisco, Seattle to Anchorage, introducing the fascinating people who played a pivotal role in creating today’s United States.
Throughout, he ponders whether the historic work of uniting the States has succeeded, and to what degree. Featuring 32 illustrations throughout the text, The Men Who United the States is a fresh look at the way in which the most powerful nation on earth came together.
spike gently into place; wrapped around its handle were two thin wires, also connected to the telegraph line. When the maul hit the plate, the connection would be complete. All telegraph offices around the nation were on alert for the moment, though the local duty telegrapher warned his superiors far away that once he saw that the blow had come, he would tap three dots on his own line to confirm what the hammer-and-spike connection itself, its signal so weak, might not. The time was coming fast.
is a bright steel memorial marking the site, with a peace pipe and a shiny steel arrow shaft above the inscription, which records the event. The nuclear power plant hums just a few miles away. (The important-sounding name of the place has since, however, been shifted both across the river, into another state, and a dozen miles downstream. Council Bluff, Nebraska, has become recast and pluralized as Council Bluffs, Iowa, a sprawling riverside city of railway trains and gambling casinos, which is
official Sir William Johnson, who traded with the Indians from his home in New York, wrote in his diary for 1761, “I picked up a pair of shoes made by the Sioux Indin to the westward.” Properly the Sioux formed a part—an extremely large part—of the Plains Indians. The Sioux linguistic group (the easiest means of classification, ethnologists say) enfolded an immense area that arched from the upper Mississippi River in Minnesota’s Thousand Lakes region clear across to the Rocky Mountain foothills
been his career’s culminating achievement, he might have cemented something approaching a lasting reputation before vanishing slowly into the mists of geologic time as one more hammer-wielding wanderer among many. Indeed, his own road to eventual obscurity might have been taken rather faster. He was known as a difficult man—ruthless, impatient, prickly, and combative—and the fact that he died of syphilis at age fifty-nine, a fate then as now rather uncommon within the geological community, left
quiet stream into a furious maelstrom. The skipper of the little boat looked briefly alarmed as his craft began to buck and dip in the torrent; he gripped his tiller firmly, white-knuckled, and did his best to keep his boat pointing head-on to the raging water. From my vantage point, I watched as the surface of the pound waters dropped, foot by foot, leaving the walls of the lock slimy with algae and weed. It took ten minutes to empty the lock totally. Then the man from Minsk, businesslike and