THE WRIGHT BROTHERS/ DAVID McCULLOUGH

The Wright Brothers narrative is so brilliantly written by historian David McCullough that the reader can imagine sitting in his library listening to his melodious voice tell a wonderful American story. McCullough never disappoints as he brings to life Wilbur and Orville, their sister Katherine and their father Bishop Wright and their early endeavor as builders of bicycles in Dayton, Ohio.  The book is much more than the story of the invention of the airplane, although McCullough misses no detail in that pursuit.

imgres-2 I am an ardent fan of McCullough but must admit I thought, why bother with this book, I know the story of the Wright brothers.  Never doubt McCullough’s ability to tell the whole story, including the U.S. Army Department’s ” flat turn down ” of a request by the Wright Brothers for government support for further testing of their heavier than air Flyer.  They supplied documentation of 105 successful flights made in 1904, but to no avail in moving the American Military bureaucracy. Ironically, the Secretary of War at the time was Ohioan William Howard Taft. The British and the French were excited to consider the Wright’s requests.   So the Wright Brothers and sister Katherine were off to Paris and LeMans astonishing Kings, Queens and cheering throngs with their accomplishment. Their reception was comparable to that afforded conquering heroes with private funding made immediately available.

In 1909, William Howard Taft, now President of the United States presented the Wright brothers gold medals. “I esteem it a great honor and opportunity to present these medals to you as evidence to what you have done. I am so glad-perhaps at a delayed hour-to show that in America it is not true that “a prophet is not without honor save in his own country.”  A touch of irony indeed.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

David McCullough- Thirty Seven Years Later- A NYT Best Seller !

Yes, hundreds of other kindred spirits did the same as me!  On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal we were reminded of  David McCullough’s  The Path Between The Seas  and rushed out to purchase this acclaimed historical work.  As a testament to its relevance,  the book again appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List on Sunday, September 7th, 2014,  37 years after its original publication in 1977!

images

The epic story of the building of the Panama Canal, started by the French, completed by the Americans, could not have been better told than through a David McCullough narrative.  The Path Between The Seas details every nuance of this unprecedented enterprise in world history.

Despite the enormity of the subject, McCullough’s story telling never gets bogged down in detail but rather enlightens  and educates the reader into understanding the complexities of the entire undertaking.  Meet the fascinating Frenchman Ferdinand deLesseps, the promoter of the Suez Canal, whose failure at Panama, ensured the ultimate completion by America of an enterprise the scale of which had never before been attempted by mankind. It literally required a revolution to reorganize the geography and power structure of the world.

McCullough masterfully tells the story of the canal. The politics, money, ego’s, intrigue and with great insight to the racial issues surrounding 45,000 West Indian black men and women whose manual labor made the building of the canal possible. The development of  the engineering skills and construction knowledge previously unknown and untested became miracles in their application.  ” We are facing a proposition greater than was ever undertaken in engineering history. ”

Combined with the enormity of the engineering and logistical challenge was the understanding the once the American’s bought out the failed French effort, the first priority would be ridding the Canal Zone of Yellow Fever and Malaria which had heretofore devastated the work force. The resulting benefit to medical research, while at the same time overcoming skeptical pedestrian medical views , would benefit populations worldwide for decades.  No single construction effort in American History had exacted a comparable  price in human lives and dollars and yet the scientific, social and economic rewards would ultimately dwarf the investment costs.

Just as in Truman, John Adams and Mornings on Horseback,  McCullough combines his skills as historian with those of a storyteller resulting in a thrilling journey during an American  era when anything seemed possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A KITCHEN CABINET OF HISTORIANS FOR BARAK OBAMA!

Recalling the importance and power of President Harry Truman’s Kitchen Cabinet, brought vividly to life in  David McCulloch’s Truman, the thought occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea for President Obama to appoint his own Kitchen Cabinet to help think through some of  overwhelming issues facing the president and the nation.  There is a wellspring of talent in the world of books and historians from which might come some unique and a-political  ideas and possibly answers. 

 Here we go Mr. President with a suggested list of invitees! My guess is they would all not only come but bring some well-educated perspective.

Jonathan Alter,  The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

Henry William BrandsThe Reckless Decade, America in the 1890s. TR The Last Romantic, Traitor to his Class. ( FDR)

Robert Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Doris Kerns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

David McCullough, Truman, John Adams

Edmund Morris,  The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, Colonel Roosevelt, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan

Gordon Wood,The Creation of the American Republic and Empire of Liberty

The body of work by the authors of these works of history is a national resource!  They could very well be the best  and most productive “committee ” in Washington , DC. Go for it Mr. President. You will be in great company!

I Would enjoy hearing  suggestions from my blog readers for the Great Historian Kitchen Cabinet at the White House!

 

David McCullough/John Adams/ A Gift to all Americans

David McCullough’s  biography  John Adams can be credited with introducing 20th and 21st century Americans to the enormous impact John Admas, from patriot to president, had on early American History including The Revolution, The Presidency and the U.S. Constitution.

This magnificent work, incredibly well researched  is also a beautifully written story.  As one would expect from McCullough, all of the facts are in place, but the story of Adams the person and his relationship with his wife Abigail  is truly moving.  You will come to understand just how difficult it was to be President of the United States in 18th Century America.   You will read quotes from the trove of Adam’s letters both personal and public that are so enlightening about how critical decisions were made.  You will learn that the fact that America was born was itself a miracle!

Within the pages of John Adams, McCullough  portrays beautifully the love story between John  and Abigail.   He also captures the ruptured relationship between Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the reader is thrilled to learn of the two coming together as friends  in the later years of their lives.

You need not be a student of history to enjoy every page of John Adams.  It is a story about an incredibly gifted man’s love for his country, his wife and family.

David McCullough is a national treasure and his generosity in creativity is a gift to all Americans.