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Science, Technology, and Mathematics > History of Science and Technology > Transportation History

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Roy D. Chapin Cover

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Roy D. Chapin

The Man Behind the Hudson Motor Car Company

J. C. Long With an Introduction by Charles K. Hyde

"John Cuthbert Long’s Roy D. Chapin is a thorough and detailed biography of a remarkable, but little-known Detroit automobile industry pioneer. Historians should include Roy Dikeman Chapin (February 23, 1880–February 16, 1936) in any listing of significant American auto industry pioneers, along with the Duryea brothers, Ransom E. Olds, Henry Leland, Henry Ford, William C. Durant, and the Dodge brothers. Outside the cloister of automotive historians, Roy Chapin is an unknown. This is in part because no company or car bore his name. Unlike many contemporary auto pioneers, Roy Chapin was a modest man who did not promote himself. Even Long’s superb biography of Chapin is not well-known because it was privately printed in 1945 with a small press run. In reprinting this volume, Wayne State University Press is making an important contribution to automotive history." —From the introduction by Charles K. Hyde, Department of History, Wayne State University

Sailing to the Far Horizon Cover

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Sailing to the Far Horizon

The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship

Pamela Sisman Bitterman

The tall ship Sofia sank off New Zealand’s North Island in February 1982, stranding its crew on disabled life rafts for five days. They struggled to survive as any realistic hope of rescue dwindled. Just a few years earlier, Pamela Sisman Bitterman was a naïve swabbie looking for adventure, signing on with a sailing co-operative taking this sixty-year-old, 123-foot, three-masted gaff-topsail schooner around the globe. The aged Baltic trader had been rescued from a wooden boat graveyard in Sweden and reincarnated as a floating commune in the 1960s. By the time Sofia went down, Bitterman had become an able seaman, promoted first to bos’un and then acting first mate, immersing herself in this life of a tall ship sailor, world traveler, and survivor.

Sailors and Traders Cover

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Sailors and Traders

A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples

Alistair Couper

Written by a senior scholar and master mariner, Sailors and Traders is the first comprehensive account of the maritime peoples of the Pacific. It focuses on the sailors who led the exploration and settlement of the islands and New Zealand and their seagoing descendants, providing along the way new material and unique observations on traditional and commercial seagoing against the background of major periods in Pacific history. The book begins by detailing the traditions of sailors, a group whose way of life sets them apart. Like all others who live and work at sea, Pacific mariners face the challenges of an often harsh environment, endure separation from their families for months at a time, revere their vessels, and share a singular attitude to risk and death. The period of prehistoric seafaring is discussed using archaeological data, interpretations from interisland exchanges, experimental voyaging, and recent DNA analysis. Sections on the arrival of foreign exploring ships centuries later concentrate on relations between visiting sailors and maritime communities. The more intrusive influx of commercial trading and whaling ships brought new technology, weapons, and differences in the ethics of trade. The successes and failures of Polynesian chiefs who entered trading with European-type ships are recounted as neglected aspects of Pacific history. As foreign-owned commercial ships expanded in the region so did colonialism, which was accompanied by an increase in the number of sailors from metropolitan countries and a decrease in the employment of Pacific islanders on foreign ships. Eventually small-scale island entrepreneurs expanded interisland shipping, and in 1978 the regional Pacific Forum Line was created by newly independent states. This was welcomed as a symbolic return to indigenous Pacific ocean linkages. The book’s final sections detail the life of the modern Pacific seafarer. Most Pacific sailors in the global maritime labor market return home after many months at sea, bringing money, goods, a wider perspective of the world, and sometimes new diseases. Each of these impacts is analyzed, particularly in the case of Kiribati, a major supplier of labor to foreign ships.

Seascapes Cover

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Seascapes

Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges

Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, & Kären Wigen (eds.)

Historians have only recently begun to chart the experiences of maritime regions in rich detail and penetrate the historical processes at work there. Seascapes makes a major contribution to these efforts by bringing together original scholarship on historical issues arising from maritime regions around the world. The essays presented here take a variety of approaches. One group examines the material, cultural, and intellectual constructs that inform and explain historical experiences of maritime regions. Another set discusses efforts—some more successful than others—to impose political and military control over maritime regions. A third group focuses on issues of social history such as labor organization, information flows, and the development of political consciousness among subaltern populations. The final essays deal with pirates and efforts to control them in Mediterranean, Japanese, and Atlantic waters.

Seaway to the Future Cover

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Seaway to the Future

American Social Visions and the Construction of the Panama Canal

Alexander Missal

Realizing the century-old dream of a passage to India, the building of the Panama Canal was an engineering feat of colossal dimensions, a construction site filled not only with mud and water but with interpretations, meanings, and social visions. Alexander Missal’s Seaway to the Future unfolds a cultural history of the Panama Canal project, revealed in the texts and images of the era’s policymakers and commentators. Observing its creation, journalists, travel writers, and officials interpreted the Canal and its environs as a perfect society under an efficient, authoritarian management featuring innovations in technology, work, health, and consumption. For their middle-class audience in the United States, the writers depicted a foreign yet familiar place, a showcase for the future—images reinforced in the exhibits of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition that celebrated the Canal’s completion. Through these depictions, the building of the Panama Canal became a powerful symbol in a broader search for order as Americans looked to the modern age with both anxiety and anticipation.
            Like most utopian visions, this one aspired to perfection at the price of exclusion. Overlooking the West Indian laborers who built the Canal, its admirers praised the white elite that supervised and administered it. Inspired by the masculine ideal personified by President Theodore Roosevelt, writers depicted the Canal Zone as an emphatically male enterprise and Chief Engineer George W. Goethals as the emblem of a new type of social leader, the engineer-soldier, the benevolent despot. Examining these and other images of the Panama Canal project, Seaway to the Future shows how they reflected popular attitudes toward an evolving modern world and, no less important, helped shape those perceptions.

Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Association

“Provide[s] a useful vantage on the world bequeathed to us by the forces that set out to put America astride the globe nearly a century ago.”—Chris Rasmussen, Bookforum

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The Socialist Car

Automobility in the Eastern Bloc

edited by Lewis H. Siegelbaum

Across the Soviet Bloc, from the 1960s until the collapse of communism, the automobile exemplified the tension between the ideological imperatives of political authorities and the aspirations of ordinary citizens. For the latter, the automobile was the ticket to personal freedom and a piece of the imagined consumer paradise of the West. For the authorities, the personal car was a private, mobile space that challenged the most basic assumptions of the collectivity. The "socialist car"-and the car culture that built up around it-was the result of an always unstable compromise between official ideology, available resources, and the desires of an increasingly restless citizenry. In The Socialist Car, eleven scholars from Europe and North America explore in vivid detail the interface between the motorcar and the state socialist countries of Eastern Europe, including the USSR.

In addition to the metal, glass, upholstery, and plastic from which the Ladas, Dacias, Trabants, and other still extant but aging models were fabricated, the socialist car embodied East Europeans' longings and compromises, hopes and disappointments. The socialist car represented both aspirations of overcoming the technological gap between the capitalist first and socialist second worlds and dreams of enhancing personal mobility and status. Certain features of automobility-shortages and privileges, waiting lists and lack of readily available credit, the inadequacy of streets and highways-prevailed across the Soviet Bloc. In this collective history, the authors put aside both ridicule and nostalgia in the interest of trying to understand the socialist car in its own context.

Stealing Cars Cover

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Stealing Cars

Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino

John A. Heitmann and Rebecca H. Morales

As early as 1910 Americans recognized that cars were easy to steal and, once stolen, hard to find—especially since cars looked much alike. Model styles and colors eventually changed, but so did the means of making a stolen car disappear. Though changing license plates and serial numbers remain basic procedure, thieves have created highly sophisticated networks to disassemble stolen vehicles, distribute the parts, and/or ship the altered cars out of the country. Stealing cars has become as technologically advanced as the cars themselves. John A. Heitmann and Rebecca H. Morales’s study of automobile theft and culture examines a wide range of related topics that includes motives and methods, technological deterrents, place and space, institutional responses, international borders, and cultural reflections. Only recently have scholars begun to move their focus away from the creators and manufacturers of the automobile to its users. Stealing Cars illustrates the power of this approach, as it aims at developing a better understanding of the place of the automobile in the broad texture of American life. There are many who are fascinated by aspects of automobile history, but many more readers enjoy the topic of crime, in terms of motives, methods, escaping capture, and of course solving the crime and bringing criminals to justice. Stealing Cars brings together expertise from the history of technology and cultural history as well as city planning and transborder studies to produce a compelling and detailed work that raises questions concerning American priorities and values. Drawing on sources that include interviews, government documents, patents, sociological and psychological studies, magazines, monographs, scholarly periodicals, film, fiction, and digital gaming, Heitmann and Morales tell a story that highlights both human creativity and some of the paradoxes of American life.

Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945 Cover

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Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945

William M. McBride

Navies have always been technologically sophisticated, from the ancient world's trireme galleys and the Age of Sail's ships-of-the-line to the dreadnoughts of World War I and today's nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. Yet each large technical innovation has met with resistance and even hostility from those officers who, adhering to a familiar warrior ethos, have grown used to a certain style of fighting. In Technological Change and the United States Navy, William M. McBride examines how the navy dealt with technological change—from the end of the Civil War through the "age of the battleship"—as technology became more complex and the nation assumed a global role. Although steam engines generally made their mark in the maritime world by 1865, for example, and proved useful to the Union riverine navy during the Civil War, a backlash within the service later developed against both steam engines and the engineers who ran them. Early in the twentieth century the large dreadnought battleship at first met similar resistance from some officers, including the famous Alfred Thayer Mahan, and their industrial and political allies. During the first half of the twentieth century the battleship exercised a dominant influence on those who developed the nation's strategies and operational plans—at the same time that advances in submarines and fixed-wing aircraft complicated the picture and undermined the battleship's superiority. In any given period, argues McBride, some technologies initially threaten the navy's image of itself. Professional jealousies and insecurities, ignorance, and hidebound traditions arguably influenced the officer corps on matters of technology as much as concerns about national security, and McBride contends that this dynamic persists today. McBride also demonstrates the interplay between technological innovation and other influences on naval adaptability—international commitments, strategic concepts, government-industrial relations, and the constant influence of domestic politics. Challenging technological determinism, he uncovers the conflicting attitudes toward technology that guided naval policy between the end of the Civil War and the dawning of the nuclear age. The evolution and persistence of the "battleship navy," he argues, offer direct insight into the dominance of the aircraft-carrier paradigm after 1945 and into the twenty-first century.

Tracking Modernity Cover

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Tracking Modernity

India’s Railway and the Culture of Mobility

Marian Aguiar

From Mohandas Gandhi’s nineteenth-century tour in a third-class compartment to the recent cinematic shenanigans of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, the railway has been one of India’s most potent emblems of modern life. In the first in-depth analysis of representations of the Indian railway, Marian Aguiar interprets modernity through the legacy of this transformative technology.

Since the colonial period in India, the railway has been idealized as a rational utopia—a moving box in which racial and class differences might be amalgamated under a civic, secular, and public order. Aguiar charts this powerful image into the postcolonial period, showing how the culture of mobility exposes this symbol of reason as surprisingly dynamic and productive. Looking in turn at the partition of India, labor relations, rituals of travel, works of literature and film, visual culture, and the Mumbai train bombings of 2006, Aguiar finds incongruities she terms “counternarratives of modernity” to signify how they work both with and against the dominant rhetoric.  Revealing railways as a microcosm of tensions within Indian culture, Aguiar demonstrates how their representations have challenged prevailing ideas of modernity.

Traqueros Cover

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Traqueros

Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States, 1870-1930

Jeffrey Marcos Garcilazo

Perhaps no other industrial technology changed the course of Mexican history in the United States—and Mexico—than did the coming of the railroads. Tens of thousands of Mexicans worked for the railroads in the United States, especially in the Southwest and Midwest. Extensive Mexican American settlements appeared throughout the lower and upper Midwest as the result of the railroad. Only agricultural work surpassed railroad work in terms of employment of Mexicans. In Traqueros, Jeffrey Marcos Garcílazo mined numerous archives and other sources to provide the first and only comprehensive history of Mexican railroad workers across the United States, with particular attention to the Midwest. He first explores the origins and process of Mexican labor recruitment and immigration and then describes the areas of work performed. He reconstructs the workers’ daily lives and explores not only what the workers did on the job but also what they did at home and how they accommodated and/or resisted Americanization. Boxcar communities, strike organizations, and “traquero culture” finally receive historical acknowledgment. Integral to his study is the importance of family settlement in shaping working class communities and consciousness throughout the Midwest.

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