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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 6, 2011 11:30pm-12:00am EST

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canoe, he learned little about surveying but he deepened his appreciation for landscape particularly in connecticut. at this point his father decided time for olmsted to buckle down and to become more serious. so his father are arranged for him to move to brooklyn, got an apartment in brooklyn and also got him a job in manhattan where he would be working for an importing firm. now olmstead was deeply lonely in brooklyn while he was deeply lonely there he also hated the job working for the importing firm. he hated the fact that it was a desk job, he did the long hours and the regimentation. there was really only one thing about the job that olmsted like to come and the was periodically he got to go on board the ships and inventory their wares and while doing this olmstead had a new idea of something that he might like to do with his life.
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he decided he wanted to become a sealer. once again this made sense. sailing was one of the professions available to people in that era. they didn't have much formal schooling he came out very honestly a whole long line if he went back generation after generation had gone to sea. so in april of 1843, he set out on board a ship called [inaudible] headed for china. and on july 4th of 1843, as it rounded the horn of good hope of south africa it had a ferocious snowstorm that this is to the southern hemisphere and thee southern hemisphere is possible for other conditions to be prey reversed so you could have some pretty wicked winter weather anr in this case, this was anincrede incredible storm.ellow olmstead looked round of fellow sailors many of whom were very seasoned and had panic in their eyesd really might sink.
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the wholesale. what this meant was for him to become completely uncontrollable. whipping this way and that. acting as a detriment. he and his fellow crewmen went below deck. for three days and three nights they pitched on the sea, almost completely on hand, completely uncontrolled. he thought that at any moment they might crack open, the paste into the ocean and to certain death. fortunately that did not happen. continued on to china. delivered its american goods. it picked up a load of chinese tea and started heading back to the united states. along the way he's. stock kinds of privation. he did not get enough food, he did not get enough water. he did not get enough sleep. he wanted his fellow sailors or representative for even the
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tiniest of infractions. when the ship docked in april of 1844 and when olmsted disembarked on dry land he swore to never ever go to sea again. he needed to find a new profession. so now the idea of becoming a farmer. once again this made farming a profession. this area that was available to someone with pretty limited formal schooling. the profession in the united states practiced by 70 percent of the population. identified a man. received a commendation for running a model scientific form. arrange to work with this man as an apprenticeships. also having the very first pang of wanting to be a social reformer. very much like the idea of being a scientific farmer as a way to accomplish that, and the reason why is all instead did not have much formal schooling.
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very well read, and so he thought that he could read the latest arab cultural journal, learn the latest best practices in farming. he could disseminate this information to his fellow farmers to many of whom were illiterate. this way he could act as a social reformer. completed his apprenticeships and started off on his own for life as a farmer. true to his word he really was very talented. true to his word he wanted to be a social reformer. the agricultural journals. the best practices, the latest getting his practice. he disseminated disinformation to is fellow farmers. but then he learned that his and her brother was planning to take a walking tour across england. it became almost pathologically jealous. he could not believe that his little brother was getting ready to take this traded venture
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while he was stuck on the farm. he started writing a series of letters to his father which he pleaded to be allowed to leave the farm and join his brother on this trip. the only wonder why man now in his mid-20s would need to beg his father's permission. his father held the mortgage to the farm. his father was also a very kind, very generous man, particularly by 19th century standards. so he agreed to let him go. furthermore he stake in the some money for the tour that he took across england. now, when he returned he was the beneficiary of the relief fortunes coincidence. one of his neighbors on s.i. was a man named george putnam. george putnam was a hobby farmer. on s.i., and s.i. was not yet part of new york city. it was simply an island off the tip of manhattan. george putnam is in name that
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might have resonance for many of the people here in the audience today. a publishing magnate, and the publishing company he founded parises name and is still in existence today an innovator who had been working on something called paperbacks' which is a brand new to the world in this era. publishing all kinds of different paperbacks. publishing treatises on philosophy, collections of poetry, selections of short fiction and was selling the but $0.25 a pop. approached his neighbor, is a neighboring farmer on s.i. and if he would be interested in producing an account to be published in paperback and his recent walking tour across englan
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far and now comes an absolutely extraordinary coincidence. there's a brand new newspaper,it this is the early 1850's and a 1 brand new newspaper called thete new york daily times. a few years it would drop the daily and become "the new york y times," and this new paper wasna in a competitive fight for its .ife this was the year of about a don dailies. and so the editor of the new paper, trying to figure out how to separate it from this large field of competition. he came to the conclusion that the best way to do this was by focusing on veracity. this is the era of yellow journalism, so a dozen or so competitors were in the habit of
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just stretching the truth mightily are making things of. some of the topics of the day. at this point in the early 1850's once again their rising tensions between the northern and southern regions in the united states. the issue of slavery. they appear to be one of their periodic flashpoints. many people thought there might be violence or even civil war. and so also applied for this job. he had a five minute interview, and he was handed this absolutely assignment. you might think how he got this. pretty underqualified.
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he did have a book to his credits. maybe more importantly he was a farmer. the south in this era was nothing if not an agrarian society. from the autumn of 1862 after the harvest is over, still a farmer by trade. set off for the south. the only way to describe it is nothing could have prepared henry raymond, the editor of the times, nothing could have prepared anyone for what and able reporter he proved to be. he went everywhere, talks to everyone. he talks the plantation owners, slaves, poor white farmers, and produced a series of spectacular dispatchers that literally put a brand-new new york times on the map. in 1861 dispatchers were compiled into a book they read all i can tell you is here it is. a hundred and 50 years later, 8061, and the condom kingdom is
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still in print. if you want a window into the south on the eve of the civil war was the movie gone with the wind which is fictional but simply has some great and accurate observations about the south and the antebellum or you can read olmstead, absolutely stellar reporting. now, a member of what he calls the literary public a competitor of another brand new magazine. an amazing stable of writers. publishing emerson, thoreau, longfellow. while working as an editor, olmstead taught the editor a couple of short stories. while working he also decided that he wanted to become much more deeply involved in abolitionism.
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given the fact that he traveled through the south on assignment for the new york times, this was a cause that he certainly wanted to become involved in. and so 1855 demean @booktv man named james abbott travel east from kansas. the head of the militia. the melissa was devoted to making sure that if they enter the union as a state it would enter as a free state, rather than a slave state. he was headed east to give money to raise money to purchase weapons for his melissa. first he went to connecticut and rhode island committee raise enough money to buy about 100, what were nicknamed sharp rivals. they went down to new york, and naturally the person he wanted to connect with was olmstead, involved in abolitionism, deep well of contacts in the literary community. readily agrees. stuttered reaching out to the various people he knew around the york city. one of the people he restocks to
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was horace greeley who has been the editor of the new york tribune and was the very person who coined the term leading cancer. minister raise about $300. an energetic friend. kept him apprised of the activity but writing to purchase a howitzer. captain apprised of his activities by writing him letters that employed a ridiculously credible code. he referred to the howitzer as an h. now, it was the code that was real difficult for anyone to figure out. at the same time it reflects that he was so very aware that they were involved in these very dangerous endeavors and wanted to avoid detection with these letters. also arranged to break it up into several different pieces and to send it to kansas broken
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up into component parts. mccain and arrived in kansas it was once again assembled, reassembled, placed in front of the hotel, and does comport itself very admirably. .. the magazine he had been working for had went belly up and he lost his job. he was short on a full and he had money to everybody he knew. he had a hole in his shoe, she didn't have a proper hat so she decided to take a job to an he deci incredible comedown for somebody that had recently been traveling in such lofty circles rubbing shoulders with the likes of a
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emmerson and toronto. w he took a johib in which hearing started clearing a release gruffy an attractive piece of of land knocking down shanties ando clearing swamps in very ugl a very land that was named for its position of being in the middle of new york city. it's called central park. he was cleaning this land for someone else's design. calvin was an english trained architect, and he looked at the plans and was disgusted. he couldn't believe how it was. he designed approaching the board saying, tiers of all, this is a terrible design for the park. i suggest that you get rid of it. secondly he said where i'm from, if you want the best design, hold a public competition. the board listened, they tabled
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the existing design, and they announced there would be a public competition for a new design. at this point, he sought out frederick olmstead to see if they wanted to be partners. he could have gived a wit that he was part of the literary public, but he was rubbing shoulders with all these luminaries. the reason voxmented to partner because frederick olmstead was draining swamps, and if they partnered up, they would have a leg up on the competition. they partnered up for the competition, and the only way to describe it is parallel to the southern reporting. in this case, nothing could have prepared vox or anyone for what
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incredible ideas frederick olmstead brought to the design. when they turned to the design, it was the clear winner. there were 33 different people who entered the design competition. 32 of them produced something -- produced designs that would rate somewhere between a b-minus and a flat f. olmstead and vox were an a-plus and they got permission to proceed with it. one of the design elements that set their plan far apart from the other designs that were turned in by other contestants. the board of the park spelled out all the contestants had to follow certain elements, and one was there had to be four roads crossing central park. central park is an unattractive shape for a park, it's very narrow. the other contestants complied with that requirement. they produced park plans that
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had -- that were crossed in four places with roads that resulted in crimped plans and it was it was not possible to have a meadow or vista. they came up with a brilliant innovation and agreed to do the mandatory elements, the four roads crossing central park, but they had an idea called sunken transverses. they were channels that would travel across the park in four points. in certain places, they designed land bridges that would cross the channels, and this opened up the park plan making it possible to have an expansive meadow and have a long view or vista. what's more, it meant the traffic of not traveling at eye level throughout the park. your view would not be interrupted by clattering carts. well, vox's plans continue to
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pay dividends to this day. there can be traffic traveling nearby, busses or taxis, just traveling through so you don't see it or hear it either because it is muffled because the traffic is traveling beneath ground. they proceeded with the plan for central park and did most of what they wanted to do, and what they had not done, they had in preparation ready to go when in 1861 the civil war broke out. now, olmstead wanted to be involved in the union cause. what he did at this point was come down here to washington, headed up an outfit called the united states cemetery commission. it was a release outfit providing immeasurable relief to battlefield wounded during the civil war. after the war, there were a whole series of convolutions and
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it morphed into the american red cross. come the battle of gettysberg, they were restless again. it was clear after that battle that the north was going to emerge victorious, the south would be defeated, and it was just a matter of time and temples. from oldstead's standpoint, it was just a malter of time before the commission ended, and he would have to have a job. he looked around and didn't consider landscape architecture, the profession he pioneered. central park was a masterpiece, but they didn't think there were that many cities who wanted parks designed. he headed to california and became the supervisor of a gold mine. while he was there, he started
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visiting a place that was about 30 miles away from the gold mine, and it's yosemite valley. he was enhasn'ted. by some accounts, he was one the first 500 non-native americans to even enter yosemite. that's how remote this valley was in this era and how distant it was from civilization. he loved walking amped there. he started to make a human cry to preserve this place. he recognized that america's population was going to expand, and at some point, yosemite would be in danger of being diminished by having so many people visit it. olmstead suggested no private interest should be looked to to preserve this natural wander and suggested a farseeing government should step in and take care of
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this beautiful place. this was unbelievely before the national parks system, but civil war ended, and all the sudden in the north, at least, there started to be an economic boom. all the sudden, all of these cities were clammoring to have parks designed. they teamed up again, a a bunch of different designs. they never got along well, always at each other's throats, and they broke apart. olmstead continued solo and did a lot of designs. the reason why people respond to them like they do today, why they are so set apart today, is very much because of how he drew on all the various dead ends he traveled down and career eddies he traveled over before finding
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landscape architecture. he brought those varied experiences into play. what i'm going to do now is describe just three of his greatest works in the context of his earlier experiences coming into play. the first of the designs is up that way, the ground of the u.s. capitol. he was called upon to design the capitol ground in 1874, and the very first thing he did was he became extremely fix sated on finding a circulation system, a logical way for people to travel over the capitol grounds. in this era, there were 41 points where the person could enter the capitol grounds, and people were in the habit of entering the ground at any one of the 41 points and making a b-line for the strains of the capitol producing grid work with people just walking in straight lines criss crossing one another. he came up with the idea of having the best way to describe
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is it like tributaries feeding the larger tributaries feeding into a river. frederick olmstead decided that what made since was it didn't matter what point they entered into to, they were fed into a tributary to be fed into a larger tributary path that fed them into a couple very broad singular curving paths to deliver the person to the entrance of the capitol. congress was a client on this project and they were puzzled. they hired him to create a striking design for the capitol grounds, and here he was fixated over a circulation system, but this had everything to do, completely rooted in olmstead's earlier career as a farmer. working as a farmer, he experienced many times conducting his goods to market and having a wagon get stuck in a road.
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that meant disaster. that meant the produce was going to go bad, he was not going to get money, and so when he became a landscape architect, he kept that lesson with him. often clients were puzzled as congress, the client in this particular case, was. they thought we hired you to do the incredible project, and here you are with a road fix asian. it doesn't matter the beautiful design, if there's not a rational way for people to be conducted over the grounds, it'll be confined to failure. that was from his time as a farmer. the second project in the context of frederick olmstead's earlier experience coming to bear was his absolutely visionary design for the world fair in chicago in 1893. it was called the columbian exposition. he cited the fair, picked where the fairgrounds would be and
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decided it would make sense to put them on the shore of lake michigan because it was a really striking backdrop. he then came up with a really out there idea. he decided he wanted to cut channels that would travel from lake michigan, through the fairgrounds, and so there would be water. there would be waterways traveling over the fairgrounds, and it would be possible for people to go from a traction to a traction at the world fair by boat. now, he had a vivid, almost hallucinating vision of how he wanted the boats to be. he wanted them to be small to seat a maximum of four people. he wanted them to be brightly colored, and he modeled this idea in his mind on the chinese that he had seen during his sea voyage to china 15 years before. now, daniel burnam, the
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administer of the fair, thought it was a ridiculous idea. having people travel through the fair by boat was a stroke of genius, but limits -- little boats four at a time made no sense. he went behind frederick olmstead's back and signed with a steamship company. when he learned about this, he was furious. he wrote burnam a series of memos that are obsessive, demented, but logical. he made the argument in these memos that first of all that ultimately the world fair would be confined to memory. it was going to open in the spring of 1893, close in the autumn of 1893, and that would be it. the point he made was what would people rather remember, a steamship, people waving their
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hats, steam whistle going off, or remember brightly colored boats gliding along the waterways. he argued this would provide the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people. if you had a handful of boats carrying four people at a time, not everybody got to take a boat trip, but he made the point that everybody would enjoy the sight of having the lovely quiet boats traveling over the waterways. now, burnam was a man of indome will. when the fair opened in 1873, what was available was brightly colored boats with four people just as frederick olmstead had seen in his trip to china. the white city as the world fair is known, has a place in the
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american memory. one of the things that contributed to the sight, to the am bee yawns were the waterways with the small boats. the final landscapes i want to describe are the park systems, and this is an incredible idea. frederick olmstead and vox were thee pioneers of the park system building the very first one in the world in buffalo in 1868, and once their partnership broke up, frederick olmstead cometted on and perfected the concept designing a park system in milwaukee, wisconsin, one in louisville, kentucky, one in rochester, new york, and also a park system in boston. now, one of the things that made the park system a really great idea is -- what it was was a series. you could have two or three or more parks that were attached or connected by parkways, and it
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meant you were no longer tied to a single piece of land for a park, and you wouldn't have to have something like central park which was -- until it was designed, a really unattractive piece of land. instead there were several parcels of land with different attributes. for instance, one might be hilly, another has a nice natural lake. far more important to frederick olmstead than this variety of landscapes, was the fact it was in the center of the city, middle of the city, and you could have a variety of different parks, all of them serving different neighborhoods, and in those different neighborhoods, there's all kinds of different people who from all backgrounds could mix and mingle in the parks. now, this was completely drawn, so very drawn, the idea of the park system on frederick olmstead's earlier travels into the south. making that tp,


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