tv Discussion-- Imperial CSPAN December 31, 2013 10:00am-10:46am EST
>> mary roach explains the science behind the human digestive system in "gulp." in "dirty wars," jeremy scahill, national security correspondent for the nation magazine, reports on america's covert operations. for an extended list and links to other publications' 2013 notable book selections, visit booktv's web site, booktv.org. >> now on booktv, historian william seale examines the transformation of washington, d.c.'s political and physical landscape between the spanish-american war and world war i. this program from the society of the cincinnati's anderson house in washington, d.c. is 40 minutes. [applause]
>> thank you, emily, and good evening. it is a great pleasure to introduce william seale. i have known william for a very long time because he married my good friend and college classmate, lucinda smith. i married a brilliant historian, and so did she. [laughter] william seale is a charming and witty texas gentleman whose interest in history and buildings has fueled a long career in both. he is a native of beaumont, texas, holds a ba from southwestern university, an ma and a ph.d. from duke. he left texas in 1969 and spent two years in columbia, south carolina, restoring the home of wade hampton. he then came to washington in
1972 to write a history of state capitols with henry russell hitchcock. he, lucinda and their two sons settled in lucinda's native alexandria. at this point in his career, he focused on two things; historic restoration and writing. his two-volume history of the white house was published by the white house historical society in 1986 with the second edition in 1996. he is the editor of the association's journal, "white house history." his other books include an architectural history of the white house, history of the national trust houses, temples of democracy, the state capitols of the usa and american courthouses.
a commissioned book, "the garden club of hurricane: a history," was published earlier in the year. his restoration participations include 11 state capitols. and various houses such as that of george eastman, general marshall and the wisconsin retreat -- [inaudible] of the broadway actors alfred hunt and lynn fontaine. tonight he will speak on his new book, a book about washington, "the imperial season: america's capitol in the time of the first ambassadors." not surprisingly, his studies led him here to anderson house to cross paths with lars and isabelle who readily joined the cast of the imperial season.
william seale. [applause] >> well, hannah, thank you, thank you. and it's great to see you all here. i don't know what hannah had to pay each of you to come -- [laughter] but she's very inventive. so it is wonderful to be here and to be in this house. this is so much a part of the story and, certainly, one of the most opulent of all of the superior in history. the imperial season is about washington and a very lahr period. it begins -- particular period. it begins with a reception by president grover cleveland in his second term of the first ambassador ever assigned to the united states by a foreign country. it ends with the conclusion of world war i. it is a period and a story that suggests itself and all the
buildings and landscapes that survive from it are its inspiration today. they help define washington as it has come down to us from that time. a small portion of the book takes place here in anderson house, for lars and isabelle anderson were characters in the imperial season. we can feast upon the setting tonight and imagine what it was like in, say, 1907 filled with guests, diplomats, women in court trains -- that means 9 feet from the shoulder to the end of the -- to the hem. black and white evening clothes, some feathered head addresses with women -- head dresses with women who had been presented in court, three feathers. and in the dining room, a servant fitted out in powdered wig and 18th century attire, flowers, champagne and music. to give some context, it was a 25-year or period historically when america first felt the thrill of international importance.
isolated for so long, holding europe this contempt for so long, the promise of a world position opened doors of monetary opportunities for some. a bridge across the atlantic at last. and where more obvious for that new american power to express itself first than in a capital, washington. here and here alone in this period. america's strong voice was first heard in 1895 when no-nonsense president grover cleveland threatened a military action against britain and venezuela if they did not settle their south american differences. he condemned them both for the defiance of the monroe doctrine. the sleeping giant had stirred, and it shocked the world's full notice. the second and, of course, most powerful event was that
sword-swinging spanish-american war in 1898. john hay, then ambassador to st. james, our splendid little war, and that conflict sent america into possession of the philippines and other parts of the south pacific and into a land war with spain and cuba. when the smoke cleared, the united states could at last call itself an international power and world power, even if the latter would not be tested until the great war. president william mckinley, in leading the nation into war, had taken the power of the president is si to the high and independent level it had not known since george washington held the office. chief executive, now faded into the past, mckinley changed america, and had he lived, would have crowned the imperial season completely. but he didn't finish his second term. he was assassinated. in the two years before his assassination in 1901, he had
supported more or less a redesign of washington by the army corps of engineers that included major improvements, new buildings and a european sort of appearance. architecturally, the remake was to be characterized more or less by the new library of congress. the corps, which had wrenched the project from its architect designers and claimed it for its own, had completed the library, dazzled everyone and was set to move from that work to redoing the rest of the city. they wished to begin as soon as possible, but they were abruptly unseated by nongovernmental architects, members of the american institute of architects. through the patronage of senator james mcmillan of michigan whom the corps had insulted by not be including in their plans, he was head of the d.c. committee, a whole new set of beautiful plans were made for washington by professional architects who were working in private practice.
at the time of the presentation of what came to be known as the mcmillan plan, other changes had come. president mckinley was dead, assassinated in buffalo. theodore roosevelt was his then very unlikely successor, so it was roosevelt who toured the great presentation in 1901 at the corcoran and heard the spiel about how the plan was approved by washington but substantially approved further from the chicago world's fair held eight years before. roosevelt's support was, of course, key. the architects wooed him further with a stylish renovation of the white house interior turning a fringed and buttoned place into a sleek pseudo-french palace.
the east room was patterned on a room in the palace of -- [inaudible] while the dining room at the opposite end of the hall imitated a georgia began house complete with stuffed animal heads actually bought from a decorator in new york and not bagged by teddy. [laughter] i leaned a little on the house because it was contemporary in taste with the one we enjoy tonight. the white house ghei the new president -- gave the new president a sort of wright, international, chic-looking stage that he wanted for the progressive administration yet to come. the mcmillan plan, ultimately more a sketch than a detailed plan, was never to be adopted by congress but prevails today as the basic plan for washington. studied and interpreted again and again. it is the hook upon which all washington planning hang, especially in the ceremonial areas of the mall and the avenues. curious as it may seem, none of
the buildings erected during the imperial season were actually parts of the plan. in their unofficial status, the group of architects -- namely daniel burnham and glenn brown -- proceeded very carefully with brown as the watchdog. every time a i new building was proposed, they somehow appeared at the committee meeting giving their ideas. the only time i know of they failed is with the washington cathedral which they wanted to be byzantine. thus, the architecture, the agricultural building are part of it and the new smithsonian building were reshaped to fit mcmillan's neoclassical mow -- motif. more thrilling is the story of union station, a monument in itself to the impossible. the baltimore and potomac railroad stations straddle the mall at the foot of capitol
hill, so resurrecting the mall just couldn't happen. it was a monster. it was a place where president garfield had been shot, the cat's cradle of railroad tracks ran through it and elsewhere open sewers, dump yards and more rail tracks ran onto the mall and surrounded the other depots. burnham, who was famous for his citygate railroad stations -- the idea being that everyone entered by train really, mainly -- he asked senator mcmillan about moving it even before the plan was made, moving the railroads. mcmillan pronounce thed it -- pronounced it impossible. he was not one who used that word, but that, he said, would never happen. but burnham couldn't get it out of his craw. finally, he called upon the president of the pennsylvania railroad, alexander casat, whose sister he knew well from the world's fair. he listened, mcmillan used his prestige with congress, and a new plan was born.
there would be one railway station to serve all in washington, the eye sores would be removed from the mall, tunnels would be built under the the capital. burnham made his design a curtain of classical architecture patterned on the arch of constantine, last of the great buildings of the roman empire. burnham wanted white marble, a coldish, bluish white and finally found the perfect quarry this vermont. however, the quarry was shut down, he was told, forever in memory of the owner's son who had died at an early age. no amount of convincing, even the mighty burnham, could convince the man that he wanted to open the quarry until that's the man died and his heirs sold the quarry to the project. for the station. union station surfaced in that
material. most everyone who entered washington passed through that gate completed in 1908. its facade involves an interior built to respond by the imperial season. even the lincoln memorial, i think, union station stands at the head of the class. so the town became a hive of building activity. mule-drawn wagons hauling and relocating soil, vast quantities of bricks and concrete block piled about on the building sites. trees were felled on the mall to open it up again. general grant had planted 18,000 trees in 1873. the forest was to be replaced by a grass-covered, open sweep that ran from the capitol to the river. meanwhile, elsewhere in town -- notably on massachusetts avenue and the nearby street -- a regular parody on the blafds and avenues of paris was rising in big houses designed to serve the
purposes of winter residents. such residential building had been going on in the capitals of europe since the congress of vienna in 1815 establishes a new order for peace among the kingdom. no more napoleon. and they secured this through a network of ambassadors. there were never this many ambassadors before the congress as after. this was how it was to be. they were to be the eyes and ears of their country in the torn capitals. we never got that til much later as you know by the date. to these capitals, as to washington, new wealth had migrated to set itself in houses and eventually achieve titles. although washington would provide no titles, there were plenty of diplomatic -- in the diplomatic corps and analogy with europe confirmed the city the world capital. this was a mini boulevard to paris, is what they had in mind. most of the buildings are french
flavor. most of you are likely to know these houses. anderson house here, of course, is one of the main ones with large public rooms such as this one tonight. lars anderson had ambitions to be an important diplomat, preferably an ambassador. his interest went so far as to inspire him to create for himself a diplomatic uniform, even knowing congress forbade diplomatic uniforms. congress, for a century and more, had stuck to the idea that an american diplomat should follow the style of humbly-dressed dr. franklin in homespun at versailles. franklin wore more than a uniform. whether lars ever actually wore his uniform except for the photograph on display here is not known for certain. anderson and isabelle, his wife with, were from very wealthy backgrounds, he in since gnat the city and washington and she in boston. in fact, the newspaper announcement of their marriage in boston just couldn't say
enough about money, and finally they go into his virility. [laughter] and she was a girl who would never have taken a count or a duke but got a good, virile american boy. [laughter] they were hot and cold about washington. they were pretty tongue in cheek about the imperial city, imperial season. but considering his ambitions, it was the place to be. the magnificence of this house, which they passed on to the society of cincinnati in years to come, did not eclipse all other houses on the avenues, but most of them. it was designed by the firm of the venerable boston and salem architect, arthur little, an old man at that time. he was most famous for the neocolonial beachhouses and houses in salem that he expanded and restored. only one of the houses in this area had direct connection with europe. perry and jesse belmont were frequent visitors of jay gould's
daughter at her palaise in paris. look it up on the web, you can't even believe anyone lived in anything like that. it was huge, it was torn down in 1968 for an ugly apartment building. when jesse and perry married and wanted to build, they asked their friend's architect, the host famous residential architect in europe in that period, to do the work. he did design the house for new hampshire avenue, although the supervision went to an american who will be remembered as the architect for duke university and other places later on. the belmonts were really not to enjoy this exquisite house, and when you go in it, the virtuoso, the arch. s are straight out of -- [inaudible] he had that in all his houses, but this was very small compare today what he usually did.
>> washington was still prudish, too prudish to absorb this. so the belmonts resided mostly in paris. the other houses were designed, most all, but local architects who seem to have been very clear on what was wanted; an impressive house for entertaining. the mode was almost always french as is pieces of anderson house to. the diplomats were entertained in these houses, anderson house, the townsend house, the wadsworth house and all the others, in fact, not so circumspect. it was they who gave the winter society its glamour. the diplomats were strict about
public decorum, not so much in private. indeed, it was a worst crime to misbehave at a dinner party than to sleep with someone's wife. mrs. roosevelt knew this and could not bear it. weekly, the cabinet wives met with her to discuss various matters of concern in the administration. names came up. [laughter] if a man and a woman were misbehaving, the first lady sent ab aide to call -- an aide to call, first, on the man, advising him that if the affair did not stop, he and the woman would not be allowed at the white house. well, for a diplomat, rejection at the head of state meant ruin. she seems to have had her way. except with one man. charlie -- [inaudible] was about 30, and he was a direct descendant of lafayette, the diplomatic community here always had a lafayette in it. and charlie was born here and
from here and was a randy one. he was the legal adviser to the french embassy. he was, in fact, a cousin of lars anderson distantly, someone in the family had married in cincinnati. blond-headed and youthful at 30, he was -- today would be described as a womanizer. to say the least. he pursued women with no shame. flowers, candy, pressures all were in his repertory. even alice roosevelt was one time the object of his arkansas door, but she confessed in her diary at last, charlie says he no longer has lust for me. [laughter] at last, charlie ran away with the wife of another dip promat. you might be -- diplomat. you might have been surprised that he didn't meet ruin. he didn't at all. he was sent to russia, did exceptional work. he was, he went up, up, up in france. he became one of the most
respected ambassadors in europe, diplomats in europe. he was, in fact, eventually shot by a woman, but it didn't have anything -- [laughter] it didn't have anything to do with that. it was a fascist who hated him, and she shot him on one of the bridges in paris, and he lived. he lies today in a cemetery in paris beside his wife and among his lafayette ancestors, many of whom had died within a stone's throw of the guillotine during the french revolution. entertaining here in another massachusetts -- and in other massachusetts avenue houses had public receptions in the private houses. more for lack of space, i think, than anything else. they were crammed and rented houses, just townhouses with a double parlor here in the dining room. and people would come, public receptions, they'd just run 'em through and run 'em out the back because they were so crowded. a public reception was literally
that, often advertised by notice in the post or evening star. some hostesses announced weekly, announced themselves weekly during the social season. most held only one public reception, some advertised the reception would be every tuesday for the season. so it varied. secretaries, clerks, schoolgirls and boys, visitors to town all assembled on the sidewalks to be admitted promptly at 2 p.m.. they were dressed to the nines, and all women guests had to wear hats. they had one hour to enjoy themselves. anyone who stayed too long or longer than that was likely to be presented with his coat by the butler. [laughter] private receptions were by invitation card. these could be very large as well. some households had an invitational reception each week. when you were invited once, you could attend all of them. at pote receptions -- both receptions, lick and private,
there was -- public and private, there was good food, plenty of wine and music. sometimes these followed a reception involving a separate invitation, a card inside the invitation. they were always seated. one seating chart had to be in perfect diplomatic order by rank. anyone hesitant called up the state department to see alvie. he was a very important figure in the state department. he's one of main characters in the book. he was a deaf mute who was a famous shakespeare scholar and wrote horror stories, and -- [inaudible] best friend. and he had lived so much in europe and traveled every summer to europe that -- to the embassies and stayed in that company that he knew all about how things should be done. and that's -- and he was the last word on all of that. it was who who would work in the proper seating, what was the suitable food? the austrian ambassador was
allergic to carrots. and perhaps when to cut off this or that guest's wine. dinners involving diplomats were always registered on the call an daughter -- calendar, lest there be a conflict. they were the same practice generally in all the capitals of europe. such a rich flow of activity in washington characterized the imperial season. even the panic of 1907, which ravaged these rich people by cutting into their trusts, did not really slow things a lot. still hoping the ambassadors would is accept temperature invitation and be there -- accept the invitation and be there. while the pressures internationally at the state department increased, the entertaining continued right up to the beginning of world war i in europe,1914. after that it began to slow. it was against diplomatic code for one myster or ambassador to entertain or be entertained by
an enemy diplomat. thus, the invitation list was shattered. by the time we entered world war i in 1917, only mary townsend still welcomed the diplomats to her house as she would until her death in 1931, long after the demise of the imperial season. these were the last years, also, of what was to be called the oldie proposal si. wilson's appearance at versailles instead of being represented by professional diplomats was part of the beginning. ease of communication even before that had relaxed the tensions of the diplomatic networks. it was all to be a different place after world war i and a new diplomacy, although the format -- formalities of diplomatic life eased very, very slowly. i think it's custom, in conclusion, for an author to read some of his text, and i'm game if you are. in this book i have a little
vignette about lars and isabelle ander that i found -- anderson that i found amusing and would like to read to you. this is the end of a long description of them. the andersons' lives were otherwise very private. if lars may have had some trouble, he early on forsaking bachelor privileges, his journals make it clear that he and isabelle were two souls melted together by the deepest affection and be compatibility. being without children seemed to draw them all the closer to each other. away in the inner part of the house was a two-story room where they liked to stay, eating their dinner before the fire and sleeping in a balcony-like loft that extended over the room. it was cozy, intimate and always available to them even when the rest of the house was closed and in dust covers, and it was the only room in anderson house that
they claimed entirely for themselves. they were not stuffy, at least after the parties were over. having attended a formal event elsewhere, isabelle liked to cook a hid night breakfast for the interesting -- midnight breakfast for the interesting people she and lars had encountered and brought home from parties. the invitation was issued with a whisper in someone else's house, carriages and automobiles wheeled in and parked along the short horseshoe driveway. guests followed their hosts to a kitchen as long and knuckle-plated as any -- nickel-plated as think hotel. isabelle ordered that they begin banging pots and pans together and follow her in a noisy match past great suits of around hour and things that lined the drawing rooms of the house. upstairs, downstairs, then back to the itch -- kitchen. preliminaries being over, lars mixed drinks while isabelle cooked. she was a good cook.
plates of eggs and bake -- bacon were passed from the stove, and sometimes the talking went on all night while on the top floor some 20 resident services sought sleep. thank you. [applause] thank you very much. now i understand they have a q and a after these things, and there is a microphone here that i can hand to anyone who has a question about anything from this period or the book or houses or whatever might interest you. uh-huh. >> i'm wondering if there are any diaries or letters where the ambassadors talk about this segregated city and how they
dealt with the people of color and what interactions they had with them. >> very little that i've found, very, very little. there were african-american employees at some of the embassies, notably one who wrote a memory from the -- memoir from the british embassy. but, no, i found very little of that. the reporting back wasn't as juicy for this period as it had been for the early 19th century after the congress. they wrote endless letters. well, they had in the 18th century, too, of the famous line from the austrian ambassador back home about louis xv's dogs and how they never cleaned up after them ask how nasty it was. that kind of thing -- i didn't find that at all in the '90s, nothing that would be gossip. maybe they already knew it in personal letters and all. there are not a lot of personal papers of boards, but there are memoirs -- ambassadors. , and, of course, there are wonderful diaries and papers like john hay's papers, henry
adams' papers. lars anderson's papers are a treasure. he seems to real this these daily diaries about the trips and strange things they did that no one else did. but people like minnie townsend, i did find -- i hate people who say that, i mean, the archivist found -- in erie, pennsylvania, where they were from a box about this big full of plates. so that kind of thing happened and was nice. but anything telling about city life, not much. the first ambassador loved washington. he loved to ride the secret car and be out in public here, and he found it so much different from other countries where he was. but, no, i didn't. there was a -- i will say in the big houses here it was interesting, the servants in the census in records were german and english. and after 1907 they were all
local, hostly black, african-american. but the butlers were almost universeally african-american. and they were much sought after. they would be hired out from under somebody. and archie butt in his hem worry, he was had been memoir, he was roosevelt's aide which he left in endowment to public, and he said that most of the dinner parties were prepared by the butlers. they did the list, they checked with adie, they did everything. and the host and hostess just came to the event. so -- uh-huh. [inaudible conversations] >> this is the one that the audience can hear, so if you just would restate that in the microphone when they ask it. >> the original question was if any of the letters and memoirs
of the ambassador spoke of the segregated community here. it's a very good question because, and i mentioned the subject in the book, because there was a great movement to clean up the alleys here. and it had a humanitarian spark. they thought they were dirty and ugly and wanted them out of the center of the city. that came late in the wilson administration. and already there'd been laws in the '90s about building anything new. but there was a whole alley culture here of people who supplied those who lived facing the street. and i actually looked for that. i thought maybe that would be interesting to know but, no, i recall no mention of it. wills wilson was force -- mrs. wilson was forced into it. she was sick, and the local people pushed her into showing no interest at all. she was dying. okay, i'm sorry. yeah. i'll repeat your question. >> are you going to be able to
hear me? >> i can. >> well, you have a wonderful picture -- [inaudible] and i didn't want realize -- [inaudible] mrs. townsend who, and -- [inaudible] across z the street in the townsend mansion. and you may or -- i don't know if you've been with over there, but there are really no substantial portraits of mrs. townsend, and i wondered, i wonder where, what this particular -- is this a portrait of her? >> the pictures in the -- >> [inaudible] >> the question is the picture, well, page 136. they -- i see you slipping out. page 136, the picture of mrs. townsend, where'd it come from. because they don't have pictures of her except as an older woman, a much older woman. thereand these young pictures ae around the time that house was finished. and they are the ones i was mentioning, the glass plates, in
answer to your question, the glass plates that are in erie, pennsylvania, that are uncataloged. they're safe. i mean, you say you found it. the archivist had them lying on the floor. they didn't. that's where that came from. and there are more. it's sort of a strange picture, don't you think? >> [inaudible] >> it's erie county historical society which is quite an operation. some of these local historical societies, it's amazing what they have. the child of who you're interested in may have lived there for some reason, given all the papers to make closet room. but this is there. and they had the one child, matilda was her name, until the house was done. many tries to marry her off to every title, and she had no use for it, so she married ed eldridge gary and divorced him
when she met -- [inaudible] lightning struck them, and they were both divorced in about a month half and married, were devoted to each other. as a matter of fact, james good turned up a catalog of the jewelry of matilda and her mother. [inaudible] >> 20 years ago. >> about 20 years ago. you actually turned it up, didn't you? and it -- they're beautiful. they're huge pieces. necklaces, a city yara -- >> [inaudible] >> there were really lots of chokers and everything else. but the other one is, fortunately, somewhere. okay. sir? >> the business of washington, was it business as well in this
period -- [inaudible] lending tremendous amounts of money to build the railroads in europe and finance steamship companies and build dams, hydroelectric dams, was any of those deals between the bankers and the diplomats done in washington, or was that all new york? >> yes. the ambassadors very often brought people together. that was one of their jobs, is to bring these people together. and they'd bring them to and entertain them or get ms. townsend to entertain them and bring people together that way. and be there were some noted businessmen, pullman and westinghouse, who were here, and many passed through at the time. in fact, the investment here in washington by 1910 is very interesting in apartment houses. he were building the nice apartments that washington has. if that's what you mean. he was asking if there was business investment in europe being ranged here. yes. and, of course, the diplomats
traveled for that a lot. okay? any other questions? i don't see anybody. >> many. [inaudible] >> i'm sorry -- [inaudible] oh, the lighters, i love the lighters. mr. lighter, i mean, field, marshall field's partner, and they had three beautiful daughters. and they moved here, mr. lighter was a scholarly man, and i learned about him through mabel boardman's letters, the famous red cross woman. i asked george, who he became head of the red cross, if he'd ever met her and with feigned drama he said you didn't meet boardman, you were presented to boardman. [laughter] she's the one who unseated clara
barton. and she was a great friend of lighter's. he was a collector. he was a civil war enthusiast long before, i guess, anyone ever heard of that. and, you know, he talked to the old vets, and he collected maps and things. well, mary teresa, his wife, was a stunning beauty. i mean, she was the best looking woman this town. she was gorgeous. and she had her -- wanted to marry, she was kind of a mrs. bennett type, and she wanted to marry her daughters off. and so the younger one married lord -- [inaudible] in england and became viceroy of india, so she did well with that. in fact, she was in england one time and she was saying to a group, and she was saying to a group, well, i love to come here and see my daughter. and the daughter said i've not spent a time since hi marriage
that i -- since my marriage that i haven't seen you. [laughter] well, she made her famous remarks, you know? one was when she got off the ship -- these were like movie stars. the news reporters, the lighters here were famous names, and news reporters asked her about the trip, and she said it was so great to be back here in old terra cot that. [laughter] and then she liked to refer to it as rodin had done a bust of my daughter's happened. but i think the classic is when she asked the widow at a funeral if she was having a good time. [laughter] the lighters were there. their house is, of course, torn down. it was on the circle. and had quite a collection. any more questions? well, if not, thank you very much. [applause]
>> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with booktv guests and viewers, watch videos and get up-to-date information on events. facebook.com/booktv. >> the world is on fire, and things are moving extremely fast. in my own field, computer science, my education expires after five to ten years. five to ten years and everything is new. the cloud is new, facebook is new, twitter is new, google is new. a lot of new things, new programming languages. we slice human life into, basically, four slices or five slices. one is a lay phase, a learning phase, a work phase and maybe a resting phase afterwards and eventually dying. i think we should have them all at the same time. we should lay, we should learn and work and rest at the same time because the world moves so fast today, we can't really
afford to have a single cell of information, we really have to stay up to date. >> new year's day on c-span, just before 1 p.m. eastern and throughout the afternoon, ceos of udacity, twitter and others on the futcher of higher education, robot bics and data. on c-span2's booktv, "unflinching courage," kay bailey hutchison on the women who helped shape texas, that's at 8:45. and on c-span3's american history tv, towers of civil rights -- daughters of civil rights leaders and a segregationist share their memories of the civil rights era at 8:30. >> eric, you and blackwater took a lot of heat over those years for the number of government contracts that you received, some of them being no-bid be contracts. what do you say to those who would question how blackwater went about getting some of those big contracts? >> you know, starting with -- well, trawl, it's inaccurate --
first of all, it's inaccurate that a lot of them were no-bid. in terms of total revenue, 95-97% of our revenue in the whole company was competitively bid. so in some cases the government comes to you so urgently to say we need you to do this right now, i need 20 guys here. so you give them a price out of a government-approved pricing list, and you go that way. so there's some cases the government doesn't have time to bid it out. but we, we won business because we were ready and because we tried to anticipate what the next demand was going to be. having a training facility certainly helped. you know, we were the only ones really in that whole competitive space to build out a large facility that could host and train. and, you know, growing up seeing my dad's business having to, you know, he served the big three, ford, gm and chrysler. but then seeing the competitive you should that came from -- push that came from the japanese invasion, i guess, that occurred
in the '80s with transplant car makers being much more competitive, it forced my dad's business to be better. and trying to figure out how to make the even the deployment process, you know, we kind of built -- i read a lot on the toyota production system, another book called "the goal" about streamlining production. because, you know, the first thing i did when i got out of the seal team was took over the original business that my father started which made die cast machinery. it was a nice business, but it had not had a whole lot of attention on it since the automotive business was so large. so i got some practical expertise there and really built a linear process, almost like a linear flow of how to you recruit that, equip, train, deploy and support people that you're going to put in difficult places. and because we could be the low-cost vendor because we'd integrated all those steps and really squeezed out a lot of the
waste. >> you essentially made yourself indispensable. >> well, there's another thing i looked at in business. there's three ways, and my dad taught me -- or maybe i read it in a book -- [laugher] that, you know, three ways to approach business. one is product innovation, right? you know, that's the mac or the apple approach, make the next product that somebody just has to have. and my dad did that with some of the automotive products that they developed whether it's the latest sub visor, the garage door opener in your car, that came there my dad's old business. two would be efficiency. you just grind out every bit of waste out of the process, and you become the low-cost provider. that's kind of the walmart model. and three is customer intimacy where you become so ingrained and indispensable to your customer that it's hard more them to get rid of you, it'd almost be like the ups model where they're handling your warranty