tv Book Discussion on The Men Who United the States CSPAN December 13, 2014 4:00pm-5:07pm EST
chairman of the student nonviolent coordinating committee and helped organize the march on washington and the voting rights march from selma to montgomery, alabama. that is sunday evening at 9:25 p.m. eastern time here on >> next, simon winchester on his book "the men who united the states." it features the innovators who nation.nite the now a naturalized u.s. citizen mr. winchester was born in england, and first visited in the 1960's. at this event, he discusses the process of writing the book and his love for the country. [applause] >> well, thank you very much.
first of all, to apologies. it's slightly weird to be writing a book called "the men who united the states during its time when given that reason struggles and washington is seems more disunited than it has been for a long time. i know all good people turn off their cell phones, i'm going to play you a short clip of music at the end. i just hope that nobody telephones me during this presentation. like root of giuliani. -- i will feel like rudolph giuliani. to do is tieo try you bit more of the background of this book, which is a big sort of plum pudding of an affair. once a tell you how it all came into being, pluck one or two of those plums from the putting -- pudding.
the background, quite a complex story. you might be able to tell i'm english. i fell in love with this country quite literally when i first arrived here in 1962, a student hitchhiking. i basically met at a science fair in london, i was a delegate to a schoolboy science fair, i met a young canadian woman, i was 17 years old. , and i found -- i had taken year of between going to oxford. i would visit her. mortuary.n a two are enough money to go in see her. i arrived in montréal in the early 1952.
while, iafter little decided there was this huge continent beyond i would go and see. dismay, when they learned about it, a set of hitchhiking to vancouver. that should not very long time. people were very nice. then decided i would have a look at america. i have been fascinated. child,'t an english although sort of programs we saw back then. i entered the united states at the town of blaine in washington state. seeing,t of our member welcome to the united states, it is illegal to hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers. i just looked forlorn and bewildered. in 90 seconds and englishmen in
a sports car stopped and picked me up. he said would you like to come to seattle? that was the beginning of a series of unbelievable kindnesses, i visit every single state in the union, the set -- except for the unite alaska and hawaii. i think it was 38,000 miles totally. and everyone, without exception, was hospitable and generous. i remember one occasion, i was south of san francisco. it was late at night, i was trying to get a ride on the 101 south. could not get a ride all night. i was standing there, it was raining. at five in the morning, a sheriff's police car stopped and ?aid was i having trouble he said don't worry, i will look after you. he invited me into the squad car
and to the police station. they took my fingerprints. why don't you wear these charming metal bracelets? this was just for souvenir purposes. he took me home to his family. i had a shower and breakfast. he took me in his squad car to a truck stop and ordered in 18 wheeler driver to take me to santa barbara. day, a chap who worked for nbc television in burbank. he was well connected with the film industry. he took me into c the filming of seven days in may, and i got to meet kirk douglas and burt lancaster. i had coffee with johnny carson. unbelievable really. $200 when ith
entered at blaine. eight months later, i left and had 100 and two dollars left. the entire trip cost $18. back.llowing year, i went that was more specific. this was during my summer vacation. i was a keen climber. much the same thing happened. i was hitchhiking, but they pick me up for a different reason. this,dience will remember the perfumer scandal. a haltwould screech to and say did i know christine keeler personally. and i ever met mandy. and then we had the great train robbery. they wanted to know i knew ronnie biggs. i knew nothing of this.
on the poignant side of things, i went to the opening of a lock on the st. lawrence seaway and kennedy.president you can imagine a few months later when he was assassinated, it felt poignant. my love affair with this country is based on fairly solid foundations. then i didn't come back for quite a while. i went off became a geologist when i graduated, practice geology. for a series of reasons which are not relevant, sadly, i ended as at as a geologist, but journalist. i joined "the guardian," and was sent to ireland for three years. the difficult beginning, the troubles. the paper then sent me to washington. i came back professionally to the united states.
of course in 1972 this story, i was mostly back in washington at this time. at the same irving committee. white house when nixon resigned. allowed toionally look at america itself. that somewhat backfired as on the eighth of september 1974, the day that gerald ford hard-earned -- pardoned richard nixon. i was in idaho covering people knievel's attempt to jump over the grand canyon. when i phoned into the foreign desk with the story he said well, scandalous that you are not in washington. that you are covering this business where the fellow didn't even have the decency to kill himself, which would have
guaranteed him on the front page. 13.you are buried on page but anyway. my fascination house now moved from simple adulation to professional fascination. i decided i would write a book about america. idea, as you hear chicago will sympathize with, i persuaded that the essence of america, laid not on the east coast or west coast, but in the midwest. i took six months off and drove 35, whichn interstate goes from international down through the middle of the country to laredo in texas. i wrote a book which was called inrican heartbeat published 1976.
already written a book on northern ireland, which had done relatively well. i was infected with this arrogance and hubris of you thinking this was going to be a success. when i got the royalty statement in 1977 it showed the book had sold precisely 12 copies. [laughter] it was not commercial triumph by any means. ,f you years ago i had a letter saying that he had thought it not a bad book recently bringing my total sales up to 13. [laughter] not exactly a moneymaker. gettingthen i resumed back into journalism, realizing authorship was not aware that i was going to earn a living. i went to various places. i live in india for three years. i was back in london briefly. then i was sent out for a long stent, 12-13 years to china.
1997 when hong kong reverted to chinese rule, i had one of those four can the road moments where was i going to live in london and establish myself there where i was born, or go to new york? it was a deliberate thought that i would go to new york. i thought my career might take off a little bit more enthusiastically. i settled down in new york. after a few years, realizing that i was now paying taxes in america and using the old mantra no taxation without representation, i thought i should get out and try to get american citizenship. i applied for a green card, which i happened to get. you have to wait five years once you got a green card to begin the mechanics of applying for citizenship.
i finally did that in 2010-2011. i was called my interview. they ask you 10 questions. you have to write a sentence in 10lish, they asked me general knowledge questions about america. the first of which i managed to screw up royally. they said to me, what is the american national anthem? without thinking i blurted out america the beautiful. wishration author says we it was not what it is, the star-spangled banner, but i'm afraid that is one wrong. you have nine more chances. there is a distinct possibility we may deny you permission. , an i was sworn in complicated story, with a lot 20 people take the oath on the deck uss constitution, this wonderful sailing vessel, the oldest commissioned rol
warship in the world. onthe oath was performed independence day 2011 during a hot day, it was just magical and incredibly moving. i have to say, i don't know of you have seen an immigration ceremony, with a somalia and, to pakistani, who were free do what they wished. they could vote, they had no fear of arrest, all of it. it was wonderful. the judge who's for me and with this remarkable woman who has now become a personal friend, i had lunch with her in boston on tuesday, she is called marion bolar. she was the judge at the moment in charge of the boston america to the boston marathon bombing case. when that yemen will cut she was -- when the young man was shot and accused of the offense, she was by his bedside and said are
you awake? you know where you are? where is there by his bedside in do you live? you are in a great deal of trouble. but she is a very interesting and wonderful woman. she told me, you would be surprised how many immigrants 45.wherein, fo for me in court in trouble. i want to say why? i give you this chance. anyway. i got my voters registration card. then i got my passport. i traveled over to london. i must say, i was very moved, it sounds sentimental, but when i returned back and had my
passport to the immigration officer he smiled, look today, and said welcome home. it was a great feeling to feel like i was part of this extraordinary country that i had become so fond of. at that moment i decided i would like to have another go at writing a book. the first attempt failed so dramatically, i could write another book in the lesson i learned was that it should not be in any way shape or form i could book published in 1976. it might have a chance of doing better. then came the question of what should i write about? this huge country full of complexities. the first thought, i put all of these ideas -- and you don't just have an idea, you have to write a 30 page proposal. the first was that i should write something, a hymn to the , wired fallen in love
with it in such a dramatic way. my editor thought no, that was not a good idea. it was too saccharine, to sentimental. trains, ilove railway realized it is possible to cross the entire united states on class three freight rail lines. i had got a ready-made title for the book, the 545 to paradise. the reason for that was, back in 1980's, 1970's or early -- thisen looking up "paris texas." i was looking up where paris texas was in the atlas. i noticed a column 18 it turn out, all called paradise. i thought it was pretty
fascinating. eighteen cities called paradise. why were they called paradise? are they still paradise? , rang and editor in london when english magazine spent money like drunken sailors. i said can i go visit the towns all called paradise? no problem at all. the kind of assignment you would never get today. the first one was in paradise, florida. a gateway to paradise. [laughter] one hopes, anyway. then there was paradise, pennsylvania, which was down the road from intercourse, pennsylvania, which excites everybody. then there was paradise arkansas and paradise montana which have modern society except for one, in northwestern kansas.
near the geographical center of the continental u.s. so i went there in what turned out to be my routine. i went to the post office. there was a lady, postmaster. i said i'm running a piece about the towns called paradise. , this town of 250 people, you've got to stay with the patriarchs of the village. they are john and mary angel. i stayed with the angels of paradise. mary angel rising to the to then on wings went bottom of the guard and bake me a cherry pie. quite honestly, if anything appeals to my love for this country, eating cherry pie baked by the angels and paradise. [laughter]
there used to be a union pacific train which will leave in the and thenrom paradise come back at 4:30 in the afternoon, the housewives shopping in the markets would get back to the farm in time to cook dinner for their husbands or people who worked on a farm. 545.as train for so that was the title of the book. that didn't wash either. he said no, that will be a book about trains, not america. i had to write another proposal. this was even more lunatic and juvenile. there was a series of books, very successful in britain, the anatomy of britain. don't i write the anatomy of america, based on grey's anatomy, the book, published first in 1886. i said it was organized the
brain, nervous system and, and i thought this could work. the universities, the communication system, the highways, the arteries. the skeleton, all the bridge work in the skin. they didn't like that. i was really stumped until one i wascouple of years ago looking thinking of got to write a book about this country. the united states of america. , how, americaed managed to keep itself with the exception of course those miserable years in the 1860's, keep itself united? no other large entity on the planet has managed to keep itself united in any truly coherent way. russia, a classic example. the soviet union dissolved into a dozen little states. is,da, wonderful though it
there is this great disgruntled francophone chunk in the middle. i'm afraid as i get closer to the canadian border the audiences will get more restless. i think i will telnet bit down. -- i think i will tell that bit down. tried desperately since the end of the second world war to unify europe. that manifestly not. we don't use the euro. if you try a plug in your shaver in stockholm you need a little plug for the one you used in madrid. they all sort of glare at each other. that hasn't achieved unity. at this place, a mongrel nation full of every color and create, and persuasion, race, linguistic background, all crammed into one country. yet an indian person living in
maine, and a jewish person in new york, a latino store owner in albuquerque, a fisherman in oregon can all feel somehow that they are all americans. how did this happen? , it is possible to say that abstract things like , oruage, common language believe in democracy, or human rights, has helped this unity. my thought was, the physical agencies of man, the real things this country. it is easy if you are all the same, all nor region, all blonde. my wife is japanese. it is easy for japan to unite itself. much more difficult.
i sent out and started making a list of all the people i could think of that had somehow helped well this country into one nation and kept it. this list got longer and longer. the familiar people like jefferson and lewis and clark, but more obscure people. i mentioned my wife one day. she said, you are creating list of the men who united states. i said my god, that is the title. i looked it up on amazon and all the various book catalogs i could find. no one has ever use this title. it is such an obvious title. it also is a title that potentially gets me into a lot of trouble. i find it very good way of bringing yourself down to earth
is to look at amazon one star reviews. one star reviews where they say, this the most boring book i have ever read in my life. one star review from a woman who says i'm an unabashed militant feminist and i'm appalled by the title men , i'm notd the states even going to pick it up and read it. i got a one star review without even being read. [laughter] her view is one that i anticipated. why is it men? the reality is that in the physical united states of america, it has been the business, almost entirely of men. there's only one woman who appears in this story, sacagawea in the lewis and clarke socko. otherwise i'm afraid women played ancillary roles.
i started establishing this list, 100 people, of which may be 75 i had never heard of. nonetheless who i was convinced played an important part. then you come to the tricky part, how do you organize it? that, i once taught at the university of chicago for a semester, that system created nonfiction writing. i thought there were three key elements to the writing of a book of nonfiction, the idea. the idea is king. you have to have a terrific idea to write a book. the writing has to be good. it is not the second most important thing. the second most important thing is the structure of the book. you can write lyrically about a wonderful idea, but if the structure is all over the map you are to lose people's
attention. , 100o you look at the people, who have played such an important way and organize in a way to make it readable? alphabetically. that would simply be an encyclopedic book that would not be interesting. you can organize them chronologically. , that similarly doesn't work. so i was puzzled for two or three weeks. one day i was writing a letter to a friend of mine in shanghai, i lived in china for a while. ernemembered nearly all east philosophical systems, there is a classical elements which underpin almost all aspects of life. everywhere from india, where there are only four of these elements, once you get into
china, and korea, and japan, nearly all of them have some variation, some tinkering. but five classical elements underpin every aspect of their lives. wose five elements are, metal.rth, fire, water, i could corral all of these people and their achievements into the headings of the five classical elements. i started first of all trying it out. i thought, how about wood? lewis and clark, thomas jefferson sitting on the terrace and monticello. here is a man obsessed by trees. monticello, you look at those gardens, they are dominated by trees he planted because he regarded them as his he love the simple majesty
of them. so, i'm sure you know the story, he was sitting in his terrace with his secretary reading a 1802, which had just been sent to him from london, written by a man called alexander mckenzie, about how he had succeeded in crossing the entirety of canada and described his success in so doing on a rock in british columbia. he wrote of his achievement, which was a stellar achievement, jefferson was perplexed a scotsman had crossed canada. he turned to meriwether lewis and said this cannot be allowed to stand. you must across our country and forget the achievements of this mere canadian.
no one remembers alexander mckenzie, but everyone remembers lewis and clark. to the starting point, the real starting point of the expedition, they had to hack their way or somehow drive the way through the better part of 1000 miles of virgin old eastern forest. woods dominated their journey. they traveled in wooden canoes, , woodenoden palisades fires and so on. it seemed one could tell the story of early american exploration under the general loosely heading of wood. with this continue? earth. i used to be a geologist. not a very good one but i fundamental understanding of geology. nextseemed that what was
that was going to happen in the american story involved geology. once you come to understand the you knew where the rocky mountains were, where the sierra were, where the pacific oceans began, the rivers and so forth. what you need to know was what america was made of, not just where it was. you sent out the surveyors and the geologist. the first one, this is slightly personally embarrassing for me, i had written a book in 2001 call the male may change the world about william smith and his construction of the first ever geological map. britain, england, wales, scotland published in 1815. i thought that was the first. in fact it turns out the first was created in america by man called william mcclure, who did of the geology
of the appalachians and 1809. by publishers in london saying perhaps we ought to amend the title. my book should be the second map that changed the world. william mccloy's was the first. ,ou have mccloy doing a survey and various geologist working on the west coast to discover things, which learned people out in the east to come out, the pioneers to find the gold, the farmland, find the coal or diamonds. then you have the four great surveys. , he ordered out into the country and 1860's, which really finally told america what america was made of. earth seemed to work quite well. water. well, once again, early american
settlers largely got into the interior of the country i going up the river. after 40-50 miles inland, all of them found the rapid and waterfalls. they settled there. the settlement of richmond, fredericksburg, washington, d.c. once they establish men they built the early canals. they protect the business of building canals, started building more obviously commercial canals, not simply around rapids. middlesex canals which created commercen as a city of , a port for all of new england. important, the
area can now wish and made new york the center of commerce that it is today, and the canals that links chicago to the mississippi river, the illinois and michigan canal, and the chicago sanitary canal, which is hugely important and allowing great lakes commerce to go to new audiences. and the cannibalization and control of taming this untamable mississippi river. story fitof the fitte neatly into the chapter of water. the boats going on these canals moved slowly. it was about the time the can now submit completed, it became apparent to early americans that employing steam, they could create devices that would get across america rapidly. the railway train in the building of the transcontinental railroad, the motor car, and the
building of the interstate highway system. and then the invention of the airplane and the first transcontinental air journeys. all of these in devices which were powered in their heart by fire. that worked neatly. the fifth, metal. it is seeming to work in a sort of chronological term. ood predated earth, fire, all of which predated metal. metal conductor of the telegraph , and the the telephone distribution of electricity, radio and television and cable television, and the internet. it seemed to work moderately well. i put the idea to the publisher. they thought, this will work. this idea. off you go and write such a book. so that work. that level.
the question early the publication is whether the critics will see it that way? mercifully the two major reviews that have come out have been highly positive. whether they will continue to be not or no i don't know. to put it in its crudest, one worries when one has come up with an eccentric idea, i think i have gotten away with it. [laughter] i don't wait to think this is a cynical approach to writing. through themerica optic of chinese classical elements, something that my people might find offensive or it eccentric. what i thought i would do, this book, to pudding of a take a couple of plums from these categories that i've that i didn'tngs
know about when i wrote the book. i'd be interested to know what you know. i'm going to select one place and one person and a couple of other events. the first place, which i didn't , so there is about whohame if you did not, knows about a town called east liverpool, ohio? i would love it if no one knows it. no one does know it. this is great. east liverpool ohio is one of the most important towns in america. certainly in the story of the making of america. you have probably got something in your house that was made in east liverpool. until very recently, it was the crockery capital of the country. all of your forks, your saucers made in, probably were
east liverpool. now the 400 or so kills have kilns have been reduced to about 2. it is a broken downtown, of where ohio and pennsylvania in that tiny sliver of west virginia all meet. it is important for no obvious reason except when you drive from east liverpool eastward, toward the bridge of the ohio, you notice an obelisk on the side of the road. that obelisk is hugely important because thomas jefferson, and an act that he passed before he became president in 1785. a hugely important act in the making of america, the land ordinance of 1785. after that point, in the eastern united states, the model of land
ownership, the model enjoyed or suffered in the british isles. land belonged to the king or the aristocracy, or the church. ordinary people had no right or business to be owning land. jefferson thought this was entirely wrong. for this country to prosper, everyone should have the right , because itnly and will give them a tangible good they can trade, something to grow crops on, they could build on, they could develop on, they could mine, all sorts of things. the government could levy taxes on it and thereby allow itself to administer the new made country. at this time they had many debts to pay because of the revolutionary war. it seemed an idea which everyone was a winner. it was passed in congress. the consequence of it, it decided americans are going to , let us findy land
out where the land is. it inors, let us arrange sections. when you fly over the western united states today, kansas, nebraska, arizona, i'm sure some will look at these lines running north and south and count to see how fast the airplane is going. they are a mile apart. they are pointing north and south. the country is divided into huge squares, the 40 acres and a mule and all of these measurements that have passed into linguistic laws. those lines had to begin somewhere. horton'scalled thomas was appointed the first ever geographer of the united states. he decreed the point of beginning would be built in east liverpool ohio, on the ohio
river at the junction of pennsylvania and ohio, in west virginia. he put an obelisk, the obelisk you will see today if you hurry past it. it is the point of the beginning. right up to the north pole there is a baseline east and west after the pacific ocean. the point of beginning is a tremendously important symbol of the development of american. yet the obelisk is covered with graffiti. there is o lover the place. there is no place to park. if this book does anything i hope it will encourage some people to build a massive ,arpark, a visitors center bring every school child in the region to see how america was originally surveyed and laid out thanks to the wisdom of thomas jefferson. so that is one thing i want to mention. another figure who i think is , andtten, did heroic work
yet his personal life was quite extraordinary. a fellow called clarence king. he was one of the four great explores ofurvey the 1860's and 1870's. man calleddull wheeler survey most of nebraska and the northern plains. then there was hayden who discovered and matt yellowstone. ,here was john wesley powell who had his arm shot off at the battle of shiloh. he managed to get all the way down the grand canyon and mapped it. they would bem, spinning in their graves if they had seen what was going on in washington some while ago when for trivial reasons and arguments in congress the national parks essentially had to be shut down. there is the fourth man, clarence came -- clarence king.
fascinating character. diminutive, highly educated. , am newport rhode island classic american loss. yale, was given charge of a survey of all the land between sacramento and the west of the cheyenne, a hundred miles to the north and south, the 40 parallel. it took him seven years. cost hundredsmaps of thousands of dollars today if you can get them. they are beautifully accomplished. all sorts of amazing adventures while doing the survey. as a reward for doing them so well he was appointed to be the first of a director of this newly established audie called the united states geological survey, which still exists today and maps the country in its entirety.
he moved to new york, the headquarters, and he was the first director. the second was john wesley powell. his personal life is what i want to mention briefly. i was astonished when i stumbled across it. i hope no one find this sexually, but he was a energetic young man. he did not like white women. he loved native american women and black women. , he wasay, in new york he saw comingrs, towards them a black women. he thought this is the creature of my dreams. what he should of done is gone up to her and said good evening ofam, i'm the director united states geological survey, would you care to have dinner? for some extraordinary reason,
he went up to her and said thinking quickly, good evening madam, my name is james todd. although i may look white, i'm in fact black, i'm a supporter of the portland company a job reserved for black people. will you have dinner with me? she agreed. family inom a slaving georgia. they had dinner, fell in love, married, had five children. for the next 20 years, the last 20 years of his life, he lived two entirely separate lives, never telling an aside and the idea. he settled down in queens in new york, and then every couple of weeks he would say, well, when government, have to go after it to capture the twentieth century limited. i'll see you in two weeks.
he would leave the house and walked through queens across the newly built brooklyn bridge and say hello fellow geologists, i have just been on this field trip. i will be here for a few weeks writing at my notes. after two weeks, he would say goodbye, i'm going up for another field trip, block back across the brooklyn bridge and resume his identity as james hello to his children, two of which were white. 20s deception continued for years. it got him into terrible to financial trouble. he had to borrow money from the secretary of state.
time and hitt one someone quite hard outside the lying cage of the central part zero and had to be put into an asylum for a couple of weeks. eventually, he fell ill with tuberculosis and was sent to albuquerque convalesce, but actually to die. he confessed to is doctor, the only person he had ever told. he said i think you ought to send a message to queens. actually mrs. king, and her husband is not even a tiny bit like. he is entirely white from a good family in newport, and i'm slightly sorry for being the confusion. he then died. the doctor, very kindly, in a way that may sound sentimental, it plays into the book, he had a
and askede of death for the race of the deceased. he scored out the word black and white and simply wrote in american. that seemed quite charming. i want to say to final things ,hich relate to the chapter dominated by metal. electricity. i became fascinated. i am sure you are aware of the basic ideas of distribution. towas addison, the first distribute electricity, building power station, distributed d.c. power. tesla invented ac.
edison fought a valiant effort to keep d.c. saying that ac was dangerous. that he did, igs don't know if you have seen it, but there is this clip which you can see on youtube. ac was dangerous and could electrocute people and indeed out -- and indeed elephants. assassination of an elephant. opsy -- they were entirely certain they gave her carrots laced with cyanide, then put copper boots on her legs, and maneuvered her onto a metal
plate and then pulled the lever. you can see the results, which is quite distressing. thrashes and dies quickly. despite this, ac won the day. we have that ac ever sense. not everyone in america had electricity. the city's did. the suburbs did. the farms did not. weref the things, there 800,000 farms in america with no electricity, which in the wintertime particularly, the ice being melted, the cattle being milk, you needed lights and so forth. , ino it without electricity the amount of farming that was needed to satisfy the needs of the population, it was wretched for american farmers. so one of the things that was developed was to set up the rea,
the rural electrification administration, and farms were eliminated. farmirony, the first eliminated during the new deal was in western ohio, a town called miami, ohio, and now what is the eighth congressional district of ohio. the eighth congressional district is today the home of john maynard -- john boehner. ofn boehner, the archetype anti-big government, his district benefited hugely from the biggest government that america has ever known. the final thing i want to say, the square i bring in the telephone, i hope it is going to work. .t relates to radio you will all know that radio was invented by marconi in 1902.
the image you can or member from school days, marconi sitting on newfoundland,in for theaerial listening possibility of the letter f in morse being transmitted by his colleagues a dozen miles away. about 2:00 in the morning this magical moment when suddenly he heard and ultimately her with great clarity, being broadcast all the way across the atlantic ocean. radio and transoceanic radio was suddenly a reality. that was fine. so far is knitting the country together morse code was fine. .t did not have the intimacy
what you needed was to be will to transmit the human voice. that was down to a forgotten man. we probably don't remember this , a canadiand aubrey who worked in america for the national weather bureau. -- he was ao find man, acally adept means of transmitting voice. the initials the you will know well, a.m. they were essentially his inventions. a allow me to build a mol microphone like this instead of a morse tapper and transmit anything this microphone could pick up, whether it is music for the sound of the wind. this changed everything. i've always thought that the way that radio unites families and unites the country is very emblematic of the technology at
least of the 1930's, 1940's, the nuclear family gathered around the radio set, mother and father, children, talking cat gathered in front of the radio listening to a comedy program from los angeles, or a play being broadcast from new york. that is radio at its best unifying the family and the nation. it was conducted invoice. , i think this will work, what he did was he worked out how to do it. he built to huge aerials. rather near plymouth rock. another in scotland. he transmitted test messages. when he realized he had got it all right, he essentially for christmas 1906 a message by morse code to all the ships in
the western atlantic that belonged to the united fruit company bringing bananas up from places like honduras to the east coast ports of boston, new york, charleston saying simply, listen out for a broadcast one minute to midnight on christmas eve. christmas eve, 1906 happened to be a dark and stormy night. there was a blizzard blowing off cape cod. the ships for lumbering through the ocean towards their port. all of them, the radio operators went to their radios, switched on their radios, through the static, more signals of other ships talking to one another, they heard something quite different that they had never heard before. the heard this. ♪
>> thus did the national conversation began. a few days after that a radio station open in pasadena, california which still exist. shortly thereafter, the first ever real radio station opened in madison, wisconsin just up the road. america started talking to itself. that image that i cherish so much, the family in front of the radio set, truly began on christmas eve, 1906. nothing to do with americans but
a king of persia huddling under a shade tree. then came on, said the lord's prayer, and wished the ships at sea a happy christmas. that was the beginning of the thing that i think is perhaps the most unifying feature of modern america. thank you all very much indeed. [applause] and i know that there are some limitations imposed by television, the eye would be delighted if there are any questions. think this book what have been different had you been born in america? if you had a different perspective because you're born if you knowountry what i mean. >> i do know what you mean. not too long ago i wrote to the arizona. eastern
i don't know if you have been. it is a wonderful canyon full of anasazi dwellings. every single person that was there was european. an italian, and argentine, non-american. it seems to me that the people that are most curious about this country are outsiders. the americans, who i love, and i am an american now, are conditioned not to be as curious about their country as, perhaps they should be. it is such a remarkable country, and extraordinary experiment. ohios like east liverpool, , there is a lack of -- this is critical. i don't mean to be hostile. a lack of curiosity, which i things gives an advantage to people like me from the outside.
i am curious, i want to know what's over the mountain range and down the river. i think it would have been a different book if i had been born and bred, and educated in this country. i would be more curious about france or africa, somewhere else, not this country. this country is full of wonder. sir? >> i read two or three of your books. i'm really fascinated with the amount of really interesting information, the way you clear ideas together. then i have to think about the curiosity.our you have written so many books. do you do all the research yourself? are you able to rely on others? >> i wouldn't rely on others. i wouldn't want to.
i love doing the research. in thisyou an example, book, i have a fascination with the construction and the idea behind the internet state highway system. the conventional view is that idea when got the seeing the audubon in germany after world war ii. that is not true. the idea was actually generated when he was appointed as an observer on the transcontinental military convoy sent across america inroads that exist in 1919. this young lieutenant was andinted as the observer capped a diary and what turned out to be a complete shambles. this three mile-long convoy days toout took 58 reach lincoln park and san francisco. west omaha there were essentially no roads. the original idea was how
quickly could we respond with the japanese invaded california? ? it would have taken the japanese just a few days to take california, arizona, new mexico. .ut i kept a diary using that diary, i followed in their footsteps. i camped in a tent everywhere they camped. including a place i've never been to but always wanted to go to which is in a was -- which is denison, iowa. the convoys -- they played a football match i think with the residents of denison and were beaten by them terrifically, but i wanted to go because to me, as the superheated schoolboy, it seems it's the best place for the woman -- the birthplace i
consider the most beautiful woman in the world by the name of donna bellinger, who in by .he name of donna reed i thought she was the most pubertal creature ever after i saw "it's a wonderful life." i wish i hadn't confessed that. >> when i have to read your books, i have to surround myself with maps so that i can get a .ense of where you are my question is when you are writing these books, do you surround yourself with maps or are these all in your head? >> they are not in my head, and i spend an inordinate amount of money because a lot of the books are about the sea or the coast. i go to new york nautical, which is down in tribeca, and i'm just about to begin a big book on the
pacific ocean, and the first thing i did was to buy all the major charts of the pacific ocean. i adore maps. i have a huge map cabinet which i bought many years ago. i have a huge number of books, as you might imagine, but my pride and joy -- i'm quite a map collector. i adore them, and particularly, the u.s. say, maps of geological survey. if the topographical maps or the geological maps. the book, which probably most of canwill not have, but you find a secondhand on one of the great legacies of the nixon administration was the national atlas of the united dates, which was published in 1970, i think, and there's a huge -- if you can find a secondhand copy cheaply, it is a joy. i love atlases. times" "the london atlas, which is in my view, the best in the world, i always give
as a wedding present to any couple that gets married. it's huge. it's about his biggest this table. but i always put the same inscription -- may all your travels to all these places be healthy, happy, and serene. pleased with the publisher that last year, they wrote this on the back jacket of the book so now i don't have to write it at all. [laughter] i just say "with love, see the back cover." of the you aware university of milwaukee? >> yes, and the reason i know a little bit about it is because of the librarian. there was this incredible attempt some years ago to produce what was called the international map of the world and a scale of one to a million where the entire world would be
mapped all at the same scale with the same colors and same rubric and so forth and made in such a way that if you take them all together, they would produce 1/one million the size of the world, which is about the size of a very large house. they started this in 1890, i think. it would be 1800 sheets to cover the whole world less the seas, likehey made -- things america mapped china -- they did not want countries to map themselves. italy maps argentina and britain mapped the united states, i think, and eventually, the maps 1984,d coming out, but by they had produced 1600. there were still 200 to go, but now under the auspices of the united nations, there was a conference that said it was a bad idea. the only complete collection are
in that map collection. it's a great, great library. well, if there's nobody else, i'll thank you very much indeed for your time. you and great. thank you. great -- you then -- you've been great. thank you. [applause] here history bookshelf, from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern. to watch these programs anytime, visit our website, /history.n.org you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3.
>> in october 1940 four, u.s. and australian forces faced the japanese navy in the philippines c. the four-day battle is considered one of the largest naval conflicts of world war ii. next, author james one fisher details the role of one of the ships commander's, his destroyer was sunk during the battle, and he was posthumously awarded the medal of honor by congress. james hornfischer is the author world war iis on naval history. recorded at the u.s. naval academy, this is about an hour. >> good morning and welcome. for those who do not know me, i'm the daily, ceo of the u.s. naval institute. the u.s. institute is honored to partner with the u.s. naval academy again this year on an important history topic. this years theme is leaders in action. ordinary people doing the extraordinary.