I’ve recently been watching documentaries and reading books about the turn of the century. Not this century; the last one.
I find the period between 1875-1920 endlessly fascinating. Think of the number of inventions that became available in that time. Technological progress was so rapid as to be nearly astounding.
In those forty years our lives were revolutionized. We take these things for granted. I woke up, turned on the lights, ground coffee in an electric grinder, heated water on my electric stove, and am now typing this blog on my digital processing machine. I’m reasonably sure I looked at my telephone this morning to see what time it was. The clocks had been set back an hour. Oh… Did I mention that daylight savings time was first utilized by entire nations during this era?
I was browsing through Netflix the other night when I found The Roosevelts. I watched the first twenty minutes, and just like every other time I’ve watched a Ken Burns documentary, I ended up watching the entire thing over the next few days.
In my teens, I’d always been impressed by Theodore Roosevelt because of what he did for the meat packing business. Back then, I didn’t know much else about him, other than the Rough Riders stormed San Juan Hill and that some kid named the Teddy Bear after him. This period in time has fascinated me ever since. Years ago, I remember my boss, Arnold, conducted an orientation where he asked as an icebreaker: “If you could visit any place in time, where and when would it be?” My answer was pretty quick. I wish I were at Paris, 1913, at the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. There were riots. Because of a ballet! Weirdos much? Yeah. Probably.
I’ve recently begun reading two books simultaneously. Well, I’m listening to the audio books, which is more portable and far easier to wash dishes to. The first is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit. As the subtitle states, it’s the story of Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of journalism. I know next to nothing about Taft except for his enormous size (they had to install a special bathtub for him in the White House), his mediocrity in the presidency (he never really wanted to be president in the first place), and that he went on to become chief justice of the Supreme Court. I didn’t know he was Roosevelt’s best friend, and then worst frenemy.
I’m also reading (thanks to a recommendation from a co-worker) a book called The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. It’s the story of the building of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and simultaneously, H.H. Holmes, one of the first documented serial killers in the United States. Wikipedia states of Holmes, “[he] opened a hotel which he had designed and built for himself specifically with murder in mind, and which was the location of many of his murders.” Over two hundred people.
Do you enjoy history? Do you read historical stuff? What are you reading? Let me know what’s on your mind.