Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Age of Edison by Ernest Freeberg -- Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much more than I thought I would...and so much that I could probably start from the beginning right now and read the whole thing through again. There was so much to learn and imagine and I know I missed a lot being distracted by surgery and a move. I will definitely be keeping it in my collection to go back to from time to time.

From Amazon: "The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but more than any other invention, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb marked the arrival of modernity, transforming its inventor into a mythic figure and avatar of an era. In The Age of Edison, award-winning author and historian Ernest Freeberg weaves a narrative that reaches from Coney Island and Broadway to the tiniest towns of rural America, tracing the progress of electric light through the reactions of everyone who saw it and capturing the wonder Edison’s invention inspired. It is a quintessentially American story of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility in which the greater forces of progress and change are made by one of our most humble and ubiquitous objects."

The advent of electric lights had such an amazing effect on society. It changed people's sleep patterns, thus changing their entire routines, traditions, and family and social lives. It served to further differentiate between social statuses. It made an impact in so many way that I never could have imagined.

I thought it was interesting that so many species of birds and bugs were discovered as they were found dead at the base of street lights in the mornings. The idea of "electro"hunting and fishing was also interesting.

I was also surprised by how late into the 20th century electricity became common in middle-class homes. Less than 15% of homes were wired for electricity in 1910---and only 70% by 1930.

Other interesting bits:

Pg. 267: "Self-evident today, the proper use of an incandescent lamp is a social practice that, according to one electrician, was misunderstood by 99 percent of Americans in the early twentieth century. Why pay so much for electric light, these customers surely wondered, only to hide it behind a shade or to place it out of the line of sight... Such an idea must have seemed like the scheme of unscrupulous electric-current salesmen eager to sell customers more light than they needed."

Pg. 283: "These changes in technology produced a corresponding change in the way middle-class American families interacted once the sun went down. Some complained that since family members felt less compelled to draw together each night around a common lamp, their bonds had weakened and the art of conversation had suffered. People talked less and read more, as cheaper books and more evening light encouraged the explosive growth of what people at the time called a new 'reading habit.'"

Lastly, I was compelled to ponder the last line of the book and wonder about the actual validity of this quote from Franklin Roosevelt: "Electricity is no longer a luxury, it is a definite necessity." 

I wonder---how would our society get by if we no longer had access to electricity? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring Book Haul #2

As I said yesterday, our family is making a move this summer so I've got to get stuff packed up. Here's part two of my Spring Book Haul! Half will go into storage and half will stay with me for summer reading.

A sweet friend gave me this amazing copy of Jane Eyre as a gift to celebrate my first book signing last month. This 1943 version has a companion copy, Wuthering Heights. I'll have to see if I can find it. 

It's full of gorgeous wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. I can't wait to go through it!

The World Since 1914 by Walter Consuelo Langsam, PH.D. of Union College. 

This 1945 copy features several neat maps.

The Mabinogion (Maa-bee-nog-yawn...sorta..) is a compilation of Welsh myth, history, and folklore, composed orally over the span of several centuries. These eleven stories were compiled in written form during the 12th-13th centuries. I heard about this on a British documentary a few weeks ago and ordered a copy from paperbackswap.com.

Jane Austen and Her Times by G.E. Mitton. This is another book my friend gave me at my book signing. Though the cover description falsely claims Austen wrote for Victorians, (her stories were published 20+ years before the beginning of the Victorian age and were written several years before that) the book was originally published in 1905---so I'm holding out hope that the author was more knowledgeable than the dingbats at Barnes and Noble.

The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith, 1870. Mrs. Smith was a Quaker and later member of the Holiness movement. This book might be encouraging, it might be weird, it might make me laugh...I have no idea! What's for sure, a quick study of Mrs. Smith makes for some very interesting imagining. She lived quite the life! I found this at my church on the free book rack.

Well folks, I've got one more post to show off a couple of antique finds and then I'll be packing things up. I'm looking forward to some book hunting in Oregon this summer---stay tuned!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Book Haul #1

Hey everyone! The kids and I are headed to Oregon for the summer to hang out with mom so I've got some packing to do! I figured I'd better show off my spring book hauls first so they don't get lost in the move. I'm looking forward to perusing some of my favorite Eastern Oregon shops for some great summer reading---and I'll be taking a few of these along, too.

Martin Luther: The Lion-Hearted Reformer by J.A. Morrison. This 1924 edition is dedicated, "To the Youth of the Land." I found this at Helping Hands thrift shop in Bentonville, Arkansas last month.

Another find from Helping Hands: My Mother's Wedding Dress: The Life and Afterlife of Clothes by Justine Picardie, 2005. I don't know...it sounded interesting.

Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity by David J. Kent, 2013. This is the companion to the book on Thomas Edison that I bought awhile back

I found it at Barnes and Noble and like the Edison book, it's got a great Steampunk feel. I'm looking forward to reading it!

The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America by Ernest Freeberg, 2013. I'm pretty much obsessed with Gilded Age America and, while I'm not described as the sciency type, stuff like this fascinates me. Totally excited about this book.

Using Wayside Plants by Nelson Coon, 1960. I actually purchased this at Helping Hands to resell in my Etsy shop, but as I was thumbing through it I became intrigued and decided to keep it for myself.

...and this lovely Georgette Heyer. I love this 1972 copy of Lady of Quality because it features a drawing of Bath---one of my favorite spots ever! I believe the idea is that she's standing within one of the crescents---I'm going to say she's on the corner of a street in the Royal Crescent and that I know exactly where she's standing! Ha! Her spencer reminds me of a cape my friend Frances made last year for the costumed promenade in Bath. I love it!

What are you reading? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!