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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 13, 2009 3:00pm-3:30pm EDT

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hearing about abigail and john. [applause] >> edith gelles is the author of several books including abigail adams, a writing life. she is currently a senior scholar at stanford university's michelle are claimed institute for gender research. for more information, visit >> we are at book expo america in new york city. we are with emily hamilton marketing director from the university of minnesota press. everything you know about indians is wrong. what is wrong? >> according to the author of this book, he believes that there are a lot of myths about american indians in our coach or perpetuated by movies, like toys, ideas about the way that american indians live in our culture. and he has basically taken people to task with this very
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dry wit, to say, you know, american indians are people that you don't expect him to be. they live in lots of different places. they live in cities. they do all kinds of different jobs. you know, contribute to culture and a really, really ethical way, not just it a rest dork away. he has tried to crack the ideas that are still so pervasive in our culture. >> there's a sign behind you, anatomy of a scapegoat is a subtitle. can you tell us about us? >> this book is about the incident around the firing you know, the racial comments that he made on the air and people when this happens there's a huge explosion of emotion and anger an outpouring of outrage about racist comments. but michael is saying this is basically an underlying tension in our culture that needs to be sort of, it's cathartic when
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that happens and people sort of congratulate themselves and say we are dealing with race relations because we ostracized this particular media figure for doing something. it's really just a scapegoating and we are not dealing with the underlying issues in our culture. >> who is michael awkward? >> is a professor at the university of michigan. he is a feminist, a black scholar, a fan of don imus' show. that looks at how he personally sort of worked through how to react to that and why was it such a big deal. and you know how could he start reconcile being a fan of the show and also sort of with his problems with american culture. how do people, when people say things like this, in one context and not in another, why is it considered over the line, why is
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it considered over the line for don imus and not other aspects of culture. >> you have one other title, never touch a cook, from academic press. can you tell me about this? >> absolutely. we have published this publisher before. he is a really, really fun writer. he does cross-cultural travel memoirs and he recently wrote a book about being in norway for two ways. this is about being in italy. he and his wife lived in italy for two years, and they were introduced to the best food in the world and so they went to italy, and it's basically like is really, really funny cross-cultural misadventures of living in italy. and it's all based around food. the vinegar place, you know, going to pavarotti's house and
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all kinds of hilarity ensues with his tried to figure out how to live in the italian culture. and eat the best food in the world. >> emily hamilton, university of minnesota press. thanks. >> thank you very much. >> i'm going to talk about 30 minutes and then maybe we will have time for a few minutes of q&a afterwards. it wasn't my idea to write this book. an editor asked my agent if he knew someone who could write a book about the erie canal. my agent said yes. the guy who had written a book about new york city's water history.
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and editors at great hurt and my agent called me and i said why? what is there possibly new to write about a fabled but longer relevant canal. can one make new history out of iconic folklore. dozens of books have been written about the erie, mostly in recent decades for children. but my agent answered the question of why by saying when a major publisher wants to pay you a fair amount of money for what would be your second book, you just say yes. so i did say yes. after resolving the issue of a contract for a different book. but i begin to answer the why question myself. and i found out that there were new stories to tell about the erie, new ways to tell old stories about gary, and a little bit busting to be done as well. the first thing i found out is that the famous erie canal song
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15 miles on the erie canal 15 miles on erie canal also known as low bridge, everybody down, was actually never sunk on the erie canal. and that is because -- in fact, no erie canal boatman ever loved his mule named sal who is the name of the main character in the song, or at least he never sang about it. in fact, 50 miles on the erie canal was a 10 pin alley song written in 1905, the year that work began on the second enlargement of the erie into the current canal for motorized barges that made barges pulled by mules history and very quickly folklore. as i researched more deeply, i begin to find many tales about the erie canal that were just that, stores of long tradition and of unknown origin that had erroneously become erie canal facts, or that obscured true facts. so i'm going to talk about some
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of those in a few minutes, but i first want to set the stage by reading a couple of pages from the books open, if i can find it. and just to set the stage for the background that led to the erie canal. the morning came on cool and bright. a recent frost had just begun to color the surrounding forest autumn. the blue sky and chill air mingled the path with the future experience with expectation. the frontier village of buffalo, there was no more expected time did wednesday october 26, 18 wi-fi. the the population of just over 2400 had been swelled by dozens of the state political and merchant leaders and hundreds of settler families from the surrounding countryside, bold, eager to celebrate the completion of the great project that would determine their fortunes and the fortunes of many others. gathered in a lake erie port of buffalo, that 20 years earlier had been just a lark on the land
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developers matter their state had such surged past virginia and pennsylvania to become the most populous of the united states. new york's namesake city, new york city, had recently displaced philadelphia as the nation's largest city and was taking control of the young american economy. infield drawing rooms and counting houses across the atlantic the words of new york were becoming equivalent to economic opportunity for laborers, speculators and proto- industrialist alike. and yes, until this fine morning, until the fall morning, new york was no more assured of becoming the empire state dan was virginia, pennsylvania, or even ohio, south carolina or illinois. nor was the nation assured of becoming the global empire it remains. in 1825, the united states were still twirl and a few, not a singular nationstate but sovereign states with a constitutionally limited federal government. as late as 1885, walt whitman
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proclaimed with morality of the united states remained full of poetic stuff, mostly poets as opposed to need poets. abraham lincoln declaring the union at gettysburg finally change the grammar and the perception in the 18 '60s. in 1825 the seed onto a cd shining sea continental nation of patriotic songs was still a dream. the land was vast, access to and control of it was limited to the louisiana territory had been purchased two decades earlier but remain mostly unorganized. mexico's north stretch to the 42nd parallel on the pacific ocean encompassing all of what are now texas, the master, arizona, utah and california as well as parts of colorado, oklahoma, and kansas. the pacific northwest and open country. back east of the appalachian mountain range guarding the interior from south carolina to
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what only recently have become main, threatened to confine the great american experiment to the atlantic seaboard. the allegiance of the several new trans- montaigne states was unproven. of their settlers looked westbound rolling river valleys toward the mighty mississippi, not over their shoulders at the mountains that separated them from their political creators. former vice president ehrenberg enigmatic conspiracy of 1805, 1806 to make a nation for himself and others in the region opened by the louisiana purchase had come apart, but illustrated the limited control exerted by the east over the west of the national government over its unsettled territory. a continental nation was so uncertain that president thomas jefferson had deemed it optional quote whether we remain in one confederacy or formed into atlantic and mississippi confederacies i believe not very important to the happiness of either part.
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the coming of the steamboat in 1807 gave hope for a connectedness but illustrated the lack of it. soon there were both on the hudson and mississippi rivers but no true navigation between them. the war of 1812 proved over its sultry three-year course of the united states remain a shaky nation. the british burned washington. president james madison escaped on horseback separated from his dolly. the british also burned buffalo, and neighboring blackrock are the pioneers of western new york fled east in terror. there was no defending the state's western flank by the effective transportation of arms and supplies. the few roads were so abominable that the federal government spent a site staggering $60 million on wartime transport including a dollar a pound for cannonballs that cost a fraction of that to produce. the cost of moving artillery from albany to the warfront on lake erie was more than double its purchase price. transportation amateur from washington to the lake was up to
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five times in the production cost. the british blockade of american ports forced coastal shipping onto primitive land routes. one wagon of war supplies loaded in worchester massachusetts arrived in charleston, south carolina, two and a half months later. nothing had changed dramatically in the decade since peace was restored until the erie canal opened on a fine fall day in 1825. so that sets the stage for what the country was like until the erie canal got built. before trains, planes and automobiles, boats and horses were the only way to travel significant distances. in the days before good roads, the only way to transport numbers of people for things was by water. the natural water request from the hudson was overland from albany to schenectady bypassing the false on the mohawk river at cohost, and a backbreaking labor 125 -- 120 miles up the eastward
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flowing river in small boats pulled over rapids, small falls, the entering shallows to the headwaters of the mohawk river. been a portage of the mile or more, depending on the season, to the westward flowing and aptly named wood creek filled with trees, and down a series of flood and drought afflicted waterways to keister lake ontario. from there, a trip by larger boat west on the lake, on lake ontario, along portage around niagara falls and finally into lake erie and the other great lakes. it was a long circuitous arduous voyage not easily or often taken. the erie canal made a direct connection between albany and hand new york city via the easily navigable cuts in and in the frontier settlement of buffalo on lake erie. bacchanal, 363 miles, most of it across unbroken wilderness, 83
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loss to deal with 700 feet of elevation change. and just 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. but it was the first bond of union. a phrase that was used to describe it before it was finally approved. it was the first bond of union between the eastern seaboard states and the vast unsettled interior. immediately began the conduit for people and manufactured goods headed west and raw materials and produce coming east. with new york city as the gateway for emigration from and commerce with europe. the canal was begun after much political popular and economic debate in 1817, completed 1825, cost $7 million entirely funded by new york state at a time when the total capital in new york state was about $20 million, this project cost it seven. at $7 million was entirely recovered by tolls on the canal within eight years. when told what abolished in 1882, total revenues were
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$121 million, total construction and maintenance costs including an enlargement completed just before the civil war was $80 million or a prophet, and a steady profit of $41 million on a $7 million project. now, an argument could be made where here in new york city today because of the erie canal. without it we might be living in philadelphia or alexandria, charleston, savanna or maybe even new orleans. if the erie canal hadn't made new york city the center of the commercial world and established habitual routes of trade and travel, the railroad which came along not much later might have made other coastal places greater. now, a lot of the material in the book is the traditional erie canal fail, but has selected some of the myth busting in it for this brief doctor one, the irish did not build the erie canal. at least not any significant the at least not insignificant
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numbers until at least halfway through the nine construction seasons. the early contractors were pioneer farmers and settlers almost invariably refugees from bad farms in connecticut. the workers on the canal sections that these farmers contracted for were mostly their sons or their farmhands. it was only when the most dangerous work eventually needed to be done on the western portions of the line mucking out malaria swamps and blasting limestone ridges that the legendary gains of the irish emigrant laborers found work on the erie canal. another little bit of myth busting. the father of american civil engineering, that's his title. the title that he came to have, the ricci engineer benjamin wright. it turns out has something of a question that had questionable paternity. he was at best a skilled country surveyor at a time when there
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were no trained or experienced american engineers. it was interesting to discover that before erie, wright had been fired by a land development company for failing to play a road to the property. and more importantly he was nearly fired from his erie job in the first months of construction. it seems that he was pursuing other surveying work and on state time, and also avoiding hazardous erie fieldwork in unhealthy to rain were the first bits of the line were laid. he came very close to being fired a couple months after construction had begun. in 1839, the first attempt to create a professional society of american engineers with wright at its head failed when a majority voted against the society's proposed constitution. effectively a rejection of wright himself by his peers. the president take the present society of american engineers which is formed after wright to
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death proclaimed him the father of american civil engineering in 1969. a well-deserved honor for his ultimately successful erie days for the ultimately successful dairy project and later in his later canal and railroad work, but not an honor that his peers would have given a man whom he perceived as a flatterer of his employers and a credit stealer from his subordinates. another area, hydraulic cement. the true discovery of american waterproof cement. and not a particularly sexy topic, but the masonry structures of the canal, the locks and waste leaders and various other components of the canal made of stone needed to be sealed with hydraulic cement. it could not have been built without a cement of the right kind of burned and pulverized limestone mixed with sand that pardons and marketers a false story that the discovery was planted unwittingly in the erie
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bible, in 19 oh 62 volume history so a starting point for any research of the erie canal. and the story in the book has been repeated ever since. it turns out that the author of that book, a well-respected engineer, had picked up the cement story from an unreliable, history published locally a half-century early, published a half-century early in 30 years after the fact when all the principals were dead. the hero of the false story is a young erie engineered named candace white who did in fact get the patent in 1824 waterproof cement and vigorously but unsuccessfully defended it in court. he lost a lot of money in the process, including the $2000 he had secretly paid to the true discoverer. the canal's agent for securing line and other materials, a
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fellow named andrew barto who had done experiment on limestone samples to find the right stone. a manuscript letters and other obscure documents revealed an arms length video between the two men in which white gave barto $2000 for the privilege of pursuing a patent and also gave barto a 25% side of interest and profits from the patent of which there turned out to be none. patents were very hard to defend in those days, and the commissioners, the new york state commissioners in charge of building the canal who certainly knew at least part of the truth had no interest in any other contractors banking bank any of their contractors paying royalties on the cement, would have made their job more expensive. the commissioners claimed that the discovery was made in the process of their employees duties. there is much more to the story. you really have to go to the book to get all the detail, but
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that's the basics of it. this true story that it was barto and not white who discovered hydraulic cement may not be especially important to the general reader, but the cement itself was very important. the formulation that barto discovered and that the white family, later his brother successfully manufactured in competition with other manufacturers and the whites as it turned out were the best manufacturers of the cement. the cement they made was used to build new york city's aqueduct, the first water supply for new york city, the footings of the brooklyn bridge, the pedestal of the statue of liberty, and the walls of the panama canal. another bit of new material on erie. what i call the mohawk crisscross of 18 to one, 1822. this situation never written about in any other erie canal
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book as best i can tell pitted benjamin wright, the father of american civil engineering against a fellow named john randall relative various spellings, but in albany native a very prominent family in new york. he was a skilled surveyor and the man who had just spent a dozen years laying out in mapping the future street grid of manhattan. we are here on 57th street because 200 years ago john randle but markers of thousands of blocks which were then a very rugged and rural landscape. so john randle. here's the background of the path of the canal and the mohawk valley was supposed to be entirely along the southern bank of the river. using feeders from the mohawk to water the canal to get water into the canal. between schenectady and albany, the mohawk makes a very big north were dark.
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that in the most eastern section of the mohawk river. with the falls finally spilling the mohawk into the hudson. now randle involved himself in the process. he had been invited day she had been asked to become an engineer on the erie canal. he had said no probably because he was still continuing his work in manhattan and yet other projects he was doing but in any case at a certain point he inserts himself in this issue as the eastern end of the canal. and he thinks, and he publicizes his thoughts that the canal path to leave the mohawk valley at schenectady and take a much shorter and cheaper and direct route to albany along a route that he had mapped 15 years earlier. so randle starts making some noise about. he publishes some anonymous newspaper articles and anonymous pamphlet, and chief engineer
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wright decides just before the section of the canal is to be dealt, wright decide to go in the opposite direction. that is, not take randle to direct route or even continue along the southern side of the mohawk as it arcs north and eventually down toward albany. but, right beside, to cross over the often flooded aqueduct to the north side of the river, stay on the north side for 12 miles and in recross the river on another aqueduct and a wooden trough, not very substantial aqueducts, recross the river 12 miles along back to the southside. now, wright presented this decision as an engineering necessity but it appears actually, in fact, to have been more of a political decision. to give the canal a run in
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saratoga county on the north side of the river for the benefit of certain interest there. there is much more to it. we don't have time to tell all the details now, but it is i suppose comforting to note that the waste that we see in public works products today has a long legacy. wright and randel became bitter enemies and a couple of years later they wind up together on the chesapeake and delaware canal, a very short but important canal connecting the chesapeake bay and delaware bay. wright is the chief engineer and randel is the chief contractor. and after a few months wright who consider randel a line nincompoop, in a private letter, gets randel fired from the chesapeake and delaware canal. randel says, the case eventually goes to the u.s. supreme court. randel wins a quarter of a million dollars, which is an extraordinary amount of money, about a 10th of the value of the
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sea and the canal, and build a mansion overlooking the canal which is eventually built exactly on the lines that he had suggested and that wright claimed was wrong. and goes down every morning to collect tolls. [laughter] >> which is how he collected his quarter million dollars because the canal company didn't willingly pay off the judgment against them. in any case, there are other aspects of the book that i think -- new material which i don't think we have time to go into here. you have a very long competition between new york and virginia about which state will get west first. and it's been talked about in other dairy books, but i think i stress it in this one that for decades washington, george washington and thomas jefferson who owned land in the ohio river
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valley, speculators of land, had desperately tried to find a way to get the potomac river to improve the potomac river and get it to go over the mountains and off to the other side and into tributaries of the ohio river valley. but the potomac unfortunately was really not up to the task, and not the way new york's mohawk river makes a relatively easy path through a break in the appalachian mountain jane. and interestingly in 1817, just before new york decides to go ahead with the canal, a bill goes through. a bill goes through congress to create -- a bill called the bonus bill which would have provided federal money for state infrastructure projects. and madison, james madison on his last day in office and congress had been working toward
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this bill thinking that madison wanted this sort of thing because he had spoken about it in an inaugural address at the previous year. madison vetoes the bill on his last day in office. arguably, he says, on constitutional grounds that the federal government had no business using the federal treasury to support state project are obviously things have changed considerably since then, but at the time some botnet argument but people in new york thought the real reason for this, this very surprising detail is that madison suddenly realized that most of the money that would be flowing out of this bonus bill would be going to new york for its erie canal project. and so you have -- and in new york goes ahead right away, state legislature approves the project and fund it with state issued bonds, which is also very unique situation at that time in the country.
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but so you have this very tense competition between new york and virginia and with the erie canal. new york essentially wins at least the commercial part of the competition. there some other things i think we can talk about. i forgot to start my clock to see how long i've been going, but i wanted to say something -- talk about something that's not actually in the book, but there's been a lot of talk lately about a national infrastructure back. i don't know if people are aware of it, but it's in the obama budget. senator dodd from connecticut has a bill in the senate to create a national infrastructure bank. the new york city financier who helped new york city out of its desperate financial straits in the 1970s has a book out calling for a national infrastructure bank. and all three of them, and other people do, cite the


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