Category Archives: June
The history of transportation in America is invariably linked with westward expansion and the growth of the nation; you can’t study one without the other. After pioneers traveled to the Pacific in wagon trains, locomotives made the journey much faster. Soon, the American West was becoming just as populated and urbanized as its Eastern counterpart, and with the invention of the automobile, folks were clamoring for a modern road network like the German Autobahn that would get them from here to there without any trouble. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a huge proponent of this idea, and pressured Congress to come up with a bill that would allocate funds and designate routes for an American highway system. The Federal Highway Act was born in 1956, and quite quickly and easily gained won over Washington. The plan called for the construction of about 40,000 miles of highway for a cost of about $30 billion. It was, at the time, the largest public project in US history, but the government paid for 90% of it by raising the tax on gasoline and introducing other transportation fees. Billions of tons of gravel and asphalt were used to build the roads, the sides of which were soon flanked with hotels, service areas, fast food joints, and roadside attractions. By the 1960s, one in seven American workers had something to do with the automotive industry, and the US was a nation behind the wheel.
Why are highways so important? How do you think America changed after their construction?
When an ankle injury forced her to retire from a job at the Atlanta Journal, writer Margaret Mitchell set to work one of the most popular novels of all time. Spending ten years researching the Civil War and the antebellum, or pre-war, South, Mitchell worked diligently on a Remington typewriter in the one-bedroom apartment she shared with her husband, penning the novel Gone with the Wind. The book was an epic masterpiece, set in Atlanta during the Civil War, focusing on a Southern belle named Scarlett O’Hara (originally called “Pansy”!), who fights to save her father’s plantation, Tara. Along with her research, Mitchell also relied on personal anecdotes from her older friends, family, and Confederate war veterans. Initially published by New York-based publisher MacMillian in 1936, Gone with the Wind became an instant hit with readers, selling almost 50,000 copies per day to reach one million sales in its first month! Within a year, Mitchell had won the Pulitzer Prize and was paid $50,000 for the film rights to her book. Gone With the Wind was made into one of the most successful films of all time, starring Vivienne Leigh as Scarlett and Clark Gable as Rhett, her suave love interest. Today, the book has sold over 25 million copies.
If you had to write an historical drama, when would you set the story and why?
Gone with the Wind™, its characters and elements are trademarks of Turner Entertainment Company and the Stephens Mitchell Trusts.