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Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip

Overview

The companion volume to the PBS documentary film about the first—and perhaps most astonishing—automobile trip across the United States.

In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to ...
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Overview

The companion volume to the PBS documentary film about the first—and perhaps most astonishing—automobile trip across the United States.

In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. Jackson’s previously unpublished letters to his wife, brimming with optimism against all odds, describe in vivid detail every detour, every flat tire, every adventure good and bad. And his nearly one hundred photographs show a country still settled mainly in small towns, where life moved no faster than the horse-drawn carriage and where the arrival of Jackson’s open-air (roofless and windowless) Winton would cause delirious excitement.

Jackson was possessed of a deep thirst for adventure, and his remarkable story chronicles the very beginning of the restless road trips that soon became a way of life in America. Horatio’s Drive is the first chapter in our nation’s great romance with the road.

With 146 illustrations and 1 map
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1903, Horatio Nelson Jackson, a 31-year-old doctor from Vermont, made a bet that he could drive a car from San Francisco to New York. At the time, there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the U.S., many of them east of the Mississippi. Most Americans had never seen a car, never mind taken a ride in one, and gas stations and road maps were practically nonexistent. Nevertheless, the intrepid Jackson (along with his mechanic pal, Sewall Crocker, and, later, a goggles-wearing bulldog named Bud) succeeded in completing the nation's first cross-country road trip in just over two months. Historian Duncan and documentary filmmaker Burns read the bulk of this audio adaptation, which is a companion to the forthcoming PBS film, with all the enthusiasm of a pair of travelers setting off on the open road. Their telling is often enhanced by music: a jaunty banjo sings when things are moving along nicely, and an agitated piano protests when the car gets stuck in mud for the umpteenth time. Hanks reads the letters Jackson sends home to his wife, lending Jackson the air of a sympathetic everyman. When the 20-horsepower open air vehicle finally cruises into Manhattan, a band plays as the narrators' voices burst with excitement and pride. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Forecasts, June 16). (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Moved up from September, this companion to a PBS special takes us on Horatio Jackson's cross-country tour in 1903, when there were only 150 miles of paved roads. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375415364
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/8/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 7.88 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Dayton Duncan
Dayton Duncan, writer and producer of Horatio’s Drive, is the author of seven other books about American history, including Out West: A Journey Through Lewis and Clark’s America, in which he retraced the route of the expedition. He has been involved with Ken Burns’s documentaries for more than a decade. He and Burns are now collaborating on a major documentary series about our national parks. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

Ken Burns, director and producer of Horatio’s Drive, has been making award-winning documentary films for more than twenty years. He was director of the landmark PBS series The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz and executive producer of The West. His other films include the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty (also nominated for an Oscar), Lewis & Clark, and Mark Twain. His next documentary will be a biography of the prizefighter Jack Johnson. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.

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Read an Excerpt

The companion volume to the PBS documentary film about the first—and perhaps most astonishing—automobile trip across the United States.
In 1903 there were only 150 miles of paved roads in the entire nation and most people had never seen a “horseless buggy”—but that did not stop Horatio Nelson Jackson, a thirty-one-year-old Vermont doctor, who impulsively bet fifty dollars that he could drive his 20-horsepower automobile from San Francisco to New York City. Here—in Jackson’s own words and photographs—is a glorious account of that months-long, problem-beset, thrilling-to-the-rattled-bones trip with his mechanic, Sewall Crocker, and a bulldog named Bud. Jackson’s previously unpublished letters to his wife, brimming with optimism against all odds, describe in vivid detail every detour, every flat tire, every adventure good and bad. And his nearly one hundred photographs show a country still settled mainly in small towns, where life moved no faster than the horse-drawn carriage and where the arrival of Jackson’s open-air (roofless and windowless) Winton would cause delirious excitement.
Jackson was possessed of a deep thirst for adventure, and his remarkable story chronicles the very beginning of the restless road trips that soon became a way of life in America. Horatio’s Drive is the first chapter in our nation’s great romance with the road.
With 146 illustrations and 1 map
From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography: Dayton Duncan, writer and producer of Horatio’s Drive, is the author of seven other books about American history, including Out West: A Journey Through Lewis and Clark’s America, in which he retraced the route of the expedition. He has been involved with Ken Burns’s documentaries for more than a decade. He and Burns are now collaborating on a major documentary series about our national parks. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.
Ken Burns, director and producer of Horatio’s Drive, has been making award-winning documentary films for more than twenty years. He was director of the landmark PBS series The Civil War, Baseball, and Jazz and executive producer of The West. His other films include the Academy Award–nominated Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty (also nominated for an Oscar), Lewis & Clark, and Mark Twain. His next documentary will be a biography of the prizefighter Jack Johnson. He lives in Walpole, New Hampshire.
From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Preface: The Way We Enter Our History
Ch. 1 A Passing Mechanical Fancy 2
CH. 2 The Hardest Work I Ever Did 24
CH. 3 One of the Wonders of the Century 38
CH. 4 An Enthusiast for Motoring 54
CH. 5 The Worst of It Is Over 74
CH. 6 Buffalo Wallows 92
CH. 7 Watch Me Now 112
CH. 8 A Signal Triumph 128
Afterword: Song of the Open Road 145
Horatio's Itinerary 165
Acknowledgments 167
Selected Sources 168
Illustration Credits 170
Film Credits 171
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2004

    Good Book

    This was a good nonfiction book that read like a journal or a novel. It was short, but had the info in there. I liked all the excerpts from Horation Jackson's letters and the newspapers of the towns that he drove through. It also had great pictures and lots of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2003

    Great history!!

    As the great grandson of Horatio Nelson Jackson and knowing the story intimately-Dayton has done a wonderful job of not only telling the story but passing on the history of the drive. His passion comes through beautifully. Thanks Dayton

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