He talked to homesteaders in sod huts, to the people building towns and laying railroads across the empty prairie, to "cow punchers" making a last roundup on the once-open range, to lumberjacks who scorned any tree less than six feet through, to prospectors and sailors and confidence tricksters. He rode trains and horses, a pilot schooner, a stage coach, and a desert jalopy, taking copious notes wherever he found himself. The result, in the words of another admirer, was 'A book to make a man hold his head high, to step high, to throw out his chest.'
That was important in 1907, when the United States was suffering growing pains, with a president who believed in American greatness while the "muck rakers" ranted about the evils of capitalism as seen from New York and Washington. All this will seem very familiar to Americans in 2017.
Paine's classic has now been edited and brought up to date by Daniel Ford, a prize-winning historian and author.