The Yankee Road, Volume 2: Domination

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I have completed the drafts for the chapters that will go into The Yankee Road, Volume 2. Like Volume 1, the new chapters have interesting perspectives on a variety of topics and people. All of the chapters lever off locations on US 20, that is, the starting point is some place near or on US 20, but then may range across space and time, always keeping in mind the central feature; the central people involved in the stories come from a Yankee background. Volume 2 will be released this fall.

I had a letter recently from a reader who has a similar interest in Yankees, who found that this book was a valuable resource. I was pleased, but not surprised, as the last time anyone did such a book was in the early 1900s. Former US Senator Jim Webb did a good job of presenting the story of the Scots-Irish who came to America in the 1700s, bypassing New England for Philadelphia, for the most part. They then trekked up the Shenandoah and spread across Appalachia and the South. He titled his book ‘Born Fighting’. I didn’t model ‘The Yankee Road’ on his book, but they share a focus on America having an underlay of types of people who had similar characteristics settling distinct parts of the country.

Much of Volume 1 was taken up with the origins of a lot of Yankee social, economic and religious institutions and how these have endured and changed. It was subtitled ‘Expansion’, in part because while following the road, we were following the movement of a lot of people westward across the northern part of the country. That movement pretty well played itself out by the time of the Civil War and, in terms of geography, in what used to be called The Middle Border - the place where rainfall was irregular and the land became more useful as rangeland than farmland.

Volume 2 is subtitled ‘Domination’ because by the Civil War, the area settled by Yankees, as well as cities like Boston, New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago where they dominated trade and finance constituted the powerhouse of the country. Yankees did not dominate the federal government until Southerners resigned their seats with the secession of most of the Slave States. At the end of the War, Yankee political and economic dominance was established and the building of a national economy proceeded apace.

Volume 2 features the rise of the petroleum industry and the battle between JD Rockefeller and Ida Tarbell over the nature of building a national near-monopoly in that industry. One of Rockefeller’s closest associates left the company and Henry Flagler devoted his time to pushing the development of the tourist industry in Florida. Every fan of western movies knows of the ‘Butterfield stage’, but the reality is a bit different. John Butterfield never put his name on a stagecoach. Then there is the story of express services, with William F. Harnden pioneering express services carrying packages between cities (shades of FedEx and UPS) only to be succeeded by Henry Wells, William Fargo and John Butterfield when they created American Express and Wells Fargo. These are both financial institutions now, but began by carrying packages. You can read about Mary Gove and Ellen White while you have your breakfast corn flakes, compliments of John and Will Kellogg. Then, hop into your Buick, Ford or Jeep, compliments of Billy Durant, Henry Ford and John Willys and off you go to a State or an A&M College, compliments of Justin Morrill. Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse powered and lit your cellphone and Octave Chanute and his friends, Wilbur and Orville Wright, helped you fly off to that Florida vacation. Then, there are JP Morgan and Judge Elbert Gary, who revolutionized corporate finance and especially, the steel industry. Truly a dominant cast of characters. Even if a couple are not Yankees, they’re worthy of a mention here.

I will be at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 11-12. I have an appearance slot at the Wheatmark booth from 12:30-1:30PM, but will be at the event both days. Happy to chat.

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