Scott Nelson

  • The story of America is a story of dreamers and defaulters. It is also a story of dramatic financial panics that defined the nation, created its political parties, and forced tens of thousands to escape their creditors to new towns in Texas, Florida, and California. As far back as 1792, these panics boiled down to one simple question: Would Americans pay their debts--or were we just a nation of deadbeats?
    From the merchant William Duers attempts to speculate on postRevolutionary War debt, to an ill-conceived 1815 plan to sell English coats to Americans on credit, to the debt-fueled railroad expansion that precipitated the Panic of 1857, Scott Reynolds Nelson offers a crash course in Americas worst financial disasters--and a concise explanation of the first principles that caused them all. Nelson shows how consumer debt, both at the highest levels of finance and in the everyday lives of citizens, has time and again left us unable to make good. The problem always starts with the chain of banks, brokers, moneylenders, and insurance companies that separate borrowers and lenders. At a certain point lenders cannot tell good loans from bad--and when chits are called in, lenders frantically try to unload the debts, hide from their own creditors, go into bankruptcy, and lobby state and federal institutions for relief.
    With a historians keen observations and a storytellers nose for character and incident, Nelson captures the entire sweep of Americas financial history in all its utter irrationality: national banks funded by smugglers; fistfights in Congress over the gold standard; and presidential campaigns forged in stinging controversies on the subject of private debt. A Nation of Deadbeats is a fresh, irreverent look at Americans addiction to debt and how it has made us what we are today.

  • The ballad "John Henry" is the most recorded folk song in American history and John Henry--the mighty railroad man who could blast through rock faster than a steam drill--is a towering figure in our culture. But for over a century, no one knew who the original John Henry was--or even if there was a real John Henry.
    In Steel Drivin' Man, Scott Reynolds Nelson recounts the true story of the man behind the iconic American hero, telling the poignant tale of a young Virginia convict who died working on one of the most dangerous enterprises of the time, the first rail route through the Appalachian Mountains. Using census data, penitentiary reports, and railroad company reports, Nelson reveals how John Henry, victimized by Virginia's notorious Black Codes, was shipped to the infamous Richmond Penitentiary to become prisoner number 497, and was forced to labor on the mile-long Lewis Tunnel for the C&O railroad. Nelson even confirms the legendary contest between John Henry and the steam drill (there was indeed a steam drill used to dig the Lewis Tunnel and the convicts in fact drilled faster).
    Equally important, Nelson masterfully captures the life of the ballad of John Henry, tracing the song's evolution from the first printed score by blues legend W. C. Handy, to Carl Sandburg's use of the ballad to become the first "folk singer," to the upbeat version by Tennessee Ernie Ford. We see how the American Communist Party appropriated the image of John Henry as the idealized American worker, and even how John Henry became the precursor of such comic book super heroes as Superman or Captain America.
    Attractively illustrated with numerous images, Steel Drivin' Man offers a marvelous portrait of a beloved folk song--and a true American legend.

  • The ballad "John Henry" is the most recorded folk song in American history and John Henry--the mighty railroad man who could blast through rock faster than a steam drill--is a towering figure in our culture. But for over a century, no one knew who the original John Henry was--or even if there was a real John Henry.
    In Steel Drivin' Man, Scott Reynolds Nelson recounts the true story of the man behind the iconic American hero, telling the poignant tale of a young Virginia convict who died working on one of the most dangerous enterprises of the time, the first rail route through the Appalachian Mountains. Using census data, penitentiary reports, and railroad company reports, Nelson reveals how John Henry, victimized by Virginia's notorious Black Codes, was shipped to the infamous Richmond Penitentiary to become prisoner number 497, and was forced to labor on the mile-long Lewis Tunnel for the C&O railroad. Nelson even confirms the legendary contest between John Henry and the steam drill (there was indeed a steam drill used to dig the Lewis Tunnel and the convicts in fact drilled faster).
    Equally important, Nelson masterfully captures the life of the ballad of John Henry, tracing the song's evolution from the first printed score by blues legend W. C. Handy, to Carl Sandburg's use of the ballad to become the first "folk singer," to the upbeat version by Tennessee Ernie Ford. We see how the American Communist Party appropriated the image of John Henry as the idealized American worker, and even how John Henry became the precursor of such comic book super heroes as Superman or Captain America.
    Attractively illustrated with numerous images, Steel Drivin' Man offers a marvelous portrait of a beloved folk song--and a true American legend.

  • This third edition of The United States: A Brief Narrative History remains a basic, readable, and highly affordable core text for the introductory survey of United States history. While not intended as the only resource for students enrolled in such courses, it remains the most concise U.S. survey on the market-its length, approach, and price encouraging the use of supplementary readings, novels, research projects, and primary documents (many of which are available on the Internet) all for a price that falls well below the list price of a traditional survey text. In addition to taking the engaging narrative all the way up through the second decade of the twenty-first century, the new edition features new maps. Loyal users will appreciate that fact that the book retains its cultural literacy approach, its lively narrative style, and highly effective highlighting of the names, terms, and concepts common to an educated person's understanding of American history. Finally, its appendices comprise a useful, annotated text of The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and a list of U.S. Presidents.

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