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The late 19th century saw a surge of technological advancement, but probably nothing as important as Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Here, University of Tennessee history professor Freeberg, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Democracy’s Prisoner, shows how radically the light bulb transformed America, freeing it from the stranglehold of the gas comp The late 19th century saw a surge of technological advancement, but probably nothing as important as Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Here, University of Tennessee history professor Freeberg, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Democracy’s Prisoner, shows how radically the light bulb transformed America, freeing it from the stranglehold of the gas companies, turning it from a rural to an urban society and, as the electrical grid took over, drawing a sharp line between city and country, rich and poor. For history buffs and techies alike. - Library Journal Reviews: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/201...


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The late 19th century saw a surge of technological advancement, but probably nothing as important as Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Here, University of Tennessee history professor Freeberg, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Democracy’s Prisoner, shows how radically the light bulb transformed America, freeing it from the stranglehold of the gas comp The late 19th century saw a surge of technological advancement, but probably nothing as important as Edison’s invention of the light bulb. Here, University of Tennessee history professor Freeberg, author of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Democracy’s Prisoner, shows how radically the light bulb transformed America, freeing it from the stranglehold of the gas companies, turning it from a rural to an urban society and, as the electrical grid took over, drawing a sharp line between city and country, rich and poor. For history buffs and techies alike. - Library Journal Reviews: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/201...

30 review for The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    It is hard to imagine living in a world without electricity, especially electric light. But do we ever think about how the first unveiling of this marvel was received by the public. It seemed like magic or the devil's work but regardless it fascinated all who saw it and experienced illumination at night beyond the light of the moon. This book has chapters that are extremely interesting and others that are deadly boring.....very inconsistent. It is not a book about Thomas Edison but about how elec It is hard to imagine living in a world without electricity, especially electric light. But do we ever think about how the first unveiling of this marvel was received by the public. It seemed like magic or the devil's work but regardless it fascinated all who saw it and experienced illumination at night beyond the light of the moon. This book has chapters that are extremely interesting and others that are deadly boring.....very inconsistent. It is not a book about Thomas Edison but about how electricity changed the world, concentrating on the United States. It is almost a sociological treatise as the author examines the legal, aesthetic, and commercial aspects of the coming of the light, which is not exactly what I expected. Overall, it was a dry read but I finished it and did learn some interesting aspects of the patent and trust fights. This is definitely not a beach read!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I am ashamed to admit, but I had never really thought about a lot of this before. Edison invents the light bulb (sort of) but then the U.S. must get wired and ready to be lit up. Light pole makers didn't know what they were doing and these poles fell down and killed people. The electric companies didn't know what they were doing and the wires fell down and killed people. Electrical workers touched the wrong thing and fell into tangles of overhead wires. Sizzling for hours! How much light is too I am ashamed to admit, but I had never really thought about a lot of this before. Edison invents the light bulb (sort of) but then the U.S. must get wired and ready to be lit up. Light pole makers didn't know what they were doing and these poles fell down and killed people. The electric companies didn't know what they were doing and the wires fell down and killed people. Electrical workers touched the wrong thing and fell into tangles of overhead wires. Sizzling for hours! How much light is too much light? Do you need street lights when it's a full moon? Why spend all this money on a light bulb to cover it up with a lamp shade? This was a great read about how Americans praised, shunned, experimented, and adopted the light bulb.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Harold

    This book is well named. And misleading. It is not a book about Edison. Rather it is about he age of Edison, and thereafter. It is simply a book about the history of the change that Electric Light Bulbs wrought on America. This book tells almost nothing about individual people, including Edison. It passes lightly over the invention of the lightbulb. It mentions briefly the race between AC and DC current and the problems and politics in the creation of electric grids. It is more interested in the This book is well named. And misleading. It is not a book about Edison. Rather it is about he age of Edison, and thereafter. It is simply a book about the history of the change that Electric Light Bulbs wrought on America. This book tells almost nothing about individual people, including Edison. It passes lightly over the invention of the lightbulb. It mentions briefly the race between AC and DC current and the problems and politics in the creation of electric grids. It is more interested in the bulb rising in the east and spreading its light across the country. This book tells you that the invention of the light bulb was profound, but sheds very little light.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    This book needed to be edited/shortened considerably. What could have been an interesting 2-3 hour read, was drug out for 10 hours. Excruciating.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ernst

    The book is about 2/3 about the years between 1879, when Edison invented his version of the light bulb, and 1892 when Edison sold out his interest to General Electric which, using alternating current (which Edison never understood) took over as the major player in American electricity. The last 1/3 covers they years up until 1929 when, just weeks before the stock market crash, President Hoover joined other luminaries at Menlo Park to honor Edison on the fiftieth anniversary of his most famous in The book is about 2/3 about the years between 1879, when Edison invented his version of the light bulb, and 1892 when Edison sold out his interest to General Electric which, using alternating current (which Edison never understood) took over as the major player in American electricity. The last 1/3 covers they years up until 1929 when, just weeks before the stock market crash, President Hoover joined other luminaries at Menlo Park to honor Edison on the fiftieth anniversary of his most famous invention. The book raises many questions about the tradeoffs between the ruthless exploitation of worker safety and the killing of many ordinary citizens versus the benefits of being an electrified country so quickly. Also, even by 1929, the markets had found no way to provide electricity to rural areas -- it took the New Deal and the TVA to get that accomplished. Quick paced and fascinating to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    There are so many puns one can use in this review. And frankly I don't know if I needed this much information on the subject, but it was an interesting and pleasantly lively (for nonfiction) account of how the invention of electricity and its gradual introduction into the world has changed the society. Not much information here on Edison per se ( no bio), this isn't Edison and His Age. This book talks about other inventors who didn't get the to share in the recognition (pun opportunity not taken There are so many puns one can use in this review. And frankly I don't know if I needed this much information on the subject, but it was an interesting and pleasantly lively (for nonfiction) account of how the invention of electricity and its gradual introduction into the world has changed the society. Not much information here on Edison per se ( no bio), this isn't Edison and His Age. This book talks about other inventors who didn't get the to share in the recognition (pun opportunity not taken) or fell into the dark abyss of obscurity (another one), about larger than life expositions, socioeconomical politics of implementing revolutionary new technology, logistics, practical applications, wide eye acceptance and staunch reluctance/refusal to embrace the light, etc. Informative and accessible read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book filled in a lot of gaps for me. Freeberg lays out the importance of electric light specifically and electricity in general and how they changed our nation. You will notice that the book is about "the age of Edison" not about Edison himself, though Freeberg touches back to Edison from time to time. I really enjoyed this book aesthetically, as well. It is filled with pictures, scattered throughout and not just in a clump at the middle of the book like so many do. I found the type face pl This book filled in a lot of gaps for me. Freeberg lays out the importance of electric light specifically and electricity in general and how they changed our nation. You will notice that the book is about "the age of Edison" not about Edison himself, though Freeberg touches back to Edison from time to time. I really enjoyed this book aesthetically, as well. It is filled with pictures, scattered throughout and not just in a clump at the middle of the book like so many do. I found the type face pleasant and easy to read too. All in all, a very enjoyable tour of the birth of electric light in our country.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Bench

    First of all, I'd like to let you know that I'm a picky reader. I like fantasy, and not just any fantasy, either. It has to be EPIC fantasy for me to even consider reading it for my own leisure. However, this book was assigned to me by a professor and so, to the reading nook I went. All too eager to learn about Edison and his time, about the light bulb and its coming into existence. You know what? I was truly excited for it, too. I love history, always found it fascinating, and after the prologu First of all, I'd like to let you know that I'm a picky reader. I like fantasy, and not just any fantasy, either. It has to be EPIC fantasy for me to even consider reading it for my own leisure. However, this book was assigned to me by a professor and so, to the reading nook I went. All too eager to learn about Edison and his time, about the light bulb and its coming into existence. You know what? I was truly excited for it, too. I love history, always found it fascinating, and after the prologue, I thought, "This book isn't half bad for a textbook." Then I started to read the first chapter... and then the second... and again into the third when I finally gave up. Is it just me, or do books like this one tend to sound like an enormously long version of an essay? The direct quotes, the citations, the introduction and concluding statements, the move back and forth from one time to another. Why can't books be more interesting as well as actually educational. Just because this stuff happened in the 19th century doesn't mean you can't make it interesting and "story-like" instead of a boring lecture about facts upon facts. I always hoped that one day I would pick up a text and open the book to find that there was a singular character, maybe even an omniscient one, that told the story of a time or of a person's life. But no, never has that ever happened and I have barely any hope left that it ever will. Intellectual books could be like that, right? They have all the possibility to be like that, but when a writer with no interest in the "story" begins to write a book, I feel that they default to the basics of education: the dreaded essay format. I get that it works, but I still don't find it interesting. At the very least, when writing an essay, I try to add a bit of my own character or even some word-flare that peaks the interest of the reader, making the essay more fun instead of just factual. Oh, when the day comes that I pick up a textbook and I enter a story that is both exciting and educational. The day will come, at least I hope so, and when it does, I will burn this book and say good riddance.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This was a tough one to get through. It took me almost two months to read, and that was in large part due to the writing style. I actually love reading nonfiction historical books, and find anything related to American history fascinating so this sounded like a great read. Unfortunately the writing style is very stiff, and I found many of the chapters repetitive. I feel like it could have been half as long and still have gotten the point across. I also didn't appreciate how the story was bookend This was a tough one to get through. It took me almost two months to read, and that was in large part due to the writing style. I actually love reading nonfiction historical books, and find anything related to American history fascinating so this sounded like a great read. Unfortunately the writing style is very stiff, and I found many of the chapters repetitive. I feel like it could have been half as long and still have gotten the point across. I also didn't appreciate how the story was bookended with jabs at Thomas Edison's contributions to the invention of the light bulb. The author just spent 300 pages telling us how other people contributed to its progress and then has to remind readers that it wasn't all Edison. It felt a little bitter. Still, there was a lot of interesting backstory about electricity and how it slowly began to be incorporated into American society. I also appreciated how the author demonstrated the different approaches to invention by Americans versus Europeans. I still think it is a fascinating topic but wish that some more editing had happened to shorten and tighten up the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Adams

    This was a really great book. Much more than just talking about the invention , it delved into all the facets of life that were affected, and the ways in which things and people were forever changed. Though there were technical aspects , he writes in a way that was engaging and never dry. Loved it

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Harder

    There is a reason that the image of person with a light bulb over his head is the universal sign of someone with a bright idea. This is odd when arguably man’s greatest invention is beer. Yet we rarely illustrate brilliance by hovering a Schlitz can over a beaming countenance. Why? Well light and electric power helps us overcome adversity and the environment, beer just helps us to endure it. The Age of Edison isn’t really about Edison, though he plays a large factor. It is more about the transfor There is a reason that the image of person with a light bulb over his head is the universal sign of someone with a bright idea. This is odd when arguably man’s greatest invention is beer. Yet we rarely illustrate brilliance by hovering a Schlitz can over a beaming countenance. Why? Well light and electric power helps us overcome adversity and the environment, beer just helps us to endure it. The Age of Edison isn’t really about Edison, though he plays a large factor. It is more about the transformation of America and the effect of being able to see after 8:00 PM. After a rash of divorces when spouses saw each other for the first time, ultimately all the effects were positive. This did not keep the doom and gloom group (think Al Gore) from prophesying that electric light would bring about moral degeneracy (people staying out past dark), physical danger (some thought pumping noxious and flammable gas light was safer than electricity) and disintegration of the family (families would not longer gather about the flicking kerosene flame and talk). True the ability to keep late hours has its drawbacks. Nothing wholesome ever happens after 10:00 and if by 1:00 AM you are not at home there is a 90% likelihood that you are doing something of which your mother would not approve...but on a whole I think we must all agree light is good – it says so right in Genesis 1:4. This is a wonderful snapshot of a short and highly transformative period of history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    My dad collects Edison records and Edison record players. I grew up mostly associating Edison with his records and record players. I did know he invented the light bulb, but I did not know much more than that. I enjoyed reading about how he invented the light bulb. The best part of the book is learning how the early days of the light bulb changed people's lives. The book covers both the positive and negative impact that electric light had. The wires that were hastily put up on poles were very da My dad collects Edison records and Edison record players. I grew up mostly associating Edison with his records and record players. I did know he invented the light bulb, but I did not know much more than that. I enjoyed reading about how he invented the light bulb. The best part of the book is learning how the early days of the light bulb changed people's lives. The book covers both the positive and negative impact that electric light had. The wires that were hastily put up on poles were very dangerous and people were injured or killed as a result. There was a lot that still had to be learned about how to safely use this new invention. I enjoyed how the book mentioned how the World's Fair in Chicago and the World's Fair in Buffalo used electric light. The author really did his research because he mentioned Barnes' diving elks and educated horse at the fair in Buffalo. I read the Nook Book version of this book. I was very impressed with how well the images in the book showed up. They are very clear and I can see so much detail in each image. I highly recommend reading this book. We take for granted the light we have today. This book reminds us how much it has improved our lives by showing what type of lighting was used before the light bulb.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    An interesting read on the social history of electric lighting. The technology is so obvious now that we forget, or don't realize, that its introduction created a frenzy of adoption exactly like that of the iPhone today, for example. It only took only about five years before most American cities had replaced darkness and feeble gas lamps with the new arc lighting. We think we are somehow special today in our ability to create and consume the "new," but it was exactly the same in the 1880's, and An interesting read on the social history of electric lighting. The technology is so obvious now that we forget, or don't realize, that its introduction created a frenzy of adoption exactly like that of the iPhone today, for example. It only took only about five years before most American cities had replaced darkness and feeble gas lamps with the new arc lighting. We think we are somehow special today in our ability to create and consume the "new," but it was exactly the same in the 1880's, and the vast social change that resulted then offers significant lessons for technologists, sociologists and consumers of today, if anyone cares to notice.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Text Addict

    A good synthesis of information about how electric light was invented, promoted, and extended to ever-larger segments of the American public. How people reacted to it - as either a menace or a panacea, and all points in between. The major personal and public safety issues involved. The canonization of Edison as a kind of secular saint of Progress. Very interesting, but rarely revelatory. A solid reference on a period and topic that needed one.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    easily 4 stars. Freeburg takes the scientific discussion of electricity and makes it very relevant to the amateur study of American history. very enjoyable and I learned a lot!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Kearney

    Well written but lacked soul. It was just the basic facts about some of the story of how electric lights crept into American life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Coller

    From Amazon: "The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but more than any other invention, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb marked the arrival of modernity, transforming its inventor into a mythic figure and avatar of an era. In The Age of Edison, award-winning author and historian Ernest Freeberg weaves a narrative that reaches from Coney Island and Broadway to the tiniest towns of rural America, tracing the progress of electric light through the rea From Amazon: "The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but more than any other invention, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb marked the arrival of modernity, transforming its inventor into a mythic figure and avatar of an era. In The Age of Edison, award-winning author and historian Ernest Freeberg weaves a narrative that reaches from Coney Island and Broadway to the tiniest towns of rural America, tracing the progress of electric light through the reactions of everyone who saw it and capturing the wonder Edison’s invention inspired. It is a quintessentially American story of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility in which the greater forces of progress and change are made by one of our most humble and ubiquitous objects." I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much more than I thought I would...and so much that I could probably start from the beginning right now and read the whole thing through again. There was so much to learn and imagine and I know I missed so much being distracted by surgery and a move. I will definitely be keeping it in my collection to go back to from time to time. The advent of electric lights had such an amazing effect on society. It changed people's sleep patterns, thus changing their entire routines, traditions, and family and social lives. It served to further differentiate between social statuses. It made an impact in so many way that I never could have imagined. I thought it was interesting that so many species of birds and bugs were discovered as they were found dead at the base of street lights in the mornings. The idea of "electro"hunting and fishing was also interesting. I was also surprised by how late into the 20th century electricity became common in middle-class homes. Less than 15% of homes were wired for electricity in 1910---and only 70% by 1930. Other interesting bits: Pg. 267: "Self-evident today, the proper use of an incandescent lamp is a social practice that, according to one electrician, was misunderstood by 99 percent of Americans in the early twentieth century. Why pay so much for electric light, these customers surely wondered, only to hide it behind a shade or to place it out of the line of sight... Such an idea must have seemed like the scheme of unscrupulous electric-current salesmen eager to sell customers more light than they needed." Pg. 283: "These changes in technology produced a corresponding change in the way middle-class American families interacted once the sun went down. Some complained that since family members felt less compelled to draw together each night around a common lamp, their bonds had weakened and the art of conversation had suffered. People talked less and read more, as cheaper books and more evening light encouraged the explosive growth of what people at the time called a new 'reading habit.'" Lastly, I was compelled to ponder the last line of the book and wonder about the actual validity of this quote from Franklin Roosevelt: "Electricity is no longer a luxury, it is a definite necessity." I wonder---how would our society get by if we no longer had access to electricity?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    This work of non-fiction is a compelling social history that covers the rise of electricity in America and the many ways it transformed the country. In addition to the history of electric light's invention, this book also covers the spread of usage of electric light through the country, and the many changes that occurred as a result including the hours we keep, medical care and surgery, photography, and oceanic exploration. The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer. While Edison is certainly This work of non-fiction is a compelling social history that covers the rise of electricity in America and the many ways it transformed the country. In addition to the history of electric light's invention, this book also covers the spread of usage of electric light through the country, and the many changes that occurred as a result including the hours we keep, medical care and surgery, photography, and oceanic exploration. The title of this book is a bit of a misnomer. While Edison is certainly discussed and played a great role in the rise of electric light, the book does not focus on him. During his time, Edison was a bit of a celebrity and his name represented electricity even when dozens of others were working on the technology so in some ways it does feel fitting that his name graces the cover. Yet this book covers much more than just Edison or his inventions and truly spans the country to discuss the many uses and changes that came about due to the availability of electric light. This book covered an important invention that transformed American life. I appreciated the author's choice to cover not only the invention of electricity but its ramifications in the decades afterwards. Only as electric light slowly spread across the country and its uses continued to grow could the reader begin to grasp the true magnitude of the shift of life before and after electrical life became available to the public. From a novelty invention to a practical solution to illuminate individuals' homes and dark streets, light truly transformed America in the late nineteenth century. To first illuminating Christmas trees in 1884 to making it possible for surgeons to see inside their patients as they operated, there is little about life today that this invention hasn't touched. Although early its progress was slowed by rural settings and unsafe regulations that saw hundreds of wires sticking out of one pole and opened many up to accidental electrocution, the practice became increasingly widespread and "70 percent of homes [were] wired by 1930" (289). "And by all its multitude uses it has lengthened the hours of our active lives, decreased our fears, replaced the dark with good cheer, increased our safety, decreased our toil, and enabled us to read the type in the telephone book" (309).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I slowly read this one after purchasing it in the Kindle store. Thanks feels sort of funny within the connect of modern light technology---I spent my time reading most of the book in the near-dark because of my device's backlit screen. I think it's a bit hard to read continuously, and worked better for me in segments. There's coverage of accidents, safely improvements, the development of the EE field and profession, and more importantly (and interestingly for me) what the introduction and later i I slowly read this one after purchasing it in the Kindle store. Thanks feels sort of funny within the connect of modern light technology---I spent my time reading most of the book in the near-dark because of my device's backlit screen. I think it's a bit hard to read continuously, and worked better for me in segments. There's coverage of accidents, safely improvements, the development of the EE field and profession, and more importantly (and interestingly for me) what the introduction and later improvements of electric lighting did to people and their spaces. The street, there factory, the home. Freeburg shapes his chapters topically so you can move from one bit to another depending on your interest. I'm sure not everyone is going to want to read the professionalization chapter. There are sections within chapters examining era reformer and critical responses as well. The book goes up until the 1930s when electric lighting became more widespread (not just a city thing). Edison himself gets a big celebration thrown by Ford, and a keynote by President Hoover.... and he is so tired of electricity, but he acknowledges that HE DID NOT INVENT THE LIGHT BULB ON HIS OWN. The competition to improve the bulb, to make it a marketable product, that was his feat. Dozens of inventors contributed to the development of the incandescent light bulb, and Edison got lucky enough to have his name written largest in history because he created a model which fit the public's need and wallet. This book is not his story, it is the electric light's history from Edison's success to his want for a nice camping trip and a nap after all the excitement. Edison and Ford used to go on yearly "escape modern life" camping trips.....with cars full of tech.....alright then. Critique: a bit too long, perhaps too many examples. I recommend skipping chapters that do not interest you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Electricity is such an ingrained part of our lives that we rarely think of it, unless we happen - temporarily, God willing - to be without it. So it's hard to imagine the entire world before electric lights - the sheer and utter darkness that enveloped everyone and everything from sundown to sunup. Obviously, then, the arrival of electricity was the one of the seminal events of their lives for millions across the world. Ernest Freeberg works hard to make the reader feel the excitement caused by t Electricity is such an ingrained part of our lives that we rarely think of it, unless we happen - temporarily, God willing - to be without it. So it's hard to imagine the entire world before electric lights - the sheer and utter darkness that enveloped everyone and everything from sundown to sunup. Obviously, then, the arrival of electricity was the one of the seminal events of their lives for millions across the world. Ernest Freeberg works hard to make the reader feel the excitement caused by the electrification of America (with the occasional visit across the pond to England, France, and Germany). He traces the arrival of light from the various oils to gas to, finally, the incandescent light bulb. (Sidenote: Thomas Edison was 32 when he invented the incandescent light bulb. I learned this in the opening pages of Freeberg's The Age of Edison and spent the rest of the book feeling only slightly inconsequential.) Electricity was not without controversy as the electric companies, in the era of robber barons, worked to part individuals and municipalities alike from their money as quickly as possible, often while stringing miles of dangerously hung wires. Americans of the day were treated to regular news headlines of men, children, even horses electrocuted by a dangling or fallen wire. The Age of Edison is an interesting read, though slightly dry, and rather too technical at times. Freeberg notes at one point that, "Few in the public could follow the heated, technical, and contradictory claims made by the rival companies...or the bickering between city inspectors..." I know the feeling.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Root_rambler

    I was initially worried that reading this book along with "The End of Night" by Paul Bogard would result in reading a lot of the same information twice, but despite the fact that they were both about light and night, there was almost no overlap. This was a historical account of the time from the dawn of the electric light through the 1920s/1930s. The other was an account of the author's adventures as he looked for the darkest remaining places on Earth shortly before 2013. In fact, I thought that I was initially worried that reading this book along with "The End of Night" by Paul Bogard would result in reading a lot of the same information twice, but despite the fact that they were both about light and night, there was almost no overlap. This was a historical account of the time from the dawn of the electric light through the 1920s/1930s. The other was an account of the author's adventures as he looked for the darkest remaining places on Earth shortly before 2013. In fact, I thought that book could have used more grounding in the history shared in this one, but they were both published in 2013 so I guess that wasn't possible. This was a solid historical account and full of useful details, but I wanted more 'so-what' takeaway/analysis. Guess that wasn't what this book was trying to be, but especially in light of new research about light & our eyes this book seems very relevant to our present as well as our past. I had never really thought about what it was like to live through the time when electric light rapidly spread around the globe- what it was like before, and after, how many lives it changed, etc. It seems that that time was in some ways analogous to our own in terms of technology? Very interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Non-fiction books are harder for me to get through and take longer for me to read than most books. I picked this book up at a book swap we had at my condo because the cover looked interesting. Stepping outside my comfort zone I found I enjoyed this book a lot. It discussed the various parties involved in the invention of the electric light, the rise of the electric companies, how this impacted the world and how it changed life for modern Americans. I thought the book was well organized and expla Non-fiction books are harder for me to get through and take longer for me to read than most books. I picked this book up at a book swap we had at my condo because the cover looked interesting. Stepping outside my comfort zone I found I enjoyed this book a lot. It discussed the various parties involved in the invention of the electric light, the rise of the electric companies, how this impacted the world and how it changed life for modern Americans. I thought the book was well organized and explained things well. Overall, for a nonfiction book (that is not a biography - love those), this was really good.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Delway Burton

    A study of the beginning and evolvement of the electric age (1870-1910). The first of the book is excellent and its chronicle of the beginning of technology, R & D, and commercial capitalism is excellent, but it bogs down later when examining the applications of electricity, perhaps the most transformative technology of all. He diverges into racism and colonialism which I think is a bit of a stretch. Applied technology is fact-based, unless you want to discuss its applications in war. The result A study of the beginning and evolvement of the electric age (1870-1910). The first of the book is excellent and its chronicle of the beginning of technology, R & D, and commercial capitalism is excellent, but it bogs down later when examining the applications of electricity, perhaps the most transformative technology of all. He diverges into racism and colonialism which I think is a bit of a stretch. Applied technology is fact-based, unless you want to discuss its applications in war. The results of its application imply no blame.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charles Robinson

    This book was conceived on the model of Alan Trachtenberg’s _Incorporation of America_. Whereas Trachtenberg surveyed the entirety of the late 19th century through thematically-driven chapters, Freeberg does the same with a much more limited topic. At times the effect is monotonous; dates, events, innovations are recycled for several different thematic passes through the same ~20 year period. I would go back to this text as a secondary source for academic work, but it’s not so entertaining a read This book was conceived on the model of Alan Trachtenberg’s _Incorporation of America_. Whereas Trachtenberg surveyed the entirety of the late 19th century through thematically-driven chapters, Freeberg does the same with a much more limited topic. At times the effect is monotonous; dates, events, innovations are recycled for several different thematic passes through the same ~20 year period. I would go back to this text as a secondary source for academic work, but it’s not so entertaining a read for casual history or technology enthusiasts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bob Gustafson

    A well-researched, informative, but boring work, this is a book about the role of electrical light during the gilded age. There is no biographical material about Edison or anybody else. There isn't a historical narrative either. The redeeming value is in the various subtle aspects -- electrical light vs. gaslight, safety in public spaces, electrician as a new career alternative, illuminating rural areas, etc. If that thrills you, go out and get the book. If not, use your money for something else. A well-researched, informative, but boring work, this is a book about the role of electrical light during the gilded age. There is no biographical material about Edison or anybody else. There isn't a historical narrative either. The redeeming value is in the various subtle aspects -- electrical light vs. gaslight, safety in public spaces, electrician as a new career alternative, illuminating rural areas, etc. If that thrills you, go out and get the book. If not, use your money for something else.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mayda

    This book needs a different title. The star of the show is the electric light itself, not Edison. While the author does write about Edison’s part in the devolpment of the electric lightbulb and electricity, much more is written about the light itself and electricity and the effect they had on society. It really wasn’t “Edison’s Age.” While some of the chapters were quite interesting, others were deadly boring, and after awhile, seemed repetitious. Not a bad account of the period when cities and This book needs a different title. The star of the show is the electric light itself, not Edison. While the author does write about Edison’s part in the devolpment of the electric lightbulb and electricity, much more is written about the light itself and electricity and the effect they had on society. It really wasn’t “Edison’s Age.” While some of the chapters were quite interesting, others were deadly boring, and after awhile, seemed repetitious. Not a bad account of the period when cities and homes first became electrified, just not a great one.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Rosenberg

    Great book This was not what I was expecting - I was expecting a story about Edison and the invention of the lightbulb. But that is not what it is. It is a story of what happened AFTER Edison’s invention (on the shoulders of many) of the lightbulb. After I had adjusted to that fact, I loved it. I had not really thought much about how much electricity changed our lives in so many different ways in so short a time. This book was very readable and very thought provoking.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Though this had a slow start for me, I really enjoyed the depth that the author achieved by demonstrating electricity's social, cultural, political, economic, and even racial impact on America. I especially loved his discussion about the urban/ rural divide, the use of electricity in entertainment, religion, and imperialism. Somewhat framed between Edison's invention of the incandescent bulb and New Deal efforts to bring electricity to all Americans, the scope of this book is truly impressive! Though this had a slow start for me, I really enjoyed the depth that the author achieved by demonstrating electricity's social, cultural, political, economic, and even racial impact on America. I especially loved his discussion about the urban/ rural divide, the use of electricity in entertainment, religion, and imperialism. Somewhat framed between Edison's invention of the incandescent bulb and New Deal efforts to bring electricity to all Americans, the scope of this book is truly impressive!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kim Horner McCoy

    This is a really general overview of the advent of electric light. The subtitle rather overstates the book's reach. It's one of those books that will remind the reader, for a little while, not to take artificial light for granted. A good place to begin and a decent source of keywords for further, more detailed inquiry. This is a really general overview of the advent of electric light. The subtitle rather overstates the book's reach. It's one of those books that will remind the reader, for a little while, not to take artificial light for granted. A good place to begin and a decent source of keywords for further, more detailed inquiry.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    A quick, easy, engaging introduction to the social and cultural impacts of the introduction of electric light. A synthesis of other easily recognized scholarship, not challenging paradigms in any way, but written at a good level for my high school students. Also a nice introduction to the idea of history of science/technology in the first place.

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