The Fire of His Genius by Kirkpatrick Sale

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None of the spectators who gathered on the Hudson River shore on August 17, 1808, could have known the importance of the object they had come to see and, mostly, deride: Robert Fulton's new steamboat. But as Kirkpatrick Sale shows in this remarkable biography, Fulton's "large, noisy, showy, fast, brash, exciting, powerful, and audacious" machine would -- for better or worse -- irrevocably transform nineteenth-century America.
Set against a brilliant portrait of a dynamic period in history, The Fire of His Genius tells the story of the fiercely driven man whose invention opened up America's interior to waves of settlers, created and sustained industrial and plantation economies in the nation's heartland, and facilitated the destruction of the remaining Indian civilizations. Probing Fulton's genius but also laying bare the darker side of the man -- and the darker side of the American dream -- Kirkpatrick Sale tells an extraordinary tale with deftness, zest, and unflagging verve.

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