The Race Underground

Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway

Most, Doug

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Race Underground
Baker & Taylor
Documents the late-19th-century story of the dramatic and sometimes deadly competition between New York and Boston to build the first American subway, describing the rivalry between two brother subway engineers and their famous supporters against a backdrop of period economics and politics. 100,000 first printing.

McMillan Palgrave
In the late nineteenth century, as cities like Boston and New York grew more congested, the streets became clogged with plodding, horse-drawn carts. When the great blizzard of 1888 crippled the entire northeast, a solution had to be found. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families—Henry Melville Whitney of Boston and William Collins Whitney of New York—pursued the dream of his city digging America's first subway, and the great race was on. The competition between Boston and New York played out in an era not unlike our own, one of economic upheaval, life-changing innovations, class warfare, bitter political tensions, and the question of America’s place in the world.

The Race Underground is peopled with the famous, like Boss Tweed, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison, and the not-so-famous, from brilliant engineers to the countless "sandhogs" who shoveled, hoisted and blasted their way into the earth’s crust, sometimes losing their lives in the construction of the tunnels. Doug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at the centuries of fears people overcame about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S. history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.

& Taylor

Documents the dramatic and sometimes deadly competition between New York and Boston to build the first American subway, describing the rivalry between two brother subway engineers and their famous supporters.

Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780312591328
Branch Call Number: 388.4209 M
Characteristics: viii, 404 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Monday, August 18.

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Aug 06, 2014
  • Mitzi352 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I thought this book was very interesting and readable, not as dry as I worried it would be. It brought in not just the logistics of the projects, but the personalities of people involved in bringing the projects to fruition. Amazing.

Mar 11, 2014
  • RickUWS rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

At least for the first 100 pages this book is disappointing; that's where I gave up. It purports to be a lively history of the competition between Boston and New York to build a subway system, but that seems to be a false comparison calculated to get attention. It is episodic and lacks continuity. The author must have assumed the charming anecdotes and cameos would carry the reader, but for me it just felt like a large-scale cut-and-paste job.


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Most, Doug
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