Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal

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The technological marvel of its age, the Erie Canal grew out of a sudden fit of inspiration. Proponents didn't just dream; they built a 360-mile waterway entirely by hand and largely through wilderness. As excitement crackled down its length, the canal became the scene of the most striking outburst of imagination in American history. Zealots invented new religions and new modes of living. The Erie Canal made New York the financial capital of America and brought the modern world crashing into the frontier. Men and women saw God face to face, gained and lost fortunes, and reveled in a period of intense spiritual creativity.

Heaven's Ditch by Jack Kelly illuminates the spiritual and political upheavals along this "psychic highway" from its opening in 1825 through 1844. "Wage slave" Sam Patch became America's first celebrity daredevil. William Miller envisioned the apocalypse. Farm boy Joseph Smith gave birth to Mormonism, a new and distinctly American religion. Along the way, the reader encounters America's very first "crime of the century," a treasure hunt, searing acts of violence, a visionary cross-dresser, and a panoply of fanatics, mystics, and hoaxers.

A page-turning narrative, Heaven's Ditch offers an excitingly fresh look at a heady, foundational moment in American history.

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About the author

JACK KELLY is a journalist, novelist, and historian, whose books include Band of Giants, which received the DAR's History Award Medal. He has contributed to The Wall Street Journal, and other national periodicals, and is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow. He has appeared on The History Channel and been interviewed on National Public Radio. He spent his childhood in a town in the canal corridor adjacent to Palmyra, Joseph Smith's home. He now lives in New York's Hudson Valley.
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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Jul 5, 2016
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781466878990
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 19th Century
History / United States / State & Local / Middle Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA)
Transportation / Ships & Shipbuilding / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The dramatic story of the explosive 1894 clash of industry, labor, and government that shook the nation and marked a turning point for America.

The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly offers a vivid account of the greatest uprising of working people in American history. At the pinnacle of the Gilded Age, a boycott of Pullman sleeping cars by hundreds of thousands of railroad employees brought commerce to a standstill across much of the country. Famine threatened, riots broke out along the rail lines. Soon the U.S. Army was on the march and gunfire rang from the streets of major cities.

This epochal tale offers fascinating portraits of two iconic characters of the age. George Pullman, who amassed a fortune by making train travel a pleasure, thought the model town that he built for his workers would erase urban squalor. Eugene Debs, founder of the nation’s first industrial union, was determined to wrench power away from the reigning plutocrats. The clash between the two men’s conflicting ideals pushed the country to what the U.S. Attorney General called “the ragged edge of anarchy.”

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The dramatic story of the explosive 1894 clash of industry, labor, and government that shook the nation and marked a turning point for America.

The Edge of Anarchy by Jack Kelly offers a vivid account of the greatest uprising of working people in American history. At the pinnacle of the Gilded Age, a boycott of Pullman sleeping cars by hundreds of thousands of railroad employees brought commerce to a standstill across much of the country. Famine threatened, riots broke out along the rail lines. Soon the U.S. Army was on the march and gunfire rang from the streets of major cities.

This epochal tale offers fascinating portraits of two iconic characters of the age. George Pullman, who amassed a fortune by making train travel a pleasure, thought the model town that he built for his workers would erase urban squalor. Eugene Debs, founder of the nation’s first industrial union, was determined to wrench power away from the reigning plutocrats. The clash between the two men’s conflicting ideals pushed the country to what the U.S. Attorney General called “the ragged edge of anarchy.”

Many of the themes of The Edge of Anarchy could be taken from today’s headlines—upheaval in America’s industrial heartland, wage stagnation, breakneck technological change, and festering conflict over race, immigration, and inequality. With the country now in a New Gilded Age, this look back at the violent conflict of an earlier era offers illuminating perspectives along with a breathtaking story of a nation on the edge.

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