Shot through with vague generalities and paired to a mix of equally generic period images and static new art, this overview remorselessly sucks all the juice from its topic.
This survey of the growth of industries in this country from the Colonial period to the post–World War II era is written in the driest of textbook-ese: “Factories needed good transportation so that materials could reach them and so that materials could reach buyers”; “The metal iron is obtained by heating iron ore”; “In 1860, the North said that free men, not slaves, should do the work.” This text is supplemented by a jumble of narrative-overview blocks, boxed side observations and terse captions on each thematic spread. The design is packed with overlapping, misleadingly seamless and rarely differentiated mixes of small, heavily trimmed contemporary prints or (later) photos and drab reconstructions of workshop or factory scenes, along with pictures of significant inventions and technological innovations (which are, in several cases, reduced to background design elements). The single, tiny map has no identifying labels. Other new entries in the All About America series deal similarly with Explorers, Trappers, and Pioneers, A Nation of Immigrants and Stagecoaches and Railroads.
Utilitarian, at best—but more likely to dim reader interest than kindle it. (index, timeline, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 8-10)