An entertaining history that could have more potently exemplified power and oppression in turn-of-the-century America.




How scandals undermined the success of a world’s fair that ushered in a new century.

In May 1901, the Pan-American Exposition opened in Buffalo, New York, with the ambitious goal of elevating the city to the prominence of Chicago, host of the dazzling 1893 World’s Fair. The Queen City of the Lakes, as Buffalo was known, reinvented itself as the Rainbow City, for the fair’s multicolored design and illumination. Despite attracting millions of visitors—although fewer than hoped for—the event ultimately failed its backers’ goal; it became, instead, infamous as the site of President William McKinley’s assassination. In a lively, well-researched history, Creighton (History/Bates Coll.; The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History: Immigrants, Women, and African Americans in the Civil War’s Defining Battle, 2005, etc.) juxtaposes that momentous national event with three other scandals that beset the fair: a plan (that ultimately failed) to publicly electrocute Jumbo II, a performing elephant; a woman’s daring stunt of riding in a barrel over Niagara Falls; and the personal and professional travails of Alice Cenda, a midget called Chiquita, under contract with the shady animal trainer Frank Bostock. The scandals connect to a theme of exploitation: of workers by capitalists, which motivated Leon Czolgosz, McKinley’s assassin; of animals by unscrupulous trainers; of vulnerable sideshow performers by impresarios; and of hopeful entertainers by a culture that rewarded sensationalism, as represented by Annie Taylor, the 63-year-old who plummeted down the falls. Drawing on newspaper reports, contemporary records, and memoirs (although one schoolteacher’s banal record of her many visits to the exposition could well have been dropped), the author creates a richly detailed narrative. She reveals, for example, that at an exposition boasting its “grand illumination,” the surgeons operating on McKinley worked under an eight-watt bulb. Ultimately, the author’s choice of events that “offered a rebuttal to the grand Exposition” seems arbitrary, and setting them in the context of a president’s murder trivializes them.

An entertaining history that could have more potently exemplified power and oppression in turn-of-the-century America.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24750-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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