Monday, June 16, 2014

"Supreme City" by Donald L. Miller (2014)

New York is the greatest city in the world by any measure. To paraphrase Dickens in “A Christmas Carol”, you must realize this “for any good to come of it.” But the growth of the city from the quaint days of the “Gay Nineties” to what it became after the Second World War required a growth spurt unlike that seen by any other city before or since.

That is what author Donald L. Miller sets out to prove with this ambitious and informative biography of the city between the turn of the century and the beginning of the Second World War. And he does it with style as he explores both the physical changes to the city’s skyline as well as the men who wrought that change. Along the way he takes us on a tour of the speakeasies and nightclubs, as well as the back rooms of the politicians and the boardrooms of the big corporations.

Carefully researched and annotated, this book covers such diverse topics as the changing modes of transportation and the expansion of the subways, the building of the Grand Central Railroad Station and the rise of Park Avenue, and the city wide construction boom which would push the city’s boundaries further northward.

In the fields of Entertainment; radio; vaudeville; theater; a new invention called TV; musical recording; and even the motion pictures; all had their start in the Big Apple.

As far as Politics and Personalities go, this book explores the characters of the day; Tex Guinan and her saloon; the speakeasies; Mayor Jimmy Walker, Ziegfeld, William S. Paley and the rise of mass media.

The major events of the 1920’s; Lindbergh’s parade after soloing across the Atlantic, Valentino’s funeral and the rise and fall of Tammany Hall are all given their respective dues.  

The author covers all bases in an effort to paint an accurate portrait of Manhattan during 3 of her most fascinating; and active; decades. These are the years which made New York what she is today; quite simply put; the most fantastic city in the world.

This book is an excellent companion to the book “Gotham” which chronicles the history of Manhattan from the time of Hudson to the present. They go well together on my shelf.

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