Booklist Reviews 2019 June #1
In only two decades, from the early 1900s to 1927 when the last Model T rolled off the assembly line, the number of cars on U.S. streets and roads increased from roughly 8,000 to 10 million, thanks to the shrewd business acumen of Henry Ford. Another often-overlooked reason for the auto boom was Ford's well-publicized summer jaunts around the country during this period, driving adventures that inspired other vacationers to take to the roadways, thus spurring a flurry of freeway and gas-station construction. As veteran biographer Guinn (The Road to Jonestown, 2017) recounts in this offbeat, anecdote-filled mix of biography and travelogue, Ford usually took several traveling companions along on these trips, including famous inventor Thomas Edison, naturalist John Burroughs, tire-maker Harvey Firestone, and an entourage of chefs and servants to man the campsites in the rural outposts they visited. As Guinn follows the cross-country perambulations of these Vagabonds—as they dubbed themselves—over ten years and from Florida to California, he also tracks the remarkable technological and cultural changes they left in their wake. A fascinating slice of rarely considered American history. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2019 July
Guinn (The Road to Jonestown) details the period between 1914 and 1924, when Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and naturalist John Burroughs, branding themselves the Vagabonds, set out on a series of summer camping trips. The idea was hatched in 1914 when Ford and Burroughs met Edison in Florida while visiting the Everglades and ended in 1924 when the group gathered at Henry and Clara Ford's Wayside Inn in Massachusetts. These mobile wayfarers traveled in expensive new cars and customized trucks, with Edison serving as a guide. Ford's own motion picture company followed the Vagabonds to film travelogs. The Vagabonds' summer trips concluded for good on August 20, 1924, with Edison's retirement from the group. Guinn spent 2016–18 retracing by car his protagonists' itineraries and writes that a contributing factor to the end of the trips wasn't the Vagabonds' expectation of too much attention being paid to them, as was claimed, but perhaps rather too little. In other words, road trips were no longer a novelty by then. VERDICT An arresting account of America's auto-camping movement and its incipient motivators. Highly recommended, especially for social historians, travel and camping enthusiasts, automotive specialists, naturalists, and also for general readers.—John Carver Edwards, formerly with Univ. of Georgia Libs.
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2019 May #4
In this quirky, intermittently engaging history, Guinn (The Road to Jonestown) argues that the American road trip was partially popularized as an oddball semivacation indulged in by two of the 20th century's most famous inventors. Inspired by a 1915 drive from Los Angeles to San Diego, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison decided to take summer driving trips together for the next decade. Calling themselves "the Vagabonds" and often accompanied by their friends tire tycoon Harvey Firestone and curmudgeonly naturalist John Burroughs, they wanted to join "their countrymen's burgeoning enthusiasm for gypsying in automobiles." Wandering the countryside in a convoy filled with servants and supplies, they used the trips as much for pleasure as publicity, generating massive press coverage about the curious excursions of the famous millionaires who wanted to "demonstrate how much they had in common with other Americans." Guinn uses the Vagabond trips as a vehicle for his profiles of Ford, Edison, and the shifting dynamics of the country their technological innovations radically transformed. Interspersed with the mostly dry anecdotes about the Vagabonds' rambles are portraits of an America convulsed by mechanical wonders and isolationism, both of which were eagerly fed by the anti-Semitic Ford. It's a thin premise for a book, but Guinn does present some pleasing kernels of American history. (July)
Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.