Efforts to create and mould new technologies have been a central, recurrent feature of the American experience since at least the time of the Revolution. In Regulating Railroad Innovation, historian Steven Usselman brings this neglected aspect of American history to light. For nearly a century, railroad technology persistently posed novel challenges for Americans, prompting them to re-examine their most cherished institutions and beliefs. Business managers, inventors, consumers, and politicians all strained to contain the forces of innovation and to channel technical change toward the ends they desired. Moving through time from the first experimental lines through the polished but troubled railroad machines of the early twentieth century, Usselman examines diverse forums ranging from legislatures, and evolving corporate bureaucracies to laboratories, engineering societies, and world's fairs. In the process, his book situates technology within the dynamic history of an emergent industrial nation and elucidates its enduring place in American society.
'The authors's interdisciplinary stance has enabled him to demonstrate the nature of the interelations and interactions which have taken place between the various elements of the railroad system and to present us with an holist view of the railroad industry. Such an exceptionally detailed and well researched study is uncommon. Its high order of scholarship, and combination of breadth and assiduity, enables the author to make an original, stimulating and valuable contribution to the field of contemporary business history.' Economic History Review 'Regulating Railroad Innovation is an awesome volume. Steven Usselman displays the skills of a craftsman in weaving together an interdisciplinary story that shows how technology is central to understanding the development of the world's leading industrializing economy.' American Nineteenth Century History 'Such an exceptionally detailed and well-researched study is uncommon. Its high order of scholarship, and its combination of breadth and assiduity, enable [Usselman] to make an original, stimulating, and valuable contribution to the field of contemporary business history.' The Economic History Review 'For those interested in the questions of innovation and technological adaptation and adoption in late nineteenth-century railroads, they will find much to consider.' Business History 'This superb book should be required reading for anyone with the slightest interest in understanding the transformation of the United States from its predominantly rural condition in the mid-nineteenth century to the urbanized and industrial society found in the immediate aftermath of the First World War ... Usselman's magisterial command of the sweep of American political debate on technology over the best part of a century brilliantly contextualizes his myriad detailed insights into the evolution of the railroad machine. This book deserves to become a classic text on American history in the modern period.' Journal of Urban History