By William E. Cain
As an essayist, thinker, ex-pencil producer, infamous hermit, tax protester, and all-around unique philosopher, Thoreau led so singular a existence that he's in many ways an ideal candidate for the old and biographical remedies made attainable by means of the historic publications to American Authors sequence structure. William E. Cain, the amount editor, comprises contributions on his courting with nineteenth century authority and ideas of the land, which may help the volume's achieve past those that learn Thoreau for illumination to these basic readers who love him for embodying the spirit of yank uprising.
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Extra resources for A Historical Guide to Henry David Thoreau (Historical Guides to American Authors)
In 1830, when the New York inventor Peter Cooper built the first locomotive in the United States (speed: 12 mph), there were twenty-three miles of track. By 1840 the figure had increased to 3,000 miles—nearly twice that of Europe. It reached 9,000 in 1850 and more than 30,000 in 1860, cutting across a nation that had tripled in size from 1803, the date of the Louisiana Purchase, to the late 1840s, when Mexico ceded vast stretches of land at the close of the Mexican War. By the 1850s freight trains usually included a dozen ten-ton cars; coal-burning locomotives were replacing wood-burners; and telegraphs were regulating train movements.
But he was away from his desk more than he liked, spending time working in the family business and making improvements in the science of pencil-making. As the historian Henry Petroski has noted, Thoreau devised a means of refining graphite, combining it with clay, that enabled the Thoreau family to produce the best pencils in the country, pencils of the highest quality manufactured in different degrees of hardness and made for various uses, from writing to drafting and drawing. He did research on pencil-making and reported on the results of his reading to the family; and he made adjustments in the machinery from which the pencils were fashioned.
He seems to have envisioned writing a big book like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (1851-1857) or Lewis Henry Morgan's League of the Iroquois (1851). In addition, he worked diligently on his natural history studies, collecting specimens, keeping records of the arrival of birds and the appearance of flowers, and examining the stages of growth of trees. More than anything else, in the 1850s Thoreau continued to A Brief Biography 41 write and, despite the failure of A Week, struggled to get his work into print.