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1920: The Year of Six Presidents | [David Pietrusza]

1920: The Year of Six Presidents

The presidential election of 1920 was among history's most dramatic. Six once-and-future presidents--Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt--jockeyed for the White House. With voters choosing between Wilson's League of Nations and Harding's front-porch isolationism, the 1920 election shaped modern America.
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Publisher's Summary

The presidential election of 1920 was among history's most dramatic. Six once-and-future presidents--Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt--jockeyed for the White House. With voters choosing between Wilson's League of Nations and Harding's front-porch isolationism, the 1920 election shaped modern America. Women won the vote. Republicans outspent Democrats by 4 to 1, as voters witnessed the first extensive newsreel coverage, modern campaign advertising, and results broadcast on radio. America had become an urban nation: Automobiles, mass production, chain stores, and easy credit transformed the economy. 1920 paints a vivid portrait of America, beset by the Red Scare, jailed dissidents, Prohibition, smoke-filled rooms, bomb-throwing terrorists, and the Klan, gingerly crossing modernity's threshold.

©2008 David Pietrusza; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Narrator Paul Boehmer involves himself and listeners by employing subtle emotions. One can hear appropriate inflections—sadness, joy, and petulance—in his words. His sentences flow into a comfortable narrative that sometimes includes poetry. Not resorting to any vocal characterization, he distinguishes the quotations with short pauses." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (86 )
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3.9 (64 )
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4.0 (62 )
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  •  
    D. Littman OH 12-31-09
    D. Littman OH 12-31-09 Member Since 2003

    history buff

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    "A fascinating view into the US at the end of WWI"

    This book by David Pietrusza is a fascinating view into US politics, and related social conditions, in the decade of WWI. Readers will learn much about Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, FDR and a broad cast of other main and supporting characters. Pietrusza uses the election of 1920 as the lever for putting all of these characters together, although much of the book's story really isn't dependent on that event.

    Critical reviewers of a book like this typically call the thing "sprawling," by which they mean it is only loosely connected together, and perhaps a bit superficial in parts. And that might be a fair characterization of this book. But as long as you understand it is "sprawling" going in, not a scholarly work and not a narrowly circumscribed, in-depth work, you can enjoy it for the way in which it describes America (its despicable politics of that day, along with some admirable characters it would be cool to meet face-to-face) in the teens and twenties.

    The book is well-written (if sprawling) and very well narrated. My interest did not abate even though it is overlong.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Collette Pearland, TX, United States 01-04-12
    Collette Pearland, TX, United States 01-04-12 Member Since 2011

    Associate Professor at 4 yr. university in educational history and educational administration. Love reading historical books of all genres!

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    "All wanted the presidency..."

    Now this is a book that links men of different political aspirations and regional persuasions to all collide around 1920. The author connects the men through the links to the office of the president. Included in this book are interesting tidbits about each man, such as a thorough background on Herbert Hoover, --who knew his was a geologist by trade and spent quite a bit of time in China early in his career? The book is packed with all kinds of threads between men and how their presence changed the course of American history.
    After reading this book I became more interested in finding out more in depth information on three of the men detailed, especially Woodrow Wilson.
    Really enjoyed it!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-15-12
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 05-15-12 Member Since 2011

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "6 President's alive at the beginning of 1920!"
    What did you love best about 1920?

    Each chapter was an individual history lesson. Women's rights, each individual President gets at least one chapter, KKK and racism, Harding being accused of being black, his girlfriends, and his presidency and death. Eugene Debs is given a chapter as is Sacco and Venzetti.
    History really came alive for me.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of 1920?

    Each of the President's portrayed here became human beings, warts and all. If anything, I learned that Presidents are some of the most flawed men that have ever existed. Winning is everything.


    Have you listened to any of Paul Boehmer’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I don't remember ever listening to any of his other performances. I enjoyed this book and his reading of it immensely.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The women's rights movement was harrowing. The women who fought for our rights were more than heroes, they were warriors. The moment that particularly moved me was the vote by the Tennessee congressman for the amendment, changing his vote because his mother wrote him a letter asking him too.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a complete and comprehensive narrative of the year 1920 election. It encompasses other years to explain what lead up to this election and the results after the election. I did not find any biases towards any of the presidents. They all were treated fairly. An eye-opening book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Annandale, VA, United States 06-17-12
    Matthew Annandale, VA, United States 06-17-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Good story, not good in audio format"

    This is an interesting book that does a respectable job setting the tone & providing facts relative to the election of 1920. The author makes the characters very human, and overall I found the story interesting. The narrator is clear, providing appropriate inflection & good timing.

    There is one overwhelming aspect of this audio presentation that is just awful, however: there are many, many instances where the story provides long lists of voting-related data. These are lists of things like: how much campaign money each candidate raised per state, how delegates voted over the course of national conventions, how many votes each candidate received, etc... Numbers are read long-hand (e.g. "Brown had one hundred twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and ninety votes. Wood had one hundred and five thousand, one hundred and sixty-one votes. Harding had ninety-eight thousand, one hundred and twelve votes..." and more), and the lists tend to be long, having eight or ten numbers in them...they feel interminable. Unfortunately, this book is chock-full of these lists; they simply do not translate well aurally.

    The result is that the listener is subject to minutes-on-end of lists of numbers...this makes an otherwise good story, trying. In a hard copy version, the reader may glance at the numbers, quickly determine who was best, who was worst, etc., and be done with a list of statistics in a few seconds. In this audio presentation, the lists - and there a many - drone on and on and on... and on. I stopped listening to this book twice, to listen to other books.

    Good story, but I can't recommend it in audio format.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 05-28-11
    Ray Glendale, AZ, United States 05-28-11 Member Since 2008
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    "Very Good Book"

    This era of our history is probably one of the least understood or studied it seems among the general public, and this book does a fantastic job of filling in the blanks.


    The only negative is the narration. The speaker has a great voice, and his style would probably fit any number of other books quite well, but it borders on distracting for this particular book. Melodramatic I guess is what comes to mind, but it just doesn't work.

    Four stars based on the book itself though.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 05-12-12
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 05-12-12 Member Since 2010

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Women's first election to vote in"

    Pietrusza begins with sketches of the major players and the lesser players and masterfully weaves them into the events of the day, the peace negotiation ending WW1, the battle over the League of Nations, prohibition, the women's suffrage (19th amendment), the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the peculiar hobby of lynching, the effect of the Bolshevik revolution on domestic radicals, Sacco and Vanzetti and the Boston Police Strike.

    The sitting president Wilson who has lost nearly all his grip on the presidency and reality from a stroke vainly attempts from his sick bed to engineer a third term. Theodore Roosevelt who's sudden death in 1919 suddenly throws the race wide open. The election of 1920 was one of the most dramatic ever seen. For one time in the nation's history six once and future presidents hoped to end up in the white house. Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and Theodore Roosevelt.

    With the advent of advent of phone and radio the election saw unprecedented level of publicity. It was also the first election Women could vote. The book covers the suffrage movement and provides some interesting information on people and events leading up to the passage of the 19th amendment. This book also discusses significant also rans from 1920 like William Jennings Bryon, Al Smith and Socialist Eugene Debs.

    David Pietrusza is a 20th century historian. He produced a critically acclaimed presidential electoral history trilogy of which 1920 was the first. The trilogy also includes 1948 and 1960. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Pietrusza is a gifted wordsmith who's penned well paced, highly accessible popular history. The book is well written and well researched except for a few small editing errors such as writing 16th amendment instead of 19th amendment. If you like history you will enjoy this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Millis, MA, United States 07-08-11
    Linda Millis, MA, United States 07-08-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Very detailed"

    This book would be awesome if someone needed to do research on voting details of various pre-election and election materials. The information on all the Presidents was great and I found their personal histories fascinating. Just got a bit dry around election types of details, but otherwise a book for a historian.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Bainbridge Island, WA, United States 12-22-09
    William Bainbridge Island, WA, United States 12-22-09 Member Since 2007

    Avid "reader" of history - military and with a more British slant the past few years. Rarely read novels but Anthony Powell's DTMoTime zomg

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    "Not bad but..."

    Gives a pretty good back story to each of the "six presidents" with enough filled in details to satisfy this history buff. It took me a while to get used to the narrator's delivery as I found it choppy and slightly reminiscent Bob and Ray's routine of "slow-talkers-of-America" but faster.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Greenville, South Carolina 01-21-13
    Richard Greenville, South Carolina 01-21-13 Member Since 2011
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    "What a great Book!"
    Would you listen to 1920 again? Why?

    I would definitely listen again. There are a lot of details here. That may scare some people off, but I thought it made the story that much richer. I loved the snarly quotes that the folks made about each other. Politicians haven't really changed much. The background material about each man was great--stuff I never knew about how they related to each other before they came to prominence.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I guess my favorite guy of the six was Calvin Coolidge. He was unflappable, and had nothing to hide. He knew what he wanted to do and did it. And he had great quips too!


    Have you listened to any of Paul Boehmer’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't listened to Paul Boehmer before, but I enjoyed his narration. I have another book upcoming that he narrates.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    It wasn't a particularly moving book, I don't think it was intended so. It was fast paced and full of fascinating people, most of whom were slightly shady, each with an angle and a goal--personal gain. If there was one moment that did make its mark on me was Coolidge's description of how difficult it was for him to meet new people. He described how he always found himself "back at that big kitchen door" not really wanting to push it open to meet new people. I could relate to this. I admire him for accomplishing all he did.


    Any additional comments?

    I very much enjoyed this book. I have also read 1960 by the same author. Also a fine story with similar style and fascinating tidbits!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wvprobst Glenpool, OK, United States 09-17-12
    wvprobst Glenpool, OK, United States 09-17-12
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    "Superb reading on 6 great leaders"
    Would you consider the audio edition of 1920 to be better than the print version?

    Have not read the print version. But the audio was pretty good. At times really having to concentrate on the narration. But overall a superb performance.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of 1920?

    The telling of the riots and protests and general unrest in 1919. This even leading to mail bombs sent to judges and other elected officials, including the bombing of the home of the Attorney General of the US, who lived directly accross the street from FDR who was Assistant Sec. of War at the time.


    Which character – as performed by Paul Boehmer – was your favorite?

    Calvin Coolidge, he held more different elected offices then any other president in US history.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Neither. As a lover of history, it filled in some of the more detailed portions of that era that I was not totally aware of.


    Any additional comments?

    Overall this book is so intriguing and why I think books don't need to be made up to be as thrilling as real history. I enjoyed the details of the campaigns and lives of more then just those 6 men. I think it is interesting to make the comparisons between the protests and unrest of 1918-1919 to what we saw in 2011 with the occupy wall street protests. The unrest of the early 20th centry was much more widespread, but the socialist/anti-capitalist narrative of the two eras was/is pretty much the same.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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