Campaign Trains and the Reporters Who Covered Them
by Edward Segal
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 09 Feb 2024
Discover the entertaining story of how campaigning by train shaped American politics, elections, journalism, and culture in Whistle-Stop Politics.
Memories of the pivotal role campaign trains played in American elections fade with the passing of each generation. Also forgotten are the stories documented by the reporters who traveled with hundreds of whistle-stopping politicians including Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.
The trains were the backdrop of political drama, intrigue, humor, and triumph for more than 185 years. Campaign trains were an American invention that enabled politicians to connect with as many voters as possible in the country’s largest cities and smallest towns.
Filled with engaging anecdotes and striking images, this book is an exciting journey back into America’s political past, opening new windows into the personalities and political campaigns that shaped our history.
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“In fifty-two years of journalism, I never knew what it was like to travel on a campaign train or bus—until Whistle-Stop Politics. Reading it, I now feel as if I had had those experiences—the history, the drama, the proximity, the uncertainty, the photos, even the old cartoons. A great job by Edward Segal.”—Bob Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post and author of fifteen No. 1 New York Times bestselling books
“Whistle-Stop Politics is a great read! Especially for anyone who loves history and old-fashioned politics. Author Edward Segal takes us back to what pure politics and campaigning used to be.”—Jeff Pegues, chief national affairs and justice correspondent for CBS News and host of America: Changed Forever
“Whistle-Stop Politics is a one-of-a-kind book about politicians and train travel. It reflects the author’s love for a mostly bygone era, and it succeeds because of the many anecdotes he has collected from the politicians themselves and the journalists who covered them. White House reporter Merriman Smith once toppled from a train, straining to judge the size of a crowd for Truman. Columnist Mary McGrory claimed Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods tried to pour a glass of Scotch down her back for failing to rise sufficiently high to greet her boss. ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’ meant LBJ would soon start speaking, and when Robert F. Kennedy started quoting George Bernard Shaw, it meant he was wrapping up. Whistle Stop Politics is a refreshing look at politics as it once was and a trip down memory lane, when trains stopped in small towns and time seemed to move more slowly.”—Eleanor Clift, political reporter at the Daily Beast and coauthor of Selecting a President
“Whistle-Stop Politics is a great collection of stories and anecdotes that show why presidents and candidates love to campaign by train. Edward Segal gives us plenty of reasons for the popularity of whistle-stop campaign trains with the public, politicians, and their staff. There is really no better or more effective way for candidates and office holders to see America and connect with voters. Whistle-stop trains are fun, but more importantly, they provide those who want to lead us with a view of the country they can’t get any other way. That’s another reason why it would be better if politicians campaigned more by train than by plane.”—Mike McCurry, press secretary to President Bill Clinton, 1995–1998
“Whistle-Stop Politics rolls through two centuries of campaigning from the back of trains. In his entertaining account, Edward Segal presents a wealth of information about the candidates who benefited from whistle-stop trips and the reporters who endured them.”—Donald A. Ritchie, historian emeritus of the US Senate and author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932
“Edward Segal takes readers on an entertaining journey across nearly two centuries of American politics. His book is chock-full of illuminating anecdotes about candidates who rode the rails in search of votes and the journalists who followed along in pursuit of stories. Whistle-Stop Politics is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone who loves presidential history.”—Bob Riel, author of Quest for the Presidency: The Storied and Surprising History of Presidential Campaigns in America
“Edward Segal’s Whistle-Stop Politics is a flavorful compendium of great anecdotes from an age when our campaigns were more fun—and our candidates more spontaneous and less packaged. An absolute pleasure to read.”—Richard North Patterson, New York Times bestselling author of Trial
“Edward Segal has pulled together a fascinating narrative that provides unique insights into one of the most overlooked aspects of railroad and political history: how and why candidates campaigned by train. Segal takes us on a deep dive into the whistle-stop campaigns of well-known train-loving politicians. His extensive research resulted in intriguing and unexpected anecdotes and stories that show how ingrained railroads are in our political and American cultures.”—Todd DeFeo, publisher and editor of Railfanning.org
"For all my adult life, I have had a love of trains, politics, and history. With Whistle-Stop Politics, Edward Segal has combined all three into a must-read for every politician, political pundit, and political science major in the country."—Douglas MacKinnon, former White House and Pentagon official, national columnist, and bestselling author
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Average rating from 6 members
I never knew that whistlestops had such an important part of political campaigning. This wonderful book sets the record (or at least mine) straight.
Whistle Stop Politics is an informative and entertaining book about the history of back platform politicking from its inception to modern day. Author Edward Segal gives the reader an entertaining overview of the candidates, the journalists and the trains themselves. For folks like me, a political junkie plus a train buff, this is as good as it gets.
There is a lore and fascination to a presidential candidate’s special train. The author combed through thousands of books, magazine articles and historical videos to compile the story he tells. Entire communities would turn out along the tracks when a candidate’s train made its short stops. They could look at the man and hear his words straight from his mouth. This also presented fodder for the pickpockets of the time. The book is full of anecdotes compiled by the author’s dedication to the subject.
The whistle-stop trains were not confined to politics. Rexall Drug chain had a coast-to-coast convention using this concept. Comedienne Gracie Allen used a special train to entertain her fans when she was a faux candidate running on the “Surprise Party” platform. One of her slogans was: “I may take a drink now and then, but I never get affiliated”. The book points out that the shortest whistle-stop train was the idea of a California State candidate who used the Angle’s Flight funicular which ran about one block up a steep hill in Los Angeles to campaign.
Segal tells of the unscripted remarks, unscheduled stops, hecklers, pranksters and protesters. The book is about candidates going where the voters are. The long haggard days of duty of the journalists and camera men who traveled with the candidate. The wives and family who sometimes had to protect the candidate from overzealous fans.
Overall, this is a fabulous book for anyone interested in the road to the white house. Plus, the how, and why, and where of the campaign train. Thank you to #NetGalley #EdwardSegal and #RockCreekMedia for the ARC of #WhistleStopPolitics.
#AmericanPolitics, #Elections, #Journalism, #Culture, #Trains
For as long as there have been railways, there have been politicians keen to exploit the opportunities offered by the new means of transport to bring their message to as wide an audience as possible. Edward Segal explores the history of this phenomena and its impact on American politics in this long and detailed guide to 180 years of whistlestop campaigns.