Neurasthenic nation

How was the diagnosis of Neurasthenia tied to the advent of Industrialization?

The Author through the introduction and the first two chapters describes what a country that had been used to an agrarian lifestyle that moved at a pace that only can be described as natural power and speed might feel if they suddenly felt everything changing as far as pace and communication,  and the speed that it is dispatched. The agriculture base that they had long lived under was changing towards an urban life that was represented by monotonous factories and offices that were restricted to being indoors. Certainly the pace had quickened and the pressures of modernity and industrialization influenced the sense of anxiety that came with these sudden changes. Certainly that anxiety would show in the way that people saw their lives change, and they may be overwhelmed  at times. There also was a sense that this new lifestyle was usurping control from the individual. The author shows that there was a wish to describe this loss and confusion that showed up in the people’s everyday life. When the diagnosis was explained with its broad parameters of symptoms the people recognized themselves in the diagnosis. There was a lot of stress related to this new speed, and pressure to keep up. While in many ways they welcomed  new technologies at the same time there was evidence that it was not all good, as between the 1870s and the 1890s there were several depressions that affected many and those that were new urbanites did not have the security of the farm. The author in these first few chapters shows how the medical community and the pharmaceuticals of the day started putting everybody in this class and were perfectly willing to make as much off of it as they could.

As he goes into the rest of the book he seems to buy into neurasthenia as a real diagnosis, but at the same time realizes that it was perhaps a catchall for anything that might be going on. He describes several case studies that seem to be a direct effect of the new modernization, but at the same time he discusses how in a sense this was a check on the new modernity. Something that caused a way to look at the price of a new industrial world. I think the author does not completely buy into neurasthenia he does see that over this time day-to-day life changed and this was a way to learn how to adapt to it.

Did neurasthenia affect men and women differently?

It certainly did according to the evidence that this author got out of it, although from what I could sense for the women it was something that had been below the surface for much longer. Women’s problems had been there for much longer and may have been coaxed to the surface by the suffrage movement allowing them to speak up. It seems that the women were affected by the fact that they saw their role as homemakers being without intellectual stimulation, and in fact they were caught in a position of day after day working nonstop in keeping up the home and taking care of children. The monotony of their day-to-day existence caused them to ask what more is there that they were not getting out of life.It seems to me that the suffrage movement brought this to the surface much more. Even wealthy women were somewhat caught in this cycle of taking care of the home, without something to challenge them more. In a sense there is still some of this with us.

With men it was a c completely different thing but also part of the roles that men were expected to play in society. That role of being the provider and protector of their families. With the new Industrialization often they had to deal with the new limits of industrialization, where they often had no control over their lives. There jobs often were dependant on a new structure that was out of their control. With the many depressions came layoffs and cutbacks that they had no say in. This frustration caused many men to struggle with their role as defined by gender as the provider of their families

What is the legacy of neurasthenia in today’s world?

This in the end really made me think about how we look at all mental diseases that crop up in today’s world. Prior to the wide-ranging diagnosis of neurasthenia we ignored the fact that the mind could have such impact on our day-to-day life. If things were not going well for you , you had to just deal with it on your own. After neurasthenia , and especially after doctors worked through the quackery of early treatment they came up with treatments that really did work. At first it started with rest and diets that seemed to address the issue as a nutritional issue, they came to start letting in the new sciences of Freud and others working in the issue of psychiatric treatment and the new ways to use this new science. As this has evolved it has been used for many things today that back then would be under the umbrella of neurasthenia. Although I am not sure how successful this science was back then , we use psychological therapy often now to great success, or at least as a great crutch. It is ironic that it was some of the this actually started through some  that were not among the mainstream churches of the day that led to the idea of looking within rather than looking for help through the medicine of the day. As much as I hate to credit churches with doing anything positive, it seemed that this guidance was the turning point on getting a handle on neurasthenia. I also think that the next step, or a simultaneous step of leading a strenuous life also stays with us today, that working hard is its own therapy for regaining control of outside influences that seem to encourage lethargy.

River of Shadows

  1. This book is a biography of Muybridge, but it’s also something more. Describe the something more.
    1. This book is about the conversion of power that is natural, to a power that exceeds natural power, and how that expansion of speed condensed time and space. It is about modernity as it moved west with the trains The trains condensed time and space and technology exploded in ways never imagined with one thought leading to the next forever leaving behind the image of man being limited by the speed of what he could control without science. Muybridge started out to find an answer to a simple question, that would seem to have little consequence other than to the man who was curious about what his eye could not distinguish alone. Once the question was answered it planted seeds of curiosity in first Muybridge and eventually many others. The inquisitive thoughts about motion expanded beyond Muybridge and touched many other worlds, science, art, even labor with Frederick Jackson Taylor’s studies on labor efficiency. The point of the book was using Muybridge  and where he went with this new technology, but the same could be said for many other innovations at the same time. In the background others are experimenting with technologies , some to move things forward , others like the native Americans attempting to hang onto a way of life that is suddenly being taken from them. While Muybridge is preserving an image of man to be played back after he dies, the Modoc are trying to bring back all that have died in the past to help fight the overwhelming technologies of the whites through the Ghost Dance. This new world that found a way to annihilate time and distance, that found ways to flatten the landscape and allow man to ignore natural limits. The author uses Stanford’s curiosity that had little importance to others as a starting point that would lead to other questions and other technologies and whole industries.
  2. What does this book tell us about the history of the American west and the history of California in particular?     It tells us that  when the railroads connected the east to the west that San Francisco became a center for modernization and that new ideas had found a place to continue the industrialization and innovation of the east. But in the west it seemed like there were few constraints and everything was wide open and open to make a name for yourself. As Solnit explains “Something entirely new had been invented, something that would change the world, a kind of headstrong rootless sense of heroic possibilities and glamour still summed up by the word California”. (P 123) Although California was the furthest west of the west it was the center of the west. It was were the west drew like a magnate the innovators, the railroad tycoons , The new beginnings and fresh starts. It was almost a mythological place with its divergent natural resources and possibilities. It became a culture open to new ideas backed by great wealth. That wealth allowed for experimentation and ideas to grow into implementation. Experimentation like a very wealthy man wondering whether a horses hooves are simultaneously off the ground at the same time, and then what may seem frivolous or even decadent to prove it grew into a succession of improvements on technology that created a whole industry, and along the way pushed science and labor and art to new un-imagined understandings. The west was untamed when we got there, as was nature, the migrants that moved there tamed it to a certain degree, sometimes for the good and sometimes , often by unintended consequences for the bad.
  3.  Why should we care whether all four legs of a horse ever get off the ground at the same time when its trotting?     We shouldn’t really care, but it is a testament to mans curiosity that what comes out of a question that has no real use grows. The question needed an answer for just Stanford and his study of horses, but once Muybridge found a way to reach an answer,  that led to many more questions, first in Muybridges wonder and study of motion to what led to the motion picture industry and all the things in between. It was with that first examination of the horses hooves that Muybridge realized that the eye alone does not catch everything.That is why he decided to do so many strips of people naked, it was to reveal what was hidden by the shadows within a motion. He realized that clothes themselves hid the motion of the body.He wanted to expose everything once he realized how much was hidden from  the naked eye.


  1. What did you learn from Freeburg that you didn’t learn from Stross ?

I  think that what I learned mostly from Freeburg was how much competition there was not just when Edison decided to design the light bulb, but before he got involved. It was also mentioned in both books that Edison used technology that had already been worked on to advance his bulb. this was mentioned in Stross but laid out more explicitly in Freeburg’s book. Stross mentioned that the first breakthrough in electric light was in 1810 by Sir Humphrey Davy, who would display both an arc light and an incandescent light. Freeburg went further with the story, explaining what Davy had done. This would be a starting point that would have inventors all  over the world working for the next seven decades to make electric light a feasible way to negate the darkness of night. Edison would jump in rather late, but would use what had already been learned to make it a usable tool. The background from Freeburg made the story make sense and explained to a certain degree that Edison had a head start and took what others had been working on to the next evolutionary level.

2.What exactly made setting up an electrical delivery system so much more difficult than perfecting the light bulb?

Without an infra-structure to get electricity into the homes or businesses the light bulb alone was not really much, just an expeditionary devise. Edison saw that it had to be what got that electricity on a large-scale to the address that made it practical. By showing that he could light up a square mile of city blocks he showed it was  or could be economical. The light bulb he understood very early on from other inventors what was needed, a vacuum glass with a filament to light up. That part came to him early on, but he had to make it marketable, and that was where his genius came to play, but coming up with a socket and the wiring into the house or factory and then the power unit that would send power to the light bulb was the difficult and time-consuming part of his exercise. At the same time it was what others were not doing efficiently.

3.When exactly do you think electrical lighting becomes so commonplace that Americans started to take it for granted? Explain the reasoning for your answer.

This question begs two separate answers, one for urban Americans, and the other for rural Americans. For urban America you have to note that in 1910 only 15 percent of American households had electric light, although the light bulb had been around for almost thirty years at that time. There was a reluctance for people to put electricity into their homes, mostly because of the sensational accidents that had been caused by early installations, mostly caused by haphazard insulation of wiring and low lines stretched between homes. It was natural for citizens to want to see it at exhibitions and even on light posts outside their doors. But to bring it into their house was another thing,  it was a little bit scary . There was another problem for middle class and working class people; converting from gas to electric was an expensive and messy proposition with little guarantee that it would save money in the long run. Although Edison had touted it as being cheaper than gas, so far it had not been.

After World War I there was a housing boom and more than seventy percent of all new houses being built were designed with wiring for electricity. This started to make it more acceptable in the family home. While most Americans had grown accustomed to the electricity in the streets and the workplace, they would not take it for granted until they had grown used to it in their own homes. With the building boom it would be about 1925 before it would be taken for granted in the home, or at least the newness of electricity in the home would be worn off enough  by urban dwellers to accept it as matter of fact.

It would take much longer for rural America to grow used to it, mostly because it would not have reached out into the country in a great scale until midway through the depression. In 1910 a government study had found that only two percent of all people living in the country had electricity in their homes versus fifteen percent for urban areas. A large part of this was logistics, it would be very expensive to run lines out into the small rural communities. This problem would be the cause of only one in nine rural families having electricity in their homes as late as the mid 30’s.  But as the depression seemed to be stuck in the mire of the 30′ it became a governmental priority to get electricity to all households throughout the country. President Franklin Roosevelt saw the need to not only set up government programs to put the nation back to work through proposals like the Tennessee Valley Authority, (TVA) which got electricity into the rural areas of the lower midwest and the south, but also set up the Rural Electrification Act in 1936. These programs were designed to establish electricity in all rural areas. I think as far as farmers and rural residents taking for granted electricity it would take till the end of the second world war.


Does Stross think Edison was a good businessman (as opposed to being a good inventor. Explain?                                                                                                            No he does not think that Edison is a good businessman. He thinks that too many times Edison’s stubbornness gets in the way of him succeeding.  He will not move on from a strategy when it does not help him. Stross realizes that Edison wants control of his inventions, but is not really aware of what it takes to both invent and then make good decisions about the business. Also Edison really doesn’t like the role of being a businessman. In truth he is disinterested, as he would rather be in the lab. I think that Edison at times is afraid of letting someone else making those decisions.  Edison knows that he needs a flow of money to enable the labs to stay on task, he is always promoting himself and his inventions by promoting what he is working on at the time to the press. But when it comes to marketing Edison doesn’t always have a clear idea of whom to market his inventions. As an example his phonograph , he is very stubborn in targeting the phonograph towards the business market thinking that it is a device to record minutes to meetings and dictation. At the same time everybody around him knows that its biggest market would be in recording for entertainment purposes,  like recorded music. When it first comes to the public’s notice everybody sees its use being for entertainment. It seems that one of the reasons that he loses interest is that he cannot see what everybody else sees. He also acts on an idea without thinking about cost factors an example can be found in the first paragraph   on 146 when it is describing the cost of laying cable in Manhattan for his electrical lines to be installed  , Edison proposes paying 30,000 dollars a mile without paying attention to the fact that Western Union is only paying 500 dollars a mile to lay their cable. A director in the company notes that “If he would leave it to practical businessmen to make money out of it and stick to his inventions , the company in time would become very rich.” This also shows that the people around him must have been very frustrated by his lack of business understanding.

Why did Edison treat his immediate family, especially his wives the way he did?

                  I don’t think he could take his mind off his passion, which was inventing. I think in many ways he did not see that he was neglecting his family and probably thought that his role was as provider. Foremost in his mind at all times was inventions and as they called it a” kaleidoscope” of ideas working in his mind.It almost seems as if the thoughts that dominated his mind was the price of genius, as if he could not shake them and did not want to. When his first wife died he seemed to pause long enough to find a new wife, as if he knew that it was a need for his kids. He directed his energies in that direction to fill that need. Once he married Mina he seemed to go directly back to the lab, as if he had solved that problem and could go back to his passion. There was certainly a disconnect between him and his family, at the same time it would be too harsh to say that he did not love them. My sense was that he did, but had no idea how to divide up his time and commit to both his lab and his family.

Did Edison control the nature of his own fame or did the press do more to shape that public perception.

                 Edison thought that he was controlling his fame, and more importantly he thought that he had  to keep the funding coming in. But in truth it was the press that was creating who Edison was perceived to be. Edison did have natural abilities to promote himself and the press was hungry to take something he said and run with it, but in the end it was them that developed the perception of Edison. It helped that they saw the story of the inventor that came from nothing, with little formal education and imagined all these possibilities. I think that Edison always thought that he was in control, partly because so much of the press liked and nurtured his story.  Edison knew that he always needed to keep funding to keep his laboratory running, therefore he knew that good press would keep interested investors watching him. Because of needing that funding Edison always made himself available and because of the times and fascination with new technologies He was a natural story that the press latched onto. It is true that he seemed to have a few reporters that helped promote him whenever he wanted attention. I suppose in a way this was part Edison and part the press, but when they jumped to the “Wizard of Menlo Park”, this was the writer’s’ creation. Thats when the story became mythical in perception.

Mark randles on Painter

!. How does painter describe the relationship between  economics and politics during this period? Is it a functional relationship or could it stand to be improved?If so explain.

During this time the economics and politics leaned heavily towards the employers, who controlled most of the politicians. Part of this is because like the European kings of old the wealthy believed that they were wealthy because of almost divine intervention. They saw themselves as the caretakers of the responsibility that came with wealth.At the same time the politicians were convinced that for us to grow they needed to support the employers and the captains of industry. Also at the same time many politicians were there because of the contributions of the wealthy. In a sense the focus on growth and an economy that rewarded the industrialist was at this time a very natural position for a country that was growing and expanding with the railroads going west, and the power of the industrial expansion. the people who had migrated to urban areas at first welcomed the opportunity for jobs, But soon realized that by working for these large corporations they were used as tools and warm bodies, that they themselves had very little identity and were used as cogs to make the machinery work..

Of course it was not functional from the perspective of the workers. Their lives were dominated by the company that they worked for , often from sun up to sundown, many without any days off. The abuses heaped on them were not even acknowledged by the employers, and the hours that they worked and conditions they worked in were not safe in any regard. What could be done would be to organize , but these attempts were fought by the employers and aided by a federal government that was paid for by the wealthy. The labor movement did try to fight , but were often shut down when they got to court, or often before it ever got to court.

2. How does Painter integrate the concept of race into the overall economic theme of her book.?

The first part of the book race rarely comes up other than in the south. When she finally gets into it she contrasts the perspective of two black leaders, Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. Although they both want the same thing they go about it in two very different ways; Washington wants to work through black businessmen to create an economy that will bring up the black race. At the time there were several black men that had built businesses and were succeeding. He remembered how after the war in the south there had been many black politicians in southern states, but that they had not been able to fight the southern Democrats in the state houses of the south. after the end of reconstruction there were few black politicians left. He believed that if they could show the value of their business they may be taken seriously. This was a very slow process that would mean that blacks would learn to live with “Jim Crowe” laws. Om the other hand you had W.E.B. Dubois who wanted blacks to stand up to injustice at all times.His belief was that blacks , could best show their value by succeeding and standing proud for who they were. He realized that the two centuries of slavery and no education had crippled their progress, but believed all along that they were equal to the whites. He wanted to see blacks assert themselves, and earn respect by what they could accomplish. He believed that the blacks that would succeed had a responsibility to lead other blacks.

This was the dilemma of the black population , two opposing thoughts on how to integrate into society. The problem that blacks had in the workplace was that many unions would not accept them, even though they were beginning to be represented in the workforce other than agrarian farmers in rural America. There were a few that did enlist black workers but most did not at that time.

3.Is World War I a continuation of the trends that Painter describes in her book , or is it a break with what comes before?

There is a break from 1914-1916 as a lot of the men and women that were leading them seemed to be absorbed in the anti-war movement leading up to the first World War. William Jennings Bryant would become secretary of state and was working towards keeping us out of the war. Teddy Roosevelt seemed to shift his focus towards getting us in the war. The women’s suffrage movement also was directing their attention towards peace, and seemed to leave labor relations behind. In 1914 the economy had slowed down and there was massive unemployment in most large cities. The direction of the labor movement turned towards the church’s and charity groups to supply food and shelter to the unemployed. By 1915 the economy shifted as we started supplying the allies with goods. the labor movement at this time was trying to shift with the changing economy. Once America entered the war the women entered the workforce but was not paid equally to men doing the same jobs. Their was an effort to make equal pay the law of the land , but was defeated. There was some movement in labor , spurred by women in the workforce but not much was done. The labor Unions during 1917 and 1918 did see drastic increases in new members. until the war ends for the most part they are enlisting new membership. There was major wage increases during this period , but inflation ate most of that up, so that workers were in no better shape than before