Historian coming to The Bookworm of Edwards | VailDaily.com

Historian coming to The Bookworm of Edwards

Stephen Bedford
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyAuthor/historian Nick Taylor visits the Bookworm of Edwards on Friday night.

EDWARDS, Colorado ” Whether he’ll admit it or not, author/historian Nick Taylor has a knack for timing and coincidence.

As he undertook the massive research project that evolved into his recent book “American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR put the Nation to Work,” Taylor realized his published product would be just in time for the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s controversial works act. The book would also, unfortunately, coincide with the currently stagnant U.S. economy.

Taylor will discuss the watershed works initiative introduced by FDR, as well as potential parallels to today’s economic climate, Friday at 6 p.m. at The Bookworm of Edwards.

Taylor said the timing of the book’s release was coincidental.

“I spent time researching projects that for one reason or another I ended up not using,” Taylor said. “By the time I was finally wrapping up, the 75th anniversary of the New Deal was coming up, and I told my publisher my procrastination was finally paying off. The timing was more a matter of coincidence that some grand design. I wish I was that smart.”

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The New Deal first piqued Taylor’s interest during a collaboration with spaceman-cum-U.S. Senator John Glenn for his autobiography, Taylor said. As Glenn described the hardship staring down his blue-collar family at the onset of the Great Depression, a nerve was struck, Taylor said.

“That story pricked my interest,” Taylor said. “When I did some research and found out that the WPA had literally rebuilt the country, and had amazing arts projects, too, but nobody had a comprehensive history of it, I was off and running.”

Months of research and zigzagging across the country (he visited nine states) led to a 500-plus page book (600-plus counting glossary, index, footnotes and bibliography), which is the definitive examination of one of America’s most uncertain times.

The WPA was manifold, placing an estimated 8 million laborers back in the work force, which resulted in new infrastructure, public works and buildings, and arts and humanities initiatives. Taylor said the multi-faceted attack to put Americans back to work is the WPA’s ultimate legacy.

“Most people who have taken basic American history think of the WPA as the program that put people back to work during the Depression all across the board, actors to road workers,” Taylor said.

Although America’s current economic situation is hardly as dire as that of the 1930s, Taylor said he regularly fields questions regarding then and now.

“There are persuasive arguments for massive WPA-like efforts to deal with the causes and effects of climate change, for example, a kind of ‘green’ WPA,” Taylor said. “The WPA as it existed from 1935 to 1943 won’t be repeated because the government won’t be the primary employer in any such effort. Anything that happens will be by way of public-private partnerships.

“But I do think Americans perceive a need for action on a vast scale on several fronts.”

Stephen Bedford is the general manager of the Bookworm of Edwards.

What: Meet historian and author Nick Taylor, author of “American-Made: The Enduring the Legacy of the WPA: When FDR put the Nation to Work”

Where: The Bookworm of Edwards

When: Friday, 6 p.m.

Cost: $20, includes wine and appetizers

More information: Call 970-926-READ

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