October 27, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation

America's Obsessives: The Compulsive Energy That Built a Nation

Joshua Kendall

Language: English

Pages: 267

ISBN: 1455502383

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


When most of us think of Charles Lindbergh, we picture a dashing twenty-five-year-old aviator stepping out of the Spirit of St. Louis after completing his solo flight across the Atlantic. What we don't see is the awkward high school student, who preferred ogling new gadgets at the hardware store to watching girls walk by in their summer dresses. Sure, Lindbergh's unique mindset invented the pre-flight checklist, but his obsession with order also led him to demand that his wife and three German mistresses account for all their household expenditures in detailed ledgers.
Lucky Lindy is just one of several American icons whom Joshua Kendall puts on the psychologist's couch in AMERICA'S OBSESSIVES. In this fascinating look at the arc of American history through the lens of compulsive behavior, he shows how some of our nation's greatest achievements-from the Declaration of Independence to the invention of the iPhone-have roots in the disappointments and frustrations of early childhood.
Starting with the obsessive natures of some of Silicon Valley's titans, including Steve Jobs, Kendall moves on to profile seven iconic figures, such as founding father Thomas Jefferson, licentious librarian Melvil Dewey, condiment kingpin H. J. Heinz, slugger Ted Williams, and Estee Lauder. This last personality was so obsessed with touching other women's faces that she transformed her compulsion into a multibillion-dollar cosmetics corporation.
Entertaining and instructive, Kendall offers up a few scoops along the way: Little do most Americans know that Charles Lindbergh, under the alias Clark Kent, sired seven children with his three German "wives." As Lindbergh's daughter Reeve told Kendall, "Now I know why he was gone so much. I also understand why he was delighted when I was learning German."

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the Greek and Latin as well there as here,” he explained to Harvie in his earliest surviving letter, dated January 14, 1760, “and likewise learn something of the Mathematics.” The sixteen-year-old’s hunch proved prescient. Soon after his arrival in Williamsburg that March, he came under the wing of William Small, a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy (physics), who, as he later wrote, “fixed the destinies of my life.” From Small, who taught Jefferson through lectures as well as

pouring rain as I am in bright sunshine,” he later wrote. “I love it that much.” But not long after calling it quits with both the Texas Rangers and his third wife, Williams stumbled upon something unexpected: love. It came in the form of Louise Kaufman, a white-haired woman six years his senior, whom he invited to move into his home in Islamorada, Florida, in the mid-1970s. Nearly two decades earlier, as her own first marriage was crumbling, Louise first became entranced by Williams, and she

sister-in-law Lizzie—on a three-month European tour. Heinz could afford the extravagant vacation because business at his ten-year-old food company, F. & J. Heinz, was booming. Sales, which had started out at $44,000 ($880,000 today) in 1876, were up to nearly $500,000 ($10 million). Moreover, Heinz’s expansion plans were rapidly paying dividends. Two years earlier, he had invested $20,000 ($400,000) in a factory on Pittsburgh’s North Side, and Americans were now jumping at the chance to buy his

patented Keystone Pickle Assorter “makes no mistakes. It never miscounts. Therefore we guarantee our pickles to be more UNIFORM IN SIZE and EXACT IN COUNT than any other brand of pickles in the market.” In this instance, the number fetishist did not fudge his totals; Heinz opted to sell five different size barrels, containing from 1,000 to 3,400 pickles, and thanks to his new machine, the counts came out right every time. Once Heinz convinced grocers that this certainty would mean an extra two

signs. This shorthand allowed him to jot down the responses quickly on a single sheet divided into twenty-four squares and to ensure that the data would remain confidential. In Kinseyese, the same letter could refer to several different things. While M could mean “masturbation,” “mother,” “Methodist,” or “masochist,” S could signify “single” or “sadist.” Years later, when traveling with his staff, Kinsey would enjoy bantering in his own private language, saying, for example, “My history today

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