The Magazine

Lights of Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin introduces the modern world to the New World.

Jul 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 43 • By PATRICK ALLITT
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A smaller fault is Lyons’s claim that among the later achievements of America’s practical men was the invention of the steam locomotive. In fact, it was developed first by Richard Trevithick of Cornwall, England, and was then perfected by George and Robert Stephenson, a father and son team from Northumberland. Their railway between Liverpool and Manchester was the world’s first to achieve average speeds of 30 miles per hour. These caveats aside, however, Lyons has done a fine job in giving us a glimpse not just of Franklin the virtuoso but of the world in which he lived and worked, his contemporaries, and their enthusiasms.

Patrick Allitt, professor of history at Emory University, is the author, most recently, of The Conservatives: Ideas and Personalities Throughout American History.