The Race Underground

The Week called “The Race Underground” (February 2014, St. Martin’s Press) one of “18 Books to Read in 2014,” while Sam Roberts in the The New York Times said “Mr. Most weaves together the egos, political hurdles and other daunting challenges in a sweeping narrative of late-19th-century intrigue.” It was named a Best Book of the Month by and The Economist raved about it! “Doug Most’s meticulously researched history reveals that getting the subways built was more a collaborative than a competitive effort.” In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews wrote: “It’s a story of blizzards and fires, accidental gas explosions and dynamite blasts, of trenches tortuously dug, of sewer and water pipes rerouted and cemeteries excavated, of political infighting, of turnstiles and ticket-taking, of ingenious solutions to staggering problems.”

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Parsons, the seal not the engineer, gets a new life

Posted on 09/15/14

sealWilliam Barclay Parsons, the brilliant engineer whose name and the company he founded, Parsons Brinckerhoff, is behind the original New York City subway, the Second Avenue Subway project, the Cape Cod Canal, the Panama Canal, and Boston’s Big Dig, to name just a few mega-projects, now has his name attached to a slightly cuter project: The rescue of a male harbor seal pup.

The National Marine Life Center just released 3 harbor seals that had been rescued after being stranded back in May. One of the pups was named “Barclay,” (that’s him above) in recognition of Parsons, who designed the Cape Cod Canal, a project that celebrated its 100th anniversary this summer. Barclay (the seal, not the man) was treated for dehydration, curious bite wounds, malnourishment and maternal separation before being released on Friday, Sept. 12. at Scusset Beach in Sandwich.


The other two seals released along with Barclay were Rose, a female that was rescued last June in New Hampshire, and Mary Arnold, rescued over the summer in Truro. There were about 100 people on hand to watch the release.

“With the recent closure of a seal hospital in Maine, the National Marine Life Center is the only federally authorized wildlife hospital open for sick and injured seals in northern New England,” Kathy Zagzebski, NMLC President & Executive Director, said upon the seals’ release. “The need is great, and public support is critical to help return these amazing and important animals to the wild.”

William Parsons himself was born in 1859, and graduated from Columbia College and Columbia’s School of Mines before going on to design some of the world’s biggest engineering projects. His first giant project was taking on the New York City subway, which had been a lifelong interest of his, and finally opened on Oct. 27, 1904, seven years after Boston opened America’s first subway in 1897. I tell his life story in great detail in “The Race Underground.”

Parsons would go on to design canals, bridges, roadways, railroad projects, and more until his death at the age of 73 in 1932.

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Fall events for Doug Most and ‘The Race Underground’

Posted on 09/1/14

FirstTrolleysOutOfSubwaySix months ago “The Race Underground” was published by St. Martin’s Press. Amazon named it a “Best Book of the Month”, “The New York Times” and “The Economist” had really kind things to say, and I got to sit in front of 300 people with Mike Dukakis. How cool is that? It was more than 5 years of research and writing and so I am in no hurry to stop sharing the amazing story of how America’s first two subways were built after years of contentious debate. I’m thrilled to see so many great reviews on Amazon and to hear so much feedback from random readers around the country. This fall I’ll be out there, from Arlington to Boston to Newton to Newport, R.I. to Brandeis University to Framingham and to Boston again for the annual Boston Book Festival to Regis College in Weston to my old hometown in Barrington, R.I. 

Here is a more detailed list (click on “Events” above for more info), thanks for sharing and please spread the word, especially if you know anyone in the area of these events who might be interested in talking subways, inventors, American history, and the great Gilded Age.

September 3 in the evening at the Arlington Robbins Library.

September 10 at noon at the wonderful Boston Athenaeum

September 11 for a lunchtime talk at Brandeis for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute:

September 18, 8 p.m., Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts at Union Church in Waban.

October 1, Framingham Public Library, with Framingham State College, 7 p.m.

October 9 at the Newport mansion, The Elms, 6 p.m., for the Preservation Society of Newport County.

October 25 at the Boston Book Festival.

November 4, Regis College in Weston, for a lunchtime talk.

December 6 at the Barrington Public Library

The Race Underground book Doug Most




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Slow-motion video of great dog jumping into lake

Posted on 07/25/14

This has nothing to do with subways, history, the Gilded Age, Boston, New York, or anything at all to do with my book, The Race Underground. It’s just a really cool slow-motion video that I shot this summer of a dog jumping off a dock into Lake Winnipesaukee. However, please do still buy my book and tell people about it. Naturally. Thanks!


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