Fox, Stephen R. 1945–
Fox, Stephen R. 1945–
(Stephen Russell Fox)
Born February 28, 1945, in Boston, MA; son of Kenneth R. (a textile engineer) and Eleanor (a librarian) Fox. Education: Williams College, A.B., 1966; Brown University, Ph.D., 1971. Politics: Independent. Religion: "Non-institutional."
Home—Boston, MA; Silver City, NM.
Writer and historian.
American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Alliance of Independent Scholars (Cambridge, MA), PEN (New England).
The Kansas Betas, 1873-1973: A Centennial History of the Alpha Nu Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 1976.
John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1981.
The Mirror Makers: A History of Twentieth-Century American Advertising and Its Creators, Morrow (New York, NY), 1984.
Blood and Power: Organized Crime in Twentieth-Century America, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
Big Leagues: Professional Baseball, Football, and Basketball in National Memory, Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
The Ocean Railway: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard and the Great Atlantic Steamships, HarperCollins (London, England), 2003, published as Transatlantic: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard and the Great Atlantic Steamships, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of articles and reviews to Orion Nature Quarterly, Smithsonian, Sierra, Wilderness, American Heritage of Invention and Technology, New York Times, Journal of American History, Boston Globe, and the journal of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.
Writer and historian Stephen R. Fox is the author of several works of popular history, covering topics ranging from American conservationism to advertising to nautical history. In John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement, Fox presents a "fine biography" of Muir, the naturalist who became a key figure in the wilderness conservation movement in the United States, noted T.H. Watkins in Smithsonian. In addition to an in-depth assessment of the life and influence of Muir, who founded the Sierra Club, Fox provides details on other individuals who were involved with organized conservation efforts. These include literary giant Henry David Thoreau and U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Fox also profiles lesser-known figures who championed such causes, including Robert Underwood Johnson, an editor; Bernard DeVoto, a journalist and historian; Gifford Pinchot, a forester; and Barry Commoner, a biologist. In addition, Fox provides an analysis and assessment of the conservation movement from its beginnings in the 1890s to the 1970s, and he looks at the organizations that have grown up around the conservationist goal. In the end, Fox's work becomes "as much a book of individual lives as it is of the ideas they embodied and promoted," Watkins concluded.
The Mirror Makers: A History of Twentieth-Century American Advertising and Its Creators contains a detailed history of the rise of advertising in America and of the colorful personalities that transformed it and fueled its increasing prominence and importance in business. Fox "offers lively sketches of the leading figures of the advertising business," commented Daniel Pope in Business History Review. Fox profiles such early advertising creators as John Powers, who pioneered a softer and more conversational approach to advertising copy that contrasted with the more aggressive and bombastic style that came before him. He notes the accomplishments of William Bernbach, who was instrumental in the development of creative advertising methods in the 1960s. Fox also explores the different schools of thought that have been applied to advertising. In particular, he examines the "reason why" mode of advertising, which uses logic, simplicity, and repetition to emphasize a product's attributes and benefits, as well as the "image" mode of advertising, which relies on visual cues and atmosphere and is primarily concerned with appealing to a consumer's sense of satisfaction with a product. Pope deemed the book an "interesting and sophisticated survey" of the history of advertising.
Transatlantic: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard and the Great Atlantic Steamships is a "sweeping history of the great age of steamships," noted Library Journal reviewer Dale Farris. Within this broader history, Fox focuses on the storied history of the Cunard Line, which is still in existence today, and the engineering accomplishments of the Great Western Steam Ship Company, advised by Isambard Brunel. Beginning in the 1800s, Fox traces the development and evolution of steamships and ship engineering that eventually resulted in the magnificent cruise ships that ply the oceans today. Fox's history delves deeply into the transition from wind-driven ships to steam driven vessels. "No aspect of the remarkable transformation from wind to steam power is left unattended," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. Fox looks at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on ship construction and engineering; changes in propulsion, such as the advent of screw-driven systems, that resulted in faster and more efficient ships; and the methods by which the prominent cruise lines and ship companies built themselves minor empires on the notion of getting people and goods across the ocean quickly, comfortably, and, sometimes, with great luxury. The author also notes how the Cunard Line still operates in contemporary times with well-known vessels such as the QE2 and the Queen Mary 2. Fox reports the sailing experiences of notable figures such as Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, and he "weaves their tales together with those of more prosaic passengers to present a complete and gloriously vivid picture of what it must have been like to sail the Atlantic in the nineteenth century, whether at the captain's table or down below in steerage," commented Curtis Edmonds on Bookreporter.com. Through his narrative, the "experience of both passengers and crew in crossing the Atlantic is vividly re-created," Farris noted. Fox's "lively social history" of sailing and shipbuilding "reminds you that engineering was once the stuff of romance, verging on the swashbuckling," remarked Sarah Ferrell in the New York Times Book Review.
Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama is a "swift, colorful account of the lethal campaign waged by a single elusive Confederate privateer that nearly destroyed Northern shipping," reported a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Fox describes how, during the Civil War, the South relied on private vessels to combat the Union's larger naval force. Semmes was a career naval officer with a stable but undistinguished career when he took command of a Confederate gunboat christened the CSS Alabama. At the helm of this Confederate vessel, Semmes's latent seafaring genius blossomed, and he quickly made the Alabama a potent and feared presence in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Indian Ocean. In less than two years, Semmes and the Alabama captured or destroyed sixty-seven Union ships and destroyed almost five million dollars in enemy goods. Widely celebrated throughout the South, Semmes was an elusive enemy for the perplexed North, which was unable to stop his predations. Semmes gained an outstanding reputation for his skill and daring as he dealt significant damage to the Union's naval capacity and ability to wage war. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Fox's book a "well-conceived and executed military biography." Booklist critic Jay Freeman concluded that "naval warfare aficionados will treasure this book."
Fox once told CA: "I got my doctorate with the idea of becoming a history professor, but I found that I disliked teaching. So I have worked as a freelance since 1973, making my living at editing and research jobs at first, then as a full-time writer in recent years. I remain enough of an academic to want to write books that are intellectually respectable—that the Journal of American History will not give the back of its hand to—but I also must try to please a trade publisher and a general reading audience. Hard to find topics that satisfy both constituencies.
"When people ask how I decided to be a writer, I always say I didn't choose it; I can't imagine myself doing anything else.
"My writing career began in the mists of the distant past, before computers and the Internet. Even with computers, I still find writing difficult; research is so much easier that the constant danger is just to keep doing research instead of settling down to write. My favorite quotation about writing comes from the late, great sportswriter Red Smith: ‘Writing is the easiest thing in the world; you just stare at the typewriter until drops of blood appear on your forehead.’
"Still true, even without typewriters. But what computers do is allow for more editing because one doesn't have to retype the work again and again. So I polish and edit more than I used to, and I think that has probably improved my work—made it tighter and more precise."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1984, Douglas H. Strong, review of John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement, p. 223.
Audio-Visual Communications, September, 1984, review of The Mirror Makers: A History of Twentieth-Century American Advertising and Its Creators, p. 61.
Audubon, July, 1981, Frank Graham, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 28.
Booklist, June 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of Wolf of the Deep: Raphael Semmes and the Notorious Confederate Raider CSS Alabama, p. 23.
Business and Society Review, fall, 1984, Stephen T. Schreiber, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 83.
Business History Review, spring, 1986, Daniel Pope, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 146.
Business Week, July 27, 1981, John A. Dierdorff, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 16.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, July 18, 1989, Selwyn Raab, review of Blood and Power: Organized Crime in Twentieth-Century America, p. 2.
Choice, September, 1994, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 49.
Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 1984, Ned Crecilius, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 15; August 2, 1985, review of The Mirror Makers, p. B7.
Commonweal, November 21, 1986, Ron Nahser, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 636.
Harper's, January, 1985, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 71.
Journal of American History, March, 1984, Roderick Nash, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 900; September, 1990, review of Blood and Power, p. 711.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, winter, 1986, Donald L. Fry, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 111.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Transatlantic: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard and the Great Atlantic Steamships, p. 728; May 15, 2007, review of Wolf of the Deep.
Library Journal, June 1, 1981, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 1236; May 15, 1984, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 979; July, 1989, Jerry Maioli, review of Blood and Power, p. 94; September 1, 1994, Morey Berger, review of Big Leagues: Professional Baseball, Football, and Basketball in National Memory, p. 189; June 15, 2003, Dale Farris, review of Transatlantic, p. 87.
Living Wilderness, fall, 1981, T.H. Watkins, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 44.
Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1984, Elaine Kendall, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 1; August 4, 1985, Alex Raksin, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 8.
National Parks, July 1, 1982, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 42.
New Leader, September 17, 1984, Arthur Kimmel, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 20.
New West, November, 1981, Kenneth Turan, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 127.
New Yorker, August 3, 1981, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 95.
New York Review of Books, June 26, 1986, Roger Draper, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 14.
New York Times, May 23, 1984, Philip H. Dougherty, "Ad History Book Due," p. 21; June 21, 1984, Eric Pace, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 20.
New York Times Book Review, June 21, 1981, Joseph Kastner, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 11; June 24, 1984, Andrew Hacker, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 1; July 2, 1989, Selwyn Raab, review of Blood and Power, p. 9; November 27, 1994, Warren Goldstein, review of Big Leagues, p. 23; September 14, 2003, Sarah Ferrell, "From Wind to Vapor," review of Transatlantic, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 1981, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 54; April 13, 1984, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 60; May 3, 1985, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 72; May 26, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Blood and Power, p. 50; June 22, 1990, review of Blood and Power, p. 52; August 22, 1994, review of Big Leagues, p. 47; May 26, 2003, review of Transatlantic, p. 62; May 14, 2007, review of Wolf of the Deep, p. 44; September 24, 2007, review of Wolf of the Deep, p. 69.
Reference & Research Book News, October, 1989, review of Blood and Power, p. 17.
Sierra Club Bulletin, May 1, 1983, Ann Ronald, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 96.
Smithsonian, April, 1990, T.H. Watkins, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 207.
Sunset, May, 1985, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 58.
Technology and Culture, October, 1989, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 1032.
Times Literary Supplement, September 5, 2003, E.S. Turner, "Ships, Not Seraglios," review of The Ocean Railway: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Samuel Cunard and the Great Atlantic Steamships, p. 32.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1981, review of John Muir and His Legacy, p. 35.
Washington Post Book World, August 4, 1985, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 13.
Whole Earth Review, spring, 1987, Art Kleiner, review of The Mirror Makers, p. 82.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 20, 2008), Curtis Edmonds, review of Transatlantic.