Post, Robert C(harles) 1937-

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POST, Robert C(harles) 1937-

PERSONAL: Born March 24, 1937, in Pasadena, CA; son of William Austin (an agent) and Florence Elizabeth (a pianist; maiden name, Charles) Post; married Dian S. Dieterle (a publisher), 1971. Education: Pasadena City College, A.A., 1956; University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., 1958, M.A., 1967, Ph. D., 1973. Hobbies and other interests: Landscape architecture, jazz, fiction..

ADDRESSES: Home—206 Bloomingdale Ave., Federalsburg, MD 21632. Offıce—National Museum of American History, Washington, DC 20560. E-mail— [email protected]

CAREER: Curator and author. Motor Vehicle Division of Los Angeles County Department of Beaches, Redondo Beach, CA, supervisor, 1958-68; worked as a maitre d' and bartender, Manhattan Beach, CA, 1961-65; Pacific Historical Review, Los Angeles, editorial assistant, 1966-71; Los Angeles Metropolitan History Project, Los Angeles, principal investigator, 1969-71; National Museum of History and Technology, Washington, DC, research fellow for the Division of Electricity, 1971-72, museum specialist for the Division of Engineering, 1973-74, historian for the Office of the Director, 1974-77, supervising historian for the Exhibits Task Force, 1977-79, curator for the Division of Transportation, and vice chair of the Department of History of Science and Technology, 1980-82; National Park Service, Washington, DC, 1972-73; Smithsonian Exposition Books, Washington, DC, editor, 1979-80; National Museum of American History, Washington, DC, editor-in-chief of Technology and Culture, 1981-95, curator-at-large, 1982—, associate director of the Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation, 1995-96, curator emeritus; University of Maryland, College Park, professor of history; Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, editorial board member. Served as advisor to the American Consulting Engineers Council, American National Biography, American Heritage, American Merchant Marine Museum, Cambridge University Press, Deutsches Museum, Facts on File, George Washington University, Garland Publishing, Guggenheim Foundation, Henry Ford Museum, Howard-Revis Design, Johns Hopkins University Press, Stanford University Press, Transportation Museum at Lehigh Landing, Maine Maritime Museum, Motor Sports Hall of Fame, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Inventors Hall of Fame, National Park Service, National Public Radio, National Science Foundation, Oxford University Press, Philadelphia Maritime Museum, Smithsonian Institution Press, Uden Associates/British Broadcasting Corporation, University of Arizona Press, University of California Press, University of Chicago Press, University of Texas Press, Woodrow Wilson Center, Museum of Drag Racing, and World Book Encyclopedia.

MEMBER: Society for the History of Technology (vice president and president elect), Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, Society for Industrial Archeology (chief advisory editor), Railway and Locomotive Historical Society (on board of directors).

AWARDS, HONORS: Predoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Research Foundation, 1971; research fellowship from the John and LaRee Caughey Foundation, 1972; Exceptional Services Recognition Awards from the Smithsonian Institution, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1989, 1992, and 1993; certificate of merit from the Art Directors Club of Washington, 1977; certificate of design excellence fromPrint Casebooks, 1978; Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession from the U.S. Activities Board, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, 1994; resident fellowship from the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1995-96; Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society, David P. Morgan Article Award; Distinguished Retiring Editor Award, Council of Editors of Learned Journals.


Physics, Patents, and Politics: A Biography of CharlesGrafton Page, Science History Publications (New York, NY), 1976.

(Editor) 1876: A Centennial Exhibition, National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, DC), 1976.

American Maritime Enterprise: Checklist and Guide, National Museum of History and Technology (Washington, DC), 1978.

(Editor with Alexis Doster and Joe Goodwin) TheAmerican Land, Smithsonian Books (Washington, DC), 1979.

(Editor and contributor) Every Four Years: TheAmerican Presidency, Smithsonian Books (Washington, DC), 1980, revised edition, 1984.

(Editor with Otto Mayr) Yankee Enterprise: The Rise of the American System of Manufactures, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1981, revised edition, 1995.

(Editor and contributor) American Enterprise:Nineteenth-Century Patent Models, Cooper-Hewitt Museum (New York, NY), 1984.

The Tancook Whalers: Origins, Rediscovery, Revival, Maine Maritime Museum (Bath, ME), 1986.

(Editor with Stephen H. Cutcliffe) In Context—History and the History of Technology: Essays in Honor of Melvin Kranzberg, Lehigh University Press (Bethlehem, PA), 1989.

(Editor and contributor) The Spirit of American Invention, Association for Japan—U.S. Community Exchange (Tokyo, Japan), 1989.

Street Railways and the Growth of Los Angeles, Golden West Books (San Marino, CA), 1989.

High Performance: The Culture and Technology ofDrag Racing, 1950-1990, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1994, revised edition, 1996.

High Performance: The Culture and Technology ofDrag Racing, 1950-2000, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.

Technology, Transport, and Travel in American History, American Historical Association (Washington, DC), 2003.

Contributor to books, including Sites Associated With Social and Humanitarian Movements in America, National Park Service (Washington, DC), 1974; A Nation of Nations, edited by Peter C. Marzio, Harper (New York, NY), 1976; Signers of the Constitution, National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, National Park Service, 1976; Los Angeles: Biography of a City, edited by John and LaRee Caughey, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1976; 1876: A Centennial Offering, Iowa State University Press, (Ames, IA), 1977; The Smithsonian Book of Invention, edited by Alexis Doster, Smithsonian Books, 1978; The Sciences in the American Context: New Perspectives, edited by Nathan Reingold, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979; The Wessaweskeag Thorndikes, by Martha Thorndike Tibbits Knight, Maine Maritime Museum, 1986; Images of America, Smithsonian Books, 1989; Pioneers of Electric Railroading, Electric Railroaders' Association (New York, NY), 1990; Icons of Invention: American Patent Models, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), 1990; Possible Dreams: Enthusiasm for Technology in America, edited by John Wright, Henry Ford Museum (Dearborn, MI), 1992; Early American Technology: Making and Doing Things From the Colonial Era to 1850, edited by Judith A. McGaw, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1994.

Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Southern California Quarterly, Kultur & Technik, Journal of American Studies, Proceedings of the IEEE, Technology and Culture,Invention and Technology, Railroad History, Technology Review, Air and Space, Quarterboard, Historical Preservation, Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter,IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology,Electrical Contractor, Outlook West, American Historical Review, Annals of Science, Isis, Journal of American History, Journal of the West, Maryland Historical Magazine, Pacific Historical Review, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Smithsonian, and The Californians.

Editor and publisher of Railroad History; contributing editor of American Heritage of Invention; contributor to World Book Encyclopedia; chief researcher for Los Angeles and Its Environs in the Twentieth Century: A Bibliography of a Metropolis, Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1973.

SIDELIGHTS: Robert C. Post has had a long and fruitful career in his affiliations with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of History and Technology. He has penned many books and articles on the various subjects of his historical expertise—which include aspects of technology from railroads to whaling to drag racing—and has been commended by Edwards Park in Smithsonian for being an "altogether excellent editor." In addition to books, Post has edited periodicals such as Railroad History and Technology and Culture. Post edited the book Yankee Enterprise: The Rise of the American Systems of Manufacturers, which is a compilation of several essays by various authors discussing the origin of American manufacturing and manufacturing systems. A reviewer for Science referred to the book as "an interesting collection of essays" by "a diverse group of the top scholars in the field."

Another of Post's books, High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990, has attracted particularly favorable notice from reviewers. Post was born in Pasadena, California, in 1937. Like many adolescent boys coming of age in California during the 1950s, he developed a consuming interest in drag racing. He recalls in High Performance: "I cobbled together drag racing machinery in my parents' driveway. To their horror, had they known, I regularly participated in unlawful street races." Post maintained his interest in the sport, and later found his expertise helpful in the writing of High Performance. A reviewer in American Heritage called High Performance as an "engrossing account" of drag racing from "a former drag racer and a respected historian of technology."

High Performance traces the history of drag racing from the illegal match-ups on public streets that Post remembers through its move to legalized contests at airports to its current professional status. Post discusses champions of the sport such as "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and tells of the resentment he faced as an Easterner from Californians who considered themselves the founders of drag racing. Frederic D. Schwarz, reviewing High Performance in Invention and Technology, considered the book "the first complete scholarly analysis of America's compulsion to travel a quarter-mile in ever-smaller bits of time." In Technology Review, John Wilkes praised Post's "impeccable credentials as a historian of technology," and considered his volume on drag racing "truly memorable." According to Wilkes, Post "deftly guides the reader through four densely packed decades and his own cogent and persuasive analysis."

Post updated High Performance with his book, High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-2000. The book covers all aspects of drag racing from the business angle to the actual sport. In the updated version, Post focuses on the decade of drag racing between 1990 and 2000. Post's book Technology, Transport, and Travel in American History examines the cultural, economic and political influences on the evolution of travel in America. He also describes how these technological changes influenced American culture in return.

Post told CA: "I want to try and illuminate large issues in the history of technology through case studies in technological enthusiasm. I believe that a book about what motivates drag racers, for example, sheds light on what motivates scientists and engineers who dream about superconducting super colliders and manned space stations."



Directory of American Scholars, Tenth edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Post, Robert C., High Performance: The Culture andTechnology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1994.

Post, Robert C., High Performance: The Culture andTechnology of Drag Racing, 1950-2000, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2001.


American Heritage, July-August, 1994, review of HighPerformance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990, p. 103.

Invention and Technology, fall, 1994, pp. 6-7.

Science, May 20, 1983, review of Yankee Enterprise:The Rise of the American System of Manufacturers, p. 817.

Smithsonian, January, 1988.

Technology Review, January, 1995, John Wilkes, review of High Performance: The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing, 1950-1990, pp. 67-69.*

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