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American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, A Man Who Turned Disaster Into Destiny
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American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, A Man Who Turned Disaster Into Destiny

4.23  ·  Rating Details  ·  30 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
The remarkable story of nineteenth-century millionaire William Skinner, a leading founder of the American silk industry, who lost everything in a devastating flood—and his improbable, inspiring comeback to the pinnacle of the business world.

In 1845, penniless William Skinner sailed in steerage class on a boat that took him from the slums of London to the United States. Bec
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Free Press
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Nov 26, 2014 Yofish rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-biography
(The author happens to be a friend from college.)

This is a story of the author's great-great grandfather (or some such relative). He comes the the US poor-as-dirt from England. But he has worked in the silk business (dyeing and whatnot), and so has some expertise. He is able to build himself up to be a successful, semi-wealthy factory owner in central Massachussetts.

Then a catastrophic flood wipes everything out. Like everything---the factory is just gone afterwards. By knowing the right peopl
Mar 23, 2013 Mitchell rated it it was amazing
A bit of a warning -- I grew-up in this region, so perhaps I found this a little more interesting than other readers might. However, all readers should find something fascinating in this book because it touches on so many different subjects.

I was very very vaguely aware of the Mill River dam collapse and flood. I also had only vaguely heard of the now defunct Skinner Silk Company (and I am acquainted with one of Skinner's descendants). What makes Kilblorne's book so fascinating is that she rescu
Nov 23, 2012 Rwildfon rated it it was amazing
American Phoenix is a fascinating read. Sarah Kilborne brings her insightful prose to the story of the historic flood that killed 139 people leaving 700+ homeless when an earthen dam burst above the town of Williamsburg, MA,in 1874 devastating the
towns of Williamsburg, Skinnerville, Haydenville and Leeds. Although an excellent historic account was written by Elizabeth Sharpe (In the Shadow of the Dam:the aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874), Kilbourne brings the history of silk manufacturi
Oct 24, 2012 Thad rated it really liked it
To be fair, I wasn't really sure that I was up for a biography type book. My main subject for reading is typically sci-fi or survival stories. That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised to find this book quite good.

From the start, I was drawn into William Skinner's life, and found myself wanting to know what happened to him next. The writing sets up the pictures in my head perfectly, and easily let me imagine what he saw and went through. The writing also does an excellent job of 'putting
Oct 30, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received an advance uncorrected manuscript of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I recommend the book to anyone interested in this remarkable historic event, and the man who helped his town and people carry on.

As a Rhode Islander who grew up surrounded by textile and cotton mills, I was very interested to read about William Skinner and his silk mill-town. Sarah Kilborne quickly draws the reader into Skinner’s life and the disaster which ruins Skinnerville. The author skillfully
Marggie Skinner
May 24, 2013 Marggie Skinner rated it it was amazing
Great story about a remarkable man, William Skinner, his original rise to fame and fortune in the silk industry in western Massachusetts in the mid 19th century and then his recovery after a devastating flood wiped out everything. His great great granddaughter does a wonderful job telling his story. I only wish that we were a part of that Skinner family!
I can't wait to visit Wisteriahurst and soak up more of this family's spirit and I look forward to Ms. Kilborne's book about her great great aun
Nat Bond
Jan 04, 2015 Nat Bond rated it it was amazing
An excellent book about an extraordinary man. I had never before heard of William Skinner or his contributions to American industry.
Holly Ites
Apr 19, 2016 Holly Ites rated it liked it
"American Phoenix" is an excellent read about an event that, probably, few people outside of Massachusetts know about, but which had a significant impact on the early US industrial economy. It is also a great story about an era of America's history when immigrants with little more than a marketable skill, a solid work ethic and keen business sense forged the foundation that set the US on its path to becoming the leading industrial nation of the world.
Sheila Schick
Jun 25, 2013 Sheila Schick rated it really liked it
I live in this area and really enjoyed this book. I would also recommend In the Shadow of the Damn which is also about the Mill River flood.
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