Gate City Tours Recommended Reading List

As a non-native Atlantan, people often ask what we’re reading. So, without further ado, we are excited to announce the first-ever Gate City Tours curated book list! 

1)   Strangers Within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta 1845-1915 by
Steven Hertzberg. For anyone looking to learn about Jewish history in Atlanta, this is a must-read. It charts the early pioneer history in the 1840s all the way through the Leo Frank case and beyond.

2)   Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition by Marni Davis.
Jews have been making, selling, and imbibing beer, wine, and spirits for quite
a long time. What’s more natural than making a little l’chaim, nu? But this deep tradition put many Jews in conflict with America’s changing mores during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, creating a fraught dynamic that we explore in our latest and greatest tour, Vice City: Sex, Sin, and Booze. 

3)   Contesting the New South Order: The 1914-1915 Strike at Atlanta’s Fulton Mills
by Clifford M. Kuhn. This book delves into the Horatio Alger story of Jacob Elsas and the factory that he founded, which became Atlanta’s largest employer in the early 20th Century and a target of a highly coordinated strike that brought national attention during a time of rapid change in America’s economy and demographics. It speaks to how many of these salient issues are not yet resolved and, in fact, re-emerging today.

4)   Atlanta: An Oral History of the City 1914-1948 by Clifford M. Kuhn, Harlon E. Joyce, and E. Bernard West. This Studs Terkel-like tome is a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of Atlantans of all stripes and colors. It’s hard to imagine the Gate City of yester-year with a cloud of smog covering the city from all the trains, industry, and coal-burning to keep warm. This book really brings to life details that make hyper-local stories come alive.

5)   Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the birth of NASCAR by Neal Thompson. This is a real mind-bender of how some local guys from Dawson County, Georgia put fear in the passenger seat and changed the country as we know it. This is for you if you like fast cars, stiff drinks, and the outlaw / underdog.

6)   The Temple Bombing by Melissa Fay Greene. A thorough account of the 1958 bombing by the “Confederate Underground” of Atlanta’s upper crust reform synagogue located on Peachtree Street, which took place amidst a wave of bombings aimed at Jewish institutions across the South.

7)   The Trolley Titans: A Mobile History of Atlanta by O.E. Carson. Before Atlanta became a crowded concrete jungle, Belgian brick dotted the entire city as a boom of trolley companies competed for dominance, building a sprawling network powered first by mules, steam engines, and, then, electricity (in 1894). If I wasn’t before, I am now an ardent lover of trains and trolleys. Stay tuned for our upcoming tour Transportation: Trains, Trolleys, and

8)   And the Dead Shall Rise by Steve Oney. This is the definitive account of how a northern Jew from Brooklyn came to Atlanta in 1908 to help run a pencil factory, married into one of its most prominent families, and then was tragically scapegoated during his trial for the murder of a young factory worker. This shocked the entire city of Atlanta, made national headlines, and also coincided with the strike at the Fulton Mills.

9)   Prohibition in Atlanta: Temperance, Tiger Kings, and White Lightening by Ron Smith and Mary O. Boyle. Did I mention Atlanta is a rowdy mountain town full of good-time Charlies and jolly-good fellows who love a pint or two followed by a couple of chasers?! Atlanta’s seedy side may not be wholesome, but there is a whole lot of it. When in Rome…? 

10) Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Gary M. Pomerantz. This is a fascinating account of two dynastic families—those of Ivan Allen Sr. and John Wesley Dobbs—and how their personal / familial journeys relate to and influenced the course of Atlanta history. This was a great reminder that there are actually numerous “Atlantas” and that so much can be accomplished when we bridge that gap through the “Atlanta spirit.” 

11) Jews on the Frontier: Religion and Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America by Shari Rabin. It’s easy to forget that Jews are pioneers. Abram leaving his home in Ur for a new as-of-yet-undetermined land. Completely meshugas, right?! As strangers in their adopted United States, Jews fanned out seeking their version of the American dream. Along the way, they brought with them and modified Jewish traditions for a new place, a new time, and a new way of life. Pioneers
then. Pioneers now.