Just for the heck of it, I visited a bookstore yesterday and went through about 10 shelves of American history books looking for any possible references to the metric system. I also went through biographies of the presidents sitting at the various points during the last big metric push (Ford, Carter, and Regan), and books on sociology.
In the various indexes, when I got to “Mexico” (as I often did), I knew I wasn’t going to find anything. I didn’t really think I’d find anything in the bios of Ford and Regan (sorry Carter, nothing on you there yesterday) but I didn’t think it would hurt to look.
Nothing in the sociology section either, except in a book called: Here’s Looking at Euclid: From Counting Ants to Games of Chance – An Awe-Inspiring Journey Through the World of Numbers by Bellos. (See it in Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Heres-Looking-Euclid-Counting-Awe-Inspiring/dp/1416588280/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349537496&sr=8-1&keywords=here%27s+looking+at+euclid)
No wonder people don’t know anything about our history with the metric system in America, since few ever include anything on it. Granted, people setting out to write a history of our country wouldn’t necessarily go out of their way to include the rather obscure (yet with huge implications) failure of metric adoption, but it certainly has seemed to be self perpetuating. I’m not saying no one has included the metric system in their American history:Measuring America: How the United States Was Shaped By the Greatest Land Sale in History by Linklater is a notable exception. (See it in Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Measuring-America-United-Greatest-History/dp/0452284597/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349538108&sr=1-1&keywords=measuring+america [Hey, I’m trying to be American with Disabilities Act compliant.] I’m sure there are others but not on the bookshelves of that particular store.
Now that I’ve gotten this far, I’ll need to spend time at the library in town and see what I find. The exercise above took me about 45 minutes. I expect a foray into the library’s section will take considerably longer.
Heck, I have a long weekend. I’ll let you know what I find when I post next weekend. Stay tuned.