The epiphany came in 1991, when I was in the throes of research for my biography-in-progress of Thomas Alva Edison. I was sitting patiently, at a polished oak table in the hushed reading room of the Berg Collection on the third floor of The New York Public Library central building ("between the lions") at Forty-Second Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting to examine the pocket diaries of naturalist John Burroughs. I was drafting a chapter about the annual camping trips of the capitalist self-styled "Vagabonds" Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford. During and after World War I, through halcyon springs and summers, the men and their wives and comrades launched ten-car caravans into the hills of Appalachia and New England and engaged in their catered, white- tablecloth version of roughing it.
As I leafed through the fragile pages of Burroughs's black note‐