A Dearth Of Heroes

In America the status of hero—durable, full-fledged hero—has been awarded to few men. The subtle, complex factors that have led us to be so selective were brilliantly described three decades ago m a book, The Hero in America , by historian Dixon Weder. For a reissue of this book, which will be published later this month by Charles Scribner’s Sons, novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren has written an introduction examining Mr. Wecter’s categories for glorification and speculating about who today—in this present age.Read more »

Humanity, Said Edgar Allan Poe, Is Divided Into Men, Women, And Margaret Fuller

Poe’s witticism was not meant kindly, but it was actually a compliment. Without doubt Margaret Fuller stood first among women of the nineteenth century. It is surprising that, as America’s first liberated female, she is not today first in the hearts of her countrywomen. The primary responsibility for this neglect lies with her intimate friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, under the guise of loving kindness, defeminized, distorted, and diminished the image of her that has come down to us. Read more »

A Mere Woman

A shy Yankee named Hannah Adams never thought of herself as liberated, but she was our first professional female writer.

If they should care to, the leaders of Women’s Liberation may add Miss Hannah Adams, born in 1755, to their roster of distinguished women. She was probably the first native American woman to earn a living as a professional writer. Read more »

Picnics Long Ago

If it rained, the painters failed to record it

Food tastes better outdoors, and it always has. Nowadays this rule, which every child learns early in life, can be seen in operation at tailgate parties at football games or wherever spectator sports are in season. You can see it under more elegant circumstances throughout American history, beginning with the Pilgrims’ first alfresco party for the Indians. It reached some sort of apogee in the nineteenth century, in the period brought back to us so hauntingly in the writings of Washington Irving and on the canvases of the painters of the Hudson River school. Read more »

In Memoriam: Allan Nevins

The longtime adviser to American Heritage wrote history not simply as a means of talking with other historians, but in order to talk to the general reader.

They say a tree is best measured when it is down. Allan Nevins is gone, at last, although he seemed imperishable, and we at AMERICAN HERITAGE feel a poignant sense of loss. We measure him now by the length of the shadow he cast, and by the abiding influence he had upon us and upon the magazine we serve. We also think of the friendship which he extended to everyone who knew him, and that is immeasurable. Read more »

John Faulkner’s Vanishing South

John Faulkner, like his more famous brother William, was a novelist, but he was also a painter. During the decade before his death in 1963 he painted a series of oils and water colors that he called “Scenes of the Vanishing South,” portraying his home town of Oxford, and Lafayette County, Mississippi. Some were painted from his memory of his boyhood, and others from the daily life of Beat Two, the hilly northeast sector of the county that is the scene also of most of his fiction.Read more »

Of Noble Warriors And Maidens Chaste

Oriana Weems, Alma Lamour, Caroline Fitzhugh, Seth Rawbon, Netley Shiplake, Mordaunt—none of these improbable names is likely to mean anything to the modern reader, but to the generation that lived through the Civil War, and sighed and wept over the novels that it spawned, the names were as familiar as Scarlett O’Hara is to us. For these are some of the heroes and heroines of a genre of Civil War romance that flooded the market almost as soon as the shooting started. Read more »

The Paper Trust

To begin with, the Presidential libraries do not look like what they are. Each one is, in fact, a miniature Office of Public Records. And scholars who frequent such offices know that they are found in capital cities, in buildings that are heavy, ornamented, slowly discoloring monuments to bureaucrats dead and gone. The National Archives of the United States—America’s public records—are, to give one example, housed in an oversized Greek temple near the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues in Washington, D.C. Read more »


on the Writing of History

Few of our thirty-seven Presidents have been highly gifted with literary talent; of those few, fewer had the time or the patience to sit down and deliberately write books. Theodore Roosevelt, who was among the most gifted, also crammed into his “strenuous” life more nonliterary activity than perhaps any other President. Yet somehow, in a career of nearly forty years, he managed to produce more than twenty published books—histories, biographies, collections of essays, accounts of hunting expeditions, an autobiography.Read more »

“Commune” In East Aurora

In the spring of 1915 a handsome fifty-nine-year-old man with a marked resemblance to Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan boarded ship in New York, bound for England. Other passengers stared unabashedly at his long black Prince Albert coat, his outsize black tie, his almost shoulder-length tresses topped by a Stetson hat. There was indeed nothing ordinary about Elbert Hubbard.Read more »