“Suddenly, There Were The Americans”

A British schoolboy sees the quiet English countryside come alive with excitement toward the end of 1943 when …

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If Tocqueville Could See Us Now

In a new book, the political journalist and columnist Richard Reeves retraces Alexis de Tocqueville’s remarkable 1831-32 journey through America. Reeves's conclusion: Tocqueville not only deserves his reputation as the greatest observer of our democracy—he is an incomparable guide to what is happening in our country now.

When AMERICAN HERITAGE heard that Richard Reeves had undertaken to follow the route, one hundred and fifty years later, of a classic exploration of America’s people, places, and institutions, we assigned his friend and colleague Ken Auletta to ask the kinds of questions our readers might if they had the luck to find themselves sitting next to Reeves on a flight to, say, Buffalo or Memphis.Read more »

Making History

An Interview With Theodore H. White

It is hard to remember a decade when Theodore White has not been reporting on the sweep of current events in some best-selling book: Thunder Out of China in 1946, Fire in the Ashes (on Europe’s postwar resurgence) in 1953, and, since 1961, quadrennial narrations of our most exciting political drama, The Making of the President . There have also been two widely enjoyed novels, a great many articles, and an autobiography, In Search of History . Mr.Read more »

Historical Fiction

Our most popular practitioner of the art speaks of the challenges and rewards of writing

Georg Brandes, Denmark’s leading literary critic, had a low opinion of historical novels. To read one, he said, “was like drinking real substitute coffee.” He was referring, of course, to the standard historical romance featuring real figures of importance intermingled with heroic imaginary ones. The classic example would be Alexander Dumas’ The Three Musketeers , an exceptionally interesting work; shoddy examples have proliferated in all times.Read more »

History And The Imagination

Ragtime and Reds

Hollywood ordinarily leaves American history well alone. But two of the winter’s big movies turn out to be meditations on early twentieth-century America. Ragtime , drawn from E. L. Doctorow’s novel, is set in the period from 1906 to 1908; Reds , based on the lives of John Reed and his wife, Louise Bryant, from 1915 to 1920.Read more »

Mark Twain In Paradise

He Never Got Hawaii out of His System

On Sunday morning, March 18, 1866, the steamer A jay. sailed into Honolulu Harbor while the bells of six different mission churches called the freshly converted faithful to worship. Among the passengers most eager to go ashore was a thirty-one-year-old knockabout journalist named Samuel Clemens, on assignment for the Sacramento Union . Mark Twain would later make the Mississippi immortal, but first Hawaii would make him famous.Read more »

Making History

AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID McCULLOUGH

David McCullough’s name will be familiar to long-time readers of this magazine, not only for his books, but because he was, for a time, one of its editors. He says, in fact, that what got him started “in the history business” was coming across a spectacular photograph of the official unveiling of the Statue of Liberty, showing it to the editors of AMERICAN HERITAGE , and being invited to write a short piece on the subject.Read more »

After The Air Raids

An insider’s account of a startling— and still controversial—investigation of the Allied bombing of Germany

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Mason Weems, Bibliopolist

To mark the birthdays of our two great Presidents, a new look at the legends that surround their memory …
An admiring re-appraisal of the Cherry Tree Fable and its author, by Garry Wills , together with the
Curious Story of Abraham Lincoln’s Lost Love Letters, by Don E. Fehrenbacher

 

Benjamin Franklin wrote what could be called America s first self-improvement manual. But Franklin trod the world stage, and his autobiography is a classic expression of Enlightenment ideals, too grand a thing to count Dale Carnegie’s books among its offspring. The true father of Carnegie, or of Norman Vincent Peale, was Mason Weems (1759–1825), the itinerant preacher and bibliopolist—he had the salesman’s trick of dignifying his trade with fancy names. Read more »

From Camelot To Abilene

To Owen Wister, the unlikely inventor of the cowboy myth, the trail rider was “the last cavalier,” the savior of the Anglo-Saxon race

We think of the cowboy and of the open range as part and parcel of the American legend that spread eastward from the West during the nineteenth century. Yet the legend had not become national until the early twentieth century, and its principal literary architect was an Easterner to the core. The crucial event in its popular dissemination was The Virginian , a novel written by Owen Wister and published in 1902. Its success was instantaneous, large-scale, and enduring.Read more »