Land-liners

The Apotheosis of the Motor Coach

Four years ago a small band of New York City executives suffered a bad shock. The Penn Central dropped (a full seventy-five years after it might have been expected to) their Southport car, a flossy private coach that bore them to their Connecticut homes behind drawn curtains, well-attended by stewards.Read more »

“when Does This Place Get To New York?”

The Queen Mary in Peace and War

The first commercial transatlantic flight still lay three years in the future when the Queen Mary began her maiden voyage in May, 1936, but Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line, made the sailing the occasion for an extraordinary forecast. “The crux of the matter,” he said, “will lie whether, twenty-five years from now, it would be the universal desire to travel like rockets at supersonic speeds in a closed metal container, probably without windows, or whether many would still prefer a more leisurely progression.” Read more »

Fairmount

How the Philadelphia waterworks became a potent symbol of our lost belief that nature and technology could live together in harmony

Charles Dickens apparently found little to beguile him when he visited Philadelphia in the 1840’s. He gave scarcely a page to the city in his American Notes , and was sourly amused at being overcome with “Quakery feelings,” which manifested themselves in an urge to invest in the corn exchange. But when he got to the banks of the Schuylkill, he was deeply impressed: “Philadelphia is most bountifully provided with fresh water, which is showered and jerked about, and turned on, and poured off, everywhere.Read more »

The U.S. vs. International Terrorists

A Chapter From Our Past

Terrorists hijack an airplane and hold the passengers for ransom. A merchant ship is seized by the forces of a small, disorganized state. The United States retaliates. The ship and crew are rescued, but many lives are lost.

The Transcontinental Railroad

What it was like for the first travelers

I see over my own continent the Pacific railroad surmounting every barrier, I see continual trains of cars winding along the Platte carrying freight and passengers, I hear the locomotives rushing and roaring, and the shrill steamwhistle, I hear the echoes reverberate through the grandest scenery in the world… BridginRead more »

Steam Road To El Dorado

Mile for mile, it cost more in dollars—and lives—than any railroad ever built

It was not long after the completion of the Panama Railroad in 1855 that Bedford Clapperton Pirn declared with perfect composure that of all the world’s wonders none could surpass this one as a demonstration of man’s capacity to do great things against impossible odds. Read more »

The Great Bicycle Delirium

The man on the preceding page is mounted on a bicycle made by Colonel Albert A. Pope. An ex-soldier and shoe manufacturer, Pope spent a good deal of time at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition pondering an English “ordinary” (large front wheel, small back wheel). After the show he commissioned a mechanic to build him a bicycle on the English model. The result—a seventy-pound behemoth costing $313—was probably the first real bicycle built in America. Pope saw vast possibilities in the unwieldy machine and forever abandoned the manufacture of shoes.Read more »

Horsepower Comes To The Magpies

One of the most exciting stories in American history is that of how the Indian got the horse and what this astonishing innovation did to change the culture of the red men of the Plains [see “How the Indian Got the Horse,” AMERICAN HERITAGE , February, 1964]. Indian horses were, of course, of Spanish descent, the first of them almost certainly stolen by members of the Pueblo tribe whom the conquistadors had enslaved.Read more »

A Zip Through History

The U.S. Post Office, 1775-1974

Clara Boule of Lewiston, Montana, recently heard from her mother. This is less than startling, since her mother, Mrs. Elmer Lazure, lives at Belt, only eighty miles from Lewiston. But—the letter was postmarked November 17, 1969 Read more »

The Lincoln Highway

Carl Fisher thought Americans should be able to drive across their country, but it took a decade and a world war to finish his road

When Carl Graham Fisher, best known as the builder and promoter of Miami Beach who started the Florida vacation craze, died in 1939 the New York Times pointed out that he brought about a far more significant change in the life-style of modern America in his earlier and less conspicuous role as the creator of the idea of the Lincoln Highway, the first automobile road from New York to California. Read more »