Jack London

The Man Who Invented Himself

Jack London carved himself a special niche in the annals of American literature. Born in poverty in the first month of America’s centennial year, he spent his boyhood suffering the rejection of an unloving mother and much of his young manhood as a careless delinquent, a waterfront roisterer, and a road bum, quite as mindless of his own self-destruction as any modern youth who wastes himself with drugs and hitchhikes the interstates from nowhere to nowhere else. Read more »

Preserving A Neighborhood

Saving Hundred-Year-Old Buildings

The idea of urban renewal has traditionally been predicated on the superficially reasonable assumption that the best way to handle crumbling blight is to pluck it out—raze it, tear it down, get rid of it—and build something better: shopping malls and office complexes, say, or apartments and town houses, civic centers and sports arenas. Read more »

The Social History Of A Singular Fruit

In southern California the orange found a home.

For more than thirty years it stood at the corner of Highland Avenue and Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino, California, bordered at the rear by a line of eucalyptus trees and behind that by a thirty-acre grove of fat green trees that joined others in a march to the foothills of the San Bernardino Range. It billed itself as “The World’s Largest Orange Juice Stand,” and perhaps it was. It was big enough—a monstrous globe about sixty feet in diameter, constructed of plaster and chicken wire over a rickety wooden framework and painted a glistening orange.Read more »

Winterkill, 1846

The tragic journey of the Donner Party

To the brothers George and Jacob Donner the way to California seemed clear and simple. Both in their sixties, solid and well-to-do thanks to their own hard work, but beginning now to feel their age and the long Illinois winters in their bones, the two men sat in the glow of the hearthfire that winter of 1845-46 and turned again the wellthumbed pages of The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California .Read more »

Queen Mother Of Tennis

On December 5, 1974, Mrs. Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, who had won more national tennis titles than any other player in the history of the sport, died at her home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She would have been eighty-eight on December 20. During several days late in November, two weeks before her death, Mrs. Wightman reminisced with an AMERICAN HERITAGE editor, talking humorously, lucidly, and often bluntly about her career in tennis, about the current state of women’s tennis, and about her unflagging devotion to the game. 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 »

High Point Of Your Trip

In 1879 Jim McCauley lured his sweetheart onto Overhanging Rock at Glacier Point, California, and threatened to push her off if she didn’t marry him. This rather hardnosed method of popping the question worked, or so McCauley said. His German-born girl had spurned earlier marriage proposals, but this time she quickly promised “I vill, I vill, I vill.” That November the two were married, and together they operated for eighteen years the Mountain House, a two-story tourist stopover that McCauley built near the site.Read more »

Death Valley

On Christmas Day of 1849 a party of twenty-seven wagons heading through Nevada toward the California gold fields lumbered over a barren ridge and downhill into a desolate place. Before the travellers lay miles of scorched and blasted earth, raw outcroppings of multicolored rock, and stunning heat. The little caravan split up; a group of bachelors who called themselves thejayhawkers piked north, and two families—the Bennetts and the Arcanes—pushed southward along with a few single men.Read more »

The Taking Of California

A low comedy for high stakes:

For three hundred years California drifted in a backwash of time. Spain had discovered the region in 1542 but had done little about it until the latter part of the eighteenth century, when fears of Russian interest in the province inspired her to settle a handful of missionary priests, half-educated soldiers, and thoroughly uneducated civilians in a few pinprick outposts scattered along the coast from San Diego Bay to San Francisco Bay. After Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexicans had done little better by California.Read more »

The Last Stone Age American

As an epilogue to his forthcoming book on the archaeology of the United States, C. W. Ceram, the author of Gods, Graves and Scholars, has chosen to tell a symbolic tale—the story of lshi. Chronologically, the story is quite modern; culturally, it reaches back to the Stone Age. Mr. Ceram’s new book, The First American, will be published later this month by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. A MERICAN H ERITAGE presents his moving epilogue—the end of “a chapter m History.” Read more »