America’s Frontier Forever Changed

The West the Railroads Made

Half a century after engines touched pilot to pilot at Promontory, Utah, to complete the first transcontinental railroad, the imprint of the Iron Road was nearly everywhere in the American West. Some enthusiastic real estate promoters and railway officials even claimed that the railroads invented the West—or at least the national image of the West.Read more »

The Industrial Age 1865 To 1917

In 1800 the United States was an underdeveloped nation of just over 5 million people. It was a society shaped by immigration, but immigrants from one country, Great Britain, made up around half the population. Although some pioneers had moved west of the Appalachian Mountains, America was preeminently a seacoast settlement. A prosperous nation, it still lagged far behind England, which was industrializing furiously. And with only 10 percent of its people living in towns and cities, it was thoroughly agrarian. Read more »

Where They Went To See The Future

The story of Chicago in the nineteenth century is the story of the making of America, Donald L. Miller says. A new PBS documentary based on a book he wrote shows why.

Donald Miller has never lived in Chicago, and he never thought of writing about it until he started noticing the curious ways its formative years reminded him of the flowering of Renaissance Florence. But once he got immersed in it he produced City of the Century , a sweeping history of the city from its earliest beginnings until after the 1893 world’s fair. The book was a prize-winning bestseller.

 
 
 
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The First Sehttp://www.americanheritage.com/node/59366/editason

50 YEARS AGO serious pro basketball was born. Or at least they tried to be serious.

To Horace Albert (“bones”) McKinney, listening over the phone in his parlor on Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the words of Arthur Morse sounded just fine. Morse, who was part owner of the Chicago Stags franchise in the brand-new Basketball Association of America (B.A.A.), was saying, “My friend, if Yankee Stadium was built for Babe Ruth, then Chicago Stadium was built for Bones McKinney.”

 
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Caution: I Brake For History

A BOLD NEW KIND OF COLLEGE COURSE BRINGS the student directly to the past, nonstop, overnight, in squalor and glory, for weeks on end

 

O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself. ” I first read Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , as an Ohio schoolboy. The great democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people have the chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-yearold I already suspected this. Read more »

Gangster City

During a single decade Chicago invented modern organized crime and saw John Dillinger, the most famous of the hit-and-run freelancers, die in front of one of its movie houses. For those who know where to look, quiet streets and sad buildings still tell the story of an incandescent era.

 

A .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol fires a half-ounce lead cylinder at a speed of 579 miles per hour. If the bullet strikes a brick, it leaves a distinctive mark, a gouge surrounded by radiating cracks. Read more »

Agents Of Change

You’ve probably never heard of them, but these ten people changed your life. Each of them is a big reason why your world today is so different from anyone’s world in 1954

For want of nails, kingdoms are won and lost. We all know that. The shoe slips, the horse stumbles, the army dissolves in retreat. But who designed the nails? Who hammered the nails? Who invented the nail-making machinery? Who figured out how to market the nails in neat plastic blister packs hung from standardized wire racks in hardware stores? • The house of history, that clever balloon frame of statistics and biographies in which we shelter our sense of tradition, of progress, of values gained and lost, is nailed together with anonymity.Read more »

Walter Winchell

The most powerful columnist who ever lived single-handedly made our current culture of celebrity— and then was destroyed by the tools he had used to build it

“WHY WALTER WINCHELL?” I have been asked repeatedly during the years I have been working on a biography of him. Why someone so passé or someone so beneath contempt as also to be beneath biography? There are, I believe, two sets of reasons a biographer chooses a subject: the ones he knows at the outset and the subliminal ones he only discovers along the way, although the latter often prove to have been the more powerful lure and to say more about the subject as well. Read more »

The Selling Of Libby Prison

This isn’t the first time a Virginia governor has found himself embroiled in controversy about the commercialization of a Civil War site

WHEN THE CIVIL War ended, a second fierce and divisive conflict began, fought on the same battlefields but over a different issue: not political secession but the commercial development of the battlefields themselves. The Civil War took four years to come to a conclusion that was nothing if not decisive; its successor has raged for more than a century, and the controversy that erupted earlier this year over the proposed Disney’s America theme park in Virginia suggests that its Appomattox is nowhere in sight.Read more »

Learning To Like Baseball

WHAT HAPPENED when a historian largely indifferent to the subject set out to write the script for Ken Burns’s monumental new documentary

I’VE NEVER LIKED BASEBALL MUCH, IN part because my father has always loved it so. He has been a fan all his life, rooting first for the Cleveland Indians, who were the closest major leaguers to the small Ohio town in which he was raised, and then for the Chicago White Sox, heroes to at least half the city in which he and my mother raised my brother and sister and me.Read more »