The War Of The Great Books

What seemed to be just another tempest in the teapot of academia has escalated into a matter of national values and politics. Who would have believed that the choice of which books Stanford University students must read would create so much tumult? And that the controversy goes back so far?

Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind must surely be the most unexpected happening of American intellectual life in recent years. It is an erudite, closely argued book of philosophy and cultural criticism. That it should sit atop the New York Times best-seller list for eleven weeks and produce a hard-cover sale of a half-million copies defies publishing’s common sense. Read more »

How We Got Lincoln

Every presidential election is exciting when it happens. Then the passing of time usually makes the outcome seem less than crucial. But after more than a century and a quarter, the election of 1860 retains its terrible urgency.

In the crowded months between the beginning of the 1860 presidential campaign and the attack on Fort Sumter, it is easy now to see the emergence of Abraham Lincoln as something preordained, as though the issues had manufactured a figure commensurate with their importance. Or at the least, one might imagine a dramatic, hard-fought campaign with Northern and Southern states rallying around their respective candidates. But that’s not quite how it happened. Read more »

The Forgotten Four Hundred: Chicago’s First Millionaires

While New York families were spending fortunes inherited from fathers and grandfathers, the Chicago rich had to start from scratch, both making and lavishly spending money within one generation

 

The very rich are different from you and me, F. Scott Fitzgerald noted. It is not merely, as Ernest Hemingway wisecracked in response, that they have more money; the possession of a fortune sets them apart in other ways too. They are free to indulge their dreams; free from anxiety about bills; free from the basic burdens of a struggle for subsistence.Read more »

Chicago: The Giants’ Footprints

Visitors to Chicago have tended either to love the city or to despise it, but its bursting vitality has awed everyone. Perhaps Mark Twain expressed it best. “That astonishing Chicago,” he wrote in Life on the Mississippi in 1883, “a city where they are always rubbing the lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities.” Read more »

Land Of The Candy Bar

It was born in America, it came of age in America, and in an era when foreign competition threatens so many of our industries, it still sweetens our balance of trade

The candy bar as we know it was born in America. So too, many centuries earlier, was chocolate itself. Mexican natives cultivated the cocoa bean for more than twenty-five hundred years before Hernán Cortés took it to Spain with him in 1528. Spanish royalty drank a cold, sweetened beverage made from the beans, but they liked it so much they kept it a secret from the rest of Europe for the remainder of the century. Not until the 1840s did a British firm, Fry and Sons, make the first chocolate bar.Read more »

Chicago Transit

During the 1920s the city spurred local rail traffic with an unparalleled run of superb and stylish posters

Surprisingly little is known about the posters shown on these pages. Springing up practically overnight in the mid-1920s, they bloomed for a short while, four or five years at most, and then their season, was over. Who was behind them and the reason for their demise is mostly a matter of conjecture. But one thing is certain: they rank with the best commercial art ever produced in this country, distinguished by their simple, vigorous shapes, subtle colors, and bold typography.Read more »

The Inland Printer

was the first magazine in America to change its cover for every issue. And these covers may still be the best graphic art magazine has ever produced.

 

One of the most influential magazines in America before the turn of the century was The Inland Printer , one hundred years old this year and now known as The American Printer and Lithographer . Although primarily a journal for the trade, The Inland Printer displayed a powerful artistic imagination as it reported the printing industry’s coming of age.Read more »

The Plot To Steal Lincoln’s Body

Jack Hughes was an outstanding passer of phony bills. A thoroughly honest-looking man, respectably bearded and always well dressed, he spent his working day going from store to store, making one small purchase at each, and paying for it with crisply persuasive counterfeit money.

If his currency ever was questioned and the police called, no case could be made; he never had more than one bad bill in his possession. Read more »

Benny Goodman

An Interview With the King of Swing

Benny Goodman strolled down New York’s Second Avenue one recent morning, covering the nine blocks between his apartment and a health club, where he swims each day, in about ten minutes. During that time no fewer than four strangers recognized him and vigorously shook his hand. They varied in age from near-contemporaries to youngsters clearly born long after Goodman’s glory days. But all had much the same thing to say. “I just want to thank you,” said one, who appeared to be in his late forties.Read more »

How To Raise A Family On $500 A Year

A REMARKABLE SOCIOLOGICAL EXPERIMENT SHOWED YOU COULD DO IT—IF YOU COULD STAND IT

In 1893 Chicago played host to a World’s Fair that rivaled the Paris Exposition of 1889 for splendor and exceeded all previous fairs in magnitude. The great Columbian Exposition not only demonstrated what had been accomplished in the four hundred years since Columbus’ first voyage to the New World but also offered a vision of what might be. Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted laid out an orderly arrangement of buildings, promenades, and lagoons as a vision of proper city planning.Read more »