On the twentieth anniversary of Watergate, a recently discovered diary reveals a similar conspiracy four decades earlier

Lawrence O’Brien, the head of the Democratic National Committee at the time of the Watergate break-in, was not the first O’Brien burglarized on behalf of the GOP. Forty-two years earlier James J. O’Brien, a suspected Tammany Hall ally and two-bit blackmailer, was the target of another Republican administration. In 1930, however, the burglars were drawn not from the CIA and disgruntled Cuban émigrés but from American Naval Intelligence.Read more »

Legacy Of Violence

Sociologists continue to be vexed by the pathology of urban violence: Why is it so random, so fierce, so easily triggered? One answer may be found in our Southern past.

A jostle, a slightly derogatory remark, or a potential weapon in the hands of an adversary means something to many poor blacks and whites it does not mean to the middle and upper classes, some criminologists argue. “A male is usually expected to defend the name and honor of his mother, the virtue of womanhood … and to accept no derogation about his race (even from a member of his own race), his age, or his masculinity,” write the sociologists Marvin Wolfgang and Franco Ferracuti.

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Billy the Kid Country

The legend of the most famous of all outlaws belongs to the whole world now. But to find the grinning teen-ager who gave rise to it, you must visit the New Mexico landscape where he lived his short life.

New Mexico is Billy the Kid country. In Santa Fe’s First Presbyterian Church, young Henry McCarty stood by in March 1873 as his mother exchanged vows with William Henry Harrison Antrim. Eight years later, alias Billy Bonney, a.k.a. the Kid, he spent three months in the jail on Water Street. In Silver City he attended elementary school and, not yet fifteen, pulled off a celebrated escape up the chimney of the jail. In Lincoln he fought as a Regulator in the Lincoln County War and, after breaking out of the county lockup, gunned down two deputies.Read more »

The First Chapter Of Children’s Rights

In the quiet New York courtroom, the little girl began to speak. “My name is Mary Ellen McCormack. I don’t know how old I am. … I have never had but one pair of shoes, but can’t recollect when that was. I have had no shoes or stockings on this winter.… I have never had on a particle of flannel. My bed at night is only a piece of carpet, stretched on the floor underneath a window, and I sleep in my little undergarment, with a quilt over me. I am never allowed to play with any children or have any company whatever.Read more »

What Happened In Hinton

Back in Prohibition days, the citizens of a West Virginia town decided to crack down on bootlegging and prostitution. The author remembers it well.

How does one describe a small town? And how does one explain a town when it sets out to catch all its sinners? All I can do is tell you a little of the history of my hometown, Hinton, Summers County, West Virginia, as I remember it. Read more »

How Did Our Prisons Get That Way?

The penitentiary was invented in the United States as a more rational and humane way of punishing. It quickly ran into problems that still overwhelm us.

Prisons are a fact of life in America. However unsatisfactory and however well-concealed they may be, we cannot imagine doing without them. They remain such a fundamental bulwark against crime and criminals that we now keep a larger portion of our population in prisons than any other nation except the Soviet Union and South Africa, and for terms that are longer than in many countries. Furthermore, we Americans invented the prison. Read more »

Hard Looks at Hidden History

Hard Looks at Hidden History

One of the more unlikely results of the American Revolution was Australia. Most American colonists came here voluntarily, of course, but until 1776 we meekly accepted boatloads of His Majesty’s convicts as indentured servants.Read more »

Ordeal By Touch

Up until the last century in some parts of the country, a murderer’s guilt could legally be determined by what happened when he or she touched the victim’s corpse

In 1646 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Mary Martin was pregnant and unmarried. Her paramour was a married man, but it was her status as a single woman that determined the nature of her crime. She faced punishment, if her misdeed was discovered, only for fornication; had she been married, her crime would have been adultery, punishable by death. Read more »

Texas Faces The Camera

The Lone Star state as it once was—proud, isolated, independent, the undiluted essence of America forever inventing itself out of the hardscrabble reality of the frontier

The Texans on these pages are a vanishing species, born of the vast and varied geography of the toughest frontier. The Republic of Texas was wrested from Mexico one hundred and fifty years ago, and its brief history as a separate nation helped convince Texans that they were a special breed of Americans. Read more »

The Money Maker

The Secret Service considered Emanuel Ninger a common counterfeiter. He saw himself as an American master of the impressionist school.

THE MOST PRESUMPTUOUS counterfeiter in American history was a blue-eyed, sandy-bearded, German sign painter named Emanuel Ninger. As a sign painter he was adequate; as an impressionist, a historic master. And a soaring egotist. Not for him the ordinary counterfeiter’s conceit that his bills were as good as the government’s. Ninger insisted his were worth more.Read more »