Avery

A gathering of little-known drawings from Columbia
University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library illuminates two centuries of American building

ONE OF THE WORLD’S most renowned architectural institutions is named for a virtually unknown architect who died at age thirty-eight, too young to have made more than a promising start in his own career. In 1890, the year of Henry Ogden Avery’s death, his parents founded the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University in New York City and donated two thousand books from their son’s professional library as well as the drawings from his brief career. Read more »

What’s Happening In History

Over any extended period of time, the state of historical thinking about the great national topics changes in both subtle and dramatic ways. New facts and interpretations are being debated, written about, and taught. To keep you informed, AMERICAN HERITAGE introduces the first of a series.

THE PAST ,” the great French historian Marc Bloch once wrote, “is, by definition, a datum which nothing in the future will change.” This seems so obvious as scarcely to merit mention. Is not the common expression “That’s history” another way of saying that something is finished, over, dead and gone? Yet Bloch also wrote that history “is constantly transforming and perfecting itself.” This is not so obvious, yet anyone who reads knows that history is constantly being rewritten.Read more »

The Man Who Planned The Victory

An Interview With Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer

In 1936 the Germans permitted a captain of the U.S. Army to attend their War College as an exchange student. What he learned there helped him develop the master strategy with which the Allies won the war. At eighty-six, one of the last of the commanders looks back. Read more »

The President’s Best Friend

If he’d been the closest companion of the president of IBM, you might happen across his name in a privately printed memoir. But LeMoyne Billings was John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s best friend from Choate to the White House—and that makes him part of history.

CROATE, 1935 Read more »

William James Finds His Vocation

One of America s truly great men—scientist, philosopher, and literary genius—forged his character in the throes of adversity

THE YEAR IS 1890 and the place Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one of the streets leading northeast along the Harvard Yard a man in early middle age—he is, in fact, fortyeight years old, of slight build and medium height but vigorous motion—is walking with a pair of students, boy and girl, who have followed him out of his class in experimental psychology. His face is bearded and his eyes bright blue, and his features reflect the rapidity of his thought. He is William James, the scientist and philosopher.Read more »

My Radcliffe

The author recalls two generations of “Cliffie” life—hers and her mother’s—in the years when male and female education took place on opposite sides of the Cambridge Common and women were expected to wear hats in Harvard Square

My mother was a member of the class of 1899 at Radcliffe College, having come east from St. Paul, Minnesota—a sort of reverse pioneer. She was one of the two or three students from west of the Berkshires and was considered rather exotic by her classmates because of her Midwestern background, which she loved to describe in exaggerated detail, implying that a fresh Indian scalp was hung over the fireplace every week or so. Her years at Radcliffe were, it seems, passed in a state of continual euphoria.Read more »

Eliot Of Harvard

A stern but brilliant Yankee revolutionized American higher education while president of our oldest university

Charles William Eliot cast a long shadow for a good many of his descendants, naturally enough. As a great-grandchild of his I felt it, too. The summers of my earliest boyhood, at Northeast Harbor, Maine, were spent partly in his austere presence. When he died in 1926, at ninety-two, I was only seven; and yet an incident that occurred only a day or two before his death is still extremely vivid in my memory. My elder sister and I, together with a couple of cousins, had been called into the old gentleman’s sickroom to entertain him with a song.Read more »

“old Peabo” And The School

In founding Groton, Endicott Peabody was sure that muscular Christianity would protect
boys from the perils of loaferism

One of the most illustrious of these benevolent despots was the Reverend Endicott Peabody, who founded Groton School in 1884 and served it with all his might and main for over half a century. By the time he finally turned over his task to younger hands in 1940, at the age of eighty-three, he had become an American version of the legendary Dr. Arnold of Rugby. And his zealously guarded little kingdom of several hundred sylvan acres, some forty miles northwest of Boston, had achieved national renown as a preserve of wealth and privilege. Read more »

Do We Care If Johnny Can Read?

Americans first learned to read to save their souls, then to govern themselves. Now the need is not so clear.

In 1765 John Adams wrote that “A native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare as a comet or an earthquake.” He went on to say that “all candid foreigners who have passed through this country and conversed freely with all sorts of people here will allow that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world.” It is a broad claim. The question is, was it true?Read more »

“A Gentlemen’s Fight”

Nobody was murdered or maimed, but nobody backed down for twenty years in the struggle over school integration in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Who finally won?

The Reverend L. Francis Griffin sat in a metal folding chair in the basement assembly hall of the First Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia. His modified Afro, bushy eyebrows, and Vandyke beard were flecked with gray. Behind horn-rimmed glasses, his brown eyes seemed to suggest a mixture of attentiveness and fatigue, of serenity and sadness. Read more »