America’s Cities Are (mostly) Better Than Ever

Today’s city, for all its ills, is “cleaner, less crowded, safer, and more livable than its turn-of-the-century counterpart,” argues this eminent urban historian. Yet two new problems are potentially fatal.

More than a decade ago the phrase “urban crisis” crept into our public conversation. Since then it has become a cliché, connoting a wide range of persistent and dangerous problems confronting our cities. Moreover, the phrase, like “missile crisis” or “energy crisis,” suggests both newness and immediate danger. The rioting, arson, and looting that erupted in the 1960’s fortified this general impression. Presumably something unprecedented had happened.Read more »

Homogenized History

Why the most fascinating of subjects is made to seem the most boring—and what can be done about it

Those who had the pleasure, a few years ago, of reading Frances FitzGerald’s award-winning work Fire in the Lake should know that her strength is in what might be called cultural anatomy—the careful dissection of the webs of habit and belief that hold a people together. In that book she appeared to be talking about American warriors in Vietnam.Read more »

Chickens To Moscow

Marjorie Daw Johnson, for many years a vocational teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, died in 1975 at the age of ninety-three. Among other mementos, she left this account of her entirely unforeseen experience as a courier to the Soviet Union in the days before the United States recognized that country. It is published here for the first time by permission of Dr. David B. Johnson, her nephew and executor of her estate.

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The Way I See It

THE LIVING DREAM

Why study American history, anyway? We would be lost, of course, if we did not; more important, the study brings pride and hope—pride in the great dream that shaped this country, and hope because the dream still lives and will finally be our salvation.

It is easy to doubt this. We are skeptics in an age that demands skepticism, an age in which the cynic has the idealist locked in a cage. It is a bad time to look back and a worse time to look ahead.Read more »

Johns Hopkins

HOW A FARSIGHTED QUAKER MERCHANT AND FOUR GREAT DOCTORS BROUGHT FORTH, WITH MADDENING SLOWNESS, ONE OF THE FINEST MEDICAL CENTERS IN THE WORLD

In 1884, after he was offered an appointment to the medical faculty of the newly created Johns Hopkins University, Dr. William Henry Welch wrote to his stepmother: “Such great things are expected of the medical faculty at the Johns Hopkins in the way of achievement and of reform of medical education in this country that I feel oppressed by the weight of responsibility. A reputation there will not be so cheaply earned as at Bellevue, but in so far the stimulus to do good work will be the greater.Read more »

Is History Dead?

NO, SAY THREE AMERICAN HISTORIANS. BUT THE PATIENT IS AILING AND THEY THINK THEY KNOW WHY AND WHAT TO PRESCRIBE.

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Three Weeks In Dayton

The “Monkey Trial” brought two ideologies into a great conflict, and it was very, very hot

On a sunny morning in June, 1925, William Jennings Bryan put his famous appetite on display before a young reporter and two lawyers in the dining room of the old Piedmont Hotel on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. They watched with wide eyes as he showed why knives and forks had been invented.

 
 
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S•x Education

“Your body is a temple,” our ancestors told their pubescent youngsters. ‘Now go take a cold bath”

Standards of propriety were lofty indeed

Something called delicacy overtook Americans soon after our successful Revolution. Like an incoming tide, it flowed all over the nineteenth century, reaching its high-water mark about a hundred years ago. From that point it slowly receded, leaving behind rock pools of what came to be identified as prudery.Read more »

A New Theory Of Thorstein Veblen

“The rich are different from you and me,” F. Scott Fitzgerald is supposed to have once said to Ernest Hemingway. And as the story goes, Hemingway replied, “Yes, they have more money.” A neat and pleasing epigram for a democratic society, but one that Thorstein Veblen, writing almost thirty years earlier, had already proved too simple.Read more »

The New Teacher

DRAWN FOR AMERICAN HERITAGE BY LITNESS

The new teacher, Miss Flock, was hired just one week before country school opened. Through Mother’s last-minute influence,, two neighbor children, DeWayne and Orban, who were to attend the Catholic parochial school, enrolled instead in the rural schoolhouse, thus keeping it open one more year. My cousin Lois and I were the last of our family still in the lower grades, and everyone thought it best if we could continue at the one-room schoolhouse three-quarters of a mile away, rather than attend public school in town.Read more »