“You Press The Button, We Do The Rest”

George Eastman's inexpensive, popular camera helped create the modern age

In the year 1854 a young man named George Washington Eastman rather reluctantly maintained a residence in Waterville, New York. The reluctance arose from the fact that while the hamlet was pleasant enough, its population of a few hundred souls offered no scope for the ambitions and needs of a father of two little girls, with a third child on the way.Read more »

Henry Herrick’s Manchester

In 1865, after a highly successful career as an art teacher and wood engraver in New York City, Henry W. Herrick returned to his family’s home in Manchester, New Hampshire, to care for his aging mother. He was forty-one years old, portly, dignified, and soon—with his tall silk hat and gold-headed cane—he became something of an institution in the culture-poor cotton-mill community, a pillar of the First Congregational Church and a founder of the Manchester Art Association. Read more »

A Capital Education


Sometimes the camera solidifies a modest moment in history in a way that reminds us sharply of securities we have left behind. These photos of District of Columbia public schools, taken in 1899, render the glow of the era of McKinley in the way that the spires of Oxford whisper of the Middle Ages. They are the work of a pioneer in documentary photography, Frances Benjamin Johnston.Read more »

Science, Learning, And The Claims Of Nationalism

We have come a long way from the philosophy of the Enlightenment...a shift that represents a retreat rather than an advance, argues the noted historian.

We think of our own time as an Age of Enlightenment, but it flouts and even repudiates two essential principles of the Enlightenment: first the priority of the claims of science and culture over those of politics, and second the cosmopolitan and even universal nature of science and culture. Read more »

Professor Cope Vs. Professor Marsh

A bitter feud among the bones

In the early 1870’s two American scientists began a vicious personal contest for position and eminence in the world of science. As vertebrate paleontologists they delved into the crust of the earth for evidence of ancient life, at a time when the surface had barely been scratched and popular interest in such discoveries was intense. In the infancy of a new science, both men sought immortality.Read more »

A Schoolgirl’s Album

Back in 1883, when girls were still considered young ladies, the Chestnut Street Female Seminary moved to a new home—a palatial mansion outside Philadelphia that was surrounded by 180 acres of tree-studded hills. The great house, above, was popularly known as Cooke’s Castle, after its owner, Jay Cooke. He, however, called it Ogontz, after a Wyandotte chieftain he had known when growing up in Sandusky, Ohio.Read more »

The Great White Father’s Little Red Indian School

Supporters of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School believed that complete absorption of the Indian into American society was best for everyone

Brevet Major General G. A. Custer and about 215 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry had been massacred at the Little Big Horn only a little more than three years before. Geronimo and his Apaches would not surrender for another seven years. The date was October 6, 1879, and the good burghers of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, were treated to the sight of a band of blanketed Indians parading through the old colonial town toward the abandoned army post on the outskirts.Read more »

A Lesson In Civics—but not what they teach in school

That splendid flower of New England— the town meeting—wilts under the scrutiny of a native son

The democratic tradition—or so I am told—is nowhere more splendidly exemplified than in the small New England town. There the candidates are neighbors of the voters, and the presumption of those who grew up elsewhere is that, on the first Monday in March, the honest New Englanders soberly assess the known faults and virtues of these neighbors and invariably elect the most upright of men to be selectmen and highway surveyors and keepers of the pound.

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