The Greatest American Cars

A leading authority picks the top ten. Some of the names still have the power to stir the blood. And some will surprise you.

Few enterprises for any alleged expert in a given field can be more hazardous than the compilation of a “best” or “worst” list. The undertaking of such an effort immediately invites second-guessing by everyone else with similar credentials and offers the risk that any number of them may give valid, even insurmountable, proof that their selections are superior.Read more »

The Case Of The Chambermaid And The Nine Old Men

When Elsie Parrish was fired, her fight for justice led to dramatic changes in the nation’s highest court.

When, on a spring day in 1935, Elsie Parrish walked into the office of an obscure lawyer in Wenatchee, Washington, to ask him to sue the town’s leading hotel for back pay, she had no idea she was linking her fate to that of exploited women in a Brooklyn laundry a whole continent away. Still less did she think that she was setting off a series of events that would deeply affect President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plans for his second term.Read more »

101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

This is not a test. It’s the real thing.

How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Conrad.) But just how well does the average person remember the important facts—the laws, treaties, people, and events that should be familiar to everyone? Read more »

FDR And The Kingfish

A brilliant demagogue named Huey Long was scrambling for the Presidency when an assassin’s bullets cut him down just fifty years ago

In May 1932 Louisiana’s flamboyant senator, Huey Pierce Long, told a throng of newspapermen to prepare for a headline-making announcement. After months of temporizing, he was finally ready to reveal whom he would support for his party’s presidential nomination at the upcoming Democratic national convention: his choice was the patrician governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They were an odd couple, and the decision was not one the Kingfish—a nickname borrowed from the popular “Amos ’n Andy” radio show—had come to easily.Read more »

Why We Didn’t Use Poison Gas in World War II

In a conflict that saw saturation bombing, Auschwitz, and the atom bomb, poison gas was never used in the field. What prevented it?

Forty years ago, on August 6 and 9, 1945, American B-29s dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing at least 110,000 and possibly 250,000 Japanese and speeding that nation’s surrender. During four years of bitter fighting, World War II had become for the United States virtually total war, in which morality had slowly been redefined to allow the intentional bombing of civilians. Read more »

Matters Of Fact

FDR’s Twenty-Four-Year War

The afternoon of August 26, 1933, was warm and sunny in Poughkeepsie, and a large crowd had gathered on the Vassar Collegecampus for a Dutchess County reception in honor of the area’s most illustrious citizen, Franklin Roosevelt. The new President had motored over from Hyde Park, and his open Packard had brought him to within a few steps of the outdoor platform from which he would speak. As he finished his remarks, a local physician named Harold Rosenthal stationed himself next to the car.Read more »

Four More Years

Here is how political cartoonists have sized up the candidates over a tumultuous half-century.

AMERICANS HAVE BEEN turning out political cartoons since the dawn of the Republic, but in the nineteenth century the drawings tended to be verbose and cluttered, their characters trailing long ribbons of speech balloons as they stumbled over obscure symbols. It took the national turmoil that surrounded the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt to bring the art to its incisive, confident, acid maturity. On the eve of the election, we offer a portfolio of cartoons both admiring and execrating from the last thirteen presidential contests.Read more »

Cantaloupes And Atom Bombs

HISTORIANS GOT THEIR instructions early. In the second century B.C. the Roman historian Polybius issued these orders: “Directly a man assumes the moral attitude of an historian he ought to forget all considerations, such as the love of one’s friends, hatred of one’s enemies.Read more »

THE BANKING STORY

Banking as we’ve known it for centuries is dead, and we don’t really know the consequences of what is taking its place. A historical overview.

For the last several years congressional committees and presidential task forces have been nattering back and forth about what should be done to change the legal order that establishes and specifically empowers and regulates the nation’s banks. They have dealt with their subject as a collection of technical problems they could solve: a bit of oil here, a tightened bolt there, a replacement for a blown gasket—and the old machine will be as good as new. But, in fact, our banking problems are systemic: we need a new machine.Read more »

Rosie The Riveter Remembers

For millions of women, consciousness raising didn’t start in the 1960s. It started when they helped win World War II.

DURING THE FIRST three years of World War II, five million women covered their hair, put on “slacks,” and at the government’s urging went to work in defense plants. They did every kind of job, but the largest single need was for riveters. In song, story, and film, the female patriot, “Rosie the Riveter,” was born. Many of the new recruits had worked in service trades—as maids, cooks, or waitresses. Many more had never worked at any paying job. Practically none of them had ever made as much money.Read more »