Decking Columbia’s Walls

War, patriotism, nature, and changing taste— all have been mirrored in our wallpaper

When George Washington visited Boston in 1789, the new President received a tumultuous greeting. Among the bands of tradesmen who rallied to parade—all patriotically urging the spectators to buy American—was a contingent of local wallpaper printers, bearing a banner emblazoned with the exhortation: “May the fair daughters of Columbia deck them- 4 selves and their walls with J our own manufactures. ” Read more »

The Great Gun Merchant

For years passengers travelling the railroad between New York City and Albany were stirred from their reveries by a Scottish castle looming suddenly from the Hudson River. An outpost of nearby West Point? The domain of an émigré laird? No, this island fortress was once the private arsenal of the world’s largest arms dealer. Read more »

George Washington And “the Guilty, Dangerous & Vulgar Honor”

In an age of ersatz heroes, a fresh look at the real thing

George Washington, writes Carry Wills, “succeeded so well that he almost succeeds himself out of the hero business. He made his accomplishments look, in retrospect, almost inevitable. Heroism so quietly efficient dwindles to managerial skill.” Read more »

Presidents Emeritus

The ex-Presidency now carries perquisites and powers that would have amazed all but the last few who have held that office

What should be done with exPresidents? William Howard Taft once remarked that perhaps the best way to handle a former President was to chloroform and ceremonially cremate him when he left office, in order to “fix his place in history and enable the public to pass on to new men and new measures.” Taft did not insist on this ritual for himself, however, accepting instead a professorship at the Yale Law School when he finished his presidential term, and later serving as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 
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George Washington’s Beautiful Nelly

Miss Eleanor Custis … has more perfection of expression, of color, of softness, and of firmness of mind than I have ever seen before or conceived consistent with mortality. She is everything that the chisel of Phidias aimed at but could not reach, and the soul beaming through her countenance and glowing in her smile is as superior to her face as mind is to matter.” Read more »

The American World Was Not Made For Me

The Unknown Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton’s contribution to welding the thirteen semi-independent states which had won the Revolution into a unified political entity was greater than that of any other Founding Father, with the possible exception of Washington. But this tells only half the story. The other half is that while Hamilton’s genius built national unity, his psychic wounds caused disunion which was also absorbed into the permanent structure of the United States. Read more »

Monmouth

Eleventh in a series of paintings for AMERICAN HERITAGE

When in June of 1778 Sir Henry Clinton evacuated Philadelphia and moved his army of ten thousand British and German troops toward New York, Washington called his officers together to discuss strategy. Their decision—which, said Alexander Hamilton, “would have done honor to the most honorable society of midwives, and to them only”—was to keep watch on Clinton’s flank but to avoid a major action. Read more »

A Bicentennial Sampler

COPYRIGHT © 1976, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

In an imposing observance of the nation’s Bicentennial the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City has devoted its entire building to a huge, exciting exhibition celebrating “200 Years of American Sculpture.” The show opened in March of this year and will run until mid-September. Altogether, more than two hundred sculptors are represented. Read more »

Gilbert Stuart The Man Who Painted Washington

The face is familiar. Every American has scanned it a thousand times; it passes from hand to hand in millions of ordinary business transactions every day of the year. It is Gilbert Stuart’s image of George Washington, and it adorns, of course, the United States dollar bill. Yet not one American in a hundred could tell you anything of the artist whose perception of the Father of His Country would eventually become the most readily recognized portrait ever made of any famous person.Read more »

Men of the Revolution: 17. Joseph Reed

Like many another well-to-do young man of his day, Joseph Reed seems an unlikely revolutionist. His background, money, education, marriage—all these, one would suppose, would have placed him firmly on the side of the status quo, kept him loyal to the Crown. It did not turn out that way, of course; yet Reed was something of an enigma even to his contemporaries. Political radicals thought him insufficiently radical; many fellow officers considered him a reluctant soldier. Read more »