“I’ll Trade You Two John Arkinses For An O. H. Rothaker”

The mysterious apotheosis of the newspaper editor

It’s a bad sign when a company decides that to sell its products it needs to bundle them together with miscellaneous, unrelated goods. It suggests that relations have grown strained between product and customer, that either the product is obsolete or the competition is fierce. But in the short run a bribe can work wonders. I know many holders of American Express cards, for example, who agree to use them instead of their much cheaper Visa cards only because American Express tosses frequent flier miles into the bargain.Read more »

The Picture Snatchers

Their unwilling subjects considered the tabloid photographers pushy and boorish. But they felt they were upholding a grand democratic tradition.

In 1928 the New York Daily News recruited Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer who was unknown to New York law-enforcement authorities. His assignment: Penetrate the death chamber at Sing Sing prison—off limits to cameramen—and record the electrocution of Ruth Snyder, a woman sentenced to the chair for the murder of her husband.Read more »

The Press

The American newspaper: beleaguered by television, hated both for its timidity and for its arrogance, biased, provincial, overweening—and still indispensable. A Hearst veteran tells how it got to where it is today, and where it may be headed.

By general consensus the first attempt to start a regularly published newspaper in America was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick , issued in Boston on September 25, 1690. Its founder was a transplanted British printer, Benjamin Harris, who had been sent to the pillory in London for faking a story about a popish plot against the crown. First, he ran an exposé of the plot, and when it turned out there was none on at the moment, he took credit for breaking it up.Read more »

The Great Coronation War

In the infancy of television (but not of American royalty-worship) the networks fought their first all-out battle for supremacy over who would get to show Queen Elizabeth II being crowned

When American television was very young, but American royalty-worship was not, the biggest, loudest, most pointless battle for supremacy among the networks was over which would be first—by mere minutes, if necessary—to show pictures of the coronation of the British queen.Read more »

The Forty-year Run

In 1935 Fortune magazine published a profile of the Hearst empire, which said that William Randolph Hearst’s assets—twenty-eight newspapers, thirteen magazines, eight radio stations, two movie companies, inestimable art treasures, real estate, fourteen thousand shares of the Homestake Mine, and two million acres of land were worth $220 million. Read more »

My Favorite Historical Novel

American Heritage recently asked a wide range of novelists, journalists, and historians to answer a question: what is your favorite American historical novel, and why? The results made two things clear: that the question was not nearly so simple as it sounded; and that it had been well worth asking. Herewith, a vital anthology that debates the nature of the historical novel and points you toward the best examples our culture has to offer.

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“Dear Beatrice Fairfax…“

America’s first Miss Lonely hearts advised generations of anxious lovers in the newspaper column that started it all

Miss Beatrice Fairfax: Read more »

Secret Treason

He wanted only what every journalist of the time did: an exclusive interview with the Duke of Windsor. What he got was an astonishing proposition that sent him on an urgent top-secret visit to the White House and a once-in-a-lifetime story that was too hot to print—until now.

It was, said one of the few people who knew about it, “the greatest news story on earth.” It belonged exclusively to my father, a prolific writer, but he knew it could not be published. The story presented an appalling picture of the former King of England, the Duke of Windsor. It contained dreadful secrets, including an urgent proposal for President Franklin Roosevelt, a message so damning and dangerous that my father actually feared for his life after he had delivered it.Read more »

What To Call It?

It took us longer to name the war than to fight it

Something began at 7:50 A.M. (Hawaiian time), Sunday, December 7, 1941. Most Americans seemed convinced it was World War II. But one man wasn’t so sure. And because he happened to be President of the United States, a lot of brainpower was diverted to the practicalities of nomenclature. Read more »

Webster’s Unalloyed

H. T. Webster’s cartoons offer a warm, canny, and utterly accurate view of an era of everyday middle-class life

H. T. Webster was not a great artist. Once he had established a style, it hardly changed in more than forty years of drawing. Indeed, in mid-career he lost the use of his right hand due to acute arthritis, but in a few months he was drawing with his left, and his later work is quite indistinguishable from his earlier. Moreover, Webster’s style was highly reminiscent of Clare Briggs, the cartoonist a generation older who invented the comic strip. Read more »