O.k. The Last Word

When did we start saying it? And why?

FROM THE OIL FIELDS of Indonesia to the tulip fields of Holland to the rice fields of Brazil, a traveler overhears conversations sounding something like this:

FIRSTNATIVE : “Unintelligible unintelligible unintelligible, okay?”

SECONDNATIVE : “Okay.” Read more »

Two Cheers For Optimism

One man measures his life-span against the length of recorded history and finds tidings of comfort and hope

At the risk of being sneered at as a NeoVictorian, I hereby admit to a nineteenth-century belief that, allowing for daily relapses Land hourly alarms, the world of man is improving. I am not by nature a Panglossian sort but, like the grandparent of a precocious child, I am overwhelmed by a sense of how far my still sprouting human species has come in so short a time. Read more »

Democracy Delineated

Declaring himself a “thorough democrat” George Caleb Bingham portrayed the American voter with an artist’s eye—and a seasoned politicians savvy

Between 1847 and 1855 George Caleb Bingham completed a half dozen or so canvases that are among the most unusual and interesting documents in the history of American painting. They are well known to students, critics, and art historians but they are only occasionally reproduced in books that celebrate the “finest” American paintings. Others of Bingham’s works are duly included in such selective compilations, for at his best he was a highly competent artist. Read more »

Our Misplaced President

Historians are still puzzling over the discovery of an official White House portrait of President Roger Darcy Amboy, who appears to have held our nation’s highest office somewhere between Van Buren and Buchanan. Obscured by drapes for over a century, the painting was discovered by an Amboy descendant who had come to urethane the baseboards. Read more »

The Harrison Bandwagon

Our forebears were much given to singing. They sang themselves through revolution with “The Liberty Song” and “Yankee Doodle,” and afterward each struggle of the young nation inspired songsters to extol in music and lyric the virtues of freedom. Political songs were also common, so perhaps it is not surprising that the Presidential campaign of 1840 turned into a songfest— at least for the Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison. Read more »

The Rise Of The Little Magician

Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s right-hand man, was a master of political intrigue who let nothing block his one unwavering ambition—the Presidency. But sometimes he was too smart for his own good

Early one spring evening in 1829, a brougham, handsomely carved and immaculately kept, jogged at a dignified pace down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. Within was a solitary figure sitting with the pompous grace of a Hindu rajah. He was the new Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren of New York, just arrived after a hard journey from Albany through the wilderness and cities of the seaboard. Recollections of that journey made his solitude welcome. He had much to think about.

 
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