America Was Promises

An Interview With Archibald MacLeish

Librarian of Congress, presidential confidant, Assistant Secretary of State, winner of three Pulitzer Prizes and the Medal of Freedom, distinguished Harvard professor—and incidentally, lawyer and football player—MacLeish was a twentieth-century Renaissance Man, as revealed in this last interview with him Read more »

The Amorous Art Of Esther Howland

The captivating examples of romantic nineteenth-century valentines on these pages are the handiwork of a lady unusual for her time. Esther Howland was born in 1828 in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Southworth A. Howland, a descendant of one of the Pilgrim fathers who was a prosperous stationer and bookseller. In 1845 she entered Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, Massachusetts, which had opened its doors only eight years earlier.Read more »

The Ursuline Outrage

In the shadow of Bunker Hill, bigots perpetrated an atrocity that showed a shocked nation that the fires of the Reformation still burned in the New World

On a sweltering Monday afternoon in July, 1834, Edward Cutter of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was startled by the sudden appearance of a woman in his house. Her hair was closely shorn, she was clad only in a flimsy nightdress, and she was muttering incoherently. Cutter probably surmised that she was from the Ursuline convent a few hundred yards up the hill, then known as Mount Benedict. Read more »

Yankee Tarzan


It was raining. A forty-four-year-old man named Joseph Knowles gingerly entered an old logging road in the Dead River country of Maine. He was nearly naked and carried no tools, weapons, or equipment of any sort, not even a bottle of mosquito repellent. Read more »

Eliot Of Harvard

A stern but brilliant Yankee revolutionized American higher education while president of our oldest university

Charles William Eliot cast a long shadow for a good many of his descendants, naturally enough. As a great-grandchild of his I felt it, too. The summers of my earliest boyhood, at Northeast Harbor, Maine, were spent partly in his austere presence. When he died in 1926, at ninety-two, I was only seven; and yet an incident that occurred only a day or two before his death is still extremely vivid in my memory. My elder sister and I, together with a couple of cousins, had been called into the old gentleman’s sickroom to entertain him with a song.Read more »

“old Peabo” And The School

In founding Groton, Endicott Peabody was sure that muscular Christianity would protect
boys from the perils of loaferism

One of the most illustrious of these benevolent despots was the Reverend Endicott Peabody, who founded Groton School in 1884 and served it with all his might and main for over half a century. By the time he finally turned over his task to younger hands in 1940, at the age of eighty-three, he had become an American version of the legendary Dr. Arnold of Rugby. And his zealously guarded little kingdom of several hundred sylvan acres, some forty miles northwest of Boston, had achieved national renown as a preserve of wealth and privilege. Read more »

One Labor Union's Unique Tribute To The Working American

During the 1912 strike of 25,000 Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile workers—the high-water mark of the Industrial Workers of the World’s turbulent career—a group of female mill hands marched under a banner that read “We Want Bread and Roses, Too.” Moved by the blunt poetry of the demand, the novelist Joel Oppenheim used it in a ballad that became the famous union song that runs, in part, “Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew./ Yes, it is bread we fight for—but we fight for roses, too!” In the years since Lawrence, many labor organizatRead more »

Shades Of Rebellion

A few years back a Massachusetts hardware salesman named Stuart Goldman bought a trunk which, he believed, had been sealed since 1799. When he opened it, he found the crisp silhouette of the Continental officer at left. The soldier was identified as Major Hugh Maxwell of Charlemont, Massachusetts; the artist, only as “P.C.” Intrigued by his find, Goldman set about tracking down F.C., and eventually learned that the initials stood for Frederick Chapman.Read more »

The Adventures Of A Haunted Whaling Man

The exacting, colorful, and often perilous career of a whaleman of the last century is known to most readers only through such fiction a Moby Dick . But many a real American went “down to the sea in ships” from East Coast whaling ports, experiencing the loneliness, exhilaration, and dangers that Herman Melville described. One of them was Robert Weir, a tormented nineteen-year-old, who in the summer of 1855 left his home in Cold Spring, New York, where he had worked in the local iron foundry.Read more »