Missouri

Over the question of whether Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state in 1820, creative moderates brokered an ingenious compromise that averted civil war

On February 13, 1819, 35-year-old Congressman William Cobb unfolded his six-foot frame from his chair in the chamber of the Old Brick Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and locked his gray eyes on James Tallmadge Jr. of New York. There was little love lost between the grandson of Georgia’s most famous patriarch and the accomplished city lawyer. They had tangled on issues before, Cobb eloquently if savagely attacking Andrew Jackson over his campaign in Florida against the Seminoles; Tallmadge had defended the general with equal vigor. Read more >>

Tempers flare and violence reigns in the pre–Civil War battleground of Kansas

On January 25, 1859, a small wagon expedition of three whites and 13 blacks stole away from Lawrence, Kansas, on the first leg of a journey that would take the African Americans to the free state of Iowa, far from Kansas and the ever-present threat of kidnapping by slave traders. Read more >>

AFTER THREE TIMES traveling the trail they blazed, the author imagines what the two captains of Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery would make of the civilization we have built on the tremendous promise they offered

Drawn to the story of the fearsome Confederate raider by a modern act of violence, the author finds a strange epic in the Rebel’s restless remains

At approximately 2:30 P.M. on October 30, 1992, two maintenance men lowered a white fiberglass child’s coffin into a shallow grave in the Fourth Street Cemetery, in Dover, Ohio. Read more >>

A small but dependable pleasure of travel is encountering such blazons of civic pride as “Welcome to the City of Cheese, Chairs, Children, and Churches!”

Stephen Vincent Benét confessed that he had fallen in love with American placenames, and George R. Read more >>
You had better shove this in the stove,” twenty-nine-year-old Sam Clemens wrote his older brother, Orion, in 1865, “for … I don’t want any absurd ‘literary remains’ & ‘unpublished letters of Mark Twain’ published after I am planted.” Read more >>

For many children who accompanied their parents west across the continent in the 1840s and '50s, the journey was a supreme adventure

The historian Francis Parkman, strolling around Independence, Missouri, in 1846, remarked upon the “multitude of healthy children’s faces … peeping out from under the covers of the wagons.” Two decades later a traveler there wrote of husbands packing up “sunb Read more >>

Harry Truman’s lifetime correspondence with his adored Bess opens a window on their time

TWO THINGS ABOUT Independence, Missouri, Harry Truman’s town, strike you immediately as different from what you might expect. It isn’t plain, flat Midwestern. And it isn’t hick. Read more >>

How the colossus of the “social expression industry” always manages to say it better than you do

FROM A DISTANCE , it looks like any other factory scene. Women, seated at small tables, hunch over piecework, their hands moving in quick, accustomed ways. Read more >>

“It is needless,” wrote his publisher, “to say anything of the writer of ‘Maple Leaf,’ ‘Cascades,’ ‘Sunflower’ or ‘Entertainer.’ You know him.” But this black genius died penniless and all but forgotten

Scott Joplin, riding high in the early flush of his success, wrote the jaunty words on the preceding page for a song that he fashioned in 1904 from his sensational piano rag hit of 1899. Read more >>

THUS SPAKE THE GREAT INDIAN CHIEF TECUMSEH, PREDICTING— SOME BELIEVED—THE SERIES OF VIOLENT EARTHQUAKES THAT STRUCK THE MIDWEST IN THE WINTER OF 1811–12

The town of New Madrid in southeastern Missouri looks out over a treacherous stretch of the Mississippi River, studded with bars and laced with stumpy shores—a graveyard of rivercraft, and haunted. Some of the ghosts are dead dreams. Read more >>
When I was very young, I thought Andrew Carnegie lived in Moberly, Missouri (population 12,000, smack dab between St. Read more >>