Mr. McClure And Willa

They could hardly have been more temperamentally incompatible, but the Midwestern writer Willa Cather and the crusading editor S. S. McClure enjoyed a splendid working relationship for six years and a lifetime of mutual respect

Willa Cather did not publish her first novel until she was almost forty. Then the cool, rich prose of such novels as My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, One of Ours (which won a Pulitzer Prize), A Lost Lady , and Lucy Gayheart established her reputation as one of America’s foremost literary figures. Read more »

Baseball’s Greatest Song

… illuminated by the hand-tinted slides that helped make it a hit

ONE NIGHT in 1888, from the stage of a Broadway theater, the actor DeWolf Hopper recited for the first time a poem about a ballplayer, known only as the Mighty Casey, who struck out. Though Hopper had added the epic to his show as a one-time performance honoring the presence of the baseball great “Cap” Anson, the ovation that followed should have warned him he would be stuck with Casey for the rest of his life. Read more »

Fear Of The City 1783 To 1983

The city has been a lure for millions, but most of the great American minds have been appalled by its excesses. Here an eminent observer, who knows firsthand the city’s threat, surveys the subject.

EVERY THURSDAY , when I leave my apartment in a vast housing complex on Columbus Avenue to conduct a university seminar on the American city, I reflect on a double life—mine. Most of the people I pass on my way to the subway look as imprisoned by the city as my parents and relatives used to look in the Brooklyn ghetto where I spent my first twenty years. Yet no matter where else I have traveled and taught, I always seem to return to streets and scenes like those on New York’s Upper West Side. Read more »

The Artist Of The Center

J ohn Wenrich’s original drawings of Rockefeller Center helped attract tenants in the middle of the Depression. Fifty years later they survive as talismans of a golden moment in American architecture .

When John D. Rockefeller, Jr., announced his intention to build a great urban complex in December 1929, the project was meant to be “as beautiful as possible,” but it also had to be a solid business proposition. Ultimately the Center was both, but not without a long process of negotiating, planning, designing, and redesigning—much of it heavily criticized by the press.Read more »

Fair Comment

Americans don’t hesitate to say anything they please about a public performance. But the right to do so wasn’t established until the Cherry Sisters sued a critic who didn’t like their appalling vaudeville act.

The year 1896 found Oscar Hammerstein in trouble. He was in debt, and the acts he had brought to Broadway weren’t doing well. He was desperate. “I’ve tried the best,” he is reported to have said. “Now I’ll try the worst.” So he sent for the Cherry Sisters. Effie, Addie, Jessie, Lizzie, and Ella Cherry clearly were the worst act of the day. They couldn’t dance, and they couldn’t sing. In fact, they couldn’t do anything at all. Except draw crowds. Read more »

A New Kind Of American Plan

Victorian art, collected for patriotism and profit, finds a home in a New York hotel 19

There is a stretch of some twenty blocks or so on upper Fifth Avenue known as Museum Mile, where art collections of every description fill former turn-of-the-century mansions that have been converted into galleries open to the public. Now a fashionable twentieth-century hotel has joined Museum Mile: it is the fifteen-story Stanhope that faces the Metropolitan Museum of Art directly across Fifth Avenue.Read more »

The Painter’s Park

To Vaux and Olmsted the entire park, with its crags and cascades and meadows, was a single work of art, minutely planned and painstakingly executed. So it is particularly fitting that a nonprofit group called the Central Park Conservancy chose to raise funds by mounting an exhibition of paintings of the park from its beginnings to the present day. Most of the pictures in this portfolio have been drawn from that show, which was held at New York’s Hirschl & Adler Galleries last spring. Read more »

The Central Park

In the dead center of the long, rectangular island of Manhattan—New York to most people—sits a long rectangle of parkland known appropriately enough as Central Park. On a quiet Saturday morning in springtime, when the automobiles are banned from its drives, it seems wonderfully at odds with the surrounding city. It pits rolling meadows against the city’s sharp angles, green life against brick and black asphalt, winding paths against the unbending streets of New York’s remorseless grid, into which it has been squeezed as if in a vise.Read more »

Delmonico’s

The restaurant that changed the way we dine—

When Charles Dickens first came to the United States in 1842, he did not like our clothes, our speech, or our manners. But he reserved perhaps his deepest scorn for our dining habits.Read more »

“American Art Really Exists”

said a New York newspaper when the Metropolitan opened its American Wing in 1924. This spring, a new, grander American Wing once again displays the collection that Lewis Mumford found “not merely an exhibition of art,” but “a pageant of American history.”

The reopening of the Metropolitan Museum’s American Wing this spring deserves the great attention it is likely to get. During the several years that the Wing has been closed for rehabilitation and for new construction that will more than double the size of the old premises, most of the museum’s collections of American art have been in storage. But even in such confinement they continued to grow in size, scope, and importance.Read more »