Unearthing The Mastodon

Peale’s Greatest Triumph

During the spring of 1801 Charles Willson Peale learned of a remarkable discovery—the huge bones of an “animal of uncommon magnitude” had been found in Orange and Ulster counties north of New York City. The great relics were scattered abundantly through the swamps where the local farmers dug white marl for fertilizer but they were rapidly being dispersed among clumsy, amateurish collectors. No one had yet assembled a complete skeleton. Read more »

The World’s Tallest Building

Of the skyscrapers that sprang up in American cities in the early years of this century and embodied in masonry and steel the swaggering vitality of American technology and American business enterprise, none took so firm a grip on the public imagination as the Woolworth Building. From the day that Frank W. Woolworth, the inventor of the five-and-ten-cent store, let it be known that he intended to erect the world’s tallest building on a site in lower Manhattan, the newspapers were filled with accounts of its construction and encomiums to its builders.Read more »

The Great Blizzard Of ’88

At fifty-eight years of age, Roscoe Conkling was still a strapping figure of a man, proud of his strength. The former senator, presidential aspirant, and kingpin of Republican politics in New York State neither smoked nor imbibed. He exercised and boxed regularly. So when William Sulzer, a young lawyer who had an office on the same floor as Conkling’s in a Wall Street building, could not find a cab, Conkling decided to leave for his club, two and a half miles away, “on my pins.”

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A Bicentennial Sampler

COPYRIGHT © 1976, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART

In an imposing observance of the nation’s Bicentennial the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City has devoted its entire building to a huge, exciting exhibition celebrating “200 Years of American Sculpture.” The show opened in March of this year and will run until mid-September. Altogether, more than two hundred sculptors are represented. Read more »

Steam Road To El Dorado

Mile for mile, it cost more in dollars—and lives—than any railroad ever built

It was not long after the completion of the Panama Railroad in 1855 that Bedford Clapperton Pirn declared with perfect composure that of all the world’s wonders none could surpass this one as a demonstration of man’s capacity to do great things against impossible odds. Read more »

The Don Quixote Of Opera

No other impresario ever matched the record of the indomitable Max Maretzek in bringing new works and new stars to America

He was called “the indomitable Max,” “the indefatigable Max,” “the hardy pioneer,” “the Napoleon of Opera.” About that Napoleonic designation Max Maretzek himself disagreed. It would be more accurate, he ruefully said, if he were described as the Don Quixote of Opera. And in a way he was right. For some forty years the indomitable, indefatigable Max tilted at the American public and at assorted singers, mostly Italian, making and losing fortunes in the process.Read more »

Mrs. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

Miriam Follin had a penchant for diamonds, the demimonde, and the dramatic. She also possessed the business acumen to become one of America’s leading publishers in the nineteenth century

Riflemen lined the roofs along the parade route. Cavalry squads patrolled the intersections. Rumors of armed mobs and assassination swept through Washington, D.C., that cold, angry March of Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration; and even though that afternoon’s parade and swearing-in ceremony went peacefully enough, the entire city was caught up in a somber, uneasy mood hard to dispel. Read more »

The Giant In The Earth

IT’S A PETRIFIED MAN!
IT’S A SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY IDOL!
IT’S A HOAX!
ITS THE CARDIFF GIANT!

One morning in early November of the year 1868 three men appeared at the railroad depot in Union, New York, just outside Binghamton. The most imposing of the trio, a tall, heavily bearded figure in his mid-forties, dressed in funereal black, identified himself to the station agent as George Hull and explained that he wanted to collect a shipment being held for him.Read more »

Maple Leaf Rag

“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. And “The Maple Leaf Rag” was all that he claimed; it changed his life, and it changed American music. Read more »

Melville Meets Hawthorne

HOW A CHAMPAGNE PICNIC ON MONUMENT MOUNTAIN LED TO A PROFOUND REVISION OF Moby Dick —AND DISENCHANTMENT

A little group of American men of affairs and letters met along with their ladies on the morning of August 5, 1850, to hike up Monument Mountain, one of the more prominent features of the landscape surrounding Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The intention was purely social, and socially the day proved a smashing success, leading five of the ten hikers to record the event in letters, journals, articles, and books. For two of them, however, the climb was the beginning of one of the strangest episodes in the history of American literature.Read more »