Nostalgia

Have Americans slid backward since the sunny, prosperous years after World War II, as so many feel? To find out, an English-born historian compares our recent past with earlier times, and in the process learns something about our likely course into the next century.

The world about us is strewn with relics that are quietly eloquent of the struggle that ended half a century ago

Finger some old magazines from the world War II years. Read more >>

America looked good to a high school senior then, and that year looks wonderfully safe to us now, but it was a time of tumult for all that, and there were plenty of shadows along with the sunshine

It was a very good year. Certainly it was if you were seventeen. I was a senior in high school in 1954, a member of the class of January 1955, at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, New Jersey. Read more >>

Revisiting the seas where American carriers turned the course of history, a Navy man re-creates a time of frightful odds and brilliant gambles.

Some memories are good and some bad, but the fact is that they change over the years. All of us who were part of it can recall how angry we were about the war against the Axis Powers. We were mad at all of it: Pearl Harbor, enemy atrocities, everything. Read more >>

In 1820 their daily existence was practically medieval; thirty years later many of them were living the modern life

It is a commonplace that the American Revolution determined the political destiny of the country. Far less noted is the fact that the Revolution’s consequences, profound as they were, had little, if any, impact on the daily existence of most Americans. Read more >>

New Yorkers recall 1939 as the year of the great World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow. But that’s just more Eastern provincialism. Take a look at what was going on in San Francisco.

A newspaper article the other day informed me that the late 1930s are back in fashion. Historical societies are girding to protect Art Deco. The clarinet of Benny Goodman is heard on compact discs. Read more >>

“Why hasn't the stereotype faded away as real cowboys become less and less typical of Western life? Because we can't or won't do without it, obviously.”

Being a Westerner is not simple. If you live, say, in Los Angeles, you live in the second-largest city in the nation, urban as far as the eye can see in every direction except west. Read more >>

Fifty years ago these rough-and-ready tin soldiers were sold from bins cheap and by the handful. Today collectors are seeking them for their bright, simple vitality.

Commercially made metal toy soldiers date back to the late eighteenth century, when German tinsmiths began casting two-dimensional or “flat” figures of the sort immortalized by Hans Christian Andersen in “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” European firms went on to Read more >>

A lot of people still remember how great it was to ride in the old Pullmans, how curiously regal to have a simple, well-cooked meal in the dining car. Those memories are perfectly accurate—and that lost pleasure holds a lesson for us that extends beyond mere nostalgia.

Not long ago I received a very angry letter from an old friend. It was a response to my suggestion that liberal arts colleges might give students some instruction in technology; that is, give them some feeling for how the world they are living in works. Read more >>

Sometimes life in the past really was better

GRESHAM’S LAW DOESN’T go far enough. Not only does “bad money drive out good money” but, as we can now see, bad anything drives out good anything. Read more >>

A collection of little-known early-twentieth-century photographs of St. Louis recalls the author’s unfashionably happy childhood

Fireflies? Glowworms? Whatever the right name for them, in St. Louis we called them lightning bugs. On summer evenings we used to chase them across our lawns, which were not divided from one another, and collect them, when caught, in little medicine bottles. Read more >>

Animals a-coming two by two: Up went the lid and you could stuff them in, Noah and all. Or you could throw them at Brother. A toy is pretty adaptable.