Personal history

Americans have been launching time capsules into the future for over a century now, and today we’re creating more than ever. Why is it that so few reach their destination? And that so many merely bore their recipients?

Connections with childhood, with a way of looking at life, and with a generation that remade our world

A LIFETIME AGO A QUIET STRANGER passed through the author’s hometown and came away with a record of both personal and national importance

FOR HALF A CENTURY THE PICTURES HAD BEEN POPPING UP occasionally in books or magazines—razor-sharp blackand-white images of life in our little East Texas farm town in the thirties. Read more >>

ON THE ROAD DURING THE ERA OF GREATEST PERIL FOR THE ONE INDISPENSABLE AMERICAN SHOW

Last summer, while I was driving my daughter and son from Williamstown, Massachusetts, to Chatham, New York, we passed a billboard with an ad, Crayola red, blue, and yellow, announcing the arrival of a circus. Read more >>

As a ten-year-old boy, the author had a role to play in bringing Douglas MacArthur’s vision of democracy to a shattered Japan

On August 30, 1945, just days after Japan capitulated, ending World War II, Douglas MacArthur first set foot on the island nation, to set up temporary headquarters at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama—and to set in motion a unique experiment that little more than three and a half Read more >>

This magazine’s publication of wrenching wartime letters between the author’s parents brought her to international attention. At the same time, it initiated some very heartfelt conversations with our readers.

I have always had a sense that a war claims many more casualties than those who perish on the battlefields. Each statistic, each white cross or star of David in a military cemetery suggests a mother, a father, a wife, a lover, a child left to grieve. Read more >>

He spent his tour of duty bombing German cities and made it home only to discover he could never leave the war behind him. Then, a lifetime later, he found a way to make peace.

My story begins in 1925. I was the youngest of nine children born to Frank and Leata Clark, factory workers in southern Wisconsin who were hit hard by the Depression. My father died when I was thirteen. Read more >>

QUESTIONING THE MYSTERIES OF HER OWN FAMILY, THE AUTHOR FINDS ANSWERS THAT AFFECT US ALL

In 1916, when Margaret Morris was a little girl living in Washington, D.C., she lost her family and they lost her. First her mother died at the age of forty-one. Then her father, uncles, aunts, sister, brothers, cousins, and even grandmother vanished. Read more >>

Forty years changed almost everything—but not the author’s gleaming, troubling memories of Miss Clark. So he went looking for her.

A stroller through the Nassau Inn down the block from Princeton University on a certain January day last winter would not have taken particular note of two people lunching in one of the Tap Room’s booths. Read more >>

A D-DAY VETERAN’S GRANDSON ATTEMPTS TO FIND THE ANSWER TO THAT MOST IMPENETRABLE QUESTION: WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

The Reverend Maurice Kidder used to wake at five to write sermons in his dark study where the beagle slept; that early hour seemed to give him the clarity to compose his lectures, which he delivered in an unaffected but commanding baritone voice each Sunday a Read more >>

A novelist joins his ancestor on a trip West and discovers in her daily travails an intimate view of a tremendous national migration

For the past several days I have been traveling from Dover, New Jersey, toward Fort Washington, Ohio, with my great-great-great-grandmother. Read more >>

A MEMOIR OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
Seeking the answer to a simple and terrible question: What was it like?

I was born in 1944, toward the middle of October, when a lot of people were getting killed for me, or blown up, or shot, or captured, or worse. Worse? “The shell hit him about here,” said a veteran not long ago, remembering that time and place; “he disappeared.” Read more >>

An Airman’s Sketchbook

On April 6,1942, I joined the 40th Squadron of the newly formed 35th Fighter Group then being assembled at Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia, a suburb of Sydney. Read more >>

In the twilight of Castro’s regime, one of the soldiers who put him in power recalls what it was like to be a fidelista up in the hills four decades ago when a whole new, just, democratic world was there for the building

Like a hurricane spawned in distant waters, the full force of the collapse of world Communism has finally reached the island of Cuba and seems poised to sweep away the last vestiges of the Marxist-Leninist structure erected there over the last three decades. Read more >>

Seeking the truth of an event in the memories of the people who lived it can be a maddening task—and an exhilarating one

The chords of memory may be mystic, as Abraham Lincoln described them, but how accurate and reliable they are as evidence is a dilemma every historian must face. Read more >>

The mysterious thing that happened to Lieutenant Colonel Brown over Bremen in 1943 sent the pilot off on a quest that lasted his entire life. Finally he found the answer. It had been worth waiting for.

In December 1943, Capt. Charles L. Brown flew his first mission over Germany as aircraft commander of a battle-weary B-17. What happened that day is an extraordinary untold story of World War II. Read more >>

You can rise fast and far in America, but sometimes the cost of the journey is hard to tally

FOR A LONG TIME I HAVE WANTED TO write about a vision of my father I experienced on a New York City subway train riding downtown to a literary meeting. As a historian I am skeptical of visions. I pride myself on my rationality, I rely on facts. Read more >>

When the author moved into a 1905 house on an island near Seattle, he found himself sharing it with the uncommon people who had lived there before him

Bainbridge Island, Washington, where I live, seemed to me amazingly unspoiled for a suburb of Seattle until one afternoon last spring,when I borrowed a neighbor’s kayak and for the first time pulled my way up Port Orchard Channel. Read more >>

Discovering a giant in the family

Emerson wrote that “there is properly no history; only biography,” so my brother and sister and I knew that the revered collection of diaries and papers that had once belonged to our grandfather, which during most of our early lives was in a closet in an upst Read more >>

An American soldier would never forget encountering the German with an icy smile. He would later discover that the blood of innocent millions dripped from Eichman's manicured hands

It was the second of May, 1945, six days before the end of the war in Europe. Read more >>
In 1929 Germany announced that the mighty new dirigible Graf Zeppelin would fly around the world. Read more >>

George Templeton Strong was not a public man, and he is not widely known today. But for forty years he kept the best diary—in both historic and literary terms—ever written by an American.

Who was George Templeton Strong, and why single out for special attention a conservative and supercilious New York lawyer who is remembered chiefly, if at all, for a diary he kept between the years 1835 and 1875? Read more >>

You probably haven’t seen it, but it’s out by the tracks of the Chicago & North Western

DeKalb, Illinois, our nearest city, is the site of Northern Illinois University. Some twenty-five thousand young people, mostly urban, from Chicago and environs, make Northern their home. Read more >>

An astonishing saga of endurance and high courage told by a man who lived through it

This is a true story of a boy and his family living on the high prairie in a dobe house in eastern Colorado and the tragic experience that occurred in March 1931. Read more >>

A distinguished American poet recalls one of his more unusual jobs

When I was twenty-five, I spent a year tutoring the son of the king of Siam and his friend, the son of the Siamese prime minister. Fifty-five years later I am still filled with wonder when I think about it. Read more >>

Despite his feeling that “we are beginning to lose the memory of what a restrained and civil society can be like,” the senior senator from New York—a lifelong student of history—remains an optimist about our system of government and our extraordinary resilience as a people

My father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and is now, at fifty-nine, the senior senator from his home state. Read more >>

After a year at the University of Missouri boning up on American history, a Chinese professor tells what she discovered about us and how she imparts her new knowledge to the folks back home in the People’s Republic.

In my mind, my life has been very uneventful. Read more >>

In the Yukon with G. C. Hazelet

All this Florida boy wanted to do was rejoin his regiment. Instead they drafted him into the Confederate secret service.

A FTER HE WAS MUSTERED out of his beaten army in 1865, Charles Hemming went west to Texas and a highly successful career as a banker. Read more >>

The great man’s daughter-in-law draws a portrait of the statesman at the top of his career and at the bottom

FOR A SHORT, fierce time during the war, I knew Winston Churchill very well. After the war and until his death, I saw him less often. But my memories of him at the height of his power have never left me. Read more >>