Whose Fault Was It?

Every schoolchild knows that the Liberty Bell is cracked; the crack is almost as famous as the bell itself. But just when and why the crack appeared is a much more esoteric matter. It is sometimes assumed, patriotically but mistakenly, that the bell cracked out of overenthusiasm while being rung to celebrate the Declaration of Independence in 1776.Read more »

Business Of The Highest Magnitude

OR DON’T PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW WHAT YOU CAN RAM THROUGH TODAY

Dr. Benjamin Rush believed the hand of God must have been involved in the noble work. John Adams, writing from Grosvenor Square, London, called it the greatest single effort of national deliberation, and perhaps the greatest exertion of human understanding, the world had ever seen.Read more »

A Schoolgirl’s Album

Back in 1883, when girls were still considered young ladies, the Chestnut Street Female Seminary moved to a new home—a palatial mansion outside Philadelphia that was surrounded by 180 acres of tree-studded hills. The great house, above, was popularly known as Cooke’s Castle, after its owner, Jay Cooke. He, however, called it Ogontz, after a Wyandotte chieftain he had known when growing up in Sandusky, Ohio.Read more »

The Case of John Peter Zenger

The law was against the poor printer. The governor wanted his scalp. His attorneys were disbarred. Could anything save him—and free speech?

On the morning of August 4, 1735, a cross section of New York’s ten thousand citizens clustered outside the city hall at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets. English and Dutch, men of all classes and trades, waited and argued tensely. Carts bounced over the paving blocks. The midsummer morning light slanted down on white sails in the harbor and on the spire of Trinity Church a block away.Read more »

Centennial City

The simple, affectionate water colors of an unassuming Scots immigrant, David J. Kennedy, bring back the Philadelphia of 1876 and our first great world’s fair

President Ulysses S. Grant opened the United States Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia on May 10, 1876. When the closing ceremonies were held on November i o, in a cold drenching rain, 9,910,966 people (paid and free) had passed through the entrance gates. This was more than fourteen times the population of Philadelphia, the second largest city of the United States, and more than had attended any of the great world’s fairs held in the preceding quarter century.Read more »

Roofs Over Rivers

Time is taking its toll of the romantic covered bridge, where once you could exchange gossip, argue politics, or court your lady fair.

For a hundred and fifty years, the covered bridge has been an old American landmark. Today it is becoming increasingly difficult to find even one, but only fifty years ago the traveler encountered countless numbers of them—at cities, villages, and country crossings from Maine to Georgia and west to California.

The Know-Nothing Uproar

Maria Monk’s lurid “disclosures” and Samuel Morse’s dire warnings launched a crusade of bigotry that almost won the White House

The congressional and state elections of 1854 and 1855 witnessed one of the most remarkable political upheavals in the nation’s history. Candidates whose names were not even on ballots were thrust into office; others who had been given no chance to win triumphed over long-established favorites; and a political party that had operated in such secrecy that few knew its name and still fewer its true purposes was catapulted into control in a half-dozen states, won a strong minority place in several others, and seemed destined to capture the White House in 1856.

The Constitution: Was It An Economic Document?

A leading American historian challenges the long-entrenched interpretation originated by the late Charles A. Beard

By June 26, 1787, tempers in the Federal Convention were already growing short, lor gentlemen had come to the explosive question of representation in the upper chamber. Two days later Franklin moved to invoke divine guidance, and his motion was shunted aside only because there was no money with which to pay a chaplain and the members were unprepared to appeal to Heaven without an intermediary.