Greenfield Village

What happened when the richest man in America decided to collect one of everything

The whole curious enterprise puzzled Americans in the 1920’s. Here was mighty Henry Ford, the man who said history was “more or less bunk,” collecting on a titanic scale every jot and tittle of the American past that he and his emissaries could lay hands on—four-poster beds, banjo clocks, cigar-store Indians, old boots, gas lamps, rusty old threshers, and wooden flails.Read more »

From Pearl Street To Main Street

Lighting Up America

“Remember,” Thomas Edison liked to say, “nothing that’s good works by itself, just to please you; you’ve got to make the damn thing work.” One hundred years ago this October, after trying to make the damn thing work for thirteen months, Edison invented an incandescent bulb that would burn for forty hours.Read more »

When The New World Dazzled The Old

Fifty European nations came to America on her hundredth birthday—and, for the first time, took her seriously

Centennials don’t make sense. It should be evident that a hundredth anniversary is a mere numerical happenstance without historic significance. Yet our schools teach history by the numbers, and we talk about “Eighteenth-Century Civilization” or “The Gay Nineties.” These decimal labels derive from the simple fact that we have ten fingers; this kind of numerology is not helpful to an understanding of the past. History is a flowing stream that must not be dammed into stagnant puddles of decades or centuries. Read more »

A Dearth Of Heroes

In America the status of hero—durable, full-fledged hero—has been awarded to few men. The subtle, complex factors that have led us to be so selective were brilliantly described three decades ago m a book, The Hero in America , by historian Dixon Weder. For a reissue of this book, which will be published later this month by Charles Scribner’s Sons, novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren has written an introduction examining Mr. Wecter’s categories for glorification and speculating about who today—in this present age.Read more »

The Moving Image

Three Americans created the art of the motion picture, and made it the universal language of the twentieth century

The older arts, all seven of them—architecture, dance, drama, literature, music, painting, and sculpture—had their origins in the Mediterranean basin several thousands of years ago. The only new art, and the most universal, was born near the mouth of the Hudson River, and within the memory of living men. Three American geniuses—Thomas Alva Edison, Edwin Stanton Porter, and David Wark Griffith—individually and with others, created here a new means of depicting life. Read more »