Digging Up James Smithson

Alexander Graham Bell traveled to Italy at the turn of the 20th century on an audacious mission to rescue the remains of the man whose legacy endowed the Smithsonian Institution.

Alexander Graham Bell did not spend the Christmas season of 1903 in the festive tradition. On the contrary, the inventor of the telephone passed the holiday engaged in a ghoulish Italian adventure involving a graveyard, old bones, and the opening of a moldy casket. Accompanied by his wife, Mabel, he had traveled by steamship from America at his own expense and made his way down to the Italian Mediterranean by train.Read more »

Trainmaster

When he’s not taking care of a majestic marshaling of toy trains, Graham Claytor gets to play with the real thing

The spare and vigorous gentleman on the opposite page, William Graham Claytor, Jr., superintending the departure of a local out of South Sun-Porch Station, D.C., at his brick house in Georgetown, is the only man in Washington, or anywhere else in the country for that matter, who runs two big passenger railroads. His other layout is the twenty-five thousand miles, more or less, of Amtrak, with headquarters a few miles away at the newly restored Union Station.Read more »

A Capitol Attraction

Washington’s newest attraction proves that progress can come to the capital city. Last December, just in time for President Obama’s inauguration, Congressional leaders proudly dedicated the new Capitol Visitor Center with ceremonies in its grand hall, which covers 1.3 acres and looks bright as the day beneath huge skylights with walls clad in Virginia limestone. Read more »

Lincoln’s Home Away From Home Reopens

The Washington, DC, cottage where the 16th president escaped to weigh such matters as the Emancipation Proclamation has been faithfully restored

Only three miles from the White House, the house in northwest Washington, DC, offered Abraham Lincoln a refuge from the capital’s summertime heat and political pressures. The 16th president spent an estimated one-quarter of his time in office at this 34-room, brown-and-white stucco building. Now the National Trust for Historic Preservation has completed a $15 million restoration and refurbishment of the Lincoln Cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home, and the non-profit organization offers visitors an inside look at this little-known presidential dwelling. Read more »

The Truth About The Lincoln Bedroom “too Ricketty To Venerate”

For generations, Americans reserved their most fervent “landmark reverence” for those rooms that could boast George Washington— not Abraham Lincoln—slept here. Read more »

The First Sehttp://www.americanheritage.com/node/59366/editason

50 YEARS AGO serious pro basketball was born. Or at least they tried to be serious.

To Horace Albert (“bones”) McKinney, listening over the phone in his parlor on Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the words of Arthur Morse sounded just fine. Morse, who was part owner of the Chicago Stags franchise in the brand-new Basketball Association of America (B.A.A.), was saying, “My friend, if Yankee Stadium was built for Babe Ruth, then Chicago Stadium was built for Bones McKinney.”

 
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I’m Sorry, Mr. President

A VETERAN JOURNALIST reflects on how public discourse has been tarnished by the press’s relentless war against Presidents—including his own biggest offense

WHEN COMMERCE SECRETARY RON Brown was killed in a plane crash in Dubrovnik, Croatia, last April, I took the occasion to write a column about the way public officials are now treated in the world’s greatest democracy, saying, “The press, talk shows, the politicians themselves and their consultants, the guys around the corner—we have all raised trash talk to the American dialogue.” Read more »

American Taxation

HOW A NATION BORN OUT OF A TAX REVOLT has—and especially hasn’t—solved the problems of taxing its citizens

 

JEAN BAPTISTE COEBERT, THE FINANCIAL GENIUS WHO kept Louis XIVs famously expensive government afloat, once said, “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

 
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Shanghaied!

The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in 1865, but right on into this century sailors were routinely drugged, beaten, and kidnapped to man America’s mighty merchant marine

William Davis, a cabinet-maker, left his home near Great Salt Lake in the Utah Territory in the mid-1870s and headed for Northern California, a fast-growing region where he hoped to earn up to six dollars a day by adapting his expertise to ship carpentry. He made the eight-hundred-mile trek with his wife, Isabelle, and three small children, the youngest of whom was just six weeks old. Read more »

Home-grown Terror

For a sense of the continuity of the of the terrorist tradition in America, consider this actual sequence of events: The FBI smashes a dead-serious plot to overthrow the federal government and reveals that for more than a year the right-wing militias involved were undergoing army-style training, fired up by inflammatory talk radio. They Planned to use their bombs, rifles, and machine guns to wage guerrilla warfare on American cities, and they claimed friends and allies in government and the military.Read more »