The Virgin And The Carburetor

When Henry Adams sought the medieval world in an automobile, this stuffiest of prophets became the first American to sing of the liberating force later celebrated by Jack Kerouac and the Beach Boys

Test-driving automobiles, Henry Adams discovered in June 1904, was “shattering to one’s nerves.” Trying out a Hotchkiss for purchase “scared my hair green. Truly it is a new world that I live in,” he continued, “though its spots are old. … The pace we go is quite vertiginous. Only men under forty are fit for it.” He was sixty-six, born in Boston in 1838, when railroads were replacing canals.Read more »

Offerings At The Wall

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE NOW, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS HAVE BEEN LEAVING LETTERS AND SNAPSHOTS, CIGARETTES AND CLOTHING AND BEER FOR THEIR FRIENDS, LOVERS, AND PARENTS WHO NEVER MADE IT BACK FROM VIETNAM

The faces of the American Dead in Vietnam” was Life magazine’s cover story on June 27, 1969. Photographs and brief biographies of the 242 Americans killed in action during one week, from May 28 to June 3, marched on for pages. When the issue appeared, American troop strength in Vietnam was at an all-time high; President Richard M. Nixon had begun the secret bombing of Cambodia in March, and just days before press time he had announced plans to withdraw twenty-five thousand troops from Southeast Asia. Read more »

How Did Lincoln Die?

Everyone knows that the ball John Wilkes Booth fired into Abraham Lincoln’s brain inflicted a terrible, mortal wound. But when a prominent neurosurgeon began to investigate the assassination, he discovered persuasive evidence that Lincoln’s doctors must share the blame with Booth’s derringer. Without their treatment the President might very well have lived. Read more »

1954

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. They told us these were the best years of our lives, so we had better enjoy them. We all laughed at that, of course, but as I look back, they may have been right, particularly in September of 1954, when the first Thunderbird and the totally new 1955 Chevy V-8 lit up our limited horizons. Read more »

Clio And The Clintons

An Interview With the President and the First Lady

On a busy Wednesday morning last August, President and Mrs. Clinton found an hour to speak with me in the Oval Office of the White House. Defense Secretary William Perry and Attorney General Janet Reno were preparing for a live noontime conference in the West Wing press room to announce new legal policy regarding Cuban refugees; the taken-for-dead crime bill would finally pass the fol- lowing day; the tumult over the future of the President’s health-care proposals was still very much in the air.Read more »

The Press

The American newspaper: beleaguered by television, hated both for its timidity and for its arrogance, biased, provincial, overweening—and still indispensable. A Hearst veteran tells how it got to where it is today, and where it may be headed.

By general consensus the first attempt to start a regularly published newspaper in America was Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick , issued in Boston on September 25, 1690. Its founder was a transplanted British printer, Benjamin Harris, who had been sent to the pillory in London for faking a story about a popish plot against the crown. First, he ran an exposé of the plot, and when it turned out there was none on at the moment, he took credit for breaking it up.Read more »

Love Jackie

The Johnsons and the Kennedys are popularly thought to have shared a strong mutual dislike, but stacks of letters and a remarkable tape of Jacqueline Kennedy reminiscing show something very different —and more interesting

When Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died four months ago, magazine and newspaper articles published around the world celebrated the facts of her life. And the fables too, as it turns out. Consider the stark certainty of Newsweek’s claim that as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy had detested Vice President Johnson and his wife, calling them “Uncle Cornpone and his little Porkchop,” and that as a widow she became “increasingly upset” about LBJ’s Presidency.Read more »

Palaces Of The People

Americans invented the grand hotel in the 183Os and during the next century brought it to a zenith of democratic luxury that makes a visit to the surviving examples the most agreeable of historic pilgrimages

At the turn of the eighteenth century, a story went around Connecticut about a pious old woman who was berating her nephew for being such a rake. And an aging rake, at that. “But we’re not so very different,” he insisted. “Suppose that in traveling, you came to an inn where all the beds were full except two, and in one of those was a man and in the other was a woman. Which would you take? The woman’s, to be sure. Well, madam, so would I—” Read more »

“Hope Is Not A Method”

It is dawn in Washington as Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, walks quickly from his helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base to board the jet bound for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Waiting for him there is a classroom full of the Army’s most successful and promising officers, colonels, and lieutenant colonels newly chosen to command brigades and battalions. Some of these officers will have fought in Grenada, in Panama, in the Gulf War, or all three. It is possible they will have to lead their soldiers in some other conflict before they leave command. Sullivan wants them to know who leads them.

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Friends At Twilight

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson stood together in America’s perilous dawn, but politics soon drove them apart. Then in their last years the two old enemies began a remarkable correspondence that is both testimony to the power of friendship and an eloquent summary of the dialogue that went on within the Revolutionary generation—and that continues within our own.

 
 
 
Jefferson said that he admired everything about Adams except his politics. This was like claiming the pope was reliable on all but religion.

To most of their contemporaries they were America’s odd couple. John Adams was short, plump, passionate to the point of frenzy.Read more »