Placards At The White House

In 1917, fed up with the inaction of conservative suffragists, Alice Paul decided on the unorthodox strategy of pressuring the president directly

By New Year’s Day 1917, Alice Paul, leader and founder of the National Woman’s Party, had made up her mind. Ever since coming home from studying abroad in 1910, the University of Pennsylvania PhD in political science had observed the ineffective American women’s suffrage movement with increasing impatience. She believed that for women to gain the vote—no matter how radical such a step might seem, no matter the reaction of conservative suffrage organizations—her dedicated followers in the Woman’s Party must picket the White House. Read more »

America's Bloodiest Battle

American doughboys proved their mettle in the forests and fields of eastern France during World War I

On October 11, 1918, late in the afternoon, a platoon of American doughboys marched to the front in eastern France, passing shattered villages, forests reduced to matchsticks, and water-filled shell craters. At every step the Americans struggled to free their boots from the slopping mud. Icy wind and rain slashed at their clothing, and water poured in steady streams from the rims of their helmets, somewhat obscuring the devastation.Read more »

A Funny Man Writes A Serious Historical Novel

Gene Wilder discusses his new World War I adventure

Gene Wilder, the son of russian Jewish immigrants, was born in Milwaukee in 1933.Read more »

History Now

A Funny Man Writes a Serious Historical Novel The Buyable Past Resources Pop Goes The Nation “Don’t Be a Show Off” Why Do We Say...?

Hitchcock On Location

You can go there too, even to the Bates Motel

Although Alfred Hitchcock lived in the United States for more than 40 years, becoming an American citizen in 1955, five years after his wife, Alma, he carefully retained his Britishness. Even in the warm sunshine of Southern California he always turned up for work in an immaculately tailored dark suit, and his wardrobe held dozens of them, all identical except for their varying waistbands.Read more »

Why Do We Say...?

Pork Barrel

A “Call it Pork or Necessity, but Alaska Comes Out Far Above the Rest in Spending.” This headline—from The New York Times—was for a story about the $388 billion federal Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2005. “Consolidated” is an apt word for this annual exercise: The act is nearly 1,700 pages long or, looking at it another way, more than a foot thick. Buried within it are thousands of local projects for which funds have been specially set aside. In official congressional parlance, grants of this sort are called “earmarks.” Most people call them pork .Read more »

Pop Goes The Nation

“The founding of the United States experience: 1763-1815”

The Founding of the United States Experience (Presidio Press, 64 pages, $50) earns the slightly unwieldy last word in its title, because digging into this handsome volume creates an experience much like rooting through a treasure-filled attic. Read more »

“Don’t Be A Show Off”

The book that taught GI’s how to behave in England

There were three deadly serious crimes a serviceman could commit, said the United States Army Air Corps commander Carl (“Tooey”) Spaatz; “Murder, rape, and interference with Anglo-American relations. The first two might conceivably be pardoned, but the third one, never.” Seemingly Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed. When he learned that two different-nationality officers of his integrated staff had exchanged harsh words, he sent the American one home.


The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association is the world’s largest club devoted to the hobby; members benefit from a bimonthly newsletter, an annual convention, and regional meets (ALPCA, Inc., 508 Coastal Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451; ). Great plates abound on the Internet. Start at, click on “Gallery” for select examples and on “Links” for the best hobbyist sites. Skip books that spotlight clever vanity plates, and opt instead for informative volumes. James K.Read more »

The Buyable Past

The License Plate


Before back-seat video screens, countless children amused themselves on road trips by looking at license plates, thrilled to spot their initials, birthdates, or examples from distant states. Thousands of adult collectors share that enthusiasm.

Antique plates promote their states’ agricultural products, distinctive contours, or mineral wealth (the Arizona plate is made of copper).
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