Skip to main content


March 2023
1min read

One Hundred Years Ago

The United States Patent Office issued two patents in August that changed—to a degree—the way we all live. Theophilus Van Kannel received a patent on August 7 for his “storm-door structure,” popularly known as the revolving door. Van Kannel’s other inventions included the “changeable fulcrum door check” —the device that keeps doors from slamming—and “Witching Waves,” once a popular ride at Coney Island and other amusement parks.

On August 21, William Seward Burroughs was issued patent No. 388,116 for a “calculating-machine,” the first commercially practical adding machine. An earlier version of the machine failed because it was too difficult to use; only Burroughs himself could consistently pull the lever at the speed required to yield correct sums. The improved adding machine soon became an essential business tool, and the Burroughs Adding Machine Company went on to play an instrumental role in the development of the modern digital computer.

Tariffs and temperance emerged as hot issues in the summer of the 1888 presidential campaign. The Republican candidate, Benjamin Harrison, ran on a protectionist platform that called for higher tariff duties and a repeal of taxes on tobacco and alcohol. The “free whiskey” platform provoked indignation among adherents of the growing temperance movement. “The declaration is an illustration of the decadence of the party whose just boast was that it was a party of moral ideas,” complained an editorial in the August 25 issue of Harper’s Weekly . Meanwhile, rumors circulated that the Hoosier candidate’s wife made “the best claret punches that ever quenched thirst in Indiana.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "July/August 1988"

Authored by: Fredric Smoler

Gallows Humor from the First October Catastrophe

Authored by: The Editors

Two Hundred and Twenty-five Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

One Hundred and Twenty-five Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

One Hundred Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

Seventy-five Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

Twenty-five Years Ago

Authored by: The Editors

Fitz Hugh Lane’s seemingly traditional harbor scenes are now considered pioneering works of a unique artistic movement

Authored by: Edward Hoagland

He lived alone for two years in a small cabin on Walden Pond, but he was neither misanthropic nor solitary. Perhaps more than any other American writer, he can teach us how to live with ourselves.

Authored by: Fredric Smoler

A lifelong student of military history and affairs says that nuclear weapons have made the idea of war absurd. And it is precisely when everyone agrees that war is absurd that one gets started.

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.