The United States Information Agency did not long survive the Cold War it helped wage. But today the lessons it taught us may be more useful than ever.
Fifty years ago this summer the Eisenhower administration created a unique federal agency, one that most Americans never even knew about.
Americans don’t hesitate to say anything they please about a public performance. But the right to do so wasn’t established until the Cherry Sisters sued a critic who didn’t like their appalling vaudeville act.
The year 1896 found Oscar Hammerstein in trouble. He was in debt, and the acts he had brought to Broadway weren’t doing well. He was desperate. “I’ve tried the best,” he is reported to have said. “Now I’ll try the worst.” So he sent for the Cherry Sisters.
The law was against the poor printer. The governor wanted his scalp. His attorneys were disbarred. Could anything save him—and free speech?
On the morning of August 4, 1735, a cross section of New York’s ten thousand citizens clustered outside the city hall at the corner of Wall and Nassau streets. English and Dutch, men of all classes and trades, waited and argued tensely.