People who know nothing else about Chicago’s Great Conflagration have heard of Mrs. O’Leary and her famous cow. But the disaster's real origins are more complicated.
Editor’s Note: On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed close to three square miles of the city, claimed an estimated 300 lives, and left some 90,000 homeless.
You’ve just written a history of America from Columbus to Clinton; what do you put on the cover?
In one of Willa Cather’s earliest novels, the heroine has been reflecting on the settlers who had come to Nebraska a generation earlier and on the great changes that have taken place in the intervening years.
Living in, and with, the universal Midwestern latticework
Likely as not, when René Descartes invented his grid system of coordinates in the seventeenth century, he did not have Carroll, Iowa, in mind. No matter.
A hundred and fifty years ago, a sea of grass spread from the Ohio to the Rockies; now only bits and pieces of that awesome wilderness remain for the traveler to discover.
Behind my grandparents’ house, the house in which I was born, rose a high pasture, little used in my boyhood and then only for grazing a few head of cattle.
For many children who accompanied their parents west across the continent in the 1840s and '50s, the journey was a supreme adventure
The historian Francis Parkman, strolling around Independence, Missouri, in 1846, remarked upon the “multitude of healthy children’s faces … peeping out from under the covers of the wagons.” Two decades later a traveler there wrote of husbands packing up “sunb
The Great Lakes hurricane of 1913 was a destructive freak. As far as lakers were concerned, it was …
SOMEWHERE IN THE emptiness between Hudson Bay and the Rockies, a vagrant puff of wind raised a dusty snow and went skittering over the plains, picking up a spiral here and another one there to create a north-country November blizzard of the kind that rages l
The Story of Some Forgotten Four-Footed Pioneers
Until recently the history of the American West has been dominated by the elite, the spectacular, and the gaudy, not by the ordinary folk—the “little people with dirty faces,” who are only now beginning to get their due.
A stifling spring or early summer afternoon draws on toward evening. To the west and south, a sullen cloudbank, swollen with moisture, pulsing with electrical display, rides up on the push of hot Gulf air.
People who have been turned out of their homes make keen historians. Forced from the land of their ancestors and onto the open road without a destination, they have a way of remembering—often to the minute of the day—the trauma of departure.
An artist recalls his Midwestern home town and the poet who made it famous
I always felt at home in Edgar Lee Master᾿s quarters in the Chelsea Hotel. It was all so much like a Petersburg, Illinois, law office that I might have been back in Papa Smoot’s office overlooking the courthouse square.