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Coming Up In American Heritage

July 2024
1min read

Inventing modern football …

SMU isn’t playing this year: the team has been benched for the season because alumni were giving money to the players. Somehow it seems college football is always in trouble. But it has never seen trouble like the trouble it saw eighty years ago. Players were dying, and the situation became so charged that President Teddy Roosevelt had to step in. Out of bitter controversy grew the game we know today.

“We will not do duty any longer for seven dollars per month” …

When he was given a uniform and a rifle, Sgt. William Walker believed he was a full-fledged Union soldier and would be paid like one. He was wrong. Walker was an ex-slave, and for insisting on his rights, he was charged with mutiny and sentenced to be shot. Otto Friedrich tells Walker’s story—and in the telling reveals the complex and bitter process that ended with sometime slaves armed and fighting the men who had held them in bondage.

Forgotten laughter …

Once, when the great radio comedian Fred Alien finished a broadcast, he muttered, “That one belongs to the sparrows.” Convinced his art was evanescent, he nonetheless nearly worked himself to death in its service. The result was a terrifically popular show, and Alien’s sardonic wit remains as engaging today as it was forty years ago. Neil A. Grauer traces Alien’s career.

How history made the Constitution …

We know that the Founding Fathers were highly sophisticated political theorists and statesmen. What we forget is that every one of them was also a historian—and a historian who believed the basic freedoms of the new nation might depend upon what he knew. Miller Zobel explains how the bloody pageant of English history can help us understand the framers’ intent.

Plus …

The gaudy career and splendid paintings of George Luks … the terrifying ordeal of an eighteen-year-old boy caught in a High Plains blizzard, told by himself … the artist and mystic Nicholas Roerich, whom FDR’s Secretary of Agriculture, Henry Wallace, sent off to Asia on a tumultuous mission that ended by embarrassing just about everybody but Roerich … William Randolph Hearst outsmarts himself … traveling through the Texas Hill Country … and, with our usual untrammeled amplitude, more.

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