Skip to main content

Editor’s Letter

Editor’s Letter

March 2023
1min read

It happens that three of the most critical and momentous occasions in our nation’s history converge in this issue.

Few events have received more scrutiny than the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Why did Lee Harvey Oswald do it—and did anyone help him? Over the past 45 years, many have weighed in, from the members of the Warren Commission and the congressional investigators to historians and, of course, conspiracy buffs. After so much has been written, how could there be anything new to say?

Investigative reporters Gus Russo and Stephen Molton have spent the last three decades digging into the case, and their insights (“Did Castro OK the JFK Assassination?” p. 20) are shocking. They pull together such a compelling framework for the events in Dallas that you can’t fully appreciate that horrible event if you don’t know these details.

The investigative team gleaned overlooked facts in the National Archives and discovered new ones in the files of the former Soviet KGB, much like archaeologists sifting through piles of rubble for tiny but important clues about an ancient society. Finally, they tracked down former Cuban intelligence operatives and convinced them to talk; these spies confirmed hints left behind by Lyndon Johnson, Fidel Castro, and others that the Cuban government knew all along about Oswald’s plans—and took measures to encourage him.

Another pivotal moment in our past was the fortuitous ascension of an obscure former congressman to the presidency during the nation’s most trying time. With the upcoming 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, we felt American Heritage should invite some of our finest historians to take a fresh look at this endlessly fascinating figure. As with the Kennedy assassination, there are still new things to say. We would like to thank Harold Holzer, one of the most respected authorities on Lincoln, for helping us put together this special section (“Lincoln’s Legacy,” p. 30).

Finally, with all the recent financial turmoil, we asked distinguished historian Thomas Fleming to write about the first time the United States encountered a rash of speculation that led to a financial meltdown (“Wall Street’s First Bubble,” p. 55). It occurred in 1792, when our young nation faced economic ruin after wealthy New York bankers bought up “subprime” scrips and caused our first market crash (when stocks were still traded under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street). Credit dried up, and ships wouldn’t unload goods without payment in hard currency. The U.S. government, led by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, was forced to bail out the bankers and buy up the debt to keep the system intact. (The firm selected to oversee the current $700 billion bailout fund is the Bank of New York, the very bank started by Hamilton.)

These stories demonstrate not only why history remains relevant today—but that even well-considered subjects should be subject to continued scrutiny.

That is after all, what history is all about.


Edwin S. Grosvenor, Editor-in-Chief

Email Editor


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 "Winter 2009"

Authored by: Philip Kopper

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopens after major renovations

Authored by: Gus Russo

Incriminating new evidence has come to light in KGB files and the authors' interviews of former Cuban intelligence officers that indicates Fidel Castro probably knew in advance of Oswald's intent to kill JFK.

Authored by: Harold Holzer

As we approach the bicentennial of his birth, leading historians look at the man and his achievements

Authored by: Stephen Kendrick

The prairie lawyer president and outspoken abolitionist formed an unusual friendship

Authored by: Harold Holzer

Our most talented writer-president always wrote his own material and sweated hours over it

Authored by: Craig L. Symonds

The president takes charge and directs a successful amphibious landing at Hampton Roads

Authored by: Eric Foner

Would the disastrous Reconstruction era have taken a different course?

Authored by: Thomas Fleming

Speculators caused a stock market crash in 1792, forcing the federal government to bail out New York bankers— and the nation

Authored by: James M. McPherson

Even though he had no military training, Lincoln quickly rose to become one of America’s most talented commanders

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

Often thought to have been a weak President, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or political fallout.

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

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.

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.