For many years this space has been occupied by a frontispiece, so called—a painting or a photograph or something connected with the content of each issue. For that illustration, which can be used as well or better within the magazine itself, we propose hereafter to substitute a letter from the editor. It will be addressed to our subscribers in their role as members of the American Heritage Society, the title through which we have recently given formal recognition to the fact that there is much more to this company, and its relation with its readers, than our magazine of history. Many of you have been with us for many years, saving copies, taking indexes, acquiring the related records and books (even our new dictionary, whose success is familiar to most of you), joining with the schools, colleges, and libraries who find in this magazine and in our textbooks a useful guide through the problems of the contemporary American experience. Some of you are more recent arrivals on our lists, and it is for you, too, that we intend to provide news of our activities, hoping like any sensible society to attach you to our organization and its purpose of using history as a guide to the understanding of the perilous world in which we live.
For all of that, history has its pleasures. As this is written, the first “Tours of Historic America,” planned by the American Heritage Society, are starting out, twenty-five members or less in each guided group, on their week-long adventures. One out of Boston ( The Pilgrims’ Pride , we hopefully call it) is studying the historic Boston area and nearby Salem, Gloucester, and Marblehead, venturing thereafter on a circular tour through central Massachusetts (Sturbridge, Amherst, the early colleges), the Connecticut River valley, Mystic Seaport, Newport, and Plymouth.
Another group of wayfarers, after a reception given by American Heritage editors in New York, are pushing up through the antiquities of Washington Irving’s Hudson Valley to the historic houses and forts and museums that crowd the Mohawk Valley upstate, a tour which ends at Syracuse. Other voyagers are moving through the eastern Pennsylvania of the Amish, the American Revolution, and that versatile man, Dr. Franklin, stopping at many places ordinary tourists never see. Still more American Heritage Society venturers are at large on the historic southern seacoast—in Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort, Hilton Head, Fort George Island, St. Augustine—and another expedition is exploring the Deep South, starting with Mobile, New Orleans, and the Bayous, penetrating deep into Cajun country, and probing Baton Rouge, the Natchez Trace, and Vicksburg.
We cannot give all the story, or all the tours, because this is written several months before our readers receive their August issues; it is one of the problems of publishing a magazine that requires fine color printing and employs slower printing methods and takes, in the air age, more time in the mails than the backward old railroad ever needed—although that is a subject for another time.
At this moment, therefore, we can give only an incomplete account of our tours and of the other activities of the American Heritage Society now planned by the president of the Society, Paul Gottlieb, and the advisers and supporters in our two sponsoring nonprofit historical societies, listed as always on the opposite page. They help us plan our expeditions, our books, and our educational activities. As the year draws on, we will report to our members in the Society how well tours went and what successes or difficulties they encountered.
The editor himself, who has been plugging away at this magazine since its start in 1954, is enthusiastic about the tours and the whole concept of American Heritage Society activities. He is rankly prejudiced in behalf of seeing, hearing, feeling, and even smelling history, from the whiff of salt wetlands to the acrid smoke of the steam engine—whether it propels that fine old riverboat, Delta Queen (A MERICAN H ERITAGE , April, 1971), or a train of cars. He admits, abandoning all modesty, to being president of the Valley Railroad Company, a nonprofit enterprise that every weekend runs restored vintage steam trains from Essex to Deep River, Connecticut, through some of the most noble and picturesque scenery in America. Next year, he hopes, several of our American Heritage Society tours can have a Society “special” run for our bold travellers. Antique dining car, coaches with Victorian woodwork, return trip by steamboat … well, pray stay with us.