American Heritage

Articles from Vol. 57, No. 6, November-December

1906: The World's First DJ
100 YEARS AGO ON DECEMBER 24, in a wooden shack crammed with equipment in the seaside Massachusetts community of Brant Rock, a 40-year-old inventor named Reginald Fessenden made the world's first radio broadcast. The program consisted of a phonograph...
America's Revolutionary Party: It's Always Been the Republicans
THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS have brought us a sweep of both houses of Congress by the Democrats. Just what this means in terms of the war in Iraq or specific legislation is still unknowable, but it now seems undeniable that we are living in an age of radicalism....
Cocktails: Bitters Are Back
Historically it was the addition of bitters to alcoholic beverages in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that defined a new category of mixed drinks called the cocktail. The word first appeared in print in 1806 in a New York periodical...
Combat Artist: America's Patrick O'Brian Isn't a Writer; He's a Painter
DURING THE AGE OF FIGHTING SAIL, ARTISTS PAINTED SHIPS AND seamen in highly realistic fashion, and most of the paintings of them date from their own day. That day was a long one, but square-rigged wooden-hulled warships were a stable technology, and...
Food Comeback: All New York in One Big Cookie
When Sgt. First Class Laurence Lang at Camp Victory in Baghdad was asked by a visiting TV producer if he wanted anything from home, he immediately answered, "Black and White cookies." Sergeant Lang grew up in New York. If we had a state cookie, the...
George Nelson Clocks
GEORGE NELSON SAID HE GOT into furniture design by accident, and indeed the architect didn't actually create many of the mid-twentieth-century modernist icons synonymous with his name. The bubble lamp, the coconut chair, the sling sofa, and others...
Historical Recording: Springsteen Reignites the Folk Song
In 1997 the rock god Bruce Springsteen was asked to contribute to an album commemorating the folksinger Pete Seeger. Immersing himself in Seeger's music, Springsteen decided to take an unconventional approach to the American folk song. He convened...
"I Reckon You're One of Them New York Doves": What Happened When an Anti-Vietnam War Activist Met His New Client-Lyndon Johnson
AS AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT PRESIDES over a divisive war without an apparent end, for the second time in my life, my thoughts have been drawn back nearly four decades to another President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and his war in Vietnam. In 1969 a strange...
Lionel: For Generations the Name Was as Closely Associated with Christmas as Santa Claus
AROUND 1900, WHEN ELECTRIFIED TOY TRAINS were in their infancy, a battery-powered railroad car appeared in the show window of Robert Ingersoll's novelty store on Cortlandt Street in downtown Manhattan. It wasn't intended as a toy. Rather, the little...
Museum Renovation: A Great Institution Gets Greater
Like several other San Francisco icons, the original M. H. de Young Memorial Museum began life as a pavilion in the 1894 California Midwinter International Exhibition, housed in the city's still-new Golden Gate Park. Michael de Young, then editor of...
National Shrine: Bringing George Washington Back to Life
"This has been a massive, very expensive effort because we've wanted to bring George Washington back to his rightful place as first in the hearts of his countrymen." That's how James Rees, the executive director of Mount Vernon, Washington's estate...
Poker: The Very American Career of the Card Game You Can Learn in 10 Minutes and Work on for the Rest of Your Life
IN 1875 A WRITER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES was "forced to the conclusion that the national game is not base-ball, but poker." "Rich and poor, high and low, good and bad, male and female yield to the fascinations of Poker," another observer wrote in...
Restaurant: The Automat Is Back
In 1888 the 27-year-old Joe Horn wanted desperately to be a restaurateur. He had the money--a thousand dollars--but no concept. His partner, 38-year-old Frank Hardart, had an idea--to share the wonder of French-drip New Orleans coffee with the world--but...
Retro Car: The Tough Car or the Fun Car?
Retro cars are all the thing in Detroit--and no surprise. With sales slumping, why shouldn't the Big Three want to look back to the good old days? But history and retro are words not applied to the models that channel past star cars. Heritage is the...
Retro Snack: The Hot Dog Goes Haute
What's the most fashionable nibble served by Manhattan caterers these days? It's pigs in blankets, that martini-soaker-upper of the 1960s suburban cocktail party, which to me always was a perfect mix of elegant and homey. Hot dogs have gone trendy....
The 3 Faces of George Washington: How Mount Vernon Rebuilt the First President
WHAT DID GEORGE WASHINGTON REALLY LOOK LIKE? We have a lot of familiar pictures of him, but they never quite agree with one another, and more were made when he was old than when he was young. So when the people who run Mount Vernon, Washington's estate...
TV History: Exploring the Secret Capitol
For years, C-SPAN enjoyed a virtual monopoly on the U.S. Capitol, not only broadcasting gavel-to-gavel congressional proceedings but offering the omnipresent view of the Capitol dome outside its windows during live studio telecasts. Brian Lamb's dome...