American Heritage

Articles from Vol. 44, No. 4, July-August

A Fairbanks Banjo
The five-string banjo pictured below is a custom, presentation-grade Electric model produced by the A.C. Fairbanks factory in Boston around 1895. Although they possessed great beauty of tone, presentation-grade banjos were works of art designed to...
A Tent on the Porch
THIS COUNTRY'S LONG, ACRIMONIOUS OBSERVANCE OF THE COLUMBIAN QUINCENTENARY IS FINALLY OVER, BUT IT WON'T BE SOON FORGOTTEN. DURING IT, THE MUCH-ABUSED FIGURE OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS SEEMED TO OFFER AN IRRESISTIBLE TARGET AT WHICH ALL SORTS OF PRESENT-MINDED...
Land of the Free Trade
It is not a coincidence that Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and what would one day be the world's wealthjest nation should both have burst upon the global scene in 1776. Before Smith, the prevailing economic doctrine was mercantilism. This theory...
My Life in Crime
It was in the eleventh grade that I knew I would be a writer. The conviction grew out of two awarenesses that dawned at about the same time. I became aware of the world of realistic adult fiction, with all its power to inform and enchant and absorb...
Predicting the Present
I have a personal fondness for works about the great World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago, adjacent to the exposition grounds, and I recall many pleasant afternoons wandering around the lagoon...
Queen of the River
The steam calliope's sprightly rendition of "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" bounces off immense lock walls at the Kentucky Dam. As the steamboat Delta Queen descends forty-six feet, onlookers are soon no more than barely visible heads, rising to disappear...
Tet: First In. and Last Out
I awoke at first light on the morning of January 31, 1968, at Landing Zone Evans. I was tired and dirty from a night spent in a shallow foxhole with my friend and wingman Lynn Freeman. I was sitting in the dirt eating a scrounged C-ration breakfast...
The Buy of the Century
Years later, after the fall of his financial empire, William Levitt remembered with some satisfaction the story of a boy in Levittown, Long Island, who finished his prayers with "and God bless Mommy and Daddy and Mr. Levitt." Levitt may well have belonged...
The Lost World
When the National Theater of Breckenridge, Texas, opened for business, on May 20, 1921, the local paper just knew that on this grand occasion the town was about to be brushed by the wings of history. This "marks a photoplayhouse era in Breckenridge,"...
The White City
"The world's greatest achievement of the departing century was pulled off in Chicago," said George Ade, one of the city's first important writers. "The Columbian Exposition was the most stupendous, interesting and significant show ever spread out for...
Through Darkest America
As every historian knows, great events are often determined by trivial ones. Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard's Almanack, noted that for want of a single horseshoe nail an entire war could be lost. Franklin was being theoretical, of course, but real...