American Heritage

Articles from Vol. 56, No. 1, February-March

1855: Humvees with Humps
150 YEARS AGO ON MARCH 3 CONGRESS appropriated $30,000 for the U.S. Army to import camels from the Levant and put them to work in the deserts of the Southwest. The law was a pet project of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who as early as 1851,...
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Anne Frank in America: When the Single Most Famous Document to Come out of the Holocaust Was Published in America Half a Century Ago, It Caused a Sensation That Made and Ruined Reputations and Ignited Furious Arguments That Resonate Today
IN JUNE 1952 DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY PUBLISHED THE diary of a German teenager who had died in Bergen-Belsen approximately a month before the concentration camp was liberated, two months before her sixteenth birthday. The book was translated from the...
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General Longstreet and the Lost Cause: One of Lee's Greatest Lieutenants Is Slowly Winning His Reputation Back after Losing It for Daring to Criticize His Boss
WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE OF JAMES LONGSTREET, lieutenant general, Confederate States Army? Longstreet's newest biographer subtitles his work "The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier." Not the most controversial during those four years of war, surely....
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Lincoln Heard and Seen: A Crucial Letter and Life Portrait Finally Surface
JUST WHEN IT SEEMED WE'D HEARD--AND SEEN--EVERYthing there is to know about one of America's most prolific and portrayed Presidents, two vital, long-lost relics from his past, one verbal and one visual, have unexpectedly surfaced. For years scholars...
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MIA: A Search Begun in a Washington D.C., Boardinghouse 140 Years Ago Continues Today as a $100-Million-a-Year Effort to Reunite the U.S. Military and American Families with Their Missing Soldiers
ATOP A HALF-MILE-HIGH MOUNTAIN DEEP IN THE HEART OF THE A Shau Valley in central Vietnam, a poisonous worm snake winds itself onto the edge of a spade. After a fleeting glance, the U.S. sergeant holding the spade, Tammi Reeder, 34, flicks her wrist...
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Mystery Ship: A Bad Business in a Beautiful Vessel
FOR YEARS THIS HANDSOME SCENE OF MARITIME ACTION IN THE PENOBSCOT Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine (www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org), bore the information: "Two brigs engaging during the War of 1812." Recent research, however, has revealed that it is...
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Restoring the World Trade Center: A Strikingly Detailed Architectural Model Survives
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER'S ARCHITECT, MINORU YAMASAKI, considered about 100 scale models before settling on the design that is now etched in our national consciousness. Between 1969 and 1971, after construction had begun on the World Trade Center and...
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Robert Johnson, the Devil, and Me: Standing at the Crossroads of the Blues
CELEBRATE THE BLUES AT STARBUCKS! proclaimed the sign at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. I was catching a plane to Memphis, then driving south to Greenville, Mississippi, for the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, the...
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The 94 Years of Kitty Carlisle Hart: She Played Opposite the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera and Hasn't Slowed Down Since
ETERNALLY GLAMOROUS, EFFORTLESSLY vivacious, and impossibly beautiful, Kitty Carlisle Hart has crammed at least eight notable lives into her eventful 94 years. Southern belle, expatriate debutante, thirties movie star, Broadway chanteuse, television...
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The Buyable Past: Rookwood Pottery
THIS IS AMERICAN ART POTTERY AT ITS MOST beautiful. Pieces frequently boast floral motifs, lush landscapes, or seascapes rivaling those that contemporaneous artists painted on canvas. Even modest items with glazes untouched by Rookwood's talented decorators...
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The Central Fact of American History: It Was the Nation's Biggest Business, It Was as Well Organized as a Detroit Assembly Line, and It Was Here to Stay. It Was Slavery. David Brion Davis, a Lifelong Student of the Institution, Tells How He Discovered-And Then Set about Teaching-Its Vast Significance
I HAVE LONG BELIEVED THAT WHAT MOST DISTINGUISHES US FROM ALL other animals is our ability to transcend an illusory sense of now, of an eternal present, and to strive for an understanding of the forces and events that made us what we are. Such an understanding...
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The Hidden Brando
MARLON BRANDO CHANGED AMERICAN acting and became enduringly famous astonishingly fast. Just four years encompass nearly all his career-defining roles: Stanley Kowalski in the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); the Mexican peasant revolutionary...
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The Winds of Political Change ... and Why You Almost Never Feel Them Coming
THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE WAS crushed. An urban, ethnic liberal from the Northeast, he had been caught flatfooted by the waves of vitriolic attacks that smeared his background, his years of dedicated public service, the character of his beloved wife,...
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Who Invented the Fortune Cookie? on (Possibly) Its 100th Anniversary, the Delphic Delicacy Is Being Used for a Lot More Than Telling Your Future
IT'S A MYSTERY SHROUDED IN AN ENIGMA WRAPPED IN A cookie. Today's prepackaged meal-ending prophecy has Asian antecedents that go back to the thirteenth century, when anti-Mongol rebels in China passed secret messages in cakes. Beginning in the 1870s,...
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Zeebrugge and A Shau
THE PORT OF BRUGES LIES EIGHT MILES INLAND from the Belgian coast, served by a canal that opens to the sea at Ostend and Zeebrugge. In the bitter spring of 1918 Bruges Harbor teemed with German destroyers and U-boats that regularly came out to continue...
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