Culture & Literature
American History

American History October 2018

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6 Issues

in this issue

7 min.

Meet Sally Hemings Home and Hearth Monticello now explains without cant the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, a childhood occupant of one of his slave cabins, below, who later moved into the estate's South Wing and bore her master six children. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s hilltop estate near Charlottesville, Virginia, has stopped hedging about Thomas Jefferson fathering six children with Sally Hemings, a daughter of an enslaved family that Jefferson’s wife Martha inherited from her parents in 1774. On June 16, 2018, Monticello added to its tour an exhibit on Hemings and her children that expressly acknowledges Jefferson’s paternity. Housed in a windowless room in the South Wing where Hemings lived, the display reclaims a space that had been converted into a public restroom. A new online exhibit establishes Sally’s ancestry,…

1 min.

Michael Dolan (“Audubon’s Quadrupeds,” p. 58) is editor of American History. Alvin S. Felzenberg (“Demand a Recount!”, p. 42) is author of A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr. (Yale, 2018), from which he adapted his article. An American presidential historian and political commentator, he was principal spokesman for the 9/11 Commission. He lives in Washington, DC. Larry C. Kerpelman (“The Secret Agent,” p. 50) has published in The Boston Globe, Physicians News Digest, and GreenPrints. He most recently wrote about the competition to speed word of the Revolution across the Atlantic (“Race to Remember,” June 2017). A retired social science researcher, he lives in Acton, Massachusetts. His website is lckerpelman.com. Nancy Tappan (“Saving Sergeant York,” p. 32) is senior editor of American History.…

1 min.

Hail Mary Many thanks for the portrait of our great-grandmother (“Concordia Days,” June 2018). Most of us don’t honor our antecedents. We take our air-conditioned, internet/text-laden world for granted. We need to remember pioneers like Mary Hamilton, who provided the foundation for our country. Kerry Hamilton, Palm Springs, California Catching Up In April I came upon a vintage American History article (“Teddy In the Middle,” February 2003) that clarified the presidency’s impact on Theodore Roosevelt. Author Stan Sanders showed how public opinion of TR changed and also illuminated his reasons for defending mining despite knowing its toll. My thanks to you and the author for this informative article. Mason Hyde, Sterling, Virginia Sound Advice When I lost my vision, I was devastated—until my local association for the blind enrolled me in Talking Books, a free Library of…

5 min.
“a fool for peace”

Author and historian David Nasaw, who specializes in early 20th-century American social and cultural history, is a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books Andrew Carnegie (2006) and The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy (2012) were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. How did a tough businessman like Andrew Carnegie become a pacifist? He read a lot of philosopher Herbert Spencer, which convinced him that through evolution progress was inevitable. Carnegie had lived through the Civil War as a civilian. He recognized that in war there are no winners, only losers. He saw war as backward, barbaric, outmoded. There had to be a better way to settle disputes between nations—which, for Carnegie, was arbitration. Carnegie pledged himself…

5 min.
animal tracks

Seventy-five years ago, the February 21, 1943, edition of the Saturday Evening Post had as its cover Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech,” which the artist based on a Vermont town meeting at which Rockwell had seen a yeoman rise in lonely dissent and get a respectful hearing This spring the subject of the First Amendment got a brisk workout from TV comics. Roseanne Barr tweeted a late-night blast at former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” The following week, Samantha Bee described first daughter Ivanka Trump on-air as a “feckless [rhymes with runt, though much more hostile].” Bee rode out a tornado of complaints in the storm shelter of an apology; Barr’s sitcom, a reboot of her hit series of the preceding century,…

5 min.
sullivan’s travels

The corpse lay in a railroad yard in the Bronx, sliced nearly in half by a train. Nobody claimed the remains, and on September 13, 1913, city workers were readying the unknown dead man for burial on Hart Island, New York’s potter’s field. Municipal regulations required a final inspection of each nameless casualty, so a policeman lifted the coffin lid. “Why, it’s Tim!” the cop said. “Big Tim!” Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan had been one of the most powerful, most beloved, and most corrupt politicians in New York City history. Known as “King of The Bowery,” Sullivan served as a state senator, a congressman, and, most importantly, as boss of the Tammany Hall Democratic machine on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where his reign combined politics, organized crime, and an emerging entertainment industry. Timothy Sullivan…