Posts Tagged: American History

The Grim American History Of 'The Bicentennial Minute'

On July 2, 1776, in a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote: This second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

As it turned out, Adams was nearly right about this, [...]


Why I'm Still Not An American

It's a simple enough conversation-starter: So, where are you from? What I've learned to say is, "I'm from D.C.," because it's a good enough answer and nobody ever really has anything to say about D.C. anyway.

I was born on Knifecrime Island, in London, and lived there until I was six. I remember it vividly: the song I'd sing with my mother as we walked to school every day, "The Paul Daniels Magic Show" I'd watch with my grandmother, and that epic schoolyard brawl I got in at St. Vincent's where I lost some teeth and Sister Patricia told me to gargle hot salt water until it felt better. [...]


Honeymoons Of The Presidents

Now that we've looked at presidential pets and favorite foods, let's explore their honeymoons. It's difficult to judge which has been the most romantic presidential honeymoon in history; possibly a draw between the Nixons' canned pork-and-beans for breakfast or the honeymoon hours spent by the newlywed wife of Woodrow Wilson compiling the index of a new edition of his book Congressional Government, A Study in American Politics. In any case, if we were to rank presidents in order of greatness of their honeymoons, it would give us a system that might place otherwise mediocre or downright awful presidents at the top, and America's best leaders near the bottom. [...]


John Adams, The Lovable Schlub In White Tights

Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing are reading their way through biographies of all the presidents, in order. This time up, it's John Adams and the books discussed are David McCullough's John Adams and John Ferling's John Adams: A Life.

Sarah Marshall: In the first installment of this series, Amelia and I talked about George Washington, and we both came to the conclusion that, despite the insights a biographer can afford us, it's still hard to see him as a man rather than a symbol. No matter how many self-questioning diary entries we read, we can't quite forget the image of the giant in buff and blue. Not so, [...]


The British Invasion… Again: After The Battle

The final installment in a seven-day series exploring how the trail of the Battle of Brooklyn would pass across modern-day New York. Shown in photo, the Watchung Mountains.

It's over. The Battle of Brooklyn is done, or at least it was on this day 236 years ago, with the Americans momentarily out of reach of the British, having evacuated to the island of Manhattan.

The British were shocked. "In the Morning, to our great Astonishment, found they had Evacuated all their Works on Brookland and Red Hook, without a Shot being fired at them," a soldier wrote. Earl Percy wrote to his father, the Duke of Northumberland, [...]


All The Presidents’ Menus

While compiling this list I attempted as often as possible to learn not what the presidents ate at state functions and inaugural dinners but during their solitary breakfasts and family suppers—in other words, their comfort foods. Often this information came from contemporary accounts, and occasionally from the recipe cards of first ladies who left for posterity the dishes they'd cooked for their husbands, during the White House years as well as the early days of their marriages. Where this was difficult to track down (such as with the earlier presidents), I focused on menu items from the more personal of the large events (birthday and wedding dinners, for example) held [...]


Huzzah, George Washington, Secret Basketcase And First President

Many years ago, Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing went to high school together. They laughed, they cried, they wore regrettable outfits to underage dance clubs. They traded books, sweaters, and anxieties, and somewhere along the way they took AP US History together, and learned, all told, surprisingly little. Now, as they make their way through a different but equally ridiculous phase of their lives, they have set out to remedy this oversight by reading biographies of all the presidents, in order. It's going to get hairy around Harrison.

This time up, as an accompaniment to Presidents Day weekend, it's George Washington, and the books discussed are David McCullough's 1776 and [...]


The British Invasion… Again: The General And The Moose

Day three in a series exploring how the trail of the Battle of Brooklyn would pass across modern-day New York.

On August 24, 1776, there is not a lot going on fighting-wise in Brooklyn.

There are skirmishes amongst the woods and the farms where the British have landed, but Washington still has not figured out how huge the British landing is. He has sent General John Sullivan over to Brooklyn, a general who will be captured when the Battle of Brooklyn begins and will have a controversial record there after, despite several victorious battles after the crossing of the Delaware. Sullivan would wreak havoc on Native American settlements [...]


The New And Improved Thomas Jefferson, Enlightened Slave Owner

When the Smithsonian exhibit “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” opened this past January it was greeted with a great deal of praise. A review in The New York Times called the exhibit “subtle and illuminating.” The Washington Post described it as “groundbreaking.” The hype surrounding the exhibit was understandable. This opening marked the first time that a museum on the National Mall has prominently acknowledged the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned 600 people in his lifetime.

The exhibit will be open through October, and on a recent weekend visit, it presented a picturesque scene of civic engagement, the horseshoe-shaped hall crowded with visitors, most [...]