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December 2023
1min read


Liking Ike again…

Did you hear about the Dwight D. Elsenhower doll? You wind it up and it does nothing for eight years. That old joke pretty much summarizes the way historians viewed the President in the months following his second term. Ike’s great days had ended with World War II, they said; Eisenhower the President was weak, befuddled, none too bright—a leader who rarely rose to mediocrity, and whom a poll of scholars found to be among the nation’s ten worst Chief Executives. Just twenty years later, however, a similar survey placed him in the company of Jefferson, Washington, and Lincoln. What had happened in those two intervening decades to so change the scholarly view? The Vietnam War had happened, along with a number of other national trials that put the calm and steady years of Elsenhower’s administration in a very different light. Steve Neal traces the rise of Elsenhower’s reputation.

Ashcan entrepreneur…

When Everett Shinn died in 1953, The New York Times obituary described him as an “artist, sign painter, draftsman, engineer, designer, writer, composer, actor, teacher, carpenter, mechanic and theater impressario.” The Times might have added decorator and motion-picture art director too, but the paper was right to begin the list with “artist.” Shinn was perhaps the most naturally gifted of the Eight—the Ashcan-school painters who transformed American art at the turn of the century—but as Ormonde de Kay suggests in his engrossing story of the restless, driven, much-married man, it is possible to be too gifted.

Classic cases…

One day in 1928 a man dashing for a Long Island Railroad train lost his balance as he jumped aboard. A trainman in the car pulled him to safety, but the man dropped the package he had been carrying. It happened to be full of fireworks; they exploded; and the blast was powerful enough to knock over a scale at the far end of the platform. It fell on a woman, who completed the sequence of unlikely events by suing the railroad. That lawsuit is one of a few that practically every law student in the United States studies, and our lively, illustrated feature presents it and four of the others.

Authors at dawn…

“All the trees wore a new fur coat, pure white, and the pines and evergreens were laden with pearl. Every living creature seemed happy.…” This is E. B. White, writing on a theme congenial to him, and if his prose doesn’t quite have the familiar quiet luster, it is perhaps because the author was only eleven years old. His essay appeared in a 1911 issue of St. Nicholas , an immensely popular children’s magazine that published the work of its young readers. Many of them grew up to be our most renowned writers—William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay—and this charming story presents samples of their early work.

Plus…

Susan B. Anthony in peril… an illustrated history of the trailer… Bill Moyers on why we need history… and, with a spirit of generosity in keeping with the season, more.

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