Cover of "Cue The Sun!" featuring videographers filming people lounging in backyard.

Time to Face Reality

Charting the history of a TV phenomenon.
An eye in the shape of the United States.

The Weaponization of Storytelling

The American public is more susceptible than ever to skewed narratives.
Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1857.

The Essential Emerson

The latest biography of the great transcendentalist captures the paradoxes of his Yankee mind.
Syntactic trees filled with words and numbers.

American Grammar: Diagraming Sentences in the 19th Century

A pre-history of the sentence diagrams that were once commonplace in the American classroom.
Covers of paperbacks by white journalists who tried living as African Americans.

The Strange History of White Journalists Trying to “Become” Black

"To believe that the richness of Black identity can be understood through a temporary costume trivializes the lifelong trauma of racism. It turns the complexity of Black life into a stunt."
Censored stills of a naked man running.

The Decline of Streaking

Naked runners used to disrupt events seemingly all the time. Why’d they stop?
Samuel Pepys, by John Hayls, 1666.
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Peeping on Pepys

For more than two decades, a community of committed internet users has been chewing over the famous Londoner’s diary.
A drawing of a crowd watching a baseball game in 1886.

Before ‘Fans,’ There Were ‘Kranks,’ ‘Longhairs,’ and ‘Lions’

How do fandoms gain their names?
Judith Jones

The Woman Who Made America Take Cookbooks Seriously

Judith Jones edited culinary greats such as Julia Child and Edna Lewis—and identified the pleasure at the core of traditional “women’s work.”
Victorian telegraph operator.

What Mark Zuckerberg Should Learn From 19th-Century Telegraph Operators

No, really.
Jimmy Breslin.

The Breslin Era

The end of the big-city columnist.
Star-Herb Medicines and Teas for all Diseases, 1923.
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How Government Helped Birth the Advertising Industry

Advertising went from being an embarrassing activity to a legitimate part of every company’s business plans—despite scant evidence that it worked.

Friends and Enemies

Marty Peretz and the travails of American liberalism.
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Alt Text

A brief history of the textfile, and the production of conspiracy theories on the internet.
Groups of workers outside a St. Louis, Missouri factory.

How the Term “Hoosier” Became a Weapon in the Class War

In Indiana, “hoosier” is a badge of honor. In St Louis, it’s the nastiest insult around. The difference reveals the prejudice that breaks worker solidarity.
A drawing of Noah Webster over drawings of the Webster dictionary, his notes, and a quill and ink.
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Webster’s Dictionary 1828: Annotated

Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language declared Americans free from the tyranny of British institutions and their vocabularies.
William F. Buckley Jr. at a press conference.

An Implausible Mr. Buckley

A new PBS documentary whitewashes the conservative founder of National Review.
Man laughing.

The Most Hated Sound on Television

For half a century, viewers scorned the laugh track while adoring shows that used it. Now it has all but disappeared.
An American flag themed tapestry.

Do American Family Names Make Sense?

What's in a name? According to the "Dictionary of American Family Names," it depends.
A pile of hand-written zines in colorful designs.

Queer Teenage Feminists on the Printed Page, 1973 to 2023

How lesbian teenagers forged community bonds and found connection through magazines.
George Caleb Bingham, Stump Speaking (1853–54).

How the American Jeremiad Can Restore the American Soul

One of the country’s greatest rhetorical traditions still has the power to remind us of our founding principles.
Still from the 2023 indie film "Late Night with the Devil"

The Role of Talk Shows in Sensationalizing the Satanic Panic of the 1980s

"Late Night with the Devil," a “found footage” horror film, perfectly captures the mood and style that surrounded media depictions of the occult in the 1970s.
Cover of "The Freaks Came Out to Write"

The City in Its Grip: On Tricia Romano’s “The Freaks Came Out to Write”

Romano’s book is a vital, comprehensive piece of media scholarship about one of the most influential outlets of the last century. It’s also fun as hell to read.
Book cover of: 'Through a Grid, Darkly: On Anna Shechtman’s “The Riddles of the Sphinx,”' in red lettering

Through a Grid, Darkly

The feminist history of the crossword puzzle: some of the form's early champions were women working for little to no pay.
Fingerspelling alphabet.

Deafness Is Not a Silence

On the suppression of sign language.
Oscar Wilde

“A Nation of Lunatics.” What Oscar Wilde Thought About America

On the Irish writer’s grand tour of the Gilded Age United States.
The front page of a copy the Los Angeles Municipal Times.

Once Upon a Time, Los Angeles Voters Created Their Own Newspaper

The story of the Los Angeles Municipal News, and the hope — and limitations — of publicly owned newsrooms.
Edward R. Murrow on the telephone.

Edward R. Murrow Wasn’t the First Journalist to Question Joseph McCarthy’s Communist Witch Hunts

As the fear of communist subversion spread throughout America, McCarthy launched hearings that were based on scant evidence and overblown charges.
At the New York Public Library, 15 December 2004.

The Birth of Our System for Describing Web Content

Over a weekend in 1995, a small group gathered in Ohio to unleash the power of the internet by making it navigable.
Illustration of an AI machine reading a book.

How AI Can Make History

Large language models can do a lot of things. But can they write like an 18th-century fur trader?