I recently finished a manuscript for a book about the first six decades of the 19th century. The book argues that as that century began, the United States remained unscripted — an experiment, a speculation. Then, with startling speed, through unlikely characters and scenes, the new nation improvised a politics, economy, and culture that would define the United States for centuries to come.
While I was editing the book, my wife and I set out to see how Americans today remember that formative era. Below, you’ll find my dispatches about the ways in which stories from that time are — and are not — being told in the places where they took place. New installments in the series will be published here as they are completed.