What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Places

Wisconsin, Monster Capital of America?

Forget Football and Cheese. My Home State Should Be Famous for Its Shaggy Werewolves and Shape-Shifting Schoolteachers.

Linda S. Godfrey, Wisconsin, monsters

By Linda S. Godfrey
January 23, 2015

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey may reverberate with the fetid screams of the cloven-hooved demon known as the Jersey Devil. The redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest may shake from the footfalls of the 9-foot, fur-covered primate known as Sasquatch, and America’s Southern swamps may teem with scaly, web-fingered lizard men. But my home state of Wisconsin is as well-known for sightings of things that look like fanged, shaggy werewolves as it is for cows, cheese, and the Green …

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Paddling the Wailoa River in a Homemade Canoe

A Boy’s Life on Hawaii’s Big Island in the 1950s

Paul Kodani, canoe, Lyman Museum, Big Island, Hawaii

By Paul Kodani
November 11, 2014

A boy’s life on Hawaii’s Big Island in the 1950s revolved around water. My elementary school in Hilo was right by Bakers Beach, a spring-fed pond called Ice Pond, and the Wailoa River. Every day after school, we used to go swimming or diving to catch fish. I practiced holding my breath in the bathtub.

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Did the Midwest Win the Civil War?

States Like Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin Fed and Armed the Union—and Sent Men to Die for Their Country, Too

Wisconsin, Civil War, Civil War Museum

By Lance J. Herdegen
October 24, 2014

Fort Sumter. Bull Run. Antietam. Vicksburg. Gettysburg. Appomattox Courthouse. These are the places you usually think of when you think about the Civil War. Not Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Des Moines.

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When Bowie Knives Were in Fashion

In the Rough-and-Tumble 19th-Century Mississippi River Valley, Everyone Carried a Weapon. Some of Them Were Even Works of Art.

When Bowie Knives Were in Fashion

By Bill Worthen
September 22, 2014

At an interesting time in our history, folks started wearing weapons as a part of their daily attire, to work and to play. In the 1830s, citizens of the Mississippi River Valley, in such communities as New Orleans, Natchez, Vicksburg, and Little Rock, armed themselves. They chose small weapons popular at the time—single-shot pistols, sword canes, and knives—as business accessories.

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