What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Ideas

When Americans Bought the Illusion of ‘Indoor-Outdoor Living’

Postwar Suburban Homes With Big Windows and Patios Sold the Idea of Leisure—and Air Conditioning

by Andrea Vesentini

Think of postwar America, and what often comes to mind is a white, heterosexual family, pictured in a domestic suburban environment. You can tell this family lives in the suburbs because there is a lawn in the background, a tree framed in a picture window, a swimming pool glimmering behind a glass wall.

This almost-mythical family you are visualizing is drawn directly from a generation of magazine ads, commonplace during the mid-20th century, that portrayed so-called “indoor-outdoor living,” where the refinements …

Ideas

When Newspaper ‘Stereotypes’ Got Americans Laughing at the Same Jokes

In the 1920s, News Syndicates Used the New Technology to Homogenize Papers Across the Country

by Julia Guarneri

From today’s vantage point, when many American cities struggle to sustain even a single print newspaper, the early decades of the 20th century look like glory days for local papers. Even small cities boasted two or three dailies. Larger cities might issue more than a dozen apiece. “City desks” hummed with activity, as reporters worked up stories on the regular local beats: crime, politics, schools, society, sports. Many papers built lavish headquarters buildings that became signatures of the skyline, from …