What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Ideas

The Crusading Newsman Who Taught Americans to Give to the Poor

In the 1890s, Louis Klopsch’s Christian Herald Insisted That Philanthropy Was Not Only for the Elite, but Was a Duty for Everyday Citizens

by Heather D. Curtis

On May 10, 1900, the Navy steamship Quito sailed from Brooklyn, New York, to deliver 5,000 tons of corn and seeds to the “starving multitudes” of India. This “great work of rescue” was the brainchild of Louis Klopsch, proprietor of the Christian Herald—the most influential religious newspaper in the United States. Since his purchase of the publication in 1890, the enterprising Klopsch and his editorial partner, the charismatic Brooklyn preacher Thomas De Witt Talmage, had combined scriptural injunctions about charity …

Journeys

Was Leland Stanford a ‘Magnanimous’ Philanthropist or a ‘Thief, Liar, and Bigot?’

The Railroad Baron and Governor of California Was Starkly Contradictory and Infamously Disruptive

by Roland De Wolk

Born in his father’s East Coast backwoods bar, dying in a magnificent West Coast mansion built from his self-made fortune. Condemned as the complete robber-baron, consecrated as a singular titan of American enterprise. Exalted as the magnanimous founder of a world-class university, damned as a thief, liar, and bigot.

With all of the stark contradictions in his character, Leland Stanford—a man best known as a railroad magnate, California governor, and putative philanthropist—embodies American typecasts that have bedeviled us for centuries. …