What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Encounters

The Postage Stamps That Flew Amelia Earhart Across the World

In the 1930s, Collectors—Including FDR—Helped American Explorers Achieve Their Dreams 

by Sheila A. Brennan

Americans looking to bankroll adventures in the early 20th century had to get creative. Expeditions were not cheap, and even wealthy individuals needed financial assistance to pay for equipment and crews. But two notable explorers got especially imaginative by relying on an early version of crowdfunding that piggybacked on a budding American craze: collecting stamps.

Antarctic explorer Navy Rear Admiral Richard Byrd and transatlantic pilot Amelia Earhart made thousands for their journeys by selling postmarked souvenir envelopes and stamps that …

Ideas

The Communal, Sometimes Celibate, 19th-Century Ohio Town That Thrived for Three Generations

Zoar’s Citizens Left Religious Persecution in Germany and Created a Utopian Community on the Erie Canal 

by Kathleen M. Fernandez

Quaint, rural, and hardworking, Zoar, Ohio, is the kind of place that wasn’t supposed to thrive in America. 

The citizens of Zoar came to this country as religious dissenters in the early 19th century. In unorthodox fashion, they formed a communal society where all wealth was combined: men and women alike pooled their labor, their wealth, and their belongings for the benefit of the whole.

The community thrived. In a nation dedicated to individualism, Zoar’s citizens built a first-of-its-kind economic system, …