Linton Weeks

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

Weeks is originally from Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College in 1976. He was the founding editor of Southern Magazine in 1986. The magazine was bought — and crushed — in 1989 by Time-Warner. In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post's Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper's website, Washingtonpost.com. From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.

He currently lives in a suburb of Washington with the artist Jan Taylor Weeks. In 2009, they created The Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation to honor their beloved sons.

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NPR History Dept.
5:30 pm
Sat June 27, 2015

The Cherry Sisters: Worst Act Ever?

The Cherry Sisters: Three of the siblings strike a theatrical pose.
The History Center

Originally published on Sun June 28, 2015 6:37 am

In the early 20th century, the Cherry Sisters — a family of performers from Marion, Iowa — were like a meme.

Simply invoking the name — the Cherry Sisters — was shorthand for anything awful. As Anthony Slide wrote in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, the onstage siblings became "synonymous with any act devoid of talent."

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NPR History Dept.
9:03 am
Tue June 23, 2015

4 Forgotten Fads Of The Past

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 12:55 pm

Unlike fanatics, fad-atics move from craze to craze. And America, with its short national attention span, is the perfect place for fadatics to flourish.

But when does a fad begin to fade? When does a fad become a fixture?

"How long does the typical fad last?" asks Adrian Furnham in the 2004 finance book Management and Myths. "It depends on the zeitgeist." In other words, a vat of variables.

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NPR History Dept.
8:57 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Independence Day For Americans With Disabilities

A detail from an Easter Seals poster explaining the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed on July 26, 1990.
Courtesy of Easter Seals

On July 4, America will celebrate 239 years of independence.

Later in the month, our country will mark another historic moment: the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law passed on July 26, 1990, that guarantees certain rights — and increased independence — to our compatriots with physical and intellectual disabilities.

In this era of ramps and lifts and other hallmarks of accessible design, it's sometimes hard to remember that not too long ago inaccessibility was the norm. And barriers abounded.

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NPR History Dept.
9:26 am
Tue June 16, 2015

When 'Womanless Weddings' Were Trendy

Womanless weddings, like this one in a Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, often included prominent members of the community. Alongside the bride, with hands clasped, is Theodore M. Berry, the first African-American mayor of the city.
Theodore M. Berry Papers, Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 10:15 am

The flowery month of June and the whiff of wedlock is in the air.

Definitions of marriage in America keep expanding, but for most of the country's history, the word "wedding" has called to mind images of a woman in a white dress and a man in a black tuxedo. And traditionally, June was the most popular month to get hitched.

So, there's no better time to reminisce about a once-popular community ritual — still perhaps practiced occasionally — that would seem to be on the edge of extinction: the womanless wedding.

Bearded Brides

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NPR History Dept.
8:23 am
Thu June 11, 2015

Dirty Dancing In The Early 1900s

The Bunny Hug sheet music, 1912.
New York Public Library Digital Collections

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 10:38 am

To watch them being performed today, the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear and other so-called "animal dances" of the early 1900s seem tame, tame, tame.

But for a few decades, beginning in the 19-teens, those ragtime rug-cutters shocked America and had polite society crying shame, shame, shame.

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NPR History Dept.
8:42 am
Tue June 9, 2015

The Battles Of A Civil War Re-Enactress

J.R. Hardman, dressed for Civil War re-enactment.
O.K. Keyes Courtesy of Reenactress

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 11:01 am

When J.R. Hardman, 28, asked to join a group of Civil War re-enactors in a military drill a few years ago, the unit commander said no dice.

Hardman was willing to wear the wool uniform, carry the gear, load the muskets, eat the hardtack, but the brass still said no.

Because ... J.R. Hardman is a woman.

The unit commander told her to talk to his wife, who would help Hardman find a hoop skirt.

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NPR History Dept.
9:03 am
Thu June 4, 2015

Chinese Basketballers Of Yesteryear

A Chinese basketball team from the YMCA in San Francisco, 1919.
Courtesy of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 12:50 pm

When thinking about Chinese basketball players in early 20th-century America, keep in mind these two events:

  • In 1882: President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which severely restricted Chinese immigration to this country. Versions of restrictive legislation remained in place until World War II, when the rules were repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 — which still only allowed 105 Chinese immigrants into this country each year.
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NPR History Dept.
8:47 am
Tue June 2, 2015

How The YMCA Helped Shape America

An adult gymnastics club performs a group stunt on the parallel bars at the Rochester, N.Y., YMCA at the beginning of the 20th century.
Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 1:53 pm

The American wing of the Young Men's Christian Association — a worldwide organization founded in London in 1844 — launched the first basketball teams and group swim lessons in the U.S., popularized exercise classes and created the oldest summer camp still in operation, the YMCA's historians tell us.

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NPR History Dept.
9:18 am
Thu May 28, 2015

The Windshield-Pitting Mystery Of 1954

A man shows his pitted windshield to a police officer in Seattle in 1954
Museum of History & Industry, Seattle Post- Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.571.1

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 4:56 pm

The nationwide weirdness that was the Windshield-Pitting Mystery began in the spring of 1954. Looking back at the events today may give us a window — OK, a windshield — on the makeup and the mindset of mid-20th-century America.

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NPR History Dept.
8:58 am
Tue May 26, 2015

When 'Petting Parties' Scandalized The Nation

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 11:24 am

To some social observers, petting parties of the 1920s were a natural, post-First World War outgrowth of a repressed society. To others, the out-in-the-open hug-and-kissfests were blinking neon signposts on the Road to Perdition.

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NPR History Dept.
8:43 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Muddled Messages In America's Past

Telegraph operator, 1908.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 4:17 pm

Do you ever feel like communication — in this Age of Communication — is more confused and confusing than ever? Does anybody even read whole messages anymore — beyond the subject line or the first screen? Do you get tangled up in threads and bewildered by attachments? Do txt msgs n-furi-8 u?

Here's the real question: Are all these communication devices truly improving interaction between humans or just providing more opportunities for miscommunication?

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NPR History Dept.
8:45 am
Tue May 19, 2015

The Repast Is Not Even Past: Old LA Menus

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 11:28 am

Let's see — what shall we have? So much to choose from in the collection of historical menus at the Los Angeles Public Library.

There are some 9,000 items to consider — creative, colorful, delicious-looking. By just perusing the choices, we get a deep sense of the city's rich culture and juicy past.

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NPR History Dept.
11:03 am
Thu May 14, 2015

The Curious World Of Baseball Re-Enactors

The Dirigo Vintage Base Ball Club in Maine.
Courtesy of Matt Muise

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 11:38 am

Vintage base ball players — sort of like Civil War re-enactors who wield wooden bats instead of muskets — move among us. They glory in the past times of America's pastime.

Think: When Johnny comes sliding home.

Dressed in old uniforms, teams play each other using 19th century rules. Sometimes they don't wear gloves. Sometimes they pitch underhand. They spell "base ball" as two words. They call each other "ballists."

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NEWS
12:16 pm
Tue May 12, 2015

Do We Talk Funny? 51 American Colloquialisms

Jennifer Maravillas Ikon Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 7:25 pm

Has American English become homogenized? Have our regional ways of saying particular things — sometimes in very particular ways — receded into the past? Or do we talk as funny as ever?

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NPR History Dept.
9:25 am
Wed May 6, 2015

4 Hot-Button Kids' Books From The '50s That Sparked Controversy

NPR

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 5:58 am

The 1950s was a hinge decade for noteworthy and nation-changing civil rights events across the United States, including Brown v. Board of Education in Kansas, the bus boycott in Alabama and the National Guard-protected integration of Central High School in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, there was also a revolution brewing in bookstores and public libraries.

By design or by happenstance, a handful of children's picture books were focal points of the American movement toward integration in the '50s.

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NPR History Dept.
9:03 am
Tue May 5, 2015

Do We Really Need Libraries?

Bedford Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library — a gift from Andrew Carnegie, 1905.
New York Public Library

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 12:02 pm

In New York City, supporters of public libraries say that respect for — and repair of — the libraries is long, well, overdue.

A new campaign, Invest in Libraries, puts forth that in the past 10 years, the city government has reduced funding for public libraries by nearly 20 percent and 1,000 workers or so have been trimmed from the payroll. The campaign calls on the city to increase its support in various ways, such as restoring $65 million in operating funds.

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NPR History Dept.
9:49 am
Thu April 30, 2015

A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt receives a May basket of flowers from young children in 1938.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 7:42 am

Maybe there really was a time when America was more innocent.

Back when May Basket Day was a thing, perhaps.

The curious custom — still practiced in discrete pockets of the country — went something like this: As the month of April rolled to an end, people would begin gathering flowers and candies and other goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1.

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NPR History Dept.
9:43 am
Tue April 28, 2015

Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 3:56 pm

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NPR History Dept.
9:36 am
Thu April 23, 2015

7 Lost American Slang Words

In the Roaring '20s, flappers were dancing and slang was advancing.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Sun April 26, 2015 5:13 am

In American English, some slang words come and go. And some stay and stay.

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NPR History Dept.
8:44 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Addiction In American History: 14 Vivid Graphs

Addiction.
Recovery.org

The language of addiction is always evolving. Maybe we need an addictionary.

For example, when the word "alcohol" was written or spoken in early 19th-century America. it was often used in the chemical and medical sense. This is from an article about drawing out the essence of stramonium, or jimson weed: "The virtues of stramonium," the New England Journal of Medicine reported in January of 1818, "appear to be seated in an extractive principle, which dissolves in water and alcohol."

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NPR History Dept.
8:49 am
Fri April 10, 2015

Defeating Polio, The Disease That Paralyzed America

A nurse prepares children for a polio vaccine shot as part of citywide testing of the vaccine on elementary school students in Pittsburgh in 1954.
Bettmann/CORBIS

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 6:57 am

Tens of thousands of Americans — in the first half of the 20th century — were stricken by poliomyelitis. Polio, as it's known, is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

The hallmarks of the Polio Era were children on crutches and in iron lungs, shuttered swimming pools, theaters warning moviegoers to not sit too close to one another.

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NPR History Dept.
11:57 am
Tue April 7, 2015

When Wearing Shorts Was Taboo

A golfer wears a long black skirt in mock protest of the USGA ban on golfing shorts in tournament play, 1953.
AP

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 12:52 pm

As the weather warms more and more and people wear less and less, it's sometimes hard for Americans to remember that there are cultures in other parts of the world that enforce severe dress codes.

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NPR History Dept.
8:48 am
Thu April 2, 2015

After Selma, King's March On Ballot Boxes

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Kingstree, S.C., as seen in the video clip.
University of South Carolina Archives

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 9:16 am

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — who was assassinated 47 years ago this week — will long be remembered for the many meaningful marches he led or joined, including ones on Washington in 1963, on Frankfort, Ky., in 1964 and from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

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NPR History Dept.
2:15 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Media Mischief On April Fools' Day

Mickey Mantle was the subject of a newspaper hoax in 1961. Here he is that year taking practice swings at Yankee Stadium.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 7:04 am

In the annals of journalism, there is a long tradition of newsfolks — reporters, writers, broadcasters — pulling April Fools' Day tricks on readers and listeners. Sometimes the prank prevails; sometimes it fails.

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NPR History Dept.
9:48 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Board Games That Bored Gamers

iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 5:51 pm

Gaming is a way of life for Americans of all ages.

We play games on Facebook, on our phones, on phantasmagorical home systems. We play on fields and courts and dining room tables. Contemporary culture mavens speak of the gamification of education and the workplace and our day-to-day communications.

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NPR History Dept.
8:18 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Old-Timey Slang: 'Polking' Was A Vulgar Word

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 11:48 am

"All slang words are detestable from the lips of ladies," Eliza Leslie said in 1867. She was the author of the Behavior Book, a 19th century etiquette manual published in Philadelphia.

How times have changed. Men and women in contemporary America sling slang around like hash — or like weed. From txt msgs to the Twitterverse, the jargon can be jarring.

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NPR History Dept.
7:23 am
Thu March 19, 2015

When The KKK Was Mainstream

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 11:44 am

Recently I tumbled on this story from Kansas Humanities — and an earlier post from Only A Game — about a 1925 baseball game between Wichita's African-American team, the Monrovians, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Wait a minute. The Ku Klux Klan once had a baseball team?

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NPR History Dept.
10:01 am
Tue March 17, 2015

7 Creative Wedding Ideas From History

Grant and Amanda Engler celebrate in jet packs at their wedding ceremony in 2012 in Newport Beach, Calif.
Lenny Ignelzi Associated Press

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 10:43 am

Wedding websites today are aswirl with inventive suggestions, including 10 Unique Wedding Venues from Burnett's Boards; 23 Unconventional But Awesome Wedding Ideas from Buzzfeed and 21 Most Unique Ceremony Ideas from Emmaline Bride.

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NPR History Dept.
7:03 am
Fri March 13, 2015

A King Speech You've Never Heard — Plus, Your Chance To Do Archive Sleuthing

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
AP

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 7:54 am

Historically speaking, I need your help.

Davis Houck, a communications professor at Florida State University, recently pointed me toward a little-explored archive at Stanford University called Project South.

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NPR History Dept.
8:48 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Who Takes 3,000 Photos Of NYC's Doors?

Roy Colmer New York Public Library

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 11:24 am

Street View: New York City's Doors: A Special Research Project of NPR History Dept.

A door is for closing. And for opening.

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