NPR: 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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7:40pm

Sat June 27, 2015
NPR History Dept.

The Cherry Sisters: Worst Act Ever?

Originally published on Sun June 28, 2015 8:37 am

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

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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11:03am

Tue June 23, 2015
NPR History Dept.

4 Forgotten Fads Of The Past

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 2:55 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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10:57am

Fri June 19, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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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11:26am

Tue June 16, 2015
NPR History Dept.

When 'Womanless Weddings' Were Trendy

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 12:15 pm

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

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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10:23am

Thu June 11, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Dirty Dancing In The Early 1900s

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 12:38 pm

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

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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10:42am

Tue June 9, 2015
NPR History Dept.

The Battles Of A Civil War Re-Enactress

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 1:01 pm

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

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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11:03am

Thu June 4, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Chinese Basketballers Of Yesteryear

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 2:50 pm

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

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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10:47am

Tue June 2, 2015
NPR History Dept.

How The YMCA Helped Shape America

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 3:53 pm

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

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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11:50am

Thu May 28, 2015
NPR History Dept.

The Windshield-Pitting Mystery Of 1954

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 6:56 pm

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

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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10:58am

Tue May 26, 2015
NPR History Dept.

When 'Petting Parties' Scandalized The Nation

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 1:24 pm

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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10:43am

Thu May 21, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Muddled Messages In America's Past

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 6:17 pm

Telegraph operator, 1908.
Library of Congress

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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10:55am

Tue May 19, 2015
NPR History Dept.

The Repast Is Not Even Past: Old LA Menus

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:28 pm

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

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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1:03pm

Thu May 14, 2015
NPR History Dept.

The Curious World Of Baseball Re-Enactors

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 1:38 pm

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

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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2:16pm

Tue May 12, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Do We Talk Funny? 51 American Colloquialisms

Originally published on Tue May 12, 2015 9:25 pm

Jennifer Maravillas Ikon Images/Getty Images

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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11:31am

Wed May 6, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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

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

NPR

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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11:03am

Tue May 5, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Do We Really Need Libraries?

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 2:02 pm

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

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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11:44am

Thu April 30, 2015
NPR History Dept.

A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day

Originally published on Fri May 1, 2015 9:42 am

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

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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11:43am

Tue April 28, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?

Originally published on Wed April 29, 2015 5:56 pm

11:03am

Thu April 23, 2015
NPR History Dept.

7 Lost American Slang Words

Originally published on Sun April 26, 2015 7:13 am

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

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

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10:44am

Fri April 17, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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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10:54am

Fri April 10, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Defeating Polio, The Disease That Paralyzed America

Originally published on Sat April 11, 2015 8:57 am

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

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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2:20pm

Tue April 7, 2015
NPR History Dept.

When Wearing Shorts Was Taboo

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 2:52 pm

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

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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11:16am

Thu April 2, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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

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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4:15pm

Tue March 31, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Media Mischief On April Fools' Day

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 9:04 am

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

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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11:48am

Thu March 26, 2015
NPR History Dept.

Board Games That Bored Gamers

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 7:51 pm

iStockphoto

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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10:18am

Tue March 24, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 1:48 pm

"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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9:23am

Thu March 19, 2015
NPR History Dept.

When The KKK Was Mainstream

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 1:44 pm

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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12:01pm

Tue March 17, 2015
NPR History Dept.

7 Creative Wedding Ideas From History

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 12:43 pm

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

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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9:40am

Fri March 13, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 9:54 am

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
AP

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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10:48am

Tue March 10, 2015
NPR History Dept.

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

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 1:24 pm

Roy Colmer New York Public Library

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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