Jack Benny and Harry Conn: Stumbling onto the Formula for Situation Comedy in 1932

The two quickly became partners, working closely together week in and out to create, edit, and perfect the dialog. It was 9:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2, 1932, and chilly in the old roof garden atop Broad-way’s New Amsterdam Theater. A small, glass-enclosed broadcasting booth had been erected on the stage where Florenz Ziegfeld once[…]

Eccentric Lafcadio Hearn in 19th-Century New Orleans

The misfit journalist felt at home in the marginalized world he wrote about. In 1869, an odd little man named Lafcadio Hearn traveled from England to America, the latest stop on a continuing odyssey to find a place he could call home. Visually impaired by a childhood accident and a colorful eccentric throughout his life,[…]

Stamping an Identity on America: The Beginning of the United States Post Office

George Washington convinced Congress to support a sweeping expansion of postal routes with greater scope and reliability. Introduction Research for my recent book on the postal inspector Anthony Comstock introduced me to the prominent role the Postal Service played in enabling Americans to conceive of themselves as a singular nation. Sending a letter from Virginia[…]