Robin Lindley Robin Lindley blog brought to you by History News Network. Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 ( Cooking at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater [INTERVIEW] Elsie Henderson, who cooked at the famed Frank Lloyd Wright house Fallingwater outside Pittsburgh, turned one hundred on September 7.

Ms. Henderson worked for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, the Pittsburgh department store magnates, and later their son Edgar jr. (he preferred that jr. not be capitalized) for more than 15 years. Asked what contributed to her longevity, she said simply: “Good food.”

Ms. Henderson’s kitchen was a hub of activity at the unique Fallingwater house, hailed as the most significant private residential structure in the United States

Author Suzanne Martinson tells the story of Ms. Henderson and shares her recipes in The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson’s Recipes and Memories (with the late Jane Citron and chef Robert Sendall; University of Pittsburgh Press).

In addition to an exploration of dining and food, the lively book offers a slice of twentieth century social history through the experience of Ms. Henderson at Fallingwater including her observations of the eccentric Kaufmann family, her sense of historic events and race relations, and her meetings with Wright, Isaac Stern, and Senators Ted Kennedy and John Heinz among others. According to Ms. Martinson, the book began when Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater, gave her Ms. Henderson’s little brown notebook of handwritten recipes.

Ms. Martinson is a former food editor and writer for the Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is a two-time winner of both the James Beard and Bert Greene Awards for food journalism. She lives in Kelso, Washington, with her husband Bob.

Ms. Martinson talked by telephone from her home about Fallingwater and its famous cook and her own work as a writer a few weeks before Ms. Henderson’s centennial birthday celebration.

* * * * *

Robin Lindley: How did you come upon the story of Fallingwater cook Elsie Henderson?

Suzanne Martinson: I met Elsie Henderson in 1991 when I interviewed her for a Sunday magazine cover story of The Pittsburgh Press magazine. I was food editor of that paper and, after it closed, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

We became friends and, one day, Elsie said she'd like to write a cookbook but didn't know how to go about it. Not knowing how much work it would be, I said "I'll write it for you." It took me ten years. If I hadn't retired, it still wouldn't be done.

When you met Ms. Henderson, weren’t her days as a cook at Fallingwater long past?

Long past, but she has an excellent memory. She can bring up names and dates and seldom makes an error.

Your book details Elsie’s life and her account of the people who lived at Fallingwater.

That's what made it so special: her view from the kitchen. You don't really know people until you live with them. Certainly the employees who lived under the same roof with the Kaufmanns probably knew them best. The old Upstairs, Downstairs thing.

You wrote that Ms. Henderson was a product of the African American oral tradition and didn’t keep precise records of her recipes. Didn't her recipes date back to her mom and grandmother?

Her grandmother was part Native American. She lived in the South so Elsie did not have much contact. Her own mother passed on her love of cooking. Elsie once wanted to be a practical nurse. Her mother said, "You hate blood. Why would you want to be a nurse?" Elsie decided that being a cook would be a better fit.

And Elsie grew up in Pittsburgh?

Yes. She was the youngest of thirteen children. She had eleven brothers and a sister. Her dad died when she was about two years old. Her mother was an ambitious woman who could get things done -- the go-to woman of Mount Washington, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where Elsie grew up.

What was Pittsburgh like in terms of race relations?

There certainly was discrimination, but Elsie had a strong mother with a lot of spunk. One day her mother was going to buy Elsie a new dress at a department store. The saleswoman kept bringing out dresses, until her mother asked why she didn't show them [a particular] dress. The woman said, "I didn't think you could afford it." Elsie's mother got angry and said, "I can afford anything in this place. I've got eleven boys who all work. Bring out the dress."

One black person told me that African Americans weren’t allowed to try on shoes. They drew an outline of their feet on cardboard and they would be fitted from these templates. You know that you can't get shoes to fit that way.

Was Mount Washington integrated?

Yes. There were, for instance, quite a few Italians. One of the great loves of Elsie’s was an Italian. On our travels, Elsie and I have met people who knew of her family at that time. They lived on a hillside overlooking downtown. When she was a little girl, Elsie cleaned the bathroom floor of an older lady who, she said, was “crippled up.”

Elsie seldom describes a person's race. Sometimes she jokes about “being the only black face in the crowd,” but she doesn't distinguish people by race.

She's been around rich people all her life, and she said in a way the Kaufmanns were prejudiced. They preferred to have black people working for them because they thought they were more honest. I said, "Elsie, how dare you stereotype that way." She was then ninety-six and by her account “that's the new seventy,” so she can say whatever she wants.

I was impressed that she was a great reader as a child.

A tremendous reader. In fact the neighbor women worried about her. "That girl's always got a book in her hand. Doesn't she play with other kids?” Elsie said most of them didn't have a book in the house. She has always been self-educated. She took up studying French at the University of Pittsburgh when she was ninety-four.

Speaking of the French and cuisine, did she talk about Julia Child?

She never mentioned Julia Child, but on a recent trip to Fallingwater, at the observation deck, Elsie spoke French to a visitor who couldn't speak English. She continues to amaze me and inspire me.

And she quit high school to work?

She was in a hurry to earn some money. She knew Edgar Kaufmann Sr. by sight for a long time. At seventeen, she worked in “bad accounts” in the Kaufmann’s warehouse. In the olden days, when customers made their department store purchases, the store charged them and then delivered them to their house at no charge. Elsie watched the invoices come through and, if the people hadn't paid their bills, she wouldn't send out their things.

Did Ms. Henderson talk about life in Pittsburgh during the Depression and World War II?

She always had work because she was a talented cook. She thought the Kaufmanns were her dream come true because, though she just worked weekends, she got paid for the whole week. If she didn't see them during the winter when they were not at Fallingwater, mostly a summer retreat, she still got paid.

Times were hard for many. The Swift meat man said the Kaufmanns must eat a lot of premium meat, but everyone who worked there laughed. The meat was for Mrs. Kaufmann's six longhaired dachshunds. In fact, one of Liliane’s friends asked her how she could feed her dogs premium beef when everybody else was on rationing, and Mrs. Kaufmann said in her husky voice, "Well, I didn't start the war."

On weekends, Elsie would fry up a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs and Mrs. Kaufmann would watch her dogs eat their breakfast. The dogs had special custom-made mattresses for their kennels.

The house was finished in 1939?

Yes, at the height of the Depression. People around there were so grateful to get any kind of work. The house is in Fayette County, which is in the shadow of Pittsburgh, but very rural with self-sufficient people. One of Wright's axioms was that you should build with materials on site, so the locals hauled all the stone by horse to construct Fallingwater. The lumber also came from there. It was quite a feat.

So Edgar and Liliane, co-owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store (now Macy’s), had Fallingwater built as a vacation home?

It's about an hour from Pittsburgh. Shortly before he died, Mr. Kaufmann told Elsie he had ordered a helicopter so they could get there faster. Elsie asked, “Are you going to fire all the chauffeurs?" He said no, and she said she'd ride with them.

Edgar Sr. was a flamboyant person. He loved woman. He'd drag Elsie out of the kitchen and introduce her to all of Fallingwater’s guests. It seemed to Elsie that the guests looked at him “funny” and wondered, what kind of person was this who would introduce the hired help to the guests? He even danced with her around Fallingwater. He was a character and loved people, and that was why he was a great merchant.

Mrs. Kaufmann wasn't just a lady of leisure. She did the buying for the elegant Vendome shop on the top floor of Kaufmann's. She had quite the taste in art and furniture and clothes, and was a beautiful woman. A Picasso hangs over her bedside table.

And they used the house mostly on weekends?

On Thursday morning, Elsie would meet with their cook at their penthouse in Pittsburgh and ask what they ate during the week so she didn't duplicate it on the weekend. She kept meticulous records of all the guests, when they came, and what she fed them, so when they returned, they weren't fed the same recipe. Even if you fell in love with one of her dishes the first time around, you probably weren't going to see it again.

Did she save those records?

When she moved from her house, the people who helped her clean out the basement threw them away. She is still distraught. Even then, she had a sense of history and her part in it and the Kaufmann's part in it. For example, Elsie cooked for Isaac Stern and Frank Lloyd Wright.

What happened when she met Wright?

He was quite a ladies' man, too. He visited Fallingwater after a flood when Elsie was working for Edgar Kaufmann, jr., after his parents had died. Elsie met Wright at the airport, and “Junior” had six men waiting for Wright on the bridge to the house.

The architect didn't want to go on the freeway, but to be driven through Pittsburgh’s eastside where the universities are. When Wright saw the 41-story Cathedral of Learning classroom building at the University of Pittsburgh, he called it "the tallest 'Keep Off the Grass' sign I've ever seen." It wasn't modern architecture. Elsie told the architect they had to build up because there wasn't enough land. He didn't care. It was just an ugly building. People in Pittsburgh love the building.

There were many things Wright didn't approve of, including the chairs Mrs. Kaufmann chose for the dining room. She bought three-legged Italian chairs, and Wright wanted his barrel chairs in there. Edgar jr. thought his mother was right because the floor was uneven stone and these sat better. Wright wanted to control everything: the furniture, where statues ought to go,

Elsie cooked lunch for Wright. She remembered that he had crab salad, some corn sticks and sherbet. He sat alone at the dining room table.

Did Wright make a pass at Elsie?

When he first met her, he asked what she did for the Kaufmanns, and she said, “I plan and prepare their meals.” Said Wright: "If you cook as well you look, I going to have a good meal."

Didn’t Kaufmann Sr. have a reputation as a womanizer?

Elsie called him the "Greatest Womanizer in the Western World."

The Kaufmanns were first cousins, and had to leave the state to marry because first cousins aren't allowed to marry in Pennsylvania. First cousins marrying was common in Europe, and they solidified ownership of Kaufmann’s Department Store, and lived their life together, and they had affection for each other.

That's not to say Mr. Kaufmann didn't have his dalliances. One time Elsie went to Fallingwater with Mr. Kaufmanns when Mrs. Kaufmann arrived unexpectedly. Elsie served lunch, and then she went to her room in the adjoining guest/staff house. She found Mr. Kaufmann's girlfriend sitting on her bed.

It's interesting that Frank Lloyd Wright decided to build above a waterfall. I don’t think a land use agency would approve that today.

It's had some structural problems. It's flooded twice, once when Elsie was there with Junior, as she called him. The creek rose and water came rushing through the house up to the top of the chairs.

Edgar said, "Elsie, I've got the ham."

Elsie said, "At lunch, you said it was too salty."

"That was then, this is now," he said. They took the ham to the guesthouse and waited for the flood to recede. It took a long time to clean up. A horrible mess. The gardener's wife, Mrs. Green, lost her preserves, but they saved all the liquor in the basement.

Wasn't Fallingwater voted the “Building of the Century” by the Architectural Institute?

I think it was the “House of the Century.”

And wasn’t Wright older -- about sixty-eight -- when he designed Fallingwater?

The wonderful house rejuvenated his career. And Edgar jr. took it upon himself to be his promoter.

Do you get a sense of how the Kaufmanns treated their staff?

The Kaufmanns trusted their employees. They didn't even lock their liquor cabinet. Mr. Kaufmann said, "I hire talented people and then I let them do their job."

Nor did Mrs. Kaufmann interfere in the kitchen. Sometimes she'd request something and Elsie would make it. She was slender and looked like a fashion model. When there were no guests, she ate just a few julienned vegetables and little pieces of fruit.

Mr. Kaufmann, on the other hand, would snack on clove cake or slices of ham loaf. He couldn't sleep and he'd wander around at all hours of the night.

And you visited Fallingwater even before meeting Elsie in 1991?

It's a magical place: that water and the sheer beauty of it. And it's so isolated. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has done a wonderful job. It’s as though Elsie and the Kaufmanns just walked out the back door.

I was always interested in the kitchen. As a food editor, I saw many fancy kitchens, but this was a modest little kitchen but at the time it was the best you could have. There was an Aga range and all the latest equipment. I wondered who cooked there, what they ate, what they were like. There were, for instance, different sets of dishes for each meal.

Elsie really loved the Kaufmanns, who were generous people. She gave them a "12" on a one-to-ten scale.

Didn’t they use a coal stove when she started there?

Simon, the man who fed the dogs, would come in and feed the coal stove. Elsie couldn't do fine baking with that. She really liked her Mint Chocolate Angel Food Cake. Mr. Kaufmann bought her an electric range.

The Kaufmanns didn't eat prepared food. No commercial salad dressings. All the breads were homemade. Everything was from scratch. That’s trendy today.

You wrote that the recipes in your book fit with today's farm-to-table movement.

The Kaufmanns had a greenhouse with flowers and a vegetable garden. Mr. Kaufmann was a kind of gentleman farmer who hired people to do the heavy work.

At various times, they had beef cattle, a flock of lambs, and a herd of Jersey cattle. The Jersey cows had a tiled milking parlor. Even the cows lived right. At the end of the weekend, Mr. Kaufmann gave each of the people who worked for him a gallon of milk. He said he had to charge, so he charged just ten cents.

The Kaufmanns had all this fresh food available to them. If they hankered for lobster, they had it flown in. And the Kaufmanns were very athletic. They walked or swam off the calories. They hiked the woods. It's rugged there.

They were hardy people. Didn’t Elsie spot them swimming nude on her first day at work?

Her very first day on the job, she saw the boss, his wife and all their guests swimming “buck-naked.” Not many cookbook writers get to use those words.

Some of the recipes seem exotic. Are most of the ingredients readily available?

Definitely Elsie's recipes are very accessible because she worked there in the '50s and '60s.

Chef Bob Sendall, whose All in Good Taste Productions provided the food for President and Mrs. Obama at the G-20 conference, is a famous chef in Pittsburgh. Here's how small the cooking world is. Elsie cooked for H.J. “Jack” Heinz and his son, the future Senator Heinz when he was a little boy. Bob cooked for Sen. Heinz, and he has cooked for Teresa Heinz Kerry, who is married to Secretary of State John Kerry. The meals he creates are very farm to table. All locally raised fruits and vegetable. It's a wonderful way to eat. It's great to go to the farmers market and look the farmer in the eye and know she gathered those eggs or he plucked that basil you're buying.

You mentioned that Elsie's recipes are from the 1950s and 1960s. Do you see your book as a historic document?

They ate heavier at that time with more butter and sauces. It was nothing to throw in half a cup of butter, whereas now we might use two tablespoons. We still have great fruits and vegetables. We don't have to put cheese on everything to make it edible.

Some of us are eating more healthfully, but sadly I'm afraid it may be a middle-class trend. People without a lot of resources end up eating a lot of bad food. Good fresh food grown locally often costs more than processed food

Did you and Elsie cook together to reconstruct her recipes?

Elsie and I had a lot of meetings and lunches. She has also cooked me many great meals. She wrote down a list of ingredients, and we would go over the directions. There are certain standard ways you make things, like cakes and breads. Elsie considers herself a baker, although she makes casseroles and many other things.

At Fallingwater the butler cooked many of the meats on the grill. Elsie mostly made the side dishes, the breakfasts, the lunches.

For the book, Bob Sendall and Jane Citron contributed additional meat recipes and many other cutting-edge dishes. Fallingwater Cafe chef Mary Anne Moreau also provided some delicious recipes.

Many days I would be in the middle of testing something and I'd phone Elsie to ask questions such as "Do you think we really need two cups of flour?" And she'd say, “You might even need a little more.”

Generally, her recipes were right on. You could follow them and they turned out. I know they work because I've cooked them and eaten them. I guess that's how a lot of people acquire traditional ethnic recipes.

As a food editor, I was always trying to get ethnic recipes out of Pittsburgh cooks. It’s a very rich city ethnically and a lot don't have written recipes. They're in the cook’s head so you talk with them. I spent a day with one African American woman trying to get her recipe for sweet potato pie, and I never did get it in a recipe form. It was more of a dialog with her. "Yeah. I might use three sweet potatoes. If I had four, I'd use four. Or you could use six."

Elsie's recipe for sweet potato pie in the book is more specific. I myself am a recipe cook. The first time I make something, I follow the recipe exactly, then later I might add more or less of something.

One of my favorite stories about being a food editor is, the first day on the job, I walked in off the street and still had on my coat. The editor said a reader wanted to talk with me. She had a problem with a recipe. She was on the phone and said, "I want to make banana bread, but I don't have any bananas." I said, "Well, baking is chemistry, and bananas have a lot of liquid in them. If you leave those out, I don't think you would be very happy with this banana bread. And besides, about the only flavor banana bread has is banana." And she said, "Oh. OK. I'll jump on my bike and buy some bananas."

What would you like readers to take from your book?

I think it shows a family. The Kaufmanns were Jewish, but they always celebrated with their employees at Christmas. They said this is a time for family, and they'd have a party with the help at Fallingwater. Elsie thought the world of them, and they thought the world of her. And Edgar jr. tried to take care of her if she needed money. They were good people.

And for them to give their house to the people to enjoy was a wonderful thing to do. There were no strings attached. The Kaufmanns chose the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy because they thought the organization would do a good job preserving it.

In the beginning of showing the house [1963], Edgar Jr. had a strong hand in how it would be presented. He wanted people to see how they lived. He didn't want ropes or areas tied off. Turn a corner, and there's a Picasso. It's amazing, as though they just walked out the back door. And they really did just walk out the back door. Magical.

Robin Lindley ( is a Seattle writer and attorney, and features editor for the History News Network. His interviews with scholars, writers and artists have appeared in HNN, Crosscut, Writer’s Chronicle, Real Change, The Inlander, Re-Markings, NW Lawyer, and other publications.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
American Hellfire: Historian Robert Neer on "Napalm" American Hellfire:

Historian Dr. Robert M. Neer on His Groundbreaking Book Napalm: An American Biography

by Robin Lindley

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order

and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.”

This business of burning human beings with napalm . . .

cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967


            February 1942. Just two months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, at a dark time of defeat and anxiety for America, a bright spot for the military: Harvard researchers led by revered chemist Louis Fieser developed an incendiary weapon that would burn longer than traditional weapons, stick to targets, and extinguish only with difficulty. It was cheaper and more stable than existing alternatives, could survive extremes of hot and cold in storage, and could be mixed by soldiers on the battlefield.      

            Christened napalm, the deadly new form of thickened hydrocarbons helped win victory for the Allies in World War II. Indeed, although it was used extensively in both Europe and the Pacific, napalm was particularly effective against Japan as it fueled flamethrowers used against imperial troops and was dropped in bombs that incinerated dozens of Japanese cities and killed hundreds of thousands more Japanese than the atomic bombs—at a fraction of the cost.

            A few years later, U.S. forces dropped more napalm on enemy cities during the Korean War than was used in the Second World War.  Napalm strikes followed in short order in Greece and numerous other countries from Kenya to Brazil. There was little outcry about the use of this horrific weapon as it won wars.

            But napalm lost much of its luster during the increasingly fraught American war in Vietnam. Gruesome photographs of napalm wounds borne by Vietnamese civilians, including small children and infants, stoked the antiwar movement in the United States, and sparked student demonstrations against manufacturer Dow Chemical. After the war, popular culture from books to poems to music and Hollywood movies made the incendiary a monster, and international lawyers codified norms that restricted its use against civilians.


            Since then, the use of napalm has been disfavored and restricted under law, although recent reports indicate that napalm-like weapons have killed civilians, including school children, in the Syrian conflict.

            For the first time, historian Robert M. Neer tells the complete story of napalm from its American birth and successful use in war to subsequent revulsion and legal restriction in his book Napalm: An American Biography (Belknap Press, Harvard).  In this wide ranging cultural and social history of napalm, Dr. Neer provides the historical context of napalm in the history of fire as a weapon of war; sets out technical details on chemical and engineering issues; traces the history of napalm from war “hero to pariah;” explores moral and legal implications of its use; and offers an unflinching account of the human cost of this powerful incendiary in war after war in the past 70 years.

            Critics have praised Dr. Neer’s groundbreaking book for its original research, vivid writing, and measured, balanced approach to the history. Historian John Fabian Witt, author of Lincoln’s Code, for example, wrote: “Napalm is a revelation. In a story that takes us from Harvard Stadium to Vietnam, Robert M. Neer retells the past 70 years of American history through a single extraordinary and terrible invention. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the American way of war and its humanitarian dilemmas.” And in Dissent, Thai Jones remarked: “Robert M. Neer's clear-eyed and harrowing new account surveys this infamous technology from both perspectives. This is history, in a literal sense, from above and below. Using napalm as a symbol for American global influence acutely demonstrates the political trajectory of a superpower, from impetuous upstart to tortured giant to--finally--chastened hegemon.”

            Dr. Neer is a Core Lecturer in the History Department at Columbia University specializing in the history of the United States in the context of 20th and 21st century globalization, with a special focus on U.S. military power. He received his Ph.D. in History in 2011, his M.Phil. in 2007, and a J.D. and M.A. in 1991, all from Columbia. His current book project is a global history of the U.S. military, based on a Columbia course he has taught titled “Empire of Liberty.”. In his 14-year hiatus from Columbia after earning his law degree, he worked in international business and politics in London, Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong and Boston. He also is the author of Barack Obama for Beginners, and his journalism has appeared in The Boston Globe, the Asian Wall Street Journal, and other periodicals and websites.

            Dr. Neer recently talked by telephone from New York about his book and research on napalm.


            Robin Lindley: What prompted your interest in the history of napalm?

            Dr. Robert Neer: I lived overseas for a long time in Hong Kong, Singapore and London.  As a result of that, I developed a strong sense that the perception of America outside the United States was often quite different than it was inside the United States. In traveling around in many different countries, I was able to see firsthand the extent of the U.S. military presence overseas in many different contexts.

            I wanted in the broadest sense to tell a story about America in the world and how there might be one perception of the country outside and another inside. Specifically, people inside the country often think of America as extremely just, well meaning, perhaps at the worst misunderstood.  Outside, some people consider the United States to be quite brutal, ignorant and dangerous.  There are many falsehoods in both of those ideas, but I wanted to bridge that gap.

            And I wanted to focus on military developments and the position of the United States in a global context. 

            Then I enjoyed reading books like The Making of the Atomic Bomb and The Social History of the Machine Gun, and books like Cod, Salt, and others that were biographies of things that talked about the power of technology and the environment to influence history.

            I suggested to my advisor that this might be the basis for a dissertation. He, a wonderful advisor, said,  “Great. You just need to choose a weapon and a period.” I thought about different weapons and napalm was the most dramatic weapon I could think of.  When I looked, I discovered there wasn’t any scholarly treatment of its history, or, really, any treatment of its history at all.  In fact, the best publically available source of information when I started the project was Wikipedia: there weren’t any scholarly articles in any journals at all.  So that was a good dissertation topic, and it developed into a book.

            Robin Lindley: In your book, you include a history of use of fire in warfare back to ancient times.  I recall the scene in the movie Spartacus where the slave forces were rolling burning logs over the ranks of Roman soldiers.

            Dr. Robert Neer:  You may also remember in the movie Gladiator that they used incendiary weapons in a battle between Romans and Germanic tribes: flaming arrows and catapulted fire pots.

            Fire is a very powerful weapon for a variety of reasons. First, it releases energy and can do more damage later than at the moment of impact. Explosives, by contrast, carry their energy with them and, although they can be very damaging, they’re limited in a sense that fire is not.  Also, in more intimate combat, it’s very effective because people have an instinctive fear of fire that’s very deep set.  That’s evident in conceptions like the fires of Hell or fire-breathing dragons, and many different manifestations of frightful things that are closely associated with fire.  So people have sought to take advantage of that from very early times.   There are many descriptions as early as the Bible and all the way through the Middle Ages.

            Tactically, however, a weapon is only as useful as the range with which you can use it.  Although fire early on, as with Greek fire famously used during the Byzantine Empire and in many other contexts, was useful, the development of cannons made many fire weapons obsolete.  Before the fire could be delivered to a target, the people could be killed by a projectile.  An illustration for the principle that I use is the scene in Indiana Jones when he is confronted by a fearsome swordsman and he pulls out his pistol and shoots him. That’s an example of range being an important consideration in combat.

            Closely associated with the history of napalm as a weapon is the development of the airplane because, when airplanes were invented and perfected in terms of reliability and quantity—which happened to a significant degree in World War II—fire came back into vogue because people could drop it on other people and stay out of range of bullets or artillery shells.  Although people have tried to use fire throughout the history of combat, around the 1400s it stopped being so effective until World War II. So there was a 500-year interregnum in the use of fire weapons that napalm spectacularly ended. 

            Robin Lindley: You mention the use of flamethrowers in combat in World War I. 

            Dr. Robert Neer:  People experimented and tried to use incendiary weapons straight through from the 1400s with all kinds of experiments using different delivery technologies.   During World War I, different incendiary bombs were tried.  The Germans dropped firebombs on London from zeppelins. Mixtures of rubber and gasoline were used in flamethrowers.  Because there weren’t very effective air delivery systems, and also because the mixtures they used weren’t as effective as later mixtures as napalm, those weapons were not very effective or significant.

            Robin Lindley: And you mention the use of incendiaries just before World War II, such as the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

            Dr. Robert Neer: At the same time as napalm was developed, other incendiary weapons were also developed that proved to be quite effective although not as effective or as used in as great quantities as napalm.  For example, the cities of Dresden and Hamburg were burned to the ground by the British using magnesium weapons. And the Germans at Guernica in the Basque region of Spain used thermite weapons to destroy that town.

            Robin Lindley: And, by 1942, the chemist and Harvard professor Louis Fieser had created napalm.  Why did the U.S. need napalm then?

            Dr. Robert Neer:  Just prior to the beginning of World War II, a group of leading research scientists, spearheaded by Vannevar Bush—a prominent American scientist and academic leader—organized a committee to develop technologically advanced weapons of war that they thought would be needed by the United States in what they expected would be a war that would involve this country.  With the support of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the government established the National Defense Research Committee [NDRC] to develop a new relationship between the government and universities for war research through a practice that is now common, but that was very innovative at that time.  The government provided money to universities to use their facilities and people to do research on military technologies.

            Through that program, the first research into incendiary weapons began at Harvard in the chemistry department led by Professor Fieser.  The goal was to respond to what was perceived as the probability that the United States would need incendiary weapons in the expected conflict.  Their initial research focused on mixtures of rubber and gasoline following the technologies that were used not very successfully in World War I.  But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, America’s supplies of rubber were dramatically reduced, so the chemists switched their focus to experimenting with different chemical and petrochemical combinations to make thickened gel incendiary weapons.

            Robin Lindley: It seems that magnesium was an effective incendiary. How was napalm an advance as a weapon?

            Dr. Robert Neer: This research was perceived as a solution to a technical problem.  The reason the United States didn’t want to use magnesium is that it was afraid it wouldn’t be able to get enough magnesium.  They moved away from rubber because they couldn’t get enough rubber.  And they thought they might have other needs for magnesium besides use in weapons. 

            And then, through what you might call a fortuitous circumstance, the ultimate concoction that they devised, the method of thickening gasoline using other chemicals, produced a weapon that was far superior in its military characteristics. For example, flamethrowers that shoot napalm could shoot three times farther than the previous types.  Also, with the previous types, about 90 percent of the mixture they delivered would burn up before reaching the target. Napalm increased the delivery fraction by about ten times.  Instead of having most of the incendiary material vaporize before reaching the target, the napalm would shoot a much larger flaming rod onto whatever they aimed at.

            In addition, from the perspective of using napalm in bombs, it was extremely stable. It could be chilled to very cold temperatures as in a bomb bay or heated to a hot temperature as in a tropical storage facility. It could be stored for a very long time. It was relatively inexpensive and easy to make because it could be reduced to a powder that could be mixed in the field with gasoline to produce incendiary gel.

            Robin Lindley: Professor Fieser had a successful test of napalm at Harvard in 1942 and he later said he didn’t contemplate the use of napalm on humans.  

            Dr. Robert Neer: Fieser told the government about the improved formula that they had developed on Valentine’s Day, 1942.  The War Department then supplied the Harvard scientists with a lot of bombshells—the same bombshells the U.S. used for its poison gas arsenal because those types of bombs were made with a thin steel skin that would burst easily and scatter whatever was inside over a large area.  It’s striking because, after World War I, people were very worried that poison gas would be dropped on cities and create devastation.  In fact, that was done, but it was done with fire, and not with poison gas, and the tests were done with the same type of bombshells.

            They did the first test of napalm bombs on Independence Day, 1942.  To your point, Fieser, in his reminiscences of that time, wrote that they were focused on solving a technical problem and they always anticipated that the weapon would be used against things.  It’s at variance though from the tests the War Department conducted. 

            The Harvard scientists tested the bomb in a pool of water that had been dug into the Harvard College soccer field behind the Harvard Business School in Boston, across the river from Cambridge.  Then they participated in field trials because there were competing gel incendiary weapons produced by DuPont and other companies and the Army was doing comparative tests.  The first tests were in some villages in Indiana that the government condemned and moved everybody out so they could practice burning down the houses and the stores.

            Later on, because the British in particular thought those test weren’t rigorous enough, they built model Japanese and German villages at a new test facility that the government created in Utah and practiced burning them down in various ways.  Those were residential buildings complete down to the furniture and even the clothes in the closets to model the potential targets.

            It would seem that it wouldn’t take a tremendous leap of imagination to suppose that these munitions might affect people: they modeled bedrooms in particular.  Still, it’s possible to credit the idea that they would be burning down houses as opposed to actually dropping napalm directly on human beings. 

            Robin Lindley: The experiment using bats as kamikaze deliverers of napalm was fascinating.

            Dr. Robert Neer: Many things are interesting about that story. One of them is that the government at the time spent almost five times as much money on the bat testing program, Project X-Ray, as they did in actually developing napalm.  The napalm budget for research and development was about five million dollars in current dollars, and compare that with the $27 billion dollars that was spent on the Manhattan Project, even though napalm wound up incinerating many more Japanese cities than the atomic bombs did.

            Fieser collaborated with the bat program extensively after his work of actual development of napalm was complete. For the rest of the war, the Harvard scientists created a James-Bond type, special napalm weapons research laboratory and production center at Harvard where they designed and made all kinds of special weapons using napalm, from a napalm pill that could be popped into a gas tank where it would swell up and sabotage tanks, to a special glass incendiary grenade to throw on the battlefield, to a special device called “The Paul Revere,” which could be used to start fires on land or on water.  Another one called “The Harvard Candle” was a special fire-starting device that could be used to destroy buildings. 

            Among those projects was a plan to arm millions of kamikaze American bats; I call them “suicide bomber bats” in the book, with tiny napalm bombs using a chemical fuse that Harvard scientists built.  They’d be dropped out of airplanes in special bat bombs that would be kept at cool temperatures to keep the bats quiet until release, and then when they floated down, [the bombs] would open like accordions with a parachutes and the bats would gently fall down onto small platforms and revivify under the salubrious effect of warmer air as they descended and then flutter off into whatever building or house they were near.  About 20 minutes after being released from the bomb, these chemical fuses would burn down and trigger the napalm time bomb that would burn down the house or whatever they dropped their way into.

            In the end, the only buildings the bats actually incinerated was a brand-new Army airfield in Carlsbad, New Mexico, next to the famous caverns that had a large supply of bats. Fieser armed several chilled animals to show off the system to an Army film crew. In an instant, the heat revived them and they flew away. A desperate hunt followed, but right on schedule they detonated, and burned the entire facility to the ground, tower and all. The base commander raced up with fire trucks but had to watch, distraught, from behind a fence; researchers refused to let him approach the top secret technology testing area.

            In early 1944, after spending about $24 million in today’s dollars, Marine Corps officials canceled the program without explanation: a historical mystery that remains to be resolved.

            Robin Lindley: As you’ve alluded to, the cost of napalm was far less than the atomic bombs produced by the Manhattan project when considering the damage done by these weapons. Those statistics are stunning.

            Dr. Robert Neer: Yes.  Napalm was used as widely and as quickly as possible by the United States in World War II.  They sent it to Europe where it played a role in the Normandy landings and in the battle in the Ardennes and the battle of the Bulge and elsewhere.

            But it was mostly in the Pacific where it was deployed to the greatest extent. In the case of Japan, the United States eventually incinerated 66 of Japan’s largest cities, 64 of them with explosive weapons and napalm, and two of them with atomic weapons.  Considering that the atomic weapons cost about $27 billion in today’s currency just for their development and destroyed two cities, that would be about $13 billion per city incinerated, whereas napalm cost about five million dollars, and that weapon burned to the ground 64 cities, about $83 thousand dollars in development costs per city destroyed. 

            That’s an indication of the power of chemistry.  I wrote that “the bomb got the press, but napalm did the work.”  It also speaks to the difference between the physicists who were some of the most prominent scientists in the United States and in the world, and subsequently had reams of books written about them, compared to the chemists who arguably produced a more cost effective weapon, but weren’t particularly famous.  Fieser was a well-known chemist, but not famous on the level of Robert Oppenheimer or Albert Einstein, and yet produced a very effective weapon.

            Robin Lindley: And the comparative casualties in the bombing of Japan produced by napalm versus the atom bombs is stunning.

            Dr. Robert Neer: The greatest human-created cataclysm in the history of the world remains the United States attack on Tokyo on March 9, 1945, because over 87,000 people died on that night as a direct result of the bombardment, which is more than died in either of the explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  Of course, many people died of follow-on effects. Radiation poisoning killed many people after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events, but that also happened in Tokyo because people who were burned out of their houses became sick or from smoke inhalation developed pneumonia and many illnesses and problems that were follow-on effects of the burnt down city around them.  That underlines the incredible destructive power of fire.

            Robin Lindley: It seems that even air force general Curtis LeMay was stunned by the aftermath of the Tokyo bombing.

            Dr. Robert Neer: He said we, “scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”

            Robin Lindley: This is a morbid question, but can you explain what happens when a human being is struck by napalm?

            Dr. Robert Neer: It’s a very effective because it’s sticky and burns at a very high temperature. 

            Fire works by emitting radiation, and it emits radiation most strongly to whatever it is touching.  If you think of a burning match, the hottest part of the match is the stick of the match that directly touches the fire, and the next hottest parts are above, then to the sides, then below.  So, if you want to make an effective incendiary, the closer you get it to what you want to burn and the longer it can be kept there, the more radiation energy you’ll be able to transfer to whatever the target is, and therefore the more effective it will be at starting and maintaining a fire. 

            In the case of a human being, this means that if you get hit by napalm or get napalm on you, this sticky substance that burns at an extremely high temperature will stay there and continue burning all the way down to the bone, unless it is put out. 

            It is worth noting that napalm itself is not extremely flammable. You need a relatively high temperature to get it to burn, so the other great scientific achievement of the Harvard scientists was figuring out a way to ignite this sticky, tough gel that they invented.  Their solution was to use white phosphorus, a chemical that burns at a very high temperature when it comes into contact with air.  The system they developed was a thin column of high explosive, TNT, inside a thicker cylinder of white phosphorus, and those two cylinders were inserted into the middle of a napalm bomb.  When the bomb detonates, the high explosives blast the white phosphorus into the napalm and scatters it over a wide area, and that produces a fire cloud.

            For a person who is unfortunate enough to come into contact with this invention, not only can the napalm burn them, but little bits of white phosphorus that are mixed into it can also burn them.  If you put it out by putting mud over it or putting the [affected] part of the body under water, if there’s enough white phosphorus mixed in, when it comes back into contact with the air, it starts burning again. That’s an awful wound that can take a long time to treat and heal.  This has devastating effects for people.

            Robin Lindley How is the fire from this material extinguished when initially treating napalm wounds?

            Dr. Robert Neer: In the case of Kim Phuc, the little girl captured in the famous 1972 photo “The Terror of War,” the napalm that hit her eventually burned itself out after peeling off several layers of her skin.  When that picture was taken, her skin was still burning.  She wasn’t a human torch, but there was still combustion in the skin, and usually it will burn itself out or the person will die.

            Robin Lindley: You frame the book with the very moving story of Kim Phuc who was just nine in 1972 when she was injured by napalm—and, as she ran from the blast, became the subject of Nick Ut’s photo, one of the iconic photos of the twentieth century.

            Dr. Robert Neer: I was very moved by talking with her and, given her experiences and the power of what she had to say about them, it was very appropriate way to begin and end the book, especially since it’s a “An American Biography.” I see it as a story of the United States in the world, not just a story about napalm. 

            Also, I would say it’s a hopeful story or even uplifting because the larger subject of the book is why we don’t use napalm as much any more, and how it could be that burning a city in 1945 with napalm was considered a heroic act and celebrated by Americans, but subsequent uses of napalm, especially after Vietnam are condemned worldwide and faced with such disapproval that I would say that military powers are restrained from using it, even though it’s legal to use it under international law on the battlefield against combatants. 

            Robin Lindley: You also detail the uses of napalm between World War II and the war in Vietnam, particularly by the U.S. in Korea and by our allies, often against anti-colonial forces or other insurrections.

            Dr. Robert Neer: After the effectiveness of this inexpensive, very stable weapon was demonstrated by the United States in World War II, commanders all around the world wanted to use it for their own purposes.  It wasn’t a difficult chemical problem to solve once it had been demonstrated, and the United States didn’t bother to keep it secret.

            Indeed, at the same time that the Rosenbergs were being electrocuted for espionage relating to the atomic bomb, the United States published the chemical formulas for napalm in a patent for the whole world.  That probably didn’t make much difference because it was a weapon that was easily observed and it was adopted widely regardless of the patent, but it’s an interesting parallel. 

            Subsequent to World War II, napalm was used in most major conflicts around the world.  It was used by many U.S. allies and it was also used by other countries that were not so friendly to the U.S.   But a broader paradigm is that it was used in general by the rich and the powerful against the poor and the dispossessed. 

            As I mentioned, it’s a weapon that is most effectively delivered by airplanes, so people with airplanes used napalm against people without airplanes all around the world, from parts of disintegrating colonial empires like Vietnam and Kenya to civil war like in Nigeria and in Brazil to conflicts between parties of all different descriptions as in India and extensively in the Middle East.

            I think that speaks to the military effectiveness of this weapon and a lack of any real criticism of it.  It was just another way of waging war until Vietnam.

            In the Korean War, the United States adopted a similar military strategy to that which had been so effective in Japan, and used napalm to incinerate Pyongyang and many other cities to the point where Douglas MacArthur came back and told Congress that the level of destruction in Korea made him want to vomit.  More napalm was used in Korea that in World War II, and then again more napalm was used in Vietnam than in Korea.

            Robin Lindley: You write that napalm was a hero that came a pariah, and it seems the shift of opinion was the result of its use in Vietnam with images like those of Kim Phuc running from a napalm blast and others that came out of the war.

            Dr. Robert Neer: I don’t think it was the use in Vietnam that turned napalm into a pariah so much as the fact that the United States lost the war. 

            When napalm was winning in World War II and Korea, there was very little criticism of it at all.  It should be said that many images of napalm in Korea were censored, but there were descriptions of its use, and it was no secret by any means.  And, as I said, it was also used enthusiastically around the world by military commanders in a variety of other countries. 

            During the Vietnam War, for the first time, a nationwide protest movement developed that saw in napalm a symbol or metaphor for their complaint about U.S. involvement in the war over all.  The record, as I saw it, suggested that the starting point was criticism of the war, and the vehicle that the criticism was manifested through was napalm.  Of course, these are complex phenomena, and many people objected to use of the weapon itself.  They were empowered to do that by a far greater amount of coverage and description of the effect of the weapon than had ever before been seen.

            While it certainly wasn’t a secret that napalm was being used by Americans in the Second World War and the Korea War, it’s also true that it was much more widely covered during the Vietnam War than ever before.  For example, Ramparts magazine published the first photographs of children and other civilians affected by napalm.  And Ladies Home Journal and Redbook [ran] very vivid descriptions of the impact of this weapon on civilians.  That triggered a nationwide protest movement by the youth of America on college campuses across the country against Dow Chemical Corporation, which manufactured napalm, [and that] continues to scar Dow’s reputation to this day.

            In a fairly short period, but in tandem with the nationwide movement of protest against the Vietnam War, this highly focused objection to napalm became a national movement.

            Those protest movements occurred in the late 1960s.  The iconic photograph of Kim Phuc was in 1972, after it seems that the U.S. defeat in Vietnam was clear to many people that were familiar with the story there. It was only after the war had been fought that napalm turned into the global pariah that it is today.  It’s depiction after the war in movies, books and poems and all kinds of different media took the message of those protestors and mobilized it, distributed it, and cemented it. I’d say that didn’t happen during the war itself, but only after the conclusion of the war was clear.

            Robin Lindley: After Vietnam, it would seem that the United States would be reluctant to again use napalm, but you describe subsequent military uses. 

            Dr. Robert Neer: The United States since Vietnam has been reluctant to use napalm, but the solution that the Defense Department adopted to that problem was to continue the use of incendiary weapons but just not call them napalm, which is evidence of the social opprobrium that napalm assumed following the Vietnam War. 

            During the first Gulf War, the United States used napalm to ignite oil in trenches that the Iraqis had built as a defensive mechanism.

            During the [1993] invasion of Iraq, the United States used napalm to capture various Iraqi positions that were resisting our troops.

            In response to media reports in 1993 on the use of napalm, the response was that the United States had destroyed its last stocks of napalm.  That response was based on the argument that the word “napalm” means the specific chemical formulation of weapon that was used from 1945 to 1975, and now our incendiary weapons are gelled weapons with a different chemical formulation and therefore they are no longer napalm.  The problem with that argument is that the term [napalm] itself has no chemical meaning.  It means only any gelled form of petroleum, and the current incendiary weapons that the U.S. has its in arsenal use gelled petroleum based weapons so they are napalm, just as the weapons that were dropped in 1945. 

            But taking the military spokespeople at their word, it’s entirely possible to understand how they would be unclear about that because there wasn’t any history to tell them how the word was created or developed.  That’s an example of what happens when a country loses its history and that’s a testimony to the work that historians do.

            Robin Lindley: You call napalm “a war criminal on probation.” What is the legal status of napalm?

            Dr. Robert Neer: International law had no real criticism of napalm when it was winning, during World War II, during the Korean War, and as other nations used it.

            The legal regulations of incendiary weapons under international law only came after the U.S. defeat in Vietnam became clear.  It was only in 1980 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted Protocol III of the wonderfully named Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  This is a treaty that regulates a rogue’s gallery of horrible weapons that people have invented for war. Protocol III covers incendiary weapons and stipulates that these devices are under no circumstances  to be used against concentrations of civilians, even if military facilities are mixed in with those concentrations.  That’s a war crime under provision of international law. 

            A threshold point to observe is that napalm and other incendiary devices are completely legal to use on the battlefield against combatants.  For example, the use of napalm by the United States during the invasion of Iraq was perfectly legal under international law.

            The response of the United States to the international control regime was to reject it.  Ronald Reagan and the first president Bush both refused to submit that treaty to the Senate for ratification.  President Clinton decided to submit it but only with a caveat or “reservation” as it’s called, which said that the U.S. would recommend ratification of the treaty but only with the proviso that the United States would disregard the treaty if, in its sole judgment, using incendiary weapons against concentrations of civilians would save more civilian lives than not doing so.  To my ears, that sounds similar to General LeMay’s justification for incinerating the cities of Japan.  He said that people who objected to that kind of warfare reminded him of the foolish man who cut off the dog’s tail an inch at a time because he said it hurt less that way. 

            That was the position under President Clinton, but the Senate, for its part, was not interested in even discussing that treaty under President Clinton.  The second President Bush followed the policy of his predecessor and urged ratification on the same basis with the same proviso, but the Senate was unwilling to discuss the issue until the very end of his term, at which point, along with a rush of other treaty legislation, they ratified the treaty subject to the proviso that I described. And President Obama signed that treaty on his very first day in office.  That’s the current law that the United States follows, and also most of the world’s other countries, although not all.

            Robin Lindley: You have a fascinating background with a law degree and a variety of jobs before you earned your doctorate in history and now you’re teaching history at Columbia University.  How did you come to the profession of history?

            Dr. Robert Neer: I went to law school at Columbia, but missed the undergraduate experience from my college days as a history major.  After my second year of law school, I applied to a joint JD-PhD program at Columbia and was accepted.  In my third year of law school, I had the experience of getting my Masters degree in history at the same time I completed my JD requirements.

            After that, I had a lot of debt and I had been in school for a long time.  I took a leave of absence and wound up spending 14 years working in the media and entertainment and also in politics in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles and Boston. 

            But I maintained my love for history throughout that time and, when I came to a stopping point in my business career, I went back and talked to my professors at Columbia and told them I’d like to come back and finish my doctorate.  They were encouraging and said, “Once admitted, always admitted. Come on back.”

            In 2005, I returned to the program.  I went through a year of required course work to get my mind back in the world of academia.  Then I took my general exams and then wrote my dissertation.  Along the way, I had experience teaching in the history department at Columbia and, when I graduated and there was a job opportunity that they offered me, I took it, and I’ve been very happy ever since.

            Robin Lindley: Do you have any final thoughts on what you hope people take from your book or on the continuing resonance of this story?

            Dr. Robert Neer: My main hope is that other people would be interested in writing other books or articles on different aspects of the story of napalm.  There are plenty of interesting ones.  I made a website,, where I’ve presented ideas for other studies about napalm.

            The remarkable thing to me about this story is what I would call “the silence.” This weapon that has affected millions of people around the world, and was invented in the United States, which has one of the largest professional groups of historians in the world, wasn’t written about at all by anybody for 71 years.  That’s my greatest ambition for this project.


Robin Lindley is a Seattle writer and attorney.  He is the features editor for the History News Network and his writing has appeared in HNN, Writer’s Chronicle, Crosscut, Real Change, Re-Markings, NW Lawyer, and more. He is the former chair of the World Peace through Law section of the Washington State Bar Association. He has a special interest in human rights, health and the history of medicine. He can be reached at




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Schacter]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 FDR’s Alter Ego: Interview with Historian David L. Roll on Harry Hopkins]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Jim Downs: Civil War and Emancipation the "Greatest Biological Catastrophe of the Nineteenth Century."]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 How Depression Went Mainstream: Interview with Dr. Edward Shorter]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Marie Arana: Simon Bolivar the "Polar Opposite" of George Washington (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Michael Fullilove: FDR the Greatest Statesman of the Twentieth Century (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Thrilling Untold Saga of Rescue Behind the Lines in World War II Albania (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 James Dawes: Why Do People Commit Atrocities? (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Kate Brown: Nuclear "Plutopias" the Largest Welfare Program in American History (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Life and Times of Ancient Rome’s Most Prominent Physician]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 America's Fierce Quarrel over Entry into World War II (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Investigating the Theft of the American Dream with Hedrick Smith (INTERVIEW)]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Peter C. Doherty: Pandemics Have Had "Enormous Influence" on History [INTERVIEW]]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 David Dennis on the Nazi Distortion of the Western Tradition [INTERVIEW]]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 A New Film Life of President John F. Kennedy [INTERVIEW]]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 American Hellfire [INTERVIEW]]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Forgotten Healers of World War I [INTERVIEW]]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 "There Was No Barrier Between [Seeger] and All of His Friends and Supporters"]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Sharecropper’s Troubadour: John Handcox Full Article:]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Interview with Victor Navasky about political cartoons]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 How Brain Wounds and Illnesses Have Advanced Medical Science: An Interview with Acclaimed Science Writer Sam Kean on the History of Neuroscience

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
A Life In Cartoons: An Interview with New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Brutal Reality of the Iraq War: An Interview with Award-Winning Photographer Michael Kamber on the Hidden War Seen by Photojournalists

To read this interview click here

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Longest Battle of the First World War: Historian Paul Jankowski on the Slaughterhouse of Verdun (Interview)

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The World’s Only Stand-Up Economist Explains Climate Change here.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Black Women Entertainers in a Revolutionary Time: An Interview with Historian Ruth Feldstein here.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Tim Egan on Edward S. Curtis, 'Seattle's Michelangelo'

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
MLK's Final Year: An Interview with Tavis Smiley

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
This Is How Our Recent Wars Looked to Acclaimed Photojournalist Peter van Agtmael

To read this interview click here.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Battle between Journalism and Fiction: Doug Underwood on Genre Bending Journalists and Literary History (Interview) here.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Polio Boulevard: Acclaimed Poet Karen Chase Recalls Her Childhood Illness, Her Complicated Recovery, and Her “Small History” here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Complex History of Pain: An Interview with Joanna Bourke here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad: An Interview with Eric Foner here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Do You Remember Dag Hammarskjöld? You Should. An Interview with Biographer Roger Lipsey here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Lincoln’s Body in American History— Richard Wightman Fox on His New Book (Interview) here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Exploring the Words and Wisdom of Charles Johnson with E. Ethelbert Miller (Interview) here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Dr. Jonas Salk, the Knight in a White Lab Coat: An Interview with Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
1919, the Year of Racial Violence: An interview with David Krugler

Click here to read this interview. 

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
How Bad Was FBI Spying on African American Writers? An Interview with William Maxwell here to read this interview. ]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Forgotten Story of Groundbreaking American Surgeon Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter: An interview with Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Christian Appy on the Legacy of the Vietnam War: An Interview here to read this interview. ]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Heroism of Dalton Trumbo: An Interview with Larry Ceplair here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 This Is Why Historian Ari Kelman Decided to Write a Graphic History of the Civil War (Interview) here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The New PBS Series on the Civil War: An Interview with the Creator of "Mercy Street"

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Mercy Street in Context: Historian Pamela Toler on the Real Nurses of the Civil War

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
How Our Stone-Age Brain Undermines Smart Politics: An Interview with Rick Shenkman here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Cruel History of Eugenics in America: An Interview with Adam Cohen

Click here to read the interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Why Adam Hochschild Decided to Write about the Spanish Civil War (Interview) here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Making of a Politician: Sidney Blumenthal on His New Biography of Abe Lincoln (Interview)

Click here to read this article.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
How Religion Drove George W. Bush's Decisions: An Interview with Biographer Jean Edward Smith

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Making of America’s “Most Valuable Local Official”: An Interview with Civic Activist Nick Licata on His Political Evolution

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Eruption of Mount St. Helens: The Untold History of this Cataclysmic Event

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Other Slavery: An Interview with Historian Andrés Reséndez

Click here to read the interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
War, Memory, and Vietnam: An Interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen here for the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Beyond Forgetting: An Interview with Steve Sem-Sandberg on His Historical Novel, "The Chosen Ones" here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Why It's Time to Get to Know the Black Civil Rights Activist James Lawson: An Interview with Michael K. Honey here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Art and Life of J.M.W. Turner: An Interview with Biographer Franny Moyle here to read the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Bellevue: “America’s Most Storied Hospital” – An Interview with David Oshinsky Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Dark Days in the City of Light: An Interview with Holly Tucker

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Why I Study Comics: An Interview with Hillary Chute read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Broken Brains on Trial: An Interview with Kevin Davis here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Origins of American Imperialism: An Interview with Stephen Kinzer here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 “I Wanted to Tell the Story of How I Had Become a Racist”: An Interview with Historian Charles B. Dew here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Creation of the Unprecedented PBS Series "The Vietnam War"<P>An Interview with Co-Director Lynn Novick here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 The Troubled Genius of Robert Lowell: An interview with clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison on her groundbreaking study of art and illness. here to read this interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 What You Don't Know About Abolitionism: An Interview with Manisha Sinha on Her Groundbreaking Study here for the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Understanding the Persecution of the Rohingya Minority in Myanmar: An interview with international criminal law attorney Regina Paulose here for the interview.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 Review of Michael K. Honey’s “To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice”

Click here to read the review.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Was a Tulane Psychiatrist Described by Some as a Monster a Victim of Presentism?

Click here to read an interview with Lone Frank.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Horrifying Nazi Roots of the Doctor After Whom Asperger’s Syndrome Is Named

Click here for an interview with Edith Sheffer.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Ferdinand Marcos, the FBI, and the Deaths of Two Union Activists in Seattle here to read this interview with Seattle attorney Michael Withey on the investigation into the assassinations of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, Jr. and the long quest for justice.]]> Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0 On War and Remembrance: An Interview with Jay Winter

Click here to read the interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
A Distinguished History Professor Retires—Then Goes to Art School:

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Sudden Death of a Democracy: Historian Benjamin Carter Hett on the Fall of the Weimar Republic

Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Refugee Camps of Twentieth-Century Britain—Historian Jordanna Bailkin Discusses Her Groundbreaking New Book "Unsettled" Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Trump’s War on Civil Rights and Beyond: A Conversation with Acclaimed Political Analyst and Civil Rights Historian Juan Williams Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
A History of Huntington Disease and Beyond Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Carolyn Forché: Bearing Witness to the Wounds of History Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Overlooked Story of “the Greater United States”: Historian Daniel Immerwahr Shares His Unique Perspective on American Empire Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Historian Ian Reifowitz on How the Race-Baiting Invective of Rush Limbaugh on the Obama Presidency Led to Trump Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Exploring the Curious Sources of Medieval Law: An Interview with Acclaimed Historian Robin Chapman Stacey Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Historian Ian Reifowitz on How the Race-Baiting Invective of Rush Limbaugh on the Obama Presidency Led to Trump Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
The Overlooked Aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Click here to read this interview.

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0
Investigating Technology and the Remaking of America Click here to read the interview. 

Fri, 21 Feb 2020 15:20:58 +0000 0