American Heritage

Published by: American Heritage Publishing

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            At, we have pledged to bring our readers a variety of entertainment.  To that end, I sometimes find myself perusing the magazine aisle at Barnes & Noble, looking for something interesting to review for our readers.  Being a history buff, I was drawn to American Heritage Magazine, especially after I noted that the cover story was about General Custer and Sitting Bull.  I became even more interested when I noted that the article was written by none other than famous historian and author Nathaniel Philbrick.  I decided to make the purchase and see how informative this magazine truly is.

            Published quarterly, the Spring 2010 issue of American Heritage Magazine contains over 90 pages of articles, complete with photographs, artistsí renderings and maps.  We begin with an article about the opening of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina earlier this year in the exact location where, fifty years earlier, four black freshmen at the local state college sat at the whites-only counter at the F.W. Woolworth store and ordered coffee and donuts.  This first sit-in protest was the inspiration for thousands of similar protests against Jim Crow laws throughout the nation.  The museum offers a look at the way things once were before Civil Rights progressed, helping to bring things into perspective for the younger generation who have not experienced the harshness of those Jim Crow days. 

            This article is followed up by a smaller one about a game Mark Twain created prior to completing his manuscript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The game, called Mark Twainís Memory Builder, sought to improve peopleís memories and enhance their recollection of historical facts and dates.  After an even smaller article about Abraham Lincoln and a letter he wrote to a child to settle a schoolyard bet just prior to the beginning of the Civil War, we move on to a larger article explaining one of the more important events in United States history - Lincolnís nomination as a candidate for United States President.  Apparently, Lincoln was a long shot when the Republic Convention met in May 1860, but the uncanny abilities and shiftiness of his colleagues combined to elevate Lincoln to a status even he could never have expected.

            Then, itís on to the cover story, Undying Fame by Nathaniel Philbrick, which details the story of the epic battle between the men under command of Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and United States 7th Cavalry Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn in June of 1876.  The article delves in depth into the characters of the two leaders and the events leading up to the battle.  The battle itself is examined and speculation made as to the reasons behind Custerís failure.  But as Philbrick reminds us, despite the fact that Custer had failed to rout the Lakota Sioux at Little Bighorn, the battle became the prelude to their eventual downfall at the hands of the incensed military seeking revenge for the death of the multitude of 7th Cavalry men, culminating in massacre at Wounded Knee.  This article was actually an adaptation from Nathaniel Philbrickís book, The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn .

            Onward into history we march, visiting the Wild West again through the study of the Pony Express, the historic mail delivery service that began in 1860 and ended 78 weeks later with the invention of transcontinental telegraph.  This article by Christopher Corbett celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express and examines the history behind the venture, its romantic fictionalization by writers of the time and the ride itself, culminating in a sidebar discussing the re-enactment of the Pony Express ride of 2,000 miles in 10 days supervised by The National Pony Express Association that takes place every June.

            We then travel back to Revolutionary times to take a look at Ben Franklin and how his unusual style of diplomacy won the French over to our side and helped win the American Revolution.  Then itís off to 1926 America to check out Satchel Paige in an article that seeks to explain why this black pitcher deserves as much credit as Jackie Robinson for breaking baseballís color barrier.  After this article, we are transported back in time to the 1500s to examine the mystery of the disappearance of the first English colony founded at Roanoke.

            Following these historic articles are reviews.  The Digital History Review section in this issue features a technology that would allow your smart phone to offer up a history lesson based on GPS technology and historical reference materials.  The Book Reviews section offers up a mixed review of A Country of Vast Designs, a book that takes a look at the achievements of James K. Polk, a president whose accomplishments are often overlooked, and a glowing review of A Measureless Peril, a book which discusses the World War II Battle of the Atlantic from the perspective of those present at the battle on both sides of the war.  This is followed by A Heritage Traveler Exclusive: Pony Express, which offers up a comprehensive guide to historical sites along the Pony Express Trail.

            As a history buff, I have to say that American Heritage Magazine is the best publication centered on American History that I have ever had the opportunity to read.  Once I started an article, I was loathe to put the magazine down until that article was finished, and even then I found that I wanted to continue on to the next exciting piece of American History to be examined.  I loved the plentiful photos, artist renderings and maps that enhanced each article, offering a visual aide for the reader in addition to the incredibly detailed written description of events. 

            I have often found sidebars in magazines to be of little significance and therefore, a waste of my time, but American Heritage Magazineís sidebars are quite different.  They offer a sort of flash forward, as in the article about the Lost Colony of Roanoke and the sidebar relating the artifacts recently uncovered at the site of the missing colony.

            I was happy to discover that the magazine was not filled with ads and that the articles were fairly long.  I canít tell you how much I hate paying a great deal for a magazine only to discover that it is mostly advertisements with a scattering of one or two page articles with very little informative substance.  But American Heritage Magazine offers up a great value.  For a $5.99 US cover price, you get lengthy, captivating and informative articles about American History without all of the annoying ads.  There are ads of course, but not so many that they take up the entire substance of the magazine. 

            I also enjoyed the fact that I didnít have to span the pages to complete one article.  Too often, a magazine will contain an article that starts on page 3, continues on page 27 and then directs you to the completion of the article on page 49.  Not only is this annoying, but it ruins the flow of what you are reading.

            I am so happy that I decided to take my time to find a magazine to review for my readers.  It led me to the purchase of American Heritage Magazine, a highly informative and engrossing read to which I am quite prepared to subscribe.  History buffs will love this magazine and parents will find that this magazine can be a very valuable learning tool for their children.  Although the price on the cover may be daunting to some, the value between the pages well makes up for the price.  This is one purchase I have made for the site that I certainly do not regret.


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