How Chicago Lifted Itself Out of the Swamp and Became a Modern Metropolis

By Building Canals, Laying Sewers, and Jacking Up Buildings, the Windy City Spurred Its Miraculous Growth

In 1833, Chicago was a wilderness outpost of just 350 residents, clumped around a small military fort on soggy land where the Chicago River trickled into Lake Michigan. The site was known to local natives as Chigagou, or the “wild garlic place.” By the end of the century, this desolate swamp had been transformed into a modern metropolis of 1.7 million, known the world over for its dense web of railroads, cruelly efficient slaughterhouses, fiery blast furnaces, and soaring skyscrapers.

Chicago’s rise was so sudden and so astounding that many observers …

The Black Freedom Colonies of Appalachia Where Former Slaves ‘Could Speak Their Minds’

Though Their Stories Are Still Overlooked, African Americans in Mountain Communities Like Liberia, South Carolina Are Emerging From History

Beneath the brush on the sloping hillside facing the Blue Ridge Mountains in upper Pickens County, South Carolina, lay a hand-carved soapstone tombstone bearing a simple inscription: Chanie Kimp/Died/Aug. 6, …

The Notorious, Mixed-Race New Orleans Madam Who Turned Her Identity Into a Brand

By Repackaging the Myths of the Tragic Octoroon and the Self-Made Woman, Lulu White Crafted a Persona That Haunts Beyoncé's "Formation"

In 2016, music and pop-culture idol Beyoncé released the album Lemonade to rapturous reviews. As a historian of New Orleans, I was especially intrigued by the video for one of …

How Mail-Order Spouses Helped Settle America

Ever Since the 'Tobacco Brides' of Jamestown, Government-Led 'Partner Redistribution' Has Eased Male Loneliness and Expanded Women's Freedom

The history of government-sponsored matchmaking in the United States is a long one, with roots in the very founding of the colonies. In his account of life in the early …

Why the Enigmatic ‘Turks’ of South Carolina Still Struggle to Belong in America

For Generations, a Mysterious Ethnic Group Was Shunned, but New Research Sheds Light on Its Revolutionary War Origins

Sumter County is located in South Carolina’s midlands, about an hour and a half from the Atlantic coastline in one direction and from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the other. …

The Centuries-Old Silver Jug That Conjures the Mysteries of the Silk Road

Stretching From Rome and Africa to Asia, the Ancient Trade Route Lured Invaders, Migrants, and Merchants—and Left Artifacts Rich With Meaning

As China has promoted its Belt and Road Initiative—an ambitious plan to open new markets for China by building logistics and trade infrastructure from Asia to Europe and Africa—the Chinese …