A subscription to Harper’s Magazine brings a secret treasure trove with it. Subscribers get access to Harper’s archive of previous issues going back to 1850, their first issue.
Like a kid in a candy store, I dug into the archive as soon as I was allowed. By law, I checked out the very first issue. No big deal, but fun. Then I dug into the interesting stuff. I checked each issue of the magazine from just before the Civil War till after Lincoln’s death. Teddy Roosevelt always intrigued me, so I check out the issues from 1899 to 1906. World War One issues held my interest, but the biggest draw of all was The Great Depression. The 1929 – 1932 stock market decline, the 1930s depression, and the Dust Bowl have captivated me from junior high on. Here, at my fingertips, was the greatest resource of the era I’ve reviewed in years. I lived on less than two hours sleep per day for four days while I spent my evenings reading article after article.
After recharging my batteries with a normal night’s sleep, I dug into WW II. Afterwards, I haunted the 1970s issues, my second favorite subject of the last 100 years. I was a wee tyke in the 70s and have been fascinated by the economic environment of the time. To me, the 70s was riding bike around the farm and the big drought year of 1977, the year I became a teenager. What a summer 1977 was! I could play outside everyday without the bother of rain. Of course, the drought signaled the first leg in the decline and eventual bankruptcy of the family farm in 1982. My future was altered by events I has no idea were happening. So, I dug into the Harper’s archive for another three days with little to no sleep.
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What fascinates me most is that the more things change, the more they are the same. I’ll let you browse Harper’s archive on your own for details, but when you do, pay special attention to the ideas and opinions of current politics at the time. It will become clear quickly that many articles could be moved from era to era, only changing the names of the players. Yes, even a 1932 or 1937 article sounds a lot like articles more modern. I think the lesson learned is that times change, people don’t. Everyone wants peace of mind, happiness, reasonable wealth (some want unreasonable wealth), security, health, family, and happiness, whether you live in late 2009 or 1850, 1902, 1929, or 1977. No matter the economy, the disaster, or progress, we still yearn for the same simple ingredients that make life worth living.
I recommend a subscription to Harper’s Magazine. I am sure you will lose sleep, as I did, reading the archive. Click here for Harper's web page.
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