Linton Weeks

Linton Weeks joined NPR in the summer of 2008, as its national correspondent for Digital News. He immediately hit the campaign trail, covering the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; fact-checking the debates; and exploring the candidates, the issues and the electorate.

Weeks is originally from Tennessee, and graduated from Rhodes College in 1976. He was the founding editor of Southern Magazine in 1986. The magazine was bought — and crushed — in 1989 by Time-Warner. In 1990, he was named managing editor of The Washington Post's Sunday magazine. Four years later, he became the first director of the newspaper's website, Washingtonpost.com. From 1995 until 2008, he was a staff writer in the Style section of The Washington Post.

He currently lives in a suburb of Washington with the artist Jan Taylor Weeks. In 2009, they created The Stone and Holt Weeks Foundation to honor their beloved sons.

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NPR History Dept.
10:39 am
Wed July 29, 2015

The Future Of American History

Eddie Brady Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

College history majors used to study The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Today perhaps they should also be studying the decline and fall of history majors.

Since 2010, the number of history majors at Ohio State University has dropped by more than 30 percent, according to a May 9 Columbus Dispatch story. Meanwhile, the number of students majoring in history at the University of Cincinnati has fallen by 33 percent since 2010.

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NPR History Dept.
10:13 am
Tue July 21, 2015

12 Lost American Slangisms From The 1800s

Bathers at the beach, 1897.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Tue July 21, 2015 1:53 pm

Phrases phase in and out of everyday usage. Especially in the global hodgepodge that is American English. Sometimes, however, there are phrases forgotten that perhaps should be sayings salvaged.

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NPR History Dept.
10:23 am
Fri July 17, 2015

What Hats Tell Us About American Men

Ben Franklin in a fur hat.
Library of Congress

Originally published on Sat July 18, 2015 3:55 pm

Fedoras, flat caps, baseball caps — hats are prevalent among certain American men these days. Perhaps the hats tell us more about the hat wearer than we realize.

In fact, the National American History Museum points out in its intro to an online hat exhibit that "a hat is much more than a practical device for keeping one's head warm. As a symbol of identity, it also reveals much about the wearer's occupation, social class, cultural heritage, and personal style."

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NPR History Dept.
9:48 am
Sun July 12, 2015

Baseball In Skirts, 19th-Century Style

Chloe Judnic of the River Belles.
Courtesy of Carol "Miss Jewel" Sheldon

Originally published on Tue July 14, 2015 8:46 am

As our nation prepares for the annual MLB All-Star Game on July 14, let us pause and refresh our memories of women's baseball in 19th-century America — and what it represented.

From the very early days of baseball in America, women were involved. First, as spectators, as reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Aug. 4, 1859, when a game between two local teams "was witnessed by a large number of people, the greater part of whom were ladies."

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NPR History Dept.
9:38 am
Wed July 8, 2015

Strange Stories Surrounding Street Pianos

An organ grinder and child in Chicago, 1891.
Sigmund Krausz Bettmann/CORBIS

Originally published on Fri July 10, 2015 3:13 pm

Under the headline "Signs of Summer" in 1916, the New Castle, Del., Herald listed: lollipops, robins, bare feet and street pianos.

Yes, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, street pianos were everywhere. Their perky, plinky, preset music — playing the same songs over and over — filled the air in towns across America.

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NPR History Dept.
9:03 am
Sat July 4, 2015

When America's Librarians Went To War

American Library Association volunteers in Paris on Feb. 27, 1919.
Courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives

Originally published on Sat July 4, 2015 4:55 pm

Looking back at the nationwide support for American troops in the two world wars, we see Americans of all stripes making patriotic contributions and sacrifices — including farmers, factory workers and librarians.

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NPR History Dept.
6:02 pm
Sat June 27, 2015

The Cherry Sisters: Worst Act Ever?

The Cherry Sisters: Three of the siblings strike a theatrical pose.
The History Center

Originally published on Sun June 28, 2015 7:37 am

In the early 20th century, the Cherry Sisters — a family of performers from Marion, Iowa — were like a meme.

Simply invoking the name — the Cherry Sisters — was shorthand for anything awful. As Anthony Slide wrote in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville, the onstage siblings became "synonymous with any act devoid of talent."

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NPR History Dept.
10:03 am
Tue June 23, 2015

4 Forgotten Fads Of The Past

Originally published on Tue June 23, 2015 1:55 pm

Unlike fanatics, fad-atics move from craze to craze. And America, with its short national attention span, is the perfect place for fadatics to flourish.

But when does a fad begin to fade? When does a fad become a fixture?

"How long does the typical fad last?" asks Adrian Furnham in the 2004 finance book Management and Myths. "It depends on the zeitgeist." In other words, a vat of variables.

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NPR History Dept.
9:57 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Independence Day For Americans With Disabilities

A detail from an Easter Seals poster explaining the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed on July 26, 1990.
Courtesy of Easter Seals

On July 4, America will celebrate 239 years of independence.

Later in the month, our country will mark another historic moment: the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law passed on July 26, 1990, that guarantees certain rights — and increased independence — to our compatriots with physical and intellectual disabilities.

In this era of ramps and lifts and other hallmarks of accessible design, it's sometimes hard to remember that not too long ago inaccessibility was the norm. And barriers abounded.

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NPR History Dept.
10:08 am
Tue June 16, 2015

When 'Womanless Weddings' Were Trendy

Womanless weddings, like this one in a Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, often included prominent members of the community. Alongside the bride, with hands clasped, is Theodore M. Berry, the first African-American mayor of the city.
Theodore M. Berry Papers, Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati

Originally published on Tue June 16, 2015 11:15 am

The flowery month of June and the whiff of wedlock is in the air.

Definitions of marriage in America keep expanding, but for most of the country's history, the word "wedding" has called to mind images of a woman in a white dress and a man in a black tuxedo. And traditionally, June was the most popular month to get hitched.

So, there's no better time to reminisce about a once-popular community ritual — still perhaps practiced occasionally — that would seem to be on the edge of extinction: the womanless wedding.

Bearded Brides

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NPR History Dept.
9:23 am
Thu June 11, 2015

Dirty Dancing In The Early 1900s

The Bunny Hug sheet music, 1912.
New York Public Library Digital Collections

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 11:38 am

To watch them being performed today, the Bunny Hug, the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear and other so-called "animal dances" of the early 1900s seem tame, tame, tame.

But for a few decades, beginning in the 19-teens, those ragtime rug-cutters shocked America and had polite society crying shame, shame, shame.

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NPR History Dept.
9:42 am
Tue June 9, 2015

The Battles Of A Civil War Re-Enactress

J.R. Hardman, dressed for Civil War re-enactment.
O.K. Keyes Courtesy of Reenactress

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 12:01 pm

When J.R. Hardman, 28, asked to join a group of Civil War re-enactors in a military drill a few years ago, the unit commander said no dice.

Hardman was willing to wear the wool uniform, carry the gear, load the muskets, eat the hardtack, but the brass still said no.

Because ... J.R. Hardman is a woman.

The unit commander told her to talk to his wife, who would help Hardman find a hoop skirt.

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NPR History Dept.
10:03 am
Thu June 4, 2015

Chinese Basketballers Of Yesteryear

A Chinese basketball team from the YMCA in San Francisco, 1919.
Courtesy of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 1:50 pm

When thinking about Chinese basketball players in early 20th-century America, keep in mind these two events:

  • In 1882: President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which severely restricted Chinese immigration to this country. Versions of restrictive legislation remained in place until World War II, when the rules were repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 — which still only allowed 105 Chinese immigrants into this country each year.
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NPR History Dept.
9:47 am
Tue June 2, 2015

How The YMCA Helped Shape America

An adult gymnastics club performs a group stunt on the parallel bars at the Rochester, N.Y., YMCA at the beginning of the 20th century.
Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis

Originally published on Tue June 2, 2015 2:53 pm

The American wing of the Young Men's Christian Association — a worldwide organization founded in London in 1844 — launched the first basketball teams and group swim lessons in the U.S., popularized exercise classes and created the oldest summer camp still in operation, the YMCA's historians tell us.

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NPR History Dept.
10:18 am
Thu May 28, 2015

The Windshield-Pitting Mystery Of 1954

A man shows his pitted windshield to a police officer in Seattle in 1954
Museum of History & Industry, Seattle Post- Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.571.1

Originally published on Fri May 29, 2015 5:56 pm

The nationwide weirdness that was the Windshield-Pitting Mystery began in the spring of 1954. Looking back at the events today may give us a window — OK, a windshield — on the makeup and the mindset of mid-20th-century America.

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