Plus: Prohibition and Hanukkah |

December 06, 2018

By Lily Rothman

When a man who made history dies, reflections on who he was tend to double as reflections on how he shaped the story of our world. The 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at 94, has been no exception.

As the week of national remembrance was capped off on Thursday with a funeral train carrying his casket to its final resting place, we took a look at the solemn history of this particular method of saying farewell to a national leader. We also looked at excerpts from the President’s personal letters, photos of his private family life, his appearances on the cover of TIME, the story behind his famous “no new taxes” promise, and much more.

Here’s more of the history that made news this week:

The History Behind The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Catskills Trip

In the second season, Midge and her family head to the Catskills—a place that plays a key role in the history of American comedy

Fewer Students Are Majoring in History, But We’re Asking the Wrong Questions About Why

The number of history BAs awarded each year has dropped more steeply than any other degree measured, but not for the reason you may think

Why the Repeal of Prohibition Made It Harder to Get a Drink

The 21st Amendment was ratified on Dec. 5, 1933

4 Things to Know About the History of NAFTA

The debate over NAFTA evolved in the 25 years between when Clinton signed the free-trade pact and Trump began trying to end it

How Blue and White Became the Colors of Hanukkah

The association between the colors and the holiday is newer than you may think


Dec. 6, 1968

Today in 1968: To the Moon!

“From the moment when living organisms appeared in the seas billions of years ago, they seemed driven by an instinctive urge to move beyond their own environment. Out of the dark waters they groped across aeons, toward the light and land and air. Like those remote ancestors, man, too, has striven continually to seek what he has never known before. He has ranged restlessly across the surface of his world; he has traveled back into the primordial oceans; he has learned to fly through his now familiar skies. For the past seven years, he has probed the vacuum of space, soaring as high as 853 miles above the earth. Now, after billions of years of evolution—and, incredibly, within the present blink of history—he is ready to make the great escape from his own planet.” (Dec. 6, 1968)

Read the full story

Dec. 6, 1982

Today in 1982: Paul Newman

“A star is a distant incandescence, vast and mysterious. For a mere human being, an actor, a speaker of other people's words, a wearer of other people's pants, eyebrows, mustaches and attitudes, to be called a star is an absurdity. Yet in show business a being at the level of Paul Newman cannot simply be called a star; the term is not weighty enough. He becomes Reddi Wip topping with jimmies—a superstar! Not just your everyday vast, mysterious, distant incandescence, but a really big one.” (Dec. 6, 1982)

Read the full story

Dec. 7, 1959

This Week in 1959: The Rise of Processed Food

“Today's housewife not only runs her kitchen, but takes the children to school, picks up her husband at the train, belongs to the P.T.A. and a host of other organizations, reads the latest bestsellers, takes a voice in community affairs. Even more important, more than 20 million U.S. women hold jobs outside the home; they do not want to come home to overtime hours in the kitchen, so need foods that can be prepared quickly and without fuss. For such women processed foods are indispensable; there is no other way.” (Dec. 7, 1959)

Read the full story


What We Remember As many historians look at George H.W. Bush’s role in history, Amy Davidson Sorkin takes a step back for The New Yorker and looks at the relationship between eulogies and history.

Beginning of the End Historian Margaret O’Mara, writing in the New York Times, traces today’s problems with privacy back to decisions made in the computer age’s infancy.

Monumental Woman With New York City’s announcement that a statue of Shirley Chisholm will go up in Central Park, AJ Willingham of CNN has the story of the groundbreaking congresswoman and how the monument came to be.

The Other Big Apple Mercedes Hutton at BBC Travel recently took a trip to Kazakhstan and explains how the nation became the “birthplace of the modern apple.”

Meta Analysis The AskHistorians subreddit forum is a source for a wealth of factoids. Now, it turns out that someone has written a PhD thesis on why and how people use it. She starts to sum up her research in a post here on, where else, the AskHistorians subreddit.

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