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, 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.

Time was in America that stores routinely closed on Thanksgiving Day. People sent Thanksgiving greeting cards, people donned odd costumes and schools and communities staged elaborate parades and Thanksgiving pageants in which Native Americans and pilgrims gathered together and smiled and waved.

These days it seems like the holidays are running together — at least commercially speaking — when Halloween masks start popping up around Labor Day and Christmas trappings are for sale in the stores before Thanksgiving.

In the stores it feels sort of like Hallothankshanachristmasgivingween.

But the jumbling of holidays is not exclusive to contemporary times. Turns out that people all across America used to wear costumes on or near Thanksgiving, which effectively created a mash-up of Halloween and Turkey Day.

"This is indeed," the Adams Sentinel in Gettysburg, Pa., proclaimed on Feb. 24, 1830, "the age of improvement."

The proclamation was part of a story about the Moral Encyclopaedia, a set of self-teaching books by a writer identified as "Charles Varle, Esq. of Baltimore."

Can we crowdsource a history story?

Often you add insightful information to stories I have posted and sometimes you suggest new stories for me to write. I feel like we are in a partnership.

So, I wondered further, if you would like to help me brew up a story ...

If not, that's OK. No pressure. I will probably write it anyway. This is just an experiment, using tools that weren't available only a few years ago.

Take a look at this photo. It's a handsome group portrait of, according to the Library of Congress, President Abraham Lincoln, flanked by Adm. David G. Farragut and Gens. William T. Sherman, George Henry Thomas, George Gordon Meade, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker, Philip Henry Sheridan and Winfield Scott Hancock. The men look healthy, distinguished, prosperous.

There are a couple of hitches, however.

There were some mighty funny folks in 19th century America: writers Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce, for instance. And, by some accounts, stage comedians Fanny Rice and Marshall P. Wilder.

For a while, Rice was billed as the Funniest Woman in America. And Wilder, who specialized in mother-in-law jokes, was called the Funniest Man.

Thomas Jefferson was a great one for giving out advice. As Anna Berkes points out on the Monticello website, the third U.S. president often took the opportunity to advise family and friends on all-around "best practices."

Over the years, she writes, Jefferson "developed a list of axioms for personal behavior. Some seem to have been of his own invention; others derived from classical or literary sources."

A handful of popular female writers of 19th century America — such as Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe — continue to be widely taught and read. Others who were extremely well-known back then, for some reason or other, are today pretty much relegated to the history books.

Take Fanny Fern for instance.

When America was younger: Ladies wore hats, men sported spats and Halloween could be hard on the family buggy or wagon.

By the late 19th century, All Hallows Eve had become – all across the country — a night for playing tricks on neighbors. This was a breach of the social contract, of course, in an unsettled and unsettling country where neighbors trusted in, and depended on, neighbors for succor and survival.

Swim around enough in the oceanic photo archives of the Library of Congress and you will spot some strange things — including old doctored photos of two-headed humans and a man-monster superimposition.

But perhaps nothing as bizarre as this photo — labeled General Grant at City Point.

Look at it closely. Notice anything amiss?