THIS WAS AMERICA by Oscar- Compiler Handlin


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See ourselves as others saw us- yes, even back to the beginnings of our existence as a nation, through judiciously selected extracts from the writings of European observers, reporting on their interpretation of things seen, their opinion of Americans and America. Through the eyes of literary men, journalists, scientists, diplomats, artists, professional men, politicians, sociologists, business men and men of the world taking the chance to see the New World, we glimpse what a great sprawling immature country we seemed. There is often condescension, frequently enthusiasm, most often criticism, sometimes barbed. We have hints of the potentialities, the riches, the opportunities. We feel an overwhelming impulse to say- Now look here, you saw only one side of that picture. We are appalled at the picture of gum chewing as a national vice; of their assumption of complete lack of refinement or culture, even up to the present century; we may not like the conclusion, ""Many denominations, little religion"". But, it is revealing reading, and, as we trace the impressions chronologically, we, too, get a sense of America in growth. For the greater part, the names are unfamiliar; a few we know- Brissot, Moreau de Saint Mery, De Tocqueville, Herz, and coming to more recent years, Von Luckner, Ernst Toller, Odette Keun and Andre Maurois. America, geographically, scientifically, economically, socially dissected -- as Germans, Scandinavians, Italians, Russians, French, Spaniards saw us, in the years of our youth- our adolescence- our coming of age.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1949
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press