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Gerald Carson

Gerald Carson was a former advertising executive, prolific author, and Contributing Editor of American Heritage

The first hardcover issue of American Heritage, in December 1954, contained an appropriately Christmasy article called “Holiday Time at the Old Country Store” he wrote, and it was the first of twenty-seven articles Carson published with us over the years, making him our most frequent contributor except for columnists and staff members. He also served on our Advisory Board from 1964 to 1976 and in 1989.

Gerry died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday, December 4, 1989, at the age of ninety. He never stopped writing and had just completed an article the day before he died.

He started his writing late. Until he was fifty-two he had a highly successful career in advertising. By then, he later explained, advertising “had taken on for me a surrealistic quality.” He went on to write nine books, about such subjects as breakfast cereals, patent medicines, and bourbon—most of which were excerpted in this magazine. His witty social histories were meticulously documented, and reviewers cited his work as proof that popular history could indeed be scholarly. We called on him for some of our demanding assignments—articles on such vast subjects as the postal service, the income tax, the census, or, later, New York in the 1920s. We could always depend on him to deliver graceful prose based on solid historical research.

Articles by this Author

A small but dependable pleasure of travel is encountering such blazons of civic pride as “Welcome to the City of Cheese, Chairs, Children, and Churches!”
All through the 1920s eager young emigrants left the towns and farms of America and headed for New York City. One of them recalls the magnetism of the life that pulled him there.
Connoisseurs have long regarded him as the master of cold-turkey peddling. He’s been at it for eighty years.
Yankee Tarzan, April/May 1981 | Vol. 32, No. 3
The mob was at the palace gates; her husband was already a prisoner; the servants were stealing imperial treasures before her eyes; Empress Eugénie turned to the one man in France she could trust—Dr. Thomas W. Evans of Lancaster, Pa.
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, “said Abraham Lincoln, “we could better judge what to do, and haw to do it. “For nearly two hundred years, the United States Census has been trying to find out.
The Curious World of the Trademark
The U.S. Post Office, 1775-1974
Bourbon, February 1974 | Vol. 25, No. 2
… and grew, and grew, and grew …
What started as fun and games at spring roundups is now a multi-million-dollar sport called rodeo
Pilgrims and Puritans, naturally, hated the water, but by the turn of the century certain pleasures had been rediscovered
Patent medicines were usually neither patented nor medicinal, which is not to say they didn’t (and don’t) have any effect
The Rough Rider rode roughshod over writers who took liberties with Mother Nature’s children
The roads were terrible, and posted badly or not at all; you had to equip yourself against a hundred mishaps, ninety-three of which actually happened--but you were often up to your hubcaps in pleasure.
In Henry Bergh—a reformed dilettante who founded the A.S.P.C.A.—many saw a latter-day Saint Francis of Assisi. But others, especially the cruel or the thoughtless, regarded him as The Great Meddler.
J. H. Patterson, the first supersalesman, put his cash register in every emporium and banished itchy fingers from the till
In Jackson’s day you were damned if you wore a beard; by Lincoln’s, damned if you didn’t. Then beards were suddenly ‘out “—for good, it seemed. But were they?
For a century the piano was America’s radio, phonograph, and television set, as well as its finishing school and its supreme status symbol
How a Pennsylvania congressman dug Martin Van Buren’s political grave with a golden spoon
To the backwoods distillers of Pennsylvania, that was like taxing the air they breathed. Rut the government was deadly serious: the Constitution itself was at stake
The Saloon, April 1963 | Vol. 14, No. 3
American is full of cocktail lounges, and even bars, but they are nothing like that great male institution and home-away-from-home which died with Prohibition
Cornflake Crusade, June 1957 | Vol. 8, No. 4
A history of the food reformers and cereal kings who made Battle Creek the center of a revolution in Americans eating habits
Cornflake Crusade, June 1957 | Vol. 8, No. 4