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American History: August '00 Letters

Originally published on Published Online: August 11, 2000 
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It would take a railroad buff, a steel industry buff, and a history buff (and I'm all three) to fully appreciate the photograph shown in the "American Album" for March/April 2000. The tables were arranged in a special shape–to form a cross-section of a railroad rail, one of the main products of the steel industry at the turn of the century.

Since the Carnegie Steel Company wasn't a corporation but a private partnership, Andrew Carnegie's "boys" (the employees who showed promise) could be rewarded by limited shares in the company. When J.P. Morgan bought out Carnegie and 12 other companies in 1901 and formed the United States Steel Corporation, each of the "boys" became a millionaire. Some moved to New York, while others built mansions on Pittsburgh's Fifth Avenue, which became known as "Millionaire's Row."

Martyn J. Hodes
President, Thomas Paine National
San Diego, California


I found Bill McIlvaine's article on Harry Hopkins, "Lord Root of the Matter," (March/April 2000) very informative, even though I lived through the years he wrote about. I remember how important Hopkins was to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and for a short time President Harry S. Truman. Recent books and publications, however, question Hopkins' absolute devotion to the United States. Their information relies on the Venona papers, a collection of more than 2,000 cables intercepted by the U.S. in the 1940s. The National Security Agency released these decoded cables–sent by American-based agents to the home office in Moscow–in 1995 and 1996. These papers include evidence that indicates Alger Hiss was an agent of the USSR and that Hopkins was sympathetic to Russia and Stalin. Perhaps this explains McIlvaine's comment that Hopkins and Stalin liked each other. It also explains how Russia obtained U.S approval for taking over all of Eastern Europe. We must re-evaluate Hopkins, Hiss, FDR confidant Lauchlin Currie, and others through the Venona papers to assess the kind of latitude given to our present White House advisers.

Donald R. Hanson
Charlottesville, Virginia

Editor's note: Readers who want to know more about the Venona papers can read Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr.

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