Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.

Pop culture is as American as apple pie. Enjoy the stories behind favorite hobbies, sports, and collectibles.

Lionel Barrymore: Actor Opened Door for People with Disabilities

Lionel Barrymore ((1878-1954) had a long and successful acting

Lionel Barrymore, wheelchair
Barrymore and Lew Ayres from Young Dr. Kildare

career, primarily playing character roles in films from the silent era through the early 1950s. Barrymore didn’t limit himself to acting; he was a successful director and composer and continued to pursue his love of the fine arts.

Barrymore was injured in the mid-1930s, which eventually confined him to a wheelchair. For almost half of the one hundred films in which he acted, he appears in a wheelchair or he delivers all his dialogue while sitting down. Yet little was made of it by the press, and the audiences clearly didn’t mind.

As The New York Times wrote in his obituary: “It was a tribute to his popularity and ability that parts were written around him, and audiences never questioned the appearance of an actor in a wheelchair.”

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"What can one person do?"
Read some of the stories on this site; you'll see that they revolve around single individuals who worked toward change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Getty Images
In today’s game of baseball, the catcher’s mask is a fundamental piece of equipment. The player positioned behind home plate is in a vital but dangerous position. From his vantage point, the catcher can see the whole field, letting him observe and respond to the ongoing game in… Continue reading »

Dorothy Arzner
Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979) was a Hollywood film director.  A woman director was a rarity in the early days of filmmaking. She directed films from 1926-1943 and amassed a considerable body of work. Arzner was also the first woman to become a member of the Directors Guild of America. How… Continue reading »

black jockey Isaac Murphy
Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896) is considered one of the all-time great jockeys in Thoroughbred racing.  He was the first black jockey to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Among his many credits were three wins at the Kentucky Derby… Continue reading »

Kenny Washington
Kenny Washington (1918-1971) was the first African American to sign with an NFL team after a 13-year unspoken pact among owners to bar black football players from teams. Kenny Washington signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946, pre-dating baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s 1947 signing with the Brooklyn… Continue reading »

Candy Land has had a long and illustrious history. It has been a top seller for almost 70 years, and in 2005 the game was added to the National Toy Hall of Fame. The game was created in the 1940s by a school teacher who was… Continue reading »

The Scrabble Brand Crossword Game began as the idea of Alfred Mosher Butts (1899-1993), an architect who found himself unemployed during the Great Depression. Butts, who lived with his wife in Jackson Heights, New York, was not one to feel sorrow for himself when he… Continue reading »

This Day in History

On August 2, 1865, the Confederate crew of the C.S.S. Shenandoah was still on patrol in the waters of the Pacific, ready to take out any Yankee whaling ships. In 1865, there was no way to spread the news quickly or efficiently (no radio, no TV, no newspaper delivery to many locations), so the Shenandoah had no idea the war was over. On August 2, 1865, a British vessel sailed close enough to them to tell them the war was over.

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