Commentary — February 16, 2009, 1:11 am

Harper’s Index Turns 25: Now free for searching and browsing

“Numbers can be made to tell as many stories as a crooked lawyer or an old comedian.” — Lewis H. Lapham, Harper’s Magazine National Correspondent and creator of the Index

“As has been suggested, the charm of the Index is that its items so often beg for answers.” — George Plimpton

In celebration of its 25th year, the Harper’s Index–12,058 lines spanning 300 issues–is now open to all for searching and browsing, with more than one thousand linked categories. Some starting points: Adultery, China, Beer, Vegetables, Sweets, American Men, American Women, Cats, Dogs, Frogs,
Bears, and Pandas.

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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I first heard the name Barack Obama in the spring of 2004, while visiting my mother in Chicago. As we sat around the kitchen table early one spring morning, I noticed a handsome studio portrait among the pictures, lists, cards, and other totems of family life fastened to the refrigerator door. “Who’s the guy with the ears?” I asked, assuming he was some distant relative or family friend I didn’t know or else had forgotten. “Barack Obama,” she answered with a broad smile. “He’s running for Senate, but he’s going to be the first black president.”

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