Turning the Dream Into Reality

Photograph by Peter Hapak for TIME

The term American dream was coined in 1931, in the middle of the Great Depression, but the idea is as old as the Republic. John Winthrop saw America as a "city upon a hill" even before he laid eyes on it. From the beginning, America was as much an idea as a place, and that idea was informed by the notion that America was the land of self-betterment where the only sin, Emerson said, was limitation.

This is our 11th annual Making of America issue, and Jon Meacham's insightful cover story is not only a history of the idea of the...

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