It’s an age-old question: What makes a man? Americans have thought about it for generations. So this week on BackStory, we go back into the archives to look at past segments that explore the changing perceptions of American manhood. We’ll look at why so many men started growing beards in 19th century America, and we’ll explore how ideas about the perfect male body used to be very different from what you might think of today.

Image: The “Manly art of self-defense” Newsboys’ Protective Association, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 1908. Source: Library of Congress

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