The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

May 2 2017 3:36 PM

Admissions Books for an Early-19th-Century Prison Hold a Wealth of Stories

The American Philosophical Society's library holds four fascinating admissions books offering details on prisoners held at Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary in the 1830s and 1840s. Three of those books seem to have been kept by Thomas Larcombe, a Baptist minister who was the first to hold the position of “moral instructor” at the prison.

April 25 2017 11:04 AM

A Few Way-Less-Catchy Discarded Titles for S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of S.E. Hinton’s cult classic The Outsiders. Hinton wrote the novel while still attending high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when she signed the publisher’s contract in May 1966, her mother had to co-sign because the author was still a teenager.

Jan. 18 2017 1:02 PM

An Odd and Obsolete 19th-Century Nickname Map of the American States

This nickname map, printed as a promotional item by the livestock supply company H.W. Hill & Co. in 1884, is a wildly haphazard representation of the variety of American state nicknames in the late 19th century.

Jan. 5 2017 4:17 PM

Five More Compelling Digital History Projects We Loved in 2016

Last week, I shared five of my ten favorite digital history sites from 2016. Here, without further ado, is the second half of that list.

Dec. 30 2016 3:57 PM

Five Fascinating Digital History Projects We Loved in 2016

For four years now, I've rounded up 10 interesting digital history projects, born in the 12 months previous, for your browsing fun. (Here are my 2015 picks: Part 1. Part 2. Here are the 2014 lists: Part 1. Part 2. And 2013: Part 1. Part 2.)

Dec. 16 2016 4:29 PM

Beautiful Pages of a Late Medieval Monk’s Sketchbook

In these pages, a 15th-century monk living in southwest Germany tested ideas for the creation of illuminated manuscripts. The website Public Domain Review recently featured images from this book, known as The Illuminated Sketchbook of Stephan Schriber, which is held by the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

Dec. 9 2016 12:12 PM

What Things Cost in an American Country Store in 1836

Bookseller and blogger John Ptak recently featured this page, from a pocket-sized arithmetic book published in Connecticut in 1836. The list gives sample prices for the stock that a clerk in a country store might buy in order to flesh out a typical inventory.

Nov. 18 2016 3:16 PM

How Tragedy Drove a Bellevue Doctor to Become America’s First Illustrator

After a six-year medical apprenticeship that began at the age of 14, Alexander Anderson became the resident physician at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. It was the peak of the city’s 1795 yellow fever epidemic, but Anderson was “determined to do the Lord’s work,” writes David Oshinsky in his new book, Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital.

Nov. 8 2016 3:45 PM

Some Choice Political Memorabilia, Shared via #ElectionCollection

For the past few months, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and PBS's American Experience have been running a Twitter and Instagram hashtag—#ElectionCollection—as a way of encouraging museums, libraries, archives, and collectors to share their election-related documents and memorabilia.

Nov. 2 2016 1:14 PM

Picky Bosses’ Pet Peeves About Secretaries, in a 1945 List

Drawn from a 1945 pamphlet, Memo: How to Be a Super Secretary, this list of bosses' pet peeves comes from research done at the behest of Remington Rand's Typewriter Division. The pamphlet, which has been digitized by the Hagley Museum and Library, is available to read in full in their its archives.