Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

July 22 2014 4:04 PM

A School Progress Report for the Brontë Sisters 

In 1900, noting that fans had lately picked over the history of the Brontë family so “diligently” that “there can be but little left for gleaners,” the British Journal of Education republished these reports on four Brontë sisters’ unhappy year at the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge. The reports, which assess the sisters’ preparation and work during the year they were at the school (1824–25), are drawn from the school’s register. 

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July 21 2014 12:55 PM

Brigham Young’s Short-Lived, Experimental Mormon Alphabet

Catherine Falzone, cataloger at the New-York Historical Society, recently blogged about three books printed in the Deseret Alphabet, a 19th-century experiment sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

July 18 2014 11:35 AM

A List of Missing Soldiers, Made After the First Black Union Army Regiment Stormed Fort Wagner

This is a list of the men missing from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment—the first unit of black soldiers to be formed in the North during the Civil War—after their assault on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863.

 

July 17 2014 4:06 PM

19th-Century Japanese Prints Showing the Trials of Western Inventors

The great project Public Domain Review recently posted about these prints, which are held at the Library of Congress. The series, credited to the Japanese Department of Education, represents the trials and tribulations of Western inventors and intellectuals. While the Library of Congress places their publication in the late 19th century, the Public Domain Review found another set on the website of the University of Tsukuba Library that was dated more specifically, to 1873.

July 16 2014 12:45 PM

A Physicist Eyewitness Sketches the First Atomic Test 

In this eyewitness account of the Trinity test, carried out at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, physicist Luis W. Alvarez documented the explosion from his perch between the pilot and co-pilot in a B-29 flying near the blast.

July 15 2014 1:20 PM

Those Funny 19th-Century “Reasons for Admission” to Mental Institutions 

Ever since seeing this amazing list, which was billed as “reasons for admission” to a 19th-century mental institution in West Virginia, I've been wondering about its meaning. It seemed too funny to be true. Did 19th-century doctors really commit patients because they read novels? 

July 14 2014 12:31 PM

Reconstruction-Era Marriage Certificates of the Recently Emancipated 

Here are three marriage certificates for formerly enslaved people, out of the many in the records of the National Archives. In their tallies of children borne and notes about separations through sale and military service, such certificates tell small histories of families’ lives under slavery. 

July 11 2014 12:40 PM

The Black List: Public Shaming of the “Lewd and Scandalous” in 18th-Century London

This “Black List,” printed in London in 1706, advertised a catalog of 830 “Lewd and Scandalous Persons” who had been prosecuted in the past year for crimes like prostitution, pick-pocketing, and keeping a “disorderly house.” The key at the bottom of the page attaches a crime to an initial; some offenders have numbers next to their initials, indicating repeat offenses.

July 10 2014 1:30 PM

Photos Show How Workers Crunched Census Data in 1940

The National Archives has a great Flickr set chronicling the taking and processing of the 1940 Census. Here are a few of those images; the whole group adds more detail to the narrative that’s outlined here.

July 9 2014 10:36 AM

The Nifty, Portable Copying Technology Used by Early-19th-Century Letter-Writers 

Most early-nineteenth-century writers looking to make multiples of their correspondence relied on the copying press. But that bulkier technology could not compete for portability with the “manifold writer,” like this one from Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

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