Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Oct. 31 2014 8:12 AM

Commemorative Illustrations Showing Off the Gorgeous Parades of Late-Medieval Germany

These images of late-medieval and early-modern parade entrants come from the city of Nuremberg, in Bavaria (present-day Germany). The manuscript, created in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century and available online through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital collections, contains illustrations of parade participants, jousting contestants, and pageant sleighs. It’s a historical work, recording memories of events held in Nuremberg from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries.

Video Advertisement

Oct. 30 2014 11:06 AM

“Love Your Government, Or Else.” A Civil War-Era Infographic With a Mission.

This diagram of the structure of the federal government, created by Cincinnati lawyer N. Mendal Shafer in 1861, aims to end the conflict between North and South through education. “The object” of the chart, Shafer writes, “is to make the subject of Government familiar to the masses.” Familiarity, he intimates, would solve the problems that the nation was experiencing; the implication is that secessionists (and, perhaps, people living in the North who didn’t support the war) just didn’t comprehend the government’s purpose. “When the subjects of government and political economy are well understood by the American people,” Shafer writes, “peace, happiness, prosperity, and security will follow.”

Oct. 29 2014 11:09 AM

The Black Humor of WWI Soldiers, in a Parody Form Letter to Wives

This wry form letter, found in the World War I diary of Captain Neil Cantlie of the British Royal Army Medical Corps, parodies the content of a typical letter to a wife, commenting on censorship restrictions as well as the inherent absurdity of trying to describe the situation on the front for those at home.

Oct. 28 2014 12:06 PM

Etiquette Lessons for the Annoying Moviegoers of Early Cinema

After I wrote a few weeks ago about lantern slides used to advertise coming attractions in the silent-movie era, the people who run the blog for the history podcast BackStory contacted me to make sure I’d seen this post, featuring humorous theatre etiquette slides from 1912. The slides, which would have been projected before the show or during intermission, forbid some of the behaviors that theatre owners saw as problematic in early movie audiences: whistling, talking, bothering women, and wearing tall hats.

Oct. 27 2014 11:44 AM

Whaling Ship Crew List Shows Melville Embarking on a Journey That Inspired Moby-Dick

This crew list for the whaler Acushnet, filed with the collector of customs in New Bedford, Massachusetts in December, 1840, incudes the name and physical description of the 21-year-old Herman Melville. The list marks the beginning of the epic trip that was to provide the author with material he used to write his maritime novels Typee (1846); Omoo (1847); Mardi (1849); Redburn (1849); White-Jacket (1850); andMoby-Dick (1851).

Oct. 23 2014 12:02 PM

Delightfully Awkward Studio Action Shots of Players, Used on Early Baseball Cards

The great historical photo blog The Passion of Former Days recently featured a batch of proto-baseball cards from the late nineteenth century. These studio portraits, taken in Boston and Philadelphia, were sold as small cabinet cards that advertised the photographers' businesses, as well as being reprinted on cigarette cards that were packaged as collectibles along with tobacco in the 1880s and 1890s. (Former Days’ Anna Krentz points to a pair of photos to show how a studio’s portraits were repurposed by cigarette manufacturers: the Philadelphia Quakers’ Jack Clements in the studio; the same Jack Clements portrait used on an Old Judge cigarette card.)

Oct. 22 2014 11:36 AM

Casting the Role of Scarlett O'Hara Was Really, Really Frustrating

The producer David O. Selznick took more than two years to cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara for his 1939 film “Gone With the Wind.” Within a new web exhibition about the making of the movie (“Producing Gone with the Wind”), the Harry Ransom Center has collected producers’ correspondence pertaining to this search, including this fed-up letter from a Selznick employee mired in the casting process. 

Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM

A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903

This 1903 map of “Race and Occupation of Immigrants by Destination” crowds information about national origin, occupations, and state-level longitudinal trends in immigration into a busy geography of the United States. 

Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM

1914 Authors' Manifesto Defending Britain's Involvement in WWI, Signed by H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle

In September of 1914, as the armies of Europe were engaged in the Race to the Sea and the stalemate of the trenches loomed, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other British authors collaborated on a remarkable piece of war propaganda.

Oct. 17 2014 1:47 PM

The Star Charts That Apollo 11 Astronauts Used to Land on the Moon

These star charts were part of a guidance and navigation (G&N) dictionary carried by the Apollo 11 lunar module when it reached the moon’s surface on May 29, 1969.