“The Sun Never Sets Upon the British Empire,” Explained in GIF by an Old Children’s Toy
With today’s referendum on Scottish independence, the former British empire stands to shrink even further. Mitch Fraas, curator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Special Collections, recently sent me this image and GIF of a moveable toy distributed by the Children’s Encyclopedia in Britain in the early twentieth century. The toy, which doubles as an ad for the encyclopedia, takes the old saying “The sun never sets on the British empire” and represents it physically, through the medium of a spinning wheel.
The War Department's WWII Advice Booklet for Soldiers Headed to Syria
In 1942 the American war machine was in high gear, and soldiers were shipping out across the globe—often to places they knew nothing about. This booklet (one of many War Department guides covering countries from England to New Guinea) offered servicemen a crash course in the Levant’s language, geography, and culture.
“Human Life Is Frightfully Cheap”: A 1900 Petition to Make Lynching a Federal Offense
This petition from a group of citizens of New Jersey to Congress, submitted in February of 1900, asked for lawmakers to redefine lynching as “a crime against the United States.” The group asked that the government create “a Central Detective Bureau at Washington with branch offices” in states prone to lynching, in order to investigate these crimes and provide material for successful prosecution.
19th-Century Infographic Shows American Mortality as a Cluster of Cute Little Charts
This set of charts shows causes of death in the United States, according to the 1870 census. The page appeared in the Statistical Atlas of the United States, a project spearheaded by Francis Amasa Walker, then the superintendent of the Census. Here, the atlas employs a data visualization technique described by Edward Tufte as “small multiples”—a series of little illustrations presenting bits of a data set.
Map Shows All of the Ways You Could Get Around Alaska in 1909
This map of Alaska in 1909 shows all of the transportation and communication infrastructure in the territory at that early date: wagon roads, sled roads, pack trails, railroads, telegraph lines, and even some telephone lines. Wireless stations are noted; the 107-mile wireless radio connection across Norton Sound gets a special mention.
The British Painters Who Were Eyewitnesses to World War II
During World War II, the British government’s Ministry of Information funded a War Artists Advisory Committee. During World War I, it had sponsored a smaller project, with a limited range of painters. This larger-scale midcentury program supported artists who traveled with the armed forces, as well as capturing the happenings on the homefront. Kenneth Clark, the art historian who would later become famous for his television series “Civilisation,” spearheaded the project.
The Colorful Quilt Squares Chilean Women Used to Tell the Story of Life Under Pinochet
After General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile on September 11, 1973, via a coup d’etat, his military government executed, “disappeared,” or tortured thousands of citizens. The current exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, “Disobedient Objects,” contains a few examples of arpilleras: narrative quilt squares sewn by Chilean women protesting the injustices of the regime.
An 1849 Guide to the Philadelphia Brothel Scene
A Late 19th-Century Day-by-Day Commemorative Map of the Mormon Journey West
This pictorial map, printed in 1899, commemorates the 1846-47 route of émigrés from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as they made their way from Illinois to Utah. The map’s particulars are drawn from the journals of LDS elder Orson Pratt, who was with Brigham Young and the smaller detachment of 147 pioneers who first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847.
A Kiowa Photographer's Beautiful, Decades-Long Record of His Community and Family
Horace Poolaw, of the Kiowa tribe, took thousands of photos of his multitribal community around Anadarko, Oklahoma, between the 1920s and 1950s. A selection of his images appears in a new volume,For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw, which accompanies the National Museum of the American Indian’s exhibition of the same name. (A few more Poolaw photos can be seen on the NMAI’s website.)
While many non-Indian photographers of the American West in the 19th and early 20th centuries made images of Native Americans with a variety of goals in mind (commercial exploitation; anthropological preservation; artistic production), Native photographers also stepped behind the camera to document their own communities. Among them, Poolaw left behind an exceptionally complete archive, which represents 20th-century Native life in Oklahoma as a fluid mix of traditional and modern cultures.