The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

July 31 2015 12:29 PM

A Delightful 1912 Children's Book About a Wayward Rocket

The Rocket Book, by Peter Newell, was published in 1912 by Harper & Brothers. The story is similar to that of Newell's The Hole Book (1908). In both volumes, a naughty child sets off a projectile, which careens through various spaces, leaving surprised onlookers in its wake. (In The Hole Book, the projectile was a bullet.) 

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July 30 2015 8:56 AM

Americans Recovering from the Civil War Loved These Bloodless, Beautiful Battle Scenes

During the 1880s, Chicago printmakers Louis Kurz and Alexander Allison published a series of 35 commemorative chromolithographs of Civil War battles. Twenty years after the end of the war, the collectible prints sold well; Americans eager for closure appreciated their heroic perspective on the conflict. 

July 27 2015 12:15 PM

How Early-20th-Century Americans Taught Their Kids to Be Thrifty

This government pamphlet, from 1918, is a relic from the thrift movement of the 1910s and 1920s. It's part of a series of 20 brochures, produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Treasury, promoting the virtue to Americans of all ages. Other installments included "Saving Food by Proper Care," "Thrift on the Farm," "How to Remove Stains," and "Wise Spending Saves." 

July 24 2015 11:11 AM

Should You Be A Wife or a Career Woman? Take This 1950s Magazine Quiz.

This quiz comes from The Girl Friend (And the Boy Friend), an early-1950s magazine for young women.Titled "What Are You Best Fitted For: Love or a Career?," the test asks readers to answer a string of questions about situations and preferences. A preponderance of "No" answers marked the reader as destined for marriage.

July 22 2015 12:07 PM

A Beautiful 1930s Sportsman’s Map of American Saltwater Fish

This 1936 pictorial map of saltwater fish of North America was originally sold as a collector's item; 1,000 were produced. The borders of the map incorporate 26 paintings of fish, along with individual maps designating their accustomed coastal ranges. Two anatomical drawings of fish flank the map's title. A list of then-current record-setting catches dominates the central map, and its coastlines. Most of these records were set in the 1920s and 1930s. 

July 20 2015 12:09 PM

Jack London’s Candid 1903 Advice to Writers Trying to Get Into Print

The Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin recently released the results of a digitization initiative aimed at bringing the papers of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century authors online.  (Other authors with newly augmented Ransom Center digital archives include Hart CraneJoseph Conrad, and Robert Louis Stevenson.) I found this set of corrected page proofs in the Jack London collection: London's article "Getting Into Print," which appeared in The Editor in March 1903. 

July 17 2015 2:52 PM

A Book of Biting Caricatures of the Turn-of-the-Century 1%

The Harvard University Library recently digitized this book of caricatures, American Millionaires, published in 1902 by journalist and artist Carlo de Fornaro. In de Fornaro's renderings, the captains of American industry appear less than dignified. John Jacob Astor sports an foppish yellow mustache; the diminutive Andrew Carnegie sits boosted up on a stack of large books; railroad scion George J. Gould slumps, polo mallet in hand, on a horse that eyes him skeptically. 

July 15 2015 12:00 PM

Gorgeous Nouveau Metalwork Designs in a Late-19th-Century Catalog 

The St. Louis-based Ludlow-Saylor Wire Company published this catalog in 1895, to showcase its designs for decorative gates, screens, transoms, and sconces. Some of the images depict the metalwork in context—in a bank's lobby, or set into the entrance to a house's driveway—while others gather several possible designs against a blank background, showing the range of possibilities. 

July 13 2015 11:41 AM

The Hopeful, Heartbreaking Ads Placed by Formerly Enslaved People in Search of Lost Family

After emancipation, many freedpeople used newspaper advertisements to try to contact their family members. The Historic New Orleans Collection has made available a digital collection of more than 300 "Lost Friends" advertisements that appeared in the city's Methodist Southwestern Christian Advocate newspaper between November 1879 and December 1880. The collection is searchable by name or location, but you can also browse advertisements at random. 

July 10 2015 12:20 PM

George Washington’s 1761 Ad Seeking Four Fugitive Slaves

George Washington placed this ad, seeking four fugitives, in the Maryland Gazette, on August 20, 1761. At this point in time, Washington, who had been a slaveholder since he was eleven years of age, had just radically expanded the number of people he owned through his marriage to the widow Martha Dandridge Custis. When the two merged households in 1759, she brought 84 enslaved people with her to Mount Vernon.