Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

April 18 2014 11:00 AM

Mapping the Intensity of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

These maps come from an atlas that accompanied the 1908 scientific report attempting to explain the causes and effects of the San Francisco earthquake, titled The California Earthquake of April 18, 1906: Report of the State Earthquake Investigation Committee. The two maps use the data that the commission collected to represent the earthquake’s intensity geographically.

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April 17 2014 11:45 AM

A 19th-Century Flowchart Helps You Ask Good Geographical Questions


Aloisius Edouard Camille Gaultier, a French Catholic priest working as a tutor in England in the late eighteenth century, created this chart to aid students in shaping geographical questions. This chart, which is a basic decision tree, shows what kinds of queries should be grouped together (questions about political status, for example, all flow in one “branch”), and offers a simple hierarchy of types of geographical information.

April 16 2014 2:42 PM

Beautiful Photo Portraits of People Doing Their Jobs on the Streets of Late 19th-Century New York

Alice Austen took these street photographs in 1896, hoping to capture the kinds of people you might see out and about in Manhattan. They’re part of an album that Austen titled “Street Types of New York.”

April 15 2014 12:00 PM

FDR's Forgotten Instructions for a Simple Funeral and Burial

In December, 1937, Franklin Roosevelt wrote out instructions for his funeral and burial. The four-page document, kept folded in an envelope in Roosevelt’s personal safe in his bedroom at the White House, was discovered only after his burial on April 15, 1945.

April 14 2014 12:45 PM

The Lincoln Assassination, as Seen Through the Pages of a D.C. Police Blotter

This Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department blotter for the night of April 14, 1865 records the news of the Lincoln assassination in the bottom right-hand entry.

April 11 2014 11:45 AM

Pretty Environmental Propaganda Posters from 1980s China

The great site ChinesePosters.net offers deep thematic coverage of Chinese propaganda posters from the collections of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. The images below are from their collection of environmental posters of the 1970s and 1980s.

April 10 2014 3:00 PM

Newly Digitized Photo Archive Takes a Personal Look at Cesar Chavez and the Farmworker Movement

These photos come from the archive of the photographer Bob Fitch, held by Stanford. Ninety images from Fitch’s 1968-1974 coverage of United Farmworkers Union activism during Cesar Chavez’ presidency are now available in an online gallery through the Stanford Library.

April 9 2014 12:15 PM

Early 20th-Century Spirit Photographs Specializing in Stellar Faked Ectoplasm

While spirit photography, which claims to capture ghosts on film, dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century—William H. Mumler was tried in New York for faking photographs in 1869—the practice has had tremendous longevity. These photos, taken in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century, were part of a resurgence of interest in “psychic photography” after the tremendous losses of the first World War.

April 8 2014 11:00 AM

This Spreading Tree Chart Shows the Midcentury Explosion in Uses of Petroleum

Socony-Vacuum Oil Company produced this diagram, meant as a tool to show off the diversity of products made from crude oil, in 1957. The image showcases the industry’s progress by including a comparatively miniature “Petroleum Tree of 60 Years Ago” diagram in the bottom left-hand corner. The visual reference to the familiar family tree conveys Socony-Vacuum’s pride in the oil industry’s reach.

April 7 2014 9:30 AM

Tracking a Slave Trader Through His Expense Reports

Slave trader William James Smith kept these records of his business activities from 1844 through 1854. These three pages show how he tallied some of the expenses he incurred on a trading trip in 1844. (You can see all 41 pages of the Smith ledger on the Flickr stream of Wofford College, which holds the book.)

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