Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

July 1 2014 11:00 AM

A 19th-Century Panorama of the Beautiful, Reeking River Thames 

This panorama of the River Thames, engraved by Charles Vizetelly in 1844, was printed in four parts in the London illustrated newspaper Pictorial Weekly. “When readers joined the four parts together, the completed illustration extended to 14 feet in width,” writes the British Library, which has digitized the panorama in seven sections.

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June 25 2014 11:27 AM

A 1931 Cartoon Map of “Chicago's Gangland,” Brimming With Wry, Macabre Details

This “Gangland” map of Chicago, published by the firm Bruce-Roberts Inc. in 1931, cloaks itself in moral purpose, trumpeting that it’s “Designed to Inculcate the Most Important Principles of Piety and Virtue in Young Persons and Graphically Portray the Evils and Sin of Large Cities.” Despite that virtuous cover story, the map is pure fun, full of comic-book vernacular, wry commentary, and references to true crimes of the recent past.

June 24 2014 12:18 PM

Government Child Care Advice From Early Soviet Propaganda Posters

The images below, all printed in 1930, reflect the government’s promotion of early-childhood health and well-being in the early years of the Soviet Union. The London School of Economics has collected a group of these images—half brightly-colored, half sepia-toned—in a Flickr set.

June 23 2014 1:02 PM

The Delicious Rations Promised to Prospective Soldiers of the Continental Army

In 1776, the Continental Congress ordered that two thousand copies of this broadside, promising adequate rations, be printed and distributed to men who might be persuaded to sign up for George Washington’s experimental Flying Camp. This unit would (in concept) be a flexible group that could assist more established forces at stress points where the army needed reinforcement.

June 20 2014 10:13 AM

The Romantic, Hopeful French Pictorial Postcards of World War I

These brightly colored postcards, sent by French families and soldiers during World War I, are partof a set of similar cards available on Flickr from the George Eastman House. Because sending postcards to soldiers was postage-free during the conflict, the cards were mass-produced in great quantity and variety. Imagery offered solace and urged staunch resolve.

June 19 2014 11:19 AM

The Puzzle-Writing, Puzzle-Solving Teen Subculture of the Late 19th Century

Here’s one issue of the Bay State Puzzler, which had a six-issue run in 1886 under the guiding hand of editors Edwin F. Edgett (apparently then 19 years old) and Charles H. McBride (apparently then 17).

June 18 2014 11:10 AM

Jane Austen's Collection of Critical Feedback From Her (Sometimes Harsh) Friends and Family

In an eight-page document, Jane Austen collected her friends’ and family’s opinions of her third and fourth novels, Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). The British Library recently made the manuscript available online as part of its great Discovering Literature: Romantics and Victorians collection.

June 17 2014 11:38 AM

Interactive Time-Lapse Map Shows How the U.S. Took More Than 1.5 Billion Acres From Native Americans

This interactive map, produced by University of Georgia historian Claudio Saunt to accompany his new book West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, offers a time-lapse vision of the transfer of Indian land between 1776 and 1887. As blue “Indian homelands” disappear, small red areas appear, indicating the establishment of reservations.  

June 16 2014 12:30 PM

A Unique Atlas Shows How Much of the Arctic Has Been Mapped by the Inuit 

A group of researchers has collated historical documents to produce an interactive atlas, Pan Inuit Trails, that shows how much of the Canadian Arctic has been explored and mapped by the Inuit people.


June 12 2014 11:56 AM

The Sniffy, Scandalized Letter That Sealed the UK Government's Ban of Ulysses

In this letter, the British Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Archibald Bodkin, issued an official opinion on James Joyce’s book Ulysses, calling it a “filthy book” and declaring that it should “not be allowed to be imported into the country.” The government adopted Bodkin’s recommendation, and banned Ulyssesfrom the UK.