The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

July 15 2016 12:59 PM

When Not to Get Married: Some Late-19th-Century Advice

This fun book, which offered young lovers advice on wise courtship, was one of a series of dime novels printed and sold cheaply in New York City by the J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Company in the late 19th century. It's recently been digitized by Villanova University's Falvey Memorial Library.

July 6 2016 1:50 PM

At the Start of the Civil War, Few Union Army Surgeons Had Ever Treated a Gunshot Wound

In this three-page, handwritten document, Baltimorean P.J. Horwitz, who served as surgeon general of the Navy for the Union during the Civil War, tries to get his fellow medical officers up to speed on the presentation and treatment of gunshot wounds.

June 29 2016 1:07 PM

Adorable Midcentury Posters Teaching Kids How to Use the Library

Here are eight sweet posters from a 32-poster book, first published in 1965, Using Your Library: 32 Posters for Classroom and Library, by Mary Joan Egan and Cynthia Amrice. The posters guide baby-boomer children through the processes of research, book discovery, and borrowing.

June 16 2016 1:15 PM

A Visa for Che, the Young Traveler

This printed pink travel visa with an attached passport photo of a brooding Ernesto (Che) Guevara was issued on Sept. 9, 1953—after the trip made famous in The Motorcycle Diaries but before he became a Marxist leader. He was a 25-year-old Argentine doctor, restless and radicalized by his experiences on the road in Southern and Central America.

June 8 2016 1:57 PM

Browse Nearly 1,000 Photo Postcards of Late-19th-Century Stage Productions of Shakespeare

A newly redesigned website from Emory University, Shakespeare & the Players, displays a collection of nearly a thousand photo postcards of actors depicting Shakespearean characters on stage, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The site is browseable by actorcharacter, and play

June 3 2016 12:11 PM

How Two Artists Turn Old Encyclopedias Into Beautiful, Melancholy Art

I find few things sadder than a print encyclopedia. Encyclopedias were once so stalwart and useful, sold as a stable repository of knowledge that would carry a family through life for years; the relic sets are now utter dead weight. I see them sometimes at library book sales and spend a minute opening up a random volume, thinking about the night I wrote a fifth-grade paper on the Aztecs that relied overmuch on our old World Book. But despite a wave of nostalgia, I never take the orphans home. Who has the shelf space?

June 1 2016 1:24 PM

Some Lost Superstitions of the Early-20th-Century United States

These deeply entertaining lists of superstitions, gathered by Fletcher Bascom Dressler in 1907, are a good sample of the kinds of sayings American college students from across the country heard in their homes in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. I've excerpted a few choice topic areas below, but you can read the whole book, held at Harvard University, in the HathiTrust Digital Library. 

May 25 2016 2:37 PM

Pretty Portraits of the Tiny, Lumpy, Sweet Strawberries of the Early 20th Century

Here are some of the images found in a search for "strawberry" in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pomological Watercolor Collection, which holds art made for the department between 1886 and 1942. This collection contains USDA-produced art that was used in publications illustrating advances in pomology (fruit breeding and production) for the benefit of American growers. 

May 18 2016 2:49 PM

A 1942 List of Hitler’s Lies

This 11-page document collects 10 years of Adolf Hitler's "more conspicuous lies," as the American Office of War Information described them in December 1942. Most are mischaracterizations (to put it mildly) of Nazi intentions toward the world: "We have no territorial demands to make in Europe" (March 1936); "We want nothing from France—nothing at all" (September 1938); "Germany does not conduct a war against small nations" (April 1940).

May 11 2016 12:34 PM

Adorable Depression-Era Posters Promoting Kindness to Animals

These posters, by artist Morgan Dennis, were produced for the American Humane Association's Be Kind to Animals Week during the 1930s. The commemorative week was first observed in 1915, and several well-known artists of the time created artwork to promote it over its first few decades of life. The national organization offered copies of posters like Dennis' to local branches, leaving space at the bottom for their identifying information.