Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

June 11 2014 12:34 PM

How Eisenhower Handled McCarthy's Threat to a "Middle-of-the-Road" GOP 

In March 1954, President Eisenhower sent this letter to George N. Craig, then the Republican governor of Indiana, defending his policy of not publicly criticizing the actions of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The letter shows how carefully Eisenhower had formulated this tactic, and how often he had fielded questions about its appropriateness.

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June 10 2014 3:15 PM

An Early Draft of "The Star-Spangled Banner," With All Those Verses We Never Sing

This year marks the bicentennial of Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and there will be commemorations galore (see the Smithsonian’s extensive plans here, and the Maryland Historical Society's here). Here’s one of Key’s first drafts of the song, including the unfamiliar second, third, and fourth verses. 

June 9 2014 2:53 PM

A Detail-Packed Mid-19th-Century Map of World Religious Belief

This 1854 map of world religious belief appeared as part of an atlas published in Scotland by cartographer Alexander Keith Johnston. The map, a “Moral and Statistical Chart Showing the Geographical Distribution of Man According to Religious Belief,” presents religious geography from a Scotch Protestant perspective.

June 6 2014 9:34 AM

"A Forlorn Little Rescue Party": Post-Combat Interviews With D-Day Survivors From One Hard-Hit Company

This testimony, collected soon after D-Day by the U.S. Army Historical Section, compiles memories from seven survivors of Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division.

June 5 2014 12:17 PM

Photos of Late 19th-Century Bicycle Clubs Riding Their Penny-Farthings Around the Bay Area

The California Historical Society recently posted a batch of cycling-themed images from their collections on Flickr. While some of the ephemera is gorgeous (and don’t miss this studio portrait of “Miss Valentine Conwell, age 3 year and 4 months, the youngest cyclist in the world”), I like these photographs of groups of cyclists on outings best.

 

June 4 2014 9:43 AM

Intense Footage from Fighter Plane Gun Cameras Shows American Raids on Germany in 1945

In this 1945 silent footage, taken by gun cameras mounted on American P-38 fighter planes, you can see the strafing of German targets like trains, bridges, ships, and oil storage tanks from an aerial perspective.

June 2 2014 2:18 PM

A 1940s Government Comic Book for People Who've Just Had DDT Sprayed on Their Walls

The U.S. Public Health Service distributed this folding informational comic to people whose homes had recently been sprayed with DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), to explain the way that the chemical would kill malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The comic is preserved in the great digital collection of government comics maintained by the library of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

May 30 2014 3:05 PM

Where To Find Historical “Redlining” Maps Of Your City


During the Depression, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, a New Deal agency, refinanced mortgages for over a million struggling homeowners. As part of this work, the agency sent out assessors who rated neighborhoods based on several factors: housing stock, sales and rental rates, physical attributes of the terrain, and “threat of infiltration of foreign-born, negro, or lower grade population.”

May 29 2014 1:15 PM

What Does This Mean? If Russia Gets Gay With Us She’ll Have Some Pretty Muscular Soldiers to Meet

In the era of Vladimir Putin’s territorial aggression and official homophobia, this 1903 trade magazine ad takes on resonances its copywriter never intended.

May 28 2014 3:30 PM

A Chinese-American Merchant’s Blistering Arguments Against Chinese Exclusion


The blog of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center recently wrote about this 1879 letter from Chinese-American merchant Wong Ar Chong to activist William Lloyd Garrison. As the Smithsonian points out, “Chinese-American voices were rarely heard during the national debate over Chinese exclusion that swept the United States in the 1870s and early 1880s.” Wong’s letter—written in English, which was his second language—gives us the political perspective of a Chinese-American tea merchant living in Boston.

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