How the Civil War Helped Make Christmas a Permanent American Tradition
Christmas is a creature of the 19th century, so the advent of the Civil War found Americans in the throes of Victorian sentimental enthusiasm for Father Christmas, gift-giving, and candlelit trees. In her book Christmas in America: A History, historian Penne Restad argues that the war, which scattered families and brought grief to many, made Americans cling to Christmas even more: “Northerners and southerners, civilians and soldiers alike attempted to recreate in it the peace and well-being that eluded the nation.”
"How Much Have We Spent on Native Americans?" In 1894, the Government Put It in Numbers.
Blogger and antiquarian bookseller John Ptak recently dug up this chart, in which the United States government tallied the total cost of civil expenditures associated with Native Americans between 1776 and 1890. The full Report on Indians taxed and Indians not taxed in the United States (except Alaska), which contains this chart, is 683 pages long.
When Students Went to School Outside—Even in Winter
These images document a forgotten early-20th-century educational trend: the open-air school. In these arrangements, children diagnosed with pretuberculosis, anemia, and malnourishment went to school in classrooms equipped with big bay windows that were always cranked open; “rooms” that were really tents with open sides; and airy structures located on the tops of buildings.
Pages From a Gorgeous Illustrated Atlas of 19th-Century Mexico
These beautiful pages come from the Atlas Pintoresco e Historico de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (Picturesque Historical Atlas of the United States of Mexico), by cartographer Antonio García Cubas. The volume was published in 1885 in Mexico City.
Some Cons and Frauds Common on the Streets of 1980s NYC
This pamphlet, distributed by the NYPD’s Special Frauds Squad during the administration of Mayor Ed Koch (1978-89), shows the range of con games and frauds enterprising criminals were then running on New Yorkers and unsuspecting tourists.
A Converted Skeptic's Report on a Visit to 8-Year-Old Mozart
In this letter, read before the British scientists of the Royal Society on Feb. 15, 1770, the lawyer, naturalist, and fellow of the Society Daines Barrington described his 1764 visit with an 8-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Nineteenth-Century Dog Tags ... for Civilians
This identification check, issued to Midwesterner Frank Novak in 1896, was a forerunner of the present-day military dog tag. In a time before drivers' licenses and social security numbers, personal identification was haphazard—a gap this tag would fill.
Einstein's 1941 Letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, Begging Asylum for Jewish Refugees
In this 1941 letter, prominent physicist Albert Einstein wrote to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, asking her to intercede with her “heavily burdened husband” on behalf of “worthy persons who are the victims of Fascist cruelty in Europe.”
The Army's Advice to Soldiers Headed for the Korean War: "Respect Your Allies"
This list of things soldiers should remember when preparing to go to Korea is part of a pamphlet titled “Getting Along With Our Allies,” published by the Department of the Army in 1950. (You can read the whole pamphlet here.)