Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Oct. 16 2014 1:35 PM

The Ottoman Empire’s First Map of the Newly Minted United States

What did the United States look like to Ottoman observers in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis).

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Oct. 14 2014 3:39 PM

This Map Shows Just How Divided the U.S. Was on Civil Rights in 1949

Using this simple 1949 map, you can see how varied civil rights law was across the nation before the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Oct. 13 2014 1:38 PM

The Wild Zebra-Striped Ships That Confounded German Submarines During WWI 

In 1918, maritime painter John Everett received special permission from the British Ministry of Information to represent river scenes in London. Everett became fascinated by dazzle-painted ships, and made many paintings of the vessels.

Oct. 10 2014 9:50 AM

The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era 

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.


Oct. 9 2014 11:58 AM

Smash Mouth: The Life of a Football Lineman Before Face Masks

Among the images in the new book Chicago Portraits, this 1938 shot of Chicago Bears player Frank Bausch absorbing a palm to the face caught my eye. From the Chicago Tribune’s archives, it originally appeared in the layout below, showing Bausch, who played center, and Bears tackle Joe Stydahardemonstrating the impact of elbows, feet, knees, and hands on a lineman’s face.

Oct. 7 2014 10:17 AM

The Pointers Eleanor Roosevelt Gave to JFK After His First Televised Debate With Nixon

In these notes, Eleanor Roosevelt gave John F. Kennedy feedback on his performance in the first televised presidential debate, held on Sept. 26, 1960. The debate famously juxtaposed a sweaty, sickly-looking Richard Nixon with the tanned Kennedy—an unfavorable visual comparison that has often been cited as a turning point in the campaign.

Oct. 6 2014 11:13 AM

The Pro-Union Civil War Board Game That Was the Chutes and Ladders of 1862

In 1862, a year into the Civil War, the Philadelphia publishing company Charlton & Althrop registered a trademark for this optimistic and bellicose “Game of Secession, or Sketches of the Rebellion.” The four-color game board is a collage of small patriotic scenes, portraits of Union and Confederate generals, and cartoons mocking the Confederate cause.

Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM

Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods

Using data from the 1890 census, Frederick E. Pierce and New York’s Tenement-House Committee published these maps in 1894, looking to illustrate population density and nationality in Manhattan. In the nationality map, each of the island’s sanitary districts (small service areas, as designated by the sanitation department) is striped with patterns. The stripes indicate the national origin of the New Yorkers inhabiting the area, with the width of the stripes signifying the proportion of the population represented by each group.  

Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM

James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter

In this 1961 letter to the Justice Department, James Meredith introduced himself, reported his intention to enroll at the University of Mississippi, and asked for federal help in achieving this goal. In his prose, the 29-year-old black Air Force veteran, husband, and father, who already had several years of college credits under his belt, displays a calm resolve. Meredith saw his attempt at enrollment as a conscious action of civil rights protest, and was ready for a fight.

Sept. 30 2014 11:51 AM

Thomas Jefferson’s 1769 Newspaper Ad Seeking a Fugitive Slave 

Seven years before writing that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson ran this ad in the Virginia Gazette, offering a reward for his runaway slave, Sandy. He describes Sandy as “artful and knavish” and “greatly addicted to drink”. At the time, Jefferson possessed upwards of 50 slaves, inherited from his father, although he would come to own hundreds over the course of his lifetime. Jefferson eventually reclaimed Sandy, who he sold for 100 pounds several years later—a common fate of slaves deemed “troublesome”.