Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

July 7 2014 12:22 PM

A Thank-You Note From the Amistad Rebels to One of Their Lawyers, John Quincy Adams

This month marks the 175th anniversary of the Amistad rebellion. On July 1, 1839, 53 Africans, kidnapped into slavery in Sierra Leone, rose up to challenge their Cuban captors. Discovered after the ship ran ashore in Long Island, the group was held in New England for two years, while the courts decided how to handle their case.

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July 3 2014 11:51 AM

Deciphering Original Pages From the Voting Record of the Constitutional Convention

William Jackson, secretary to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, recorded the convention delegates’ votes in neat columns, alongside the “questions” (or resolutions) that prompted their votes. Here’s one page; the National Archives has digitized six other pages. (While it’s not part of this record, you can seethe page that records the final vote for ratification elsewhere on the NARA site.) 

July 2 2014 11:08 AM

How "You Have the Right to Remain Silent" Became the Standard Miranda Warning 

While the cadence of the Miranda warning that begins "You have the right to remain silent..." is now so familiar that most Americans can recite it by heart, the language, penned by California officials, only rooted itself in American culture when an enterprising D.A. sold these “Miranda warning cards” to law enforcement agencies across the U.S. in the late 1960s.

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.

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.