The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Dec. 2 2015 11:30 AM

This 1914 Children’s Map Depicts World War I as a Massive Dogfight

When the First World War started in 1914, most commentators thought that the war would be of short duration, and this was reflected in the relatively light-hearted caricature maps issued in the first months of the war. By the second year, when the true scale of the conflict became apparent, such propaganda maps took on an altogether darker tone.

Nov. 30 2015 2:59 PM

A Map of Intellectual Talent in the Early-20th-Century United States

In the November, 1904 issue of the general-interest publication The Century Magazine, writer Gustave Michaud published an article titled "The Brain of the Nation." Using the 1901 edition of Who's Who in America, Michaud mapped birthplaces of the men included in the directory, and came up with these graphic representations of "The Distribution of Men of Talent." 

Nov. 25 2015 12:20 PM

An Adorable Apple Pie ABC for Hungry 19th-Century Children

Kate Greenaway, a British artist who specialized in extremely cute babies and young people, was a popular illustrator of children's books and magazine articles in the late nineteenth century. "By 1885," writes Richard Cavendish, "her books were being ruthlessly imitated and pirated, while Greenaway dolls, children's fashions, pottery and wallpapers were selling in quantity in Britain and abroad." This book, printed in 1886, was published at the height of her fame. 

Nov. 23 2015 12:49 PM

A D.C. Watercolorist’s Beautiful Record of the Changing City in the ‘60s and ‘70s 

Lily Spandorf, an Austrian artist who emigrated to the United States in 1959, lived in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle and worked as a contributing artist for the Washington Star newspaper from 1960 to 1981. Some of Spandorf's art, including the images below, is on view at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, in a new exhibition that opened on Saturday.

Nov. 20 2015 12:02 PM

The CIA’s WWII Guide to Creating Organizational Dysfunction Perfectly Describes Your Toxic Workplace

The Office of Strategic Services (the CIA's WWII-era precursor) created this document in 1944, for use by operatives in Europe who were trying to recruit civilians living in occupied countries to commit sabotage. The document is available in full via the CIA's website.

Nov. 18 2015 11:39 AM

Photos of Belgium’s Ravaged Landscapes, in the Immediate Aftermath of World War I

To put together a new book of images of World War I, The First World War: Unseen Glass Plate Photographs of the Western Front,  Carl De Keyzer restored original plates made by photographers whose work, in their own time, was printed without fanfare and viewed at a much smaller size. De Keyzer's book offers photographs of soldiers, civilians, and landscapes in a large format that represents the war with startling clarity. 

Nov. 16 2015 10:02 AM

A Midcentury Composer’s Luminous Rainbow Wheels Representing Music Through Color

Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky was a 20th-century avant-garde pianist devoted to “creating a work capable of awakening in every man the slumbering forces of cosmic consciousness,” according to his journal. To achieve this mystical ideal, he set out to create sounds that no one had ever heard before. His music was microtonal, a style that transcends the limitations of the 12-scale tuning system in traditional Western music.

Nov. 13 2015 10:17 AM

How a Palestine Tourism Poster, Designed by a Jewish Artist in the 1930s, Took On New Meaning

In 1936, an Austrian Jew named Franz Krausz created this stylized view of Jerusalem's Old City. Krausz, who fled Europe during Hitler’s rise, designed a variety of posters for Zionist groups encouraging Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. This one is particularly arresting:​ the ancient, low-slung city rendered in a warm-hued Mediterranean palette​, crowned by the Dome of the Rock​.

Nov. 12 2015 9:28 AM

Maps Tracking Levels of Poverty in Victorian London, Block by Block

British businessman, philanthropist, and social reformer Charles Booth spent years gathering the data to produce these color-coded maps of London poverty, which he published as part of a huge project titled The Labor and Life of the People of London. (Labor and Life eventually comprised 17 volumes.) The library of the London School of Economics, which has produced an interactive mobile app with the Booth maps, has recently made this source material available in high resolution files, via Flickr.

Nov. 9 2015 10:46 AM

An Eloquent Baptist Protest Against Internment Camps During WWII 

This pamphlet, published by the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1944 or 1945, pleads for "fair play" for Japanese-Americans. The interior of the pictorial booklet argues the point on two fronts, excerpting arguments from national newspapers ("Leading Papers Speak Up For It"), then offering a spread of photographs of Japanese-Americans working and playing alongside white Americans in various settings ("The People Practice It").