Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Oct. 28 2014 12:06 PM

Etiquette Lessons for the Annoying Moviegoers of Early Cinema

After I wrote a few weeks ago about lantern slides used to advertise coming attractions in the silent-movie era, the people who run the blog for the history podcast BackStory contacted me to make sure I’d seen this post, featuring humorous theatre etiquette slides from 1912. The slides, which would have been projected before the show or during intermission, forbid some of the behaviors that theatre owners saw as problematic in early movie audiences: whistling, talking, bothering women, and wearing tall hats.

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Oct. 27 2014 11:44 AM

Whaling Ship Crew List Shows Melville Embarking on a Journey That Inspired Moby-Dick

This crew list for the whaler Acushnet, filed with the collector of customs in New Bedford, Massachusetts in December, 1840, incudes the name and physical description of the 21-year-old Herman Melville. The list marks the beginning of the epic trip that was to provide the author with material he used to write his maritime novels Typee (1846); Omoo (1847); Mardi (1849); Redburn (1849); White-Jacket (1850); andMoby-Dick (1851).

Oct. 23 2014 12:02 PM

Delightfully Awkward Studio Action Shots of Players, Used on Early Baseball Cards

The great historical photo blog The Passion of Former Days recently featured a batch of proto-baseball cards from the late nineteenth century. These studio portraits, taken in Boston and Philadelphia, were sold as small cabinet cards that advertised the photographers' businesses, as well as being reprinted on cigarette cards that were packaged as collectibles along with tobacco in the 1880s and 1890s. (Former Days’ Anna Krentz points to a pair of photos to show how a studio’s portraits were repurposed by cigarette manufacturers: the Philadelphia Quakers’ Jack Clements in the studio; the same Jack Clements portrait used on an Old Judge cigarette card.)

Oct. 22 2014 11:36 AM

Casting the Role of Scarlett O'Hara Was Really, Really Frustrating

The producer David O. Selznick took more than two years to cast the role of Scarlett O’Hara for his 1939 film “Gone With the Wind.” Within a new web exhibition about the making of the movie (“Producing Gone with the Wind”), the Harry Ransom Center has collected producers’ correspondence pertaining to this search, including this fed-up letter from a Selznick employee mired in the casting process. 

Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM

A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903

This 1903 map of “Race and Occupation of Immigrants by Destination” crowds information about national origin, occupations, and state-level longitudinal trends in immigration into a busy geography of the United States. 

Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM

1914 Authors' Manifesto Defending Britain's Involvement in WWI, Signed by H.G. Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle

In September of 1914, as the armies of Europe were engaged in the Race to the Sea and the stalemate of the trenches loomed, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and other British authors collaborated on a remarkable piece of war propaganda.

Oct. 17 2014 1:47 PM

The Star Charts That Apollo 11 Astronauts Used to Land on the Moon

These star charts were part of a guidance and navigation (G&N) dictionary carried by the Apollo 11 lunar module when it reached the moon’s surface on May 29, 1969.

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).

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.