The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Feb. 26 2015 10:12 AM

“Put Someone in Charge of His Liquor” and Other Foreign-Service Rules for Handling William Faulkner 

Although at first he didn’t even want to go to Stockholm to collect his 1950 Nobel Prize—his farm wasn’t going to take care of itself!— William Faulkner became one of America’s most important Cold War cultural ambassadors. He and other traveling luminaries like Martha Graham, John Updike, andLouis Armstrong were living proof that America wasn’t just Mickey Mouse and chewing gum.

Video Advertisement

Feb. 25 2015 11:44 AM

A 1964 Document Tallying Penalties for Sodomy and Fornication Across the United States

This 1964 document, from the archives of the Mattachine Society of New York at the New York Public Library, details the legal penalties at the time for sodomy, fornication, adultery, and cohabitation in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The NYPL’s Jason Baumann hypothesizes that the document may have been distributed for discussion at the 1964 Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations, held in Washington.

Feb. 20 2015 11:06 AM

Wild, Weird, and Funny Austin Music Posters of the 1960s and 1970s

A new book collects music posters printed in Austin between 1967 and 1982, as the city's music and underground art scenes flourished. Homegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982 tracks the shifting aesthetics of Texan poster artists responding to psychedelia, rock, and punk.

Feb. 18 2015 9:36 AM

Delicately Preserved Slices of Wood Illustrating a Late-19th-Century Book of American Forests

Between 1888 and 1929, physician and botanist Romeyn Beck Hough published most of a massive multi-volume catalog: The American Woods: exhibited by actual specimens and with copious explanatory text.After Hough died, his daughter Marjorie Galloway Hough completed as much of the project as her father’s research allowed.

Feb. 13 2015 2:47 PM

A Forgotten History of Anti-Sikh Violence in the Early-20th-Century Pacific Northwest

When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal spoke last month of a Muslim “invasion” of the United States, he stood on sadly familiar ground in American history. The “Yellow Peril” fears of the late nineteenth century are well known, but few remember the “Dusky Peril” that soon followed—the anxiety caused by South East Asian immigration to the Pacific Northwest.

Feb. 13 2015 9:49 AM

Form-Letter Valentines for 19th-Century Lovers

In his Fashionable Gentleman’s Valentine Writer for 1828, British publisher Thomas Richardson gave readers text of sample valentines to use in conducting affairs of the heart. (Richardson published a companion volume for the ladies who wished to initiate romantic correspondence themselves.)

Feb. 11 2015 10:03 AM

An 1864 Letter to American Women, Rallying Support For A Huge Anti-Slavery Petition Drive

The Prologue: Pieces of History blog, published by the National Archives, just ran a post on anti-slavery petitions to Congress, including one from the Women’s Loyal National League which was submitted in 1864, as the months-long push to pass the 13th Amendment heated up. This page is an Address to the League’s members, asking them to consider signing. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the League’s president, and Susan B. Anthony was its secretary; both of their names appear at the bottom of the address’s text.  


Feb. 10 2015 9:19 AM

Modernist 1930s Posters Calling Skiiers to the Mountains of Europe

These graphic posters for ski tourism in 1930s Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy enticed travelers to come take part in what was then a fairly new recreational sport. While people had been cross-country skiing for centuries, especially in the Scandinavian countries, and some dedicated souls had pioneered alpine skiing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it wasn’t until the invention of ski lifts and tow ropes in the 1930s that casual alpine skiing became possible. The sport was first added to the slate of Olympic competitions in 1936.

Feb. 5 2015 9:36 AM

Biographical Cartoons of Notable Black Americans, Drawn to Promote Unity During WWII

Black artist Charles Alston produced these mockups of cartoons for the Office of War Information during World War II. The finished products were sent to black newspapers for publication, and were meant to urge their readerships to support the war effort. Alston’s other nonbiographical cartoons illustrated standard Office of War Information exhortations to conserve needed commodities, enlist, and buy war bonds.

Feb. 4 2015 10:35 AM

An Anti-Suffrage Children’s Book From 1910, Mocking “Baby” Activists

Anti-suffrage literature printed in the 1910s, as suffrage activists in the United States ramped up their campaign for enfranchisement, took a number of clever forms. Advocates like the members of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage tried to portray a desire for the franchise as foreign to women’s nature. (See, for example, the many anti-suffrage postcards that used humor to police gender roles, mocking women who wanted to vote as unnaturally aggressive and their husbands as unmanly.)