Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

May 27 2014 12:30 PM

An 1886 Map of San Francisco’s Booming Business District—Including Levi Strauss & Co.

This 1886 directory map shows every San Francisco business north of Market Street, between Dupont Street (now Grant Avenue) and today’s Embarcadero.

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May 23 2014 2:15 PM

His Son Killed in Action, Theodore Roosevelt Longed to Go to War

In this letter, written a month after his son Quentin, a pilot, was shot down over the Marne River in France, 60-year-old Theodore Roosevelt wishes he could join the fight.

May 22 2014 9:30 AM

A Jazz Age New York Bohemian Dinner, in List Form


In this wry list, writer and artist Charles Green Shaw tried to capture the experience of attending a “bohemian dinner” in New York’s Greenwich Village. Though the list, held in Shaw’s papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, is undated, Shaw lived in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, writing for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. It seems likely that this list dates to that time.

May 21 2014 11:30 AM

The Beautifully Illustrated Family Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers

Families of Revolutionary War veterans applying for government pensions had to prove their relationship to the soldier in question. Many of them included illustrated family records in their petitions for payment, which are now kept at the National Archives. (Here are a few pages with more examples of this kind of record.)

May 20 2014 11:40 AM

1909 Advice for Lady Motorists, in Pictures

Dorothy Levitt raced cars in some of the sport’s first years, entering her first contest in 1903. In her association with Napier & Son, an early British automobile manufacturer, Levitt maintained a rigorous racing schedule and held several speed records during the first decade of the 20th century.

May 19 2014 12:30 PM

A Mournful 1876 Map Tracks the Disappearance of the American Bison

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that North American bison, which early settlers called “buffalo” because of their resemblance to Asian and African buffaloes, comprised a herd of 30 million to 60 million individuals in the 16th century. By 1876, when this map was published in a book by Harvard zoologist Joel Asaph Allen, the herds were gone from the southern plains. By 1884 there were only about 300 wild bison left in the United States.

May 16 2014 10:45 AM

An Alabama Citizen’s 1924 Letter Asking the Government to Investigate the KKK


Membership in the Ku Klux Klan was at an all-time high in the mid-1920s when Selma, Alabama citizen S. Jonce wrote this heartfelt complaint letter to Attorney General Harlan F. Stone.

May 15 2014 9:45 AM

Two Colorful Infographic Wheels Used to Track the Apollo Missions 


The new book Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program, by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek, tracks the massive public relations campaign around NASA’s first spaceflights. Below are some crafty bits of press-kit schwag from Raytheon and IBM, two of the major contractors involved in the program.

May 14 2014 11:00 AM

Late-19th-Century Vice Map Names and Shames Saloons and Brothels Around the White House


This indignant map exposes the seamy underbelly of 1890s Washington, D.C., naming and locating “saloons” and “bawdy-houses” in the so-called Murder Bay neighborhood, located east of the White House. The Library of Congress, which holds the map, tells us that it’s a newspaper clipping from the 1890s, without a known author or publisher.

May 13 2014 11:35 AM

The Neon Noir of Midcentury Vancouver

In the midcentury period, the streets of Vancouver boasted about 19,000 neon signs. The company Neon Products Ltd., located in the city, estimated that Vancouver had the second-most neon signs per capita on the globe, after Shanghai. A Flickr set by the Vancouver Public Library collects black-and-white images of some of the city’s signage as it appeared in the 1950s.

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