Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

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.)

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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 HG 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.

Oct. 10 2014 9:50 AM

The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era 

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.


Oct. 9 2014 11:58 AM

Smash Mouth: The Life of a Football Lineman Before Face Masks

Among the images in the new book Chicago Portraits, this 1938 shot of Chicago Bears player Frank Bausch absorbing a palm to the face caught my eye. From the Chicago Tribune’s archives, it originally appeared in the layout below, showing Bausch, who played center, and Bears tackle Joe Stydahardemonstrating the impact of elbows, feet, knees, and hands on a lineman’s face.