The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

Nov. 18 2016 3:16 PM

How Tragedy Drove a Bellevue Doctor to Become America’s First Illustrator

After a six-year medical apprenticeship that began at the age of 14, Alexander Anderson became the resident physician at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. It was the peak of the city’s 1795 yellow fever epidemic, but Anderson was “determined to do the Lord’s work,” writes David Oshinsky in his new book, Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital.

Nov. 8 2016 3:45 PM

Some Choice Political Memorabilia, Shared via #ElectionCollection

For the past few months, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and PBS's American Experience have been running a Twitter and Instagram hashtag—#ElectionCollection—as a way of encouraging museums, libraries, archives, and collectors to share their election-related documents and memorabilia.

Nov. 2 2016 1:14 PM

Picky Bosses’ Pet Peeves About Secretaries, in a 1945 List

Drawn from a 1945 pamphlet, Memo: How to Be a Super Secretary, this list of bosses' pet peeves comes from research done at the behest of Remington Rand's Typewriter Division. The pamphlet, which has been digitized by the Hagley Museum and Library, is available to read in full in their its archives.

Oct. 27 2016 2:14 PM

A Harsh, but Efficient, Form Rejection Letter for Silent Film Screenwriters

Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some ("Too difficult to produce") were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others ("Not interesting").

Oct. 21 2016 11:43 AM

Washington’s 1776 Warning to the City of New York: “Get Out While You Can”

In this August 1776 proclamation, printed and distributed in New York City, George Washington asked vulnerable citizens—"Women, Children, and infirm Persons"—to leave the city ahead of the coming conflict with the British Army. The document is currently on display as part of the New-York Historical Society's exhibition on the Battle of Brooklyn (sometimes known as the Battle of Long Island).

Oct. 6 2016 2:50 PM

Bits and Pieces of Old New York, in a New Digital Collection

New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission has launched a new website with images of artifacts from its archaeological collections. The site supplements a new physical respository of archaeological finds, located in Midtown. The bones, shards, and bottles in the Archaeological Repository aren't on display for the general public to see (just researchers and scholars, by appointment), so the website is a good way to view the range of artifacts that archaeologists have collected in the city over the years.

Sept. 29 2016 2:02 PM

Lyrical Paintings of Life Inside a WWII Internment Camp

Estelle Peck, a white Californian, married Arthur Ishigo, a second-generation Japanese American, in 1929. Interracial marriages were illegal in the state at the time, so the two went to Mexico to marry; Estelle's family disowned her for the act. When California's Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps in 1942, Estelle Peck Ishigo, who had been working as an art teacher, joined them voluntarily. Estelle and Arthur spent the war at Pomonoa Assembly Center, in California, and then the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, in northern Wyoming.

Sept. 16 2016 1:56 PM

Stark, Spare, Beautiful Midcentury British Safety Posters

This solemn group of posters teaching safety to British citizens comes from the archive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The images are from the Wellcome Library's website; I first saw them on the blog the Passion of Former Days.

Sept. 7 2016 1:31 PM

Salvaged Photos Capture the Rugged Life of Pennsylvania’s Late-19th-Century Lumber Camps

This series of gorgeous, detail-packed photographs, by itinerant photographer William T. Clarke, records the faces and landscapes of the lumber industry in north-central Pennsylvania during the late 19th century. In the span of a few brief decades, lumber companies rapidly processed large areas of old-growth forest, employing men—and some families—who lived in the backwoods in thriving, temporary camps and towns. A book out this month, Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers: A Visual History of Pennsylvania's Railroad Lumbering Communities, collects 131 of Clarke's images.

Sept. 2 2016 2:17 PM

The First British Newspaper in India Was a Hilarious, Irreverent Quasi-Tabloid

Started in 1780 by Irishman James Augustus Hicky, Hicky’s Bengal Gazette was the Indian subcontinent’s first newspaper. The Gazette was a weekly publication, typically running at a length of four pages, with three columns of text.

READ MORE STORIES