The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights

June 9 2017 4:21 PM

Dramatic Courtroom Drawings From Decades of American Trials

The Library of Congress has a great new online exhibit of courtroom art drawn during trials held between 1964 and today. The drawings, from the Library's Courtroom Illustration Collection, are full of emotion, with artists capturing the reactions of defendants, judges, lawyers, jurors, and onlookers.

In the image above, by Pat Lopez, a sheriff and prosecutor display the chain used in the murder of Matthew Shepard, while one of the defendants, Russell Arthur Henderson, watches. Lopez's use of lavender shading and negative space gives the image an eerie sense of twilight importance.

May 17 2017 10:41 AM

Dark Satirical Maps from a Depression-Era Anti-Fascist Magazine

Ken magazine was the 1937 brainchild of David Smart and Arnold Gingrich, the publisher and editor of the then–four-year-old Esquire. Ken was published only from April 1938 through August 1939 and is most notable for having put several of Ernest Hemingway's dispatches from the Spanish Civil War into print. These three maps from Ken's pages show Americans both feared and mocked worldwide fascism in the years right before World War II.

May 2 2017 3:36 PM

Admissions Books for an Early-19th-Century Prison Hold a Wealth of Stories

The American Philosophical Society's library holds four fascinating admissions books offering details on prisoners held at Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary in the 1830s and 1840s. Three of those books seem to have been kept by Thomas Larcombe, a Baptist minister who was the first to hold the position of “moral instructor” at the prison.

April 25 2017 11:04 AM

A Few Way-Less-Catchy Discarded Titles for S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of S.E. Hinton’s cult classic The Outsiders. Hinton wrote the novel while still attending high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when she signed the publisher’s contract in May 1966, her mother had to co-sign because the author was still a teenager.

Jan. 18 2017 1:02 PM

An Odd and Obsolete 19th-Century Nickname Map of the American States

This nickname map, printed as a promotional item by the livestock supply company H.W. Hill & Co. in 1884, is a wildly haphazard representation of the variety of American state nicknames in the late 19th century.

Jan. 5 2017 4:17 PM

Five More Compelling Digital History Projects We Loved in 2016

Last week, I shared five of my ten favorite digital history sites from 2016. Here, without further ado, is the second half of that list.

Dec. 30 2016 3:57 PM

Five Fascinating Digital History Projects We Loved in 2016

For four years now, I've rounded up 10 interesting digital history projects, born in the 12 months previous, for your browsing fun. (Here are my 2015 picks: Part 1. Part 2. Here are the 2014 lists: Part 1. Part 2. And 2013: Part 1. Part 2.)

Dec. 16 2016 4:29 PM

Beautiful Pages of a Late Medieval Monk’s Sketchbook

In these pages, a 15th-century monk living in southwest Germany tested ideas for the creation of illuminated manuscripts. The website Public Domain Review recently featured images from this book, known as The Illuminated Sketchbook of Stephan Schriber, which is held by the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

Dec. 9 2016 12:12 PM

What Things Cost in an American Country Store in 1836

Bookseller and blogger John Ptak recently featured this page, from a pocket-sized arithmetic book published in Connecticut in 1836. The list gives sample prices for the stock that a clerk in a country store might buy in order to flesh out a typical inventory.

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.