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Norman Rockwell reconsidered

Innocence is constructed by disavowing things that are right in front of your face. Richard Halpern, professor of English at Johns Hopkins University, published a different take on Norman Rockwell's art in Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence. He looks below the idyllic surface of nostalgic Americana and sees unwitting voyeurism and blurred boundaries "between asexual friendship and Eros". Naturally, many Rockwell fans don't want to hear this about their beloved painter of innocence: an article about this book in the Boston Globe drew quite a few scathing comments. (BugMeNot logins for the Boston Globe website)
posted by Quietgal on Apr 15, 2007 - 105 comments

The Kansas City Sheet Music Collection

The Kansas City Sheet Music Collection is an enormous catalog of zoomable, high-rez scans of old sheet music. See how the popular music of years past was marketed with Black and Native American imagery as well as exotica. There are lovely and fanciful calligraphic designs, songs of World War 1 and, uh, vegetables. There's even a little ditty by Mark Twain. Plus some undeniable truths and the age-old question.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Apr 13, 2007 - 8 comments

Fifteen would be too much

Fourteen Places to Eat - photos from rural America
posted by Bighappyfunhouse on Apr 11, 2007 - 17 comments

Use Crisco. It's digestible!

Click trough Household Magazine, from 1951 Brought to you from the world of The Swank Pad
posted by edgeways on Apr 11, 2007 - 15 comments

The High Plains Heavy Metal Iron Master

I'M THE HIGH PLAINS HEAVY METAL IRON MASTER, BOY!
posted by jason's_planet on Mar 27, 2007 - 15 comments

Neither snow nor rain nor too-hot sand

Florida's Barefoot Mailmen traveled 68-mile routes between Palm Beach and Miami in the late 1800s. Walking 40 miles (barefoot) and rowing 28 miles over the course of three days each way, these letter carriers brought efficiency to a postal route that previously required that "a letter from Palm Beach to Miami begin its trip at the lighthouse community of Jupiter, 22 miles north, then by an Indian River steamboat to the rail head at Titusville. By train it continued to New York's port and from there by steamer to Havana. From Cuba, a trading schooner took the letter to Miami. It took a voyage of 3,000 miles and a period of six weeks to two months for a letter to arrive in Miami." Ed Hamilton, who disappeared in the course of duty (and whose mysterious death may have been engineered by moving his rowboat out of reach in alligator-infested waters), is honored with a bronze statue in Hillsboro Beach.
posted by occhiblu on Mar 14, 2007 - 6 comments

American music

All old things become new again. Traditional American music, such as Del McCoury and Doc Watson being explored and reinvented by new artists. Gillian Welch and Old Crow Medicine Show , Chatham County Line- Route 23 , and The Be Good Tanyas - The Littlest Birds. Just to name a few. [all youtube]
posted by nola on Mar 10, 2007 - 16 comments

'To an Eastern man this city is full of surprises. '

Ghost Cowboy :: True Tales of Adventure in the American West
posted by anastasiav on Feb 3, 2007 - 10 comments

Paul Theroux's America

Paul Theroux's writing is, at it's best, a long, dreamy meditation on a place, it's people, and the time he spent among them. His latest piece, an op-ed in the New York Times about America in 2007, is no exception.
posted by nevercalm on Jan 3, 2007 - 99 comments

John Fahey at Rockpalast - Hamburg Uni, Hamburg, West Germany - 1978-03-17and otherwise on YouTube

John Fahey in concert: Beverly (aka Indian Pacific Railroad Blues) Poor Boy (Which is a variation on Booker White's Poor Boy Long Way from Home)
posted by y2karl on Oct 22, 2006 - 19 comments

History of pets in America

Kitty litter was invented in 1946. Birds were the first pets to have their own full lines of products. Canned dog food first appeared in the 1910s. Lots of interesting stuff [wav] at the University of South Carolina's Pets in America site.
posted by mediareport on Oct 9, 2006 - 18 comments

Old Glass Bottles, or YAMO (Yet Another Magnificant Obsession)

Historic Glass Bottles. Bill Lindsey of the BLM created a tremendous resource to assist you in identifying and dating most utilitarian glass bottles and jars produced in the United States and Canada between the early 1800s and 1950s. Check out information on glassmaking, bottle dating, and bottle types. Of particular interest to me are the pages on liquor, wine, and beer bottles.
posted by monju_bosatsu on Oct 7, 2006 - 14 comments

folkstreams.net - A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures

Folkstreams.net has two goals. One is to build a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures. The other is to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. The films were produced by independent filmmakers in a golden age that began in the 1960s and was made possible by the development first of portable cameras and then capacity for synch sound. Their films focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities. The filmmakers were driven more by sheer engagement with the people and their traditions than by commercial hopes. Their films have unusual subjects, odd lengths, and talkers who do not speak "broadcast English." Although they won prizes at film festivals, were used in college classes, and occasionally were shown on PBS, they found few outlets in venues like theaters, video shops or commercial television. But they have permanent value...
folkstreams.net Currently streaming are the films The Land Where the Blues Began , Cajun Country , Jazz Parades: Feet Don't Fail Me Now , Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance: Buck, Flatfoot and Tap , Ray Lum: Mule Trader and Pizza Pizza Daddy-O , among many others.
posted by y2karl on Oct 6, 2006 - 14 comments

The black and white world of photojournalist Arthur Grace

Arthur Grace has a distinguished career as a photojournalist who works in black and white. Although not limited to U.S. work, he excels in Americana. His portfolios are fun to surf - here's a sampling that I liked: window washer, the Hatt family of Maine, Cheer Squad, and Prisoner, Adelaide Jail. Oh, and whatever you do - don't miss the Show Dogs, heh. [more]
posted by madamjujujive on Aug 13, 2006 - 9 comments

i was standing by the window

Made most popular to many Americans as the closing song for the Grand Ole Opry programs, Will The Circle Be Unbroken was written in 1907 by Ada Habershon, an intensely religious young woman and acquaintance of Dwight Moody and Ira David Sankey. The music was "composed" by Charles Gabriel, a popular songwriter and composer of the era who is often solely credited with the song, but while he may have put the notes down on paper, the tune itself already existed as the African-American spiritual Glory Glory / Since I Laid My Burden Down. [lots more inside]
posted by luriete on May 26, 2006 - 18 comments

take THAT Montgomery Ward!

The Zobo! Spanish-American Chess Men! Where can you find these amazing products, including Sanitary Belt Pads the Toilet Mask, or a handy goat harness, at amazing, rockbottom prices? The Sears, Roebuck Catalog, of course. Everything you could need for the modern American family! They did houses (1, 2) even. Starting in 1888 and mostly selling watches, this venerable institution of consumerism spent its first 10 years rapidly growing and adding products, lasting for over 100 years before finally folding in 1993. The catalog still stands as a detailed historical document of what the average American would buy to get through life. They make a fun collector's item, too (1902 available on CD-ROM as well). [ This post inspired by the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog blog. ]
posted by tweak on May 26, 2006 - 11 comments

"Ten Favorite Offbeat Musicals"

"Ten Favorite Offbeat Musicals" by Jonathan Rosenbaum
posted by matteo on Apr 4, 2006 - 30 comments

Rattlesnakes, rattlesnacks

Sweetwater Texas Rattlesnake Roundup! An annual tradition since 1958, people from miles around come to look at the thousands of collected rattlesnakes, join in the hunting, watch them get milked, killed, and skinned, and then eat them. Check out Chris Hamilton's engaging b&w photo essay.
posted by donovan on Mar 11, 2006 - 41 comments

And a smile can hide all the pain

The Original Rhinestone Cowboy. "I was laying on my bedside just as lonesome as I could be. I was by myself and so lonesome the tears just come in my eyes. I was so lonesome I prayed and said: 'Lord, give me something to make me happy' Now, you won't believe this, but the Lord told me to make an outfit. I went downtown and bought me a suit and became Rhinestone, and I ain't had one moment of lonesomeness since."
posted by Sticherbeast on Mar 10, 2006 - 3 comments

... Follow Ronald McDonald through the land of apple pie trees ...

The Freaky Universe of McDonald's Advertising
posted by anastasiav on Feb 21, 2006 - 31 comments

Drunken Angel

Blaze Foley, Drunken Angel. An iconoclastic country singer and songwriter who was shot dead in 1989, Blaze Foley is probably best known as the subject of Lucinda Williams' song 'Drunken Angel' and the author of 'If I Could Only Fly' which was covered by both Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. He also wrote the anti-Reagan 'Oval Room' which was unusually leftist for early-1980's Nashville. A documentary is in the works. Here's some video of Foley singing with Townes Van Zandt, himself once a cult figure but now considered somewhat last week.
posted by liam on Jan 26, 2006 - 8 comments

The one room school house project

The one room school house project - stories, photos, and documents.
posted by Wolfdog on Dec 10, 2005 - 2 comments

The Lost Museum

On July 13, 1865, one of the most celebrated institutions in the United States, the American Museum, burned to the ground. But thanks to the wonders of technology, it has been rebuilt—sort of—on a Website called The Lost Museum... As it was managed by Phineas T. Barnum, the original American Museum was located in lower Manhattan and presented an ever-growing collection of wonders across five floors, ranging from "cosmoramas" and wax figures, to aquariums and live-animal specimens, to "moral representations" in the Lecture Room.
Via the incomparable Common-place's Finding Barnum on the Internet.
posted by y2karl on Oct 6, 2005 - 8 comments

The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music

The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music
posted by matteo on Sep 12, 2005 - 12 comments

William Eggleston in the Real World

"I am at war with the obvious", photographer William Eggleston once said, explaining his attraction to a ceiling lightbulb engulfed in a shock of red or an old Gulf gasoline sign sprouting like a giant weed against a rural skyline. Attempting to understand that battle, filmmaker Michael Almereyda trailed the photographer in action and in repose over a period of five years. The resulting film is "William Eggleston in the Real World". More inside.,
posted by matteo on Sep 1, 2005 - 14 comments

God Bless Americana.

God Bless Americana. This 4th of July, celebrate the true America with Charles Phoenix, who's been collecting found slides of other Americans' vacations from the 50s and 60s.
posted by herc on Jul 4, 2005 - 4 comments

'What we don't talk about enough is Ohio's unique and remarkable quality of life'

Artistic Tanks, Strange Theme Buildings, Unusual Water Towers, Giant Objects, and more!
posted by anastasiav on Jun 24, 2005 - 7 comments

In the pines, in the pines....

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection from the University of Arkansas. "John Quincy Wolf began collecting Ozark ballads while an undergraduate at Arkansas (now Lyon) college. His first serious professional interest in Ozark folksongs dates from his attendance at the Old Settler's folk music festival at Blanchard Springs in 1941. He and his wife Bess began to seek out folksingers in the White River and surrounding areas, often placing advertisements in local newspapers for people who knew 'old songs'. Wolf recorded hundreds of Ozark folksingers between 1952 and 1963, including Almeda Riddle, Neal Morris, Oscar and Ollie Gilbert, and Jimmy Driftwood. [...] The Wolf Folksong Collection at Lyon College contains hundreds of recordings." Site contains the field recordings of Ozark Folksongs, as well as sections for Memphis Blues, Sacred Harp Singing, and more. The folk song recordings are indexed by song title and singer. Music files play in Windows Media or Real.
posted by jokeefe on Jun 7, 2005 - 10 comments

Lomax Archive

The Alan Lomax Database is a free multimedia catalog of the audio and video recordings and photographs made by Alan Lomax from 1946 to 1994.
posted by liam on Apr 25, 2005 - 8 comments

The Minstrel Show 2.1 - William Henry Lane & Pattin' Juba

Single shuffle, double shuffle, cut and cross-cut; snapping his fingers, rolling his eyes, turning in his knees, presenting the backs of his legs in front, spinning about on his toes and heels like nothing but the man’s fingers on the tambourine. Dancing with two left legs, two right legs, two wooded legs, two wire legs, two spring legs–all sorts of legs and no legs–what is this to him? And in what walk of life, or dance of life does man ever get such stimulating applause as thunders about him, when, having danced his partner off her feet, and himself too, he finishes by leaping gloriously on the bar-counter, and calling for something to drink, with the chuckle of a million of counterfeit Jim Crows, in one inimitable sound!

Dancing Across The Color Line.   In 1842, Charles Dickens came to New York City, where initally, he was wined, dined and theatrically entertained by the upper crust. Afterwards, he then went slumming and soon saw William Henry Lane, aka Master Juba, a man of whose dancing a number of historians say is where tap dance began, step lively in a cellar in the neighborhood called Five Points--the very same neighborhood creatively misrepresented recently by one Martin Scorcese in Gangs of New York. The dance he did was known as Pattin' Juba and the first time it's rhythm--which we think of as the Bo Diddley beat--was used on a sound recording was in 1952, when Red Saunders and his Orchestra, with Dolores Hawkins and and the Hambone Kids recorded Hambone. Continued within
posted by y2karl on Apr 4, 2005 - 3 comments

The Minstrel Show 2.0: Why Postmodern Minstrelsy Studies Matter

Jump Jim Crow, through the hoops of one Robert Christgau's erudition as he surveys the literature extant in In Search of Jim Crow: Why Postmodern Minstrelsy Studies Matter, through multiple readings of Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop, Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World and and Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Consider, too, The Minstrel Cycle from Reading The Commitments and other various and sundry attempts to peek inside the minstrel mask—all multiple readings reading blackface minstrels from the pejorative to the explorative, subversive to oppressive, past to future, unfolding tesseractly, if not exactly, with singing, dancing and extraordinary elocutions. Buy your tickets and step within for The Meller Drammer of Minstrelsy in The Minstrel Show 2.0
posted by y2karl on Mar 31, 2005 - 17 comments

Cowgirls, daredevils, and rodeo queens

Most folks know about Jane and Annie but there were many more oldtime daredevils and rodeo queens who paved the way for contemporary cowgirls (flash). More than 170 trailblazers are included in the Dallas Cowgirl Hall of Fame...women who have been the inspiration for art, erotica, kitsch, and the dreams of girls of all ages.
posted by madamjujujive on Mar 13, 2005 - 12 comments

If you want me, I'll be in the Infinity Room.

The House on the Rock.
Mentioned in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, worked on by the mysterious Dr. Evermor... in your face, Frank Lloyd Wright!
posted by scrim on Dec 24, 2004 - 22 comments

Casey Jones, Stagolee, Frankie and Johnny - Murder and Death Ballad Back Stories

My Back Pages--Interesting in his own right Eyolf Østrem still maintains the fan's fan tab, chords and music site, the standard by which all others are judged. I just revisited it the other night, while trying to recall how that little run in Dylan's version of Delia went, and dang, if it didn't have the back story of that ballad. I love this kind of stuff. The source of that account, John Garst, is the folklorist king of such research--he puts John Henry at a railroad tunnel near Leeds, Alabama, just east of Birmingham on September 20, 1887, for example. Murder and heroic death ballad back stories are of extreme interest to me, so I decided to post a few more here: Frankie and Albert, Frankie and Johnny, Casey Jones and Stagger Lee. Did I say I love this kind of stuff?
posted by y2karl on Sep 23, 2004 - 10 comments

Antique American Posters

Poster Glory: Antique American Posters.
posted by hama7 on Jun 16, 2004 - 7 comments

The Jean Sheperd Archives

10:15 P.M. The WOR news and weather are out of the way. A bugle sounds, and a sprightly theme song comes trotting on the air. The theme has a double meaning: it is the one that calls the horses to the gate at Aqueduct, and it is the Bahnfrei Overture, composed for an operetta by Eduard Strauss, the only member of the Strauss family who did not make good. Presently, Shepherd's clear, rowdy voice intrudes. "Okay, gang are you ready to play radio? Are you ready to shuffle off the mortal coil of mediocrity? I am if you are." There is a noise like a mechanized Bronx cheer (Brrapp!)- it is Shepherd blowing his kazoo. At other times he twangs his Jew's-harp (Brroing!). "Yes, you fatheads out there in the darkness, you losers in the Sargasso Sea of existence, take heart, because WOR, in its never ending crusade of public service, is once again proud to bring you--(Erocia Symphony Up)-- The Jean Shepherd Program!"

A man no longer known for much besides A Christmas Story, Jean Sheperd was the greatest radio raconteur ever. Here is the greatest Jean Sheperd fansite so far--Flick Lives and, treasure of treasures, here are The Shep Archives--oh, you'll have to spend a minute or two to register to hear them but what the hey?--with hundreds of Sheperd broadcasts and records in streaming mp3s.
But Wait! There's More!

posted by y2karl on Mar 27, 2004 - 14 comments

RIP

Roadside Memorials on the American Highway
posted by anastasiav on Mar 16, 2004 - 8 comments

The only problem was that there was two women for every man.

50's Women and Their World
:: via blort and Madamjjj ::
posted by anastasiav on Jan 21, 2004 - 25 comments

If you ever plan to motor west Travel my way, take the highway that's the best

Postcards From The Road : US Route 66, as seen through vintage postcards.
posted by anastasiav on Nov 19, 2003 - 7 comments

Wish You Were Here....

Motel Postcards from the Era of the Open Road
posted by anastasiav on Nov 17, 2003 - 10 comments

He kept the West in food and wives. -- Will Rogers

The story of Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls is the story of the civilization of the American West. From 1896 to 1945, Harvey House Restaurants and Hotels along the route of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe represented first-rate food served in clean, stylish surroundings at reasonable cost. His corps of well-trained waitresses, wearing their distinctive uniforms and bound by a code of hard work and good conduct, provided both adventure and independence to generations of young women. Today, all that is left of the Harvey empire is the remembrances of former employees, beautiful buildings which dot the southwest, some vintage recipes, a 1946 Judy Garland film, and (possibly) the enduring term "Blue-Plate Special".
posted by anastasiav on Oct 1, 2003 - 8 comments

See America!

I have to travel the highways and byways of America by car and train a great deal, and its much more fun if you actually see America on the way. Two of my favorite sites for finding offbeat attractions and tasty eats are By The Way Magazine and Roadside America.
posted by anastasiav on Sep 22, 2003 - 5 comments

My tongue went numb at my grandmother's insistence!

If you're of a certain age, you will easily recognize the sign. Warhol made art out of them. Many families whiled away lazy rainy days licking them. Despite being one of the most dominant forces in cosumer's lives during the middle of the 20th century, the 80s saw them fade away, and eventually disappeared entirely just this year. Since 1999, though, they've been back, albeit in virtual form. You might even still be able to redeem your old stamps! Let's fondly remember the most successful implementation of the granddaddy of all today's shopping 'reward' programs...S&H Green Stamps!
posted by WolfDaddy on Apr 14, 2003 - 7 comments

The future we were promised.

An exhibit of the art of Radebaugh and what the future looked like from the 50's. "The post-World War II optimism that pervaded the nation extended to the not-too-distant future, with its promise of spaceship-traveled skyways whirring in a utopia of streamlined cityscapes. Now, the works of A.C. Radebaugh -- a top illustrator of the day whose works helped define that future-vision -- are being shown in a retrospective at a quirky art gallery obsessed with Americana of the mid-20th century."
posted by KevinSkomsvold on Mar 31, 2003 - 1 comment

Bad pug! Stick on 17!!

They're dogs... and they're playing POKER!! They've been hailed as some of the most important works of American art ever painted, they've been featured on television from The Simpsons to ESPN commercials to Cheers, but how much do we really know about the works of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge? For everyone that ever looked at the dogs playing poker and wanted to know more, here is the ultimate resource, including, of course, a gallery. Please excuse the cornea damagingly horrific site design.
posted by jonson on Mar 13, 2003 - 9 comments

Labors of Love: American Vernacular Music & Lucky Mojo, Too

                                   Labors Of Love
Here are some handmade pages, personal and corporate, on American Vernacular Music and more:

First, here's Long Time Coming, with three separate shrines to Dock Boggs, Pretty Boy Floyd and Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, worthy subjects all. I have no idea what the Eyeneer Records revenue model is or was but their American Music Archive, (Latest Update - August 20, 1999), albeit spotty, is still a must stop and see with pages on Charley Patton, Sleepy John Estes and Lucille Bogan, for example, and that's just the blues section. It's a very promising sounding site--and it's too bad they never finished it, but, on the other hand, thank god,they have not yet pulled the plug. Lea Gilmore's It's A Girl Thang's Historical Profiles has it goin' on with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Maybelle and Georgia White for examples. Catherine Yronwode, of course, is a name well known here, as is her wondrous Lucky Mojo, cornucopica that it is. There, among much riches, is the extensive and authoritative Blues Lyrics and Hoodoo --but that's Not All ! »→ »→ »→
posted by y2karl on Feb 12, 2003 - 21 comments

More Fan Labors of Love

Folk Music. Stefan Wirz and Hideki Watanabe pay homage to their favorites. Check out Hideki's Muscle Shoals page for another slice of his Americana pie. Or click on a name--Eric Von Schmidt, say--on Stefan's completist, slow loading page and wallow in pictures and stories... Then there's the Richard & Mimi Fariña website. Jan Hoiberg's Band site is another. I love labors of love.

And don't forget the Bauls of Bengal or the secrets of John Wesley Harding revealed!

And note, newsfilterians, you can now order Mickey Jone's home movies from the '66 tour, too. I'm going to see the Bobster tomorrow, so I've been thinking of these things.
posted by y2karl on Oct 3, 2002 - 18 comments

They are the silent sentinels of America's roads. If you travel at all (or if you read Zippy), you have seen them. They may wear giant hats, or look like Alfred E. Neuman, but they are everywhere. But what you may not know is that one guy made them all.
posted by yhbc on Jun 6, 2002 - 27 comments

The Red Hot Jazz Archive

The Red Hot Jazz Archive - Louis Armstrong, Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon, Ma Rainey, Don Redman, Trixie Smith and all the other household names are here. Essays, biographies, discographies, filmographies and sounds--It's your one stop shopping source for the Potato Head Blues in its entirety--truly one of the high points in Western Civilization--for example, among many, many other classics. I ran this sucker through here and Google and it doesn't show up--so pardon the double-post if it is so. I mean, it ought to be. It's just one of my favorite sites. A little hard on the eyes but a delight just the same.
posted by y2karl on Apr 7, 2002 - 9 comments

Post-Country Heartache.

Post-Country Heartache. A very down to earth interview with Paul Brill. Who doesn't seem jaded at all from the music industry. Still writing good music and playing shows. (from Sound the Sirens)
posted by lostbyanecho on Mar 14, 2002 - 1 comment

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