Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of the slipperiest holidays in the American tradition. Costumed masquerading and trick-or-treating used to happen on Thanksgiving, while Halloween was mostly devoted to vandalism. As Americans did they best to stamp out the vandalism, they also cleaned up the unruly traditions of Turkey Day, banishing the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins to October. [more inside]
The shortening leash on American children: We heard a lot about sneaking out, petty theft, amateur arson, drugs, and sexual experimentation from our older respondents. But as time passes, the picture of childhood looks a lot less wild and reckless and a lot more monitored. We asked parents how they would react if they caught their kids doing what they had done as kids. A typical response: "I'd probably freak out and turn my home into a prison."
The strange, tragic story of the Brothers Muse. The sideshow called them Eko and Iko, cannibal savages from Borneo, sheep-headed men, ambassadors from Mars, highlighting their signature white dreadlocks in every poster. In reality, they were George and Willie Muse, taken from their parents in 1899 in rural Roanoke, Virginia by bounty hunters working for sideshow producers fascinated by their albinism. [more inside]
The American Museum of Natural History will unlock thousands of old photos from their vault, they announced this week. The new online image database (officially launching on Monday the 28th) will take you behind the curtain, delivering images that span the 145-year history of the Museum. The collection features over 7,000 images—many never before seen by the public—and includes photos, rare book illustrations, drawings, notes, letters, art, and Museum memorabilia. They say "it’s like stepping into a time machine and seeing a long ago NYC or just catching glimpses of ghosts from a forgotten world now seen only by researchers and Museum staff." Previously. [more inside]
I.F. Stone's Weekly, a 1973 documentary about one of the greatest American journalists of the 20th century (Part 1). Part 2 of 6 here (incomplete). Isidor Feinstein "Izzy" Stone discusses how he exposed widely-accepted fictions about the Vietnam War and the escalation of the Cold War—merely by reading what the government published. He was blacklisted in 1950 and began his own newsletter, which railed against McCarthyism, racial discrimination, and the complacent establishment media. [more inside]
"....many a tragic episode in family life is superinduced by the baleful influence of a tortured stomach. Mighty is the hand that holds the ballot-box, but mightier is the hand that wields to advantage the pepper-box, the salt-spoon, and the sugar-shaker." read the entirely of Maud C. Cooke's, Breakfast, Dinner and Supper; or, What To Eat and How To Prepare It (1897) online and enter a world of home remedies, large scale recipes, sound advice, leftover wizardry, squirrel stews, scientific digestion, and horrible things done to vegetables.
Each of Historian Barbara Wells Sarudy's six blogs contains a wealth of esoteric treasures: "President John Adams declared, “History is not the Province of the Ladies.” Oh well, I'll give it a try." [more inside]
World War I in Color is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
How the Wild West really looked: Gorgeous pictures show the landscape as it was charted for the very first time 150 years ago. Previously. [more inside]
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
The First Rough Draft of History: A Behind-the-Scenes History of Newsweek Magazine
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
"When the lights go out for good, my people will still be here. We have our ancient ways. We will remain."
In the Shadow of Wounded Knee. Along the southwestern border of South Dakota is one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States—the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota people. After 150 years of broken promises, they are still nurturing their tribal customs, language and beliefs. Via [more inside]
In May 1876, Baron Joseph Henry Louis Charles De Palm died, leaving his worldy goods to Theosophical Society president H.S. Olcott with the request that his body be disposed of “in a fashion that would illustrate the Eastern notions of death and immortality." And so, after what the press called a "Pagan Funeral" in New York and with the help of Pennsylvania doctor Francis LeMoyne, his became the first modern cremation in the United States. The New York Times of 1876 covered both funeral and cremation. (That is, if you can stand to read grainy pdf scans of old newsprint.) In Winter 2009, a theosophist telling of events was published in the American society's quarterly, Quest magazine. Olcott himself devoted several chapters to De Palm's story in his Old Diary Leaves.
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube. [more inside]
Perez Hamilton reports on American history from the 1400's through the 1700's, in the style of gossip blog Perez Hilton. Contents may be offensive. Archive view.
"America may well be in a fateful decline. But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?" Frank Rich, columnist for New York Magazine, explores the recurring phenomenon of declinist panic and our national tendency to burnish the past in "Mayberry R.I.P."
The Corpus of American Historical English is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour.
'Few Americans today can name more than one or two current boxers, but boxing once stood at the center of American life. It has become a ghost sport, long discredited but still hovering in the nation’s consciousness, refusing to go away and be silent entirely. But there was a time when things were very different. Boxing's history winds a thread through the broader history of the nation.'
Eyes of a Generation is a "virtual museum of television cameras, and the broadcast history they captured," curated by actor and radio DJ Bobby F. Ellerbee. The site has hundreds of photos of cameras and of television sets backstage. It also includes vintage articles and a neat look at how the moon backdrop on the Conan set works. [more inside]
Between 1887 and 1892, John C.H. Grabill sent 188 photographs to the Library of Congress for copyright protection. Grabill is known as a western photographer, documenting many aspects of frontier life – hunting, mining, western town landscapes and white settlers’ relationships with Native Americans.
Of Another Fashion: An alternative archive of the not-quite-hidden but too often ignored fashion histories of U.S. women of color.
The American Festivals Project takes you along on two guys' National Geographic-funded 2008 tour of the "small, hidden, and bizarre" festivals celebrated all over the United States. Through photos, video, and a blog, discover Rattlesnake Roundup, Okie noodling, an American Fasnacht, the Idiotarod, and plenty more. [more inside]
In the 1960's, 70's and 80's, urban decay and high crime rates caused retail chain supermarkets to flee New York City. (google books link) Korean immigrants filled the gap with corner grocery stores. For nearly two decades they were ubiquitous -- symbols of the group's ongoing quest to achieve the American Dream. But 30 years later, Where Did The Korean Greengrocers Go? [more inside]
A Day in the Life of a Blacksmith (start here) is the 1869-70 diary of an apprentice blacksmith in Medfield, Massachusetts, in blog form. Brought to you by the American Antiquarian Society and its new blog Past is Present.
This is a collection of the National Archives stored in the Digital Vaults. You can browse through hundreds of photographs, documents, and film clips and discover the connection between some of the National Archives' most treasured records. With the Pathways tool you can see the unique and surprising connections between events and people and test your knowledge of history. As you travel through the site and collect documents, images and films, you can then merge the objects to create your own poster or movie from your collection.
New Jersey high school student Matthew LaClair has been at the center of controversy before, challenging his U.S. History teacher for proselytizing in class. He's in the news again, bringing attention to conservative bias in his American history textbook. [more inside]
The Battle of Glorieta Pass is considered the turning point of the Civil War, in terms of the New Mexico Territory. It happened March 26-28th, 1862. Initially Charles L. Pyron and William Reed Scurry's Confederate force, based at Johnson's Ranch, thought that they had won the battle. They would soon learn that the Union troops, lead by John P. Slough, had circled and destroyed their supplies, leading to Scurry's retreat towards San Antonio. More detailed battle info:  -Some site photos.
NIcodemus, Kansas is the only remaining western community established by African Americans after the Civil War. The promise of freedom and land in the state of John Brown. Though prosperous in the 1880's, it began to fade. Its post office closed in 1953. It is now home to only 27 residents, with an average age of 80, but the "Promise Land" has hope. Wake Nicodemus, wake.
Engineering Perfect Americans Were your immigrant ancestors considered genetically predisposed to become criminals? Were your mixed-ethnic ancestors thought to be polluting the nation's 'germ-plasm'? The Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement presents a well-put-together online exhibit/walkthrough of this disturbing vein in American history.
Uncommon Places brings to mind A Short History of America.
It must be all those wires.
Via Archphoto and The Crumb Museum
It must be all those wires.
Via Archphoto and The Crumb Museum
Faces young and old, mothers and children, dolls; hunting rabbit, making fire, dancing: Archived photographs of Arizona's Indians from the turn-of-the-twentieth. Plus reference materials.
The National Museum of the American Indian opened on Tuesday. Although generally praised, the occasion did draw some mild concern that some groups are under-represented. The museum occupies one of the last few coveted spots on the National Mall. Washington Post collumnist Courtland Milloy comments on the contrast between the opening ceremonies for the museum in the home of the 'Redskins'. And I can't resist throwing in a plug for The Eiteljorg (flash splash screen) which is the only other museum with a partnership with the Smithsonian collection.
Images of Native Americans, from UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, is comprehensive online exhibit of over 400 years of text and images of Native American history. [via a Berkleyan article that has sample images and more info]
American Memory is a gateway to rich primary source materials relating to the history and culture of the United States. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections. [more inside]