The old lady always called me her boy... and she kept me in her room from the time that I was born until her death, then willed me to her son Samuel. When she was dying she called me to her bedside... Taking my hand in hers she told me to be a good boy and stay with Samuel. To Samuel she said, "Keep my boy as long as you live to remember me by." Larry Lapsley began life as someone else's property, but he managed to break free from his mistress' dying wish by way of a remarkable journey that would lead him to becoming the first black homesteader in Saline County, Kansas: When I came to Salina I was twenty-five years old and was without schooling. I had never gone to school a day in my life and I haven't any education yet but there is one thing I have, a good home and plenty of friends. [more inside]
Though her nomination was a joke, instigated by a group of men hoping to inhibit the local activities of the Women's Christian Temperance Union by embarrassing female voters, Susanna Madora "Dora" Kinsey Salter surprised the pranksters by winning two-thirds of the vote in the mayoral election of 1887 in tiny Argonia, Kansas, becoming not only America's first female mayor, but also earning the distinction of being the first woman elected to any political office in the United States. Her official notice of election read: Madam, You are hereby notified that at an election held in the city of Argonia on Monday April 4/87, for the purpose of electing city officers, you were duly elected to the office of Mayor of said city. You will take due notice thereof and govern yourself accordingly. Though she only served one term and had no further political ambitions, she became a hero of the early women's suffrage movement. [more inside]
Wild Film History is a guide to over 100 years of wildlife filmmaking, highlighting landmark films (1959's Serengeti Darf Nicht Sterben, aka Serengeti Shall Not Die - Clip 1, Clip 2) as well as historical relics (1910's The Birth of a Flower - Clip). Check out the links on the Key Events page for an overview of how the genre developed. The site also features biographies and oral history interviews with pioneers (mostly U.K.-based) in the industry. A project of Wildscreen.
Bogus! Why do fakes get made? Why do people fall for hoaxes? Greed, pride, revenge, nationalism, pranks, and gullibility mix in an archaeological setting. Archaeology Magazine examines eight classic cases, and more.
Why do mummies scream? Are screaming mummies really testaments to horrific deaths? Or are they the result of natural processes, botched or ad hoc mummification jobs, or the depredations of tomb robbers? Archaeology Online examines the science and history behind the gape-mouthed "masks of agony" seen on some mummies, and explores their portrayal in entertainment and pop culture. The article includes lots of interesting and informative additional links.
The bumping off of a famous person is the sort of oyster that any detective delights to open, so you can just bet the family jewels that I was pretty much elated when my Chief, the late Thomas Lee Woolwine, District Attorney of Los Angeles County, called me into his private office on the morning of February 3rd, 1922, and assigned me to represent his office in the investigation of this greatest of all murder mysteries. -- Excerpted from an article archived at Taylorology, a site exploring the life and death of William Desmond Taylor, a silent movie actor and director whose unsolved murder was among the earliest Hollywood true crime scandals. Researcher Bruce Long first published his accumulated information about the case as a small fanzine which evolved into a monthly electronic newsletter and is now a vast archive of articles and interviews, official documents, photos, and more. Although the Taylor case is the main focus, there's also a wealth of supplemental information about the silent film industry and its stars. [more inside]
Jim, The Wonder Dog. During the height of the Great Depression, a "plain black and white setter" entertained and mystified the citizens of Missouri with his "extraordinary cleverness" and his seemingly inexplicable ability to foretell the future. [more inside]
I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life. Belle Starr, also known as the Bandit Queen, was a well-educated "spoiled, rich girl" who grew up to prefer the company of outlaws. Her unconventional life inspired song lyrics [1, 2, 3, 4], movies [1, 2, 3], even manga [1, 2].
"Those who desire to peruse works that tell about Heaven only, are urged to drop this book and run."
GUILTY! This word, so replete with sadness and sorrow, fell on my ear on that blackest of all black Fridays, October 14, 1887. And so begins John N. Reynolds' The Twin Hells: A Thrilling Narrative of Life in the Kansas and Missouri Penitentiaries, a very detailed and eventful memoir originally published in 1890, archived online in its entirety (including illustrations). [more inside]
Photo Tampering Through History. A regularly-updated collection, from 1860 to present, of examples of photo manipulation. Sometimes the changes are made for historical revisionism, sometimes for political maneuvering, and sometimes it's just a "wtf?" The page is part of a larger body of work by Dartmouth's Hany Farid, who has some other interesting goodies online. [Warning for the Pepsi Blue detectives: In some of his pages, he's shilling for his consulting services]
When Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, an experienced nurse, volunteered her services to the British Army during the Crimean War, she was rejected. Undaunted, she travelled to Crimea at her own expense and built a "mess-table and comfortable quarters," which she called the "British Hotel," and began taking care of soldiers. Her work was snubbed by Florence Nightingale, who called Seacole "a woman of bad character" and insinuated that the convalescent hotel was little more than a bordello, but Mary was beloved by the men in her care who called her "Mother Seacole." Her autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands [link goes to full text and illustrations], was published a year after the war ended. Mary, who was feted by high-ranking military men and high-born civilians, went on to other nursing-related pursuits, including a stint as personal masseuse to Alexandra, Princess of Wales. Her work in Crimea was but one highlight in a very interesting life. [more inside]
Anything but clear. It is well known that panes of stained glass in old European churches are thicker at the bottom because glass is a slow-moving liquid that flows downward over centuries. Well known, yes, but long known to be wrong. Scientists still disagree about the nature of glass, and researchers continue to try to understand its dual personality . [more inside]
Butch Cassidy wanted to call his gang The Train Robber's Syndicate, but the name never stuck. The gang's core members - most notable among them The Sundance Kid - and a revolving cast of supporting outlaws were most commonly called The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang and The Wild Bunch, and their goal was to be the most successful train robbers in history. The Butch and Sundance site is a comprehensive collection of "the hundreds, if not thousands, of theories, legends and folk tales" surrounding the gang, including an exhaustive list of biographies of the members, their associates, the lawmen who pursued them and the women who loved them, an archive of transcribed news articles dating from the 1880s (including a letter to the editor from Sundance himself), a picture gallery and more. [more inside]
Burton Holmes, Extraordinary Traveler. Burton Holmes didn't invent travel stories, slide shows, moving pictures or cross-country lectures, but he put them all together and created the travelogue (a term coined by his manager) as performance art. The site is full of information, pictures and additional links (including companion pages about the Trans-Siberian Railroad) chronicling Holmes' life and legacy.
In November 1943, the village of Tyneham in Dorset, England, received an unexpected letter from the War Department, informing residents that the area would soon be "cleared of all civilians" to make way for Army weapons training. A month later, the displaced villagers left a note on their church door: Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly. Residents were told they would be allowed to reclaim their homes after the war, but that didn't happen, and Tyneham became a ghost village. Though most of the cottages have been damaged or fallen into disrepair, the church and school have been preserved and restored. Photo galleries 1, 2, 3, 4. Panoramic tour [Java required]. Video: Death of a Village [YouTube, 9 mins.]
RelationshipFilter, 1873. An online archive of letters from a wife to her husband, which include an intimate look at their relationship crisis. [more inside]
It stands as one of the more unusual turning points of the Cold War, thanks mostly to the surprise appearance of several naked middle-aged women. Taking The Cure: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia. [more inside]
1968: Lessons Learned. Dissent Magazine examines the transcontinental legacy of one of the most tumultuous years in world history. Essays from Marshall Berman, Robin Blackburn, Mitchell Cohen, Ralf Fuecks, Vivian Gornick, Michael Kazin, Enrique Krauze, Lillian B. Rubin, Christine Stansell and Michael Walzer.
To Catch A Thief. How a Civil War buff's chance discovery led to a sting, a raid and a victory against traffickers in stolen historical documents. Related article: Pay Dirt in Montana. And photo gallery.
The Lighthouse Directory. An information portal for over 9000 lighthouses, and sites of former lighthouses, all around the world. Photos, histories, technical specifications, etc. Most of the links are very thorough, with some including excerpts from keepers' logs. The site also includes links to current news stories and general historical articles related to lighthouses.
Dinner With Darwin. Scientists from various disciplines weigh in on what kind of dinner conversation they envision themselves having with Charles Darwin. Via.
Sacred Destinations. Nearly every culture in human history has sought to encounter and honor the divine, the mysterious, the supernatural or the extraordinary in some way. This most often occurs at sacred sites - special places where the physical world seems to meet the spiritual world. From ancient wonders, to Greek temples, to Biblical sites, and everything in between, the website has a vast collection of photo galleries and maps. The website's founder also maintains a travel blog and posts recent pictures on Flickr. [more inside]
"Dear Miss Breed..." the letters begin. Clara Estelle Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library from 1929 to 1945. When her young Japanese American patrons and their families were forced into relocation camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942, Miss Breed became their penpal and their lifeline, sending them books and supplies, assisting with various requests, and "serving as a reminder of the possibility for decency and justice in a troubled world." [more inside]
Soapy Smith was "the king of the frontier confidence men." Born Jefferson R. Smith, he gained the nickname "Soapy" after running a successful scam that the Denver newspapers dubbed "The Prize Package Soap Sell Swindle." He ran criminal enterprises in Colorado and Alaska until his death at the hands of vigilantes in 1898. Every year his descendants hold a wake in his honor. His story has inspired several books and movies. The Soapy Smith Preservation Trust maintains an extensive archive of his life and times.
Swamp Ghosts. Of all the wrecks on Papua New Guinea (PNG), none is as fabled as the "Swamp Ghost," a B-17E Flying Fortress that ran out of fuel on an ill-fated bombing mission in early 1942 and was ditched in the Agaiambo Swamp about eight miles inland on the northern coast. There the plane rested, intact and more or less unmolested, in soggy splendor for 64 years—that is, until May 2006, when an American salvager took it apart and removed it. This caused such a controversy that the plane was stopped from leaving the country. The story of the Swamp Ghost illustrates the international debate over ownership of salvaged wrecks and war surplus, told from a personal perspective by a journalist whose war-correspondent father died in PNG during WWII.
The London Zoo's historic photographic archive went online today. According to news reports, the pictures will be offered for sale to fund conservation programs. Via.
"I have a great Deal of Leisure, which I chiefly employ in Scribbling, that my Mind may not stand still or run back like my Fortune."
"John Adams and Abigail Smith Adams exchanged over 1,100 letters, beginning during their courtship in 1762 and continuing throughout John's political career. These warm and informative letters include John's descriptions of the Continental Congress and his impressions of Europe while he served in various diplomatic roles, as well as Abigail's updates about their family, farm, and news of the Revolution's impact on the Boston area." The Adams Electronic Archive has transcripts [example] as well as high-resolution scans [example] of the letters. You may be familiar with some snippets of their correspondence from the movie musical "1776" ("Til Then" and "Yours, Yours, Yours" scenes on YouTube).
"The problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have no taste and I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way."
Triumph of the Nerds is a 1996 three-part documentary recounting the rise of the personal computer, including interviews with Gates, Wozniak and Jobs, among others. It was originally produced for British television, and aired on PBS in the USA. Part One: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Part Two: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Part Three: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Transcripts here. After you watch, you can play the "Guess the Computer" game.
Orphan Trains of Kansas. A collection of histories, personal stories, newspaper accounts, pictures and other references. Beginning in 1854, charitable institutions in New York City began sending orphans on trains to the west to find new families, feeling that the children would fare better out west than on the streets of New York. Orphan trains arrived in Kansas between 1867 and 1930, and some 5000-6000 children were placed in Kansas homes.
"It is with extreme modesty that I present the following pages to be read by other eyes than mine..."
Went To Kansas: Being A Thrilling Account Of An Ill-Fated Expedition To That Fairy Land, And Its Sad Results. A personal account by Mrs. Miriam Davis Colt (based on her daily diaries) about her family's move from New York to Kansas in the 1850s, and the tragic story of the Vegetarian Settlement Company, which sold cheap land to settlers (if they signed an oath swearing they would never consume alcohol, tobacco or animal flesh) along with the promise of a prairie utopia.
"WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily." The Pony Express Home Station, The Pony Express Museum and The St. Joseph Museum all have interesting histories of America's short-lived, but legendary, "fastest mail service across the west." For more extensive reading, there's the National Park Service's Pony Express: Historic Resource Study. (Second link via The Presurfer)
120 year ago today, on February 1, 1887, Harvey Wilcox, originally a prohibitionist from Kansas, filed a grid map of Hollywood with the Los Angeles County recorder's office, carved from a nondescript plot of land he owned in Southern California. The rest, as they say, is history. Hooray For Hollywood!