To know Queens is to truly love the borough. It isn’t Manhattan, and it doesn’t have the cool tag that Brooklyn has had latched onto it in the last decade, but anybody that has spent a good amount of time in the easternmost of the five boroughs knows about the great buildings, the wide array… Read More
Old restaurant menus are often beautiful works of epicurean art, created as part of the complete sensory dining experience to entertain and awe guests. Reading these menus today is both a form of mini-time travel and a horrifying glance at the food habits of yesteryear. Pickled lamb tongue, Canadian Cheese Coup, Calf’s Head Piquante, Boiled Hog’s Head (we used to boil a lot of heads), and lots and lots of celery (apparently the only acceptable raw vegetable for decades) are just some of once-popular dishes that appeared on popular restaurant menus. Tastes have surely changed since Essence of Fowl was a staple of the Occidental Hotel menu in Seattle, but these beautiful menus still tempt us today with their charm and their foul fare, or at least make us glad for modern meat substitutes. … Read More
The Internet has been an excellent source of bite-size video music history lessons of late. Last week, we got schooled in rock’s 100 greatest riffs, and today Laughing Squid points us to “An Abridged History of Western Music in 16 Genres.” In this truly remarkable three-minute clip, “musical video experiment” collective cdza feeds the West’s most influential genres through Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” in a slick, one-shot performance beginning with Gregorian chant. The only depressing part is that the video concludes with dubstep — forcing us to consider how embarrassing it would be for humankind if 2012 really is the end of history. … Read More
Dr. Lucy Worsley is the chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that ovesees the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. The British historian is also the author of If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, which — if it’s anywhere near as interesting as this interview that Worsley did with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross — is definitely worth taking the time to read.
Take her description of using 17th-century methods to brush her teeth: “Most of them were quite unsuccessful. Burnt toast crumbs — completely rubbish. I was using a twig. What worked quite well was a mixture of rosemary and salt mixed together, rubbed on with a cloth, actually, followed by a gargle of vinegar. Best of all was a 17th-century … recipe of cuttlefish. You know those white carcasses of fish? That ground up makes really excellent tooth powder.” Ew. She also discusses a fascinating courting practice from the same period that was known as “bundling.” It involved tying up a young couple with heavy rope so they could spend the night together in bed just talking.
Listen to Worsley’s full conversation with Gross here, be sure to pick up a copy of If Walls Could Talk, and click through to watch some delightful clips on the history of the bedroom from the four-part BBC television series that the book accompanied. … Read More
We’re always fascinated with photographs of times gone by, and so we were immediately taken in by these dusty images of young miners that we spotted over at
Always with an eye for a good story, UK-based photographer Matt Henry creates narrative fiction photographs that center around 1960′s/1970′s American culture. The images have a historical slant to them as well, as Henry explores what an abandoned suburban home might have looked like after a family sought shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Henry makes it clear that his work isn’t about sadness or grievance, however, as is the case with his King series. He delves into the real-life tale of one of America’s biggest music sensations, Elvis. “The story is as much about the death of Elvis as its impact on an Elvis fan. I’m also interested in how the representation of something in whatever form (jigsaw, newspaper story, etc.) can somehow carry the power of the original, or even come to enhance that power.” See how Henry has kept the King alive — and learned to stop worrying and love the bomb — in his retro narrative series past the break. … Read More
The mug shot has, by now, become so universal that it’s hard to imagine a criminal justice system without it. But in the mid-19th century, when photography was still a new medium, there was no standardized record-keeping system in place to help police departments identify repeat criminals. Random daguerreotypes and loose photographs laying around unfiled weren’t cutting it — which is why in the early 1880s, French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon introduced the Paris police force to a standardized method that documented mug shots, body measurements, and in some cases, early finger prints.
That anthropometric Bertillon System, which was a recent subject of the podcast “Stuff You Missed in History Class,” would eventually be replaced with finger printing in the 1910s. But until then, its strange measurements — the width of the head, length of right ear, length of the cubit, etc. — represented huge advances in forensic science and criminal identification in both Europe and the States. Below the jump, browse through our gallery of Bertillon Card mug shots of 19th- and 20th-century suspicious persons, and make your own with the blanks we’ve included at the end. … Read More
The last time we checked in with designer Evan Stremke, we were admiring his series of morbidly attractive invitations to famous assassinations. Now, he’s in the midst of another project with a similar historical bent: The Momentus Project, which has Stremke inviting dozens of other designers to visualize important moments in United States history, from the Boston Massacre through the recent end of the NASA shuttle program. Although a few pieces still aren’t posted yet, the project is already both aesthetically pleasing and educational — once it’s complete, it could make a fantastic tool for teachers. Ten of our favorite Momentus works, which range from America’s finest hours to its most shameful, are after the jump. … Read More
Robert Krulwich and Adam Cole explore the pros and pitfalls of being immortalized in the English language in a comical, new animated video from NPR. In paper puppet form, Cole travels through the dictionary singing a folksy tune about those who have passed but live on as eponyms — something he’d very much like to do. But after Krulwich points out that not everyone who’s had something named after him has been better better off, citing Joseph Guillotin and John Duns Scotus as examples, Cole swiftly changes his tune. Watch the video after the jump. … Read More
With food trucks parked on the streets of every major city, serving up menu items from coffee to snail lollipops and everything in between, actual restaurants have started almost seem passé. But like so many trends, the food truck is actually a thing of the past, as well. Nineteenth-century ur-food trucks may not have sold their wares out of metal pigs or featured menus devoted entirely to egg salad, but they do date back to the chuckwagons of the 1860s, invented by a smart Texas ranger named Charles Goodnight who realized that putting a kitchen on wheels could solve a lot of people’s problems. Below the jump, we take you through a tour of the early history of the food truck. … Read More