“Editor G.A. Weller of The Granville Sentinel rejoices over the addition to his family of a feminine ‘supplement’ weighing over eleven pounds,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on September 22nd, 1885. [Read more…] about 19th Century Birth Announcements: Elements of Style
As the Town of Niagara, NY municipal historian I’m researching the lives of those buried in one of our local cemeteries. Witmer Cemetery was originally the burying ground of the Witmer family, who settled here after arriving from Pennsylvania in 1811. The earliest gravestone in the cemetery is from 1828, but it’s estimated that about 200 people have been buried there since.
I began my research at the front row, where a toppled headstone marked the final resting place of George Martin and Jane, his wife. [Read more…] about Slave To Soldier: George Martin’s Fight For Freedom
Equestrian artist Philip Astley was a pioneering entertainment entrepreneur. His demonstrations of trick horse-riding at London’s Royal Amphitheatre in 1768 constitute the origins of modern circus.
Astley performed his routine in a circular arena which would subsequently be referred to as the ring. He interspersed his displays with a variety of additional acts. Both in Europe and America other producers copied and expanded his new style of entertainment. [Read more…] about Circus Artists and the Flying Trapeze Metaphor
For centuries people have been mixing potions, initially in a quest for medicinal elixirs, and later to produce exotic drinks. Punch was introduced from India to England in the early seventeenth century. The term, of uncertain etymology, was first recorded in 1632. [Read more…] about Masters of Mixology: American Showmanship & French Finesse
Many eighteenth century publicans framed a list of pre-conditions for the “perfect” tavern which was displayed in full view in British public houses and drinking dens.
The advice to customers consisted of “Twelve Good Rules” that dated back to the rule of Charles I: [Read more…] about Twelve Tavern Rules, Thirteen Toasts and America’s 1814 Anthem
The name “Great Dismal Swamp” doesn’t evoke an image of a pleasant or beautiful place, and yet, it was an important place that offered land speculators the chance to profit and enslaved men and women a chance for freedom in colonial British America and the early United States.
Although much remains unclear about the origins of Cockney rhyming slang, there is a consensus that it stems from London’s East End, dates back to the 1840s, and is alive and thriving. One slang expression reads “on one’s tod,” meaning: on one’s own; all alone. The phrase is a shortened version of the original “on one’s Tod Sloan.”
In full, these four words offer a multi-colored mosaic of socio-cultural events involving Manhattan, London, and Paris. [Read more…] about Slang, Stirrups, Paris in the 20s, and the Invention of the Bloody Mary
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The new children’s book Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children (Calkins Creek, 2020) by Alexis O’Neill and illustrated by Gary Kelley, is a revealing biography of a pioneering photojournalist and social reformer Jacob Riis, showcasing how he brought to light one of the worst social justice issues plaguing New York City in the late 1800s – the tenement housing crisis – using newly invented flash photography. [Read more…] about Children’s Book Features Reformer, Photographer Jacob Riis
I imagine there was a lot more hand-wringing prior to the Covid-19 lockdown in Switzerland as compared to other countries, because since 2008 it has been a federal crime there to isolate social animals. Makes you wonder if Swiss authorities have brought charges against themselves yet, or whether they’re waiting until after the crisis lets up. [Read more…] about Social Isolation: Live Long and Prosper Together
The term “red light district” is believed to have first appeared in print in Ohio in 1894.
One folk etymology relates that red light districts referred to areas frequented by off-duty railroaders, but this is probably apocryphal. The story goes that railroaders would hang their lanterns outside so the crew-callers could find them, but red lights already had an association with prostitution, and therefore areas of vice, long before that. [Read more…] about Mame Fay: Stories From Troy’s Red Light District