Home Alone

‘Tis the season for not only reindeer, grinches and magical snowmen but also fearless children, negligent parents and dumb thieves. “Home Alone” may not be the first Christmas movie that comes to mind, but it turns out there’s a long and storied tradition of children left alone around the holidays matching wits against would-be robbers. Read More

No Fairy Godmother, No Glass Slipper, No Problem

Once upon a time in a not-so-faraway land, there lived a young lady. . . “Pretty Anna” is the name by which everyone knew the beautiful Bohemian Anna Witkower, who for many months was a chambermaid at the Palmer House Hotel, Chicago. . . It’s not the most creative moniker, but it’s better than “Cinderella,” Read More

Count Your Blessings

After a whirlwind year, we’re fast approaching yet another holiday season that’s not quite normal. But one thing that hasn’t changed? Documents from the 19th and 20th centuries continue to be a cornucopia of 21st-century Thanksgiving blog post fodder. (Most especially those from Chicago’s renowned Newberry Library, to which I’m exceedingly grateful for digitizing, transcribing Read More

Corney Grain’s Refrains

When you’re born with the name “Richard Corney Grain,” you’re destined for either greatness or ridicule. In the case of the 19th-century British entertainer, he found a bit of both. My unfortunate name is likewise the subject of much controversy. My parents played a very bad practical joke on me when they gave me the Read More

The Haying Faker

If you’re reading this post in real time (of course you are—you refresh your inbox every Wednesday until my blog post arrives, right?), join me in singing happy birthday to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: ♪ Happy birthday to you! ♪ Happy birthday to you! ♪ Happy birthday, dear Teddy! ♪ Happy birth— If my terrible Read More

The Importance of Being Clothed

While it’s important to be earnest, we all know what happened when the emperor ordered new clothes. Priorities, people. On a scale of embarrassment, getting caught with your pants down is right up there with failing gym class, wearing a hat in Parliament and getting your hair stuck in flypaper. What’s even worse, however, is Read More

Madame Palatine’s Burn Book, Part 3

Welcome! If you haven’t yet read Part 1 and Part 2, click there and then come back to fully appreciate Liselotte’s salacious gossip. Don’t be fooled: Madame Palatine, aka Liselotte, may look like a sweet, doting grandmother, but her dirt is as vicious as Regina George’s, as scandalous as Gossip Girl’s and as dangerous as Read More

Madame Palatine’s Burn Book, Part 2

Bonjour! If you haven’t yet read Part 1, start there for the full scoop on Liselotte and her clique. Last time, we patiently listened, er, read as Madame Palatine, aka Liselotte, vented in her 18th-century correspondence about her daddy issues, disobedient son and cringeworthy views on women in power. With all those grudges, how did Read More

Madame Palatine’s Burn Book, Part 1

She is a wicked devil; treacherous in every way, and of a very dangerous temper. Upon the whole, she is not good for much. – Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899 If you enjoyed the movie “Mean Girls” as much as teenage me did, allow me Read More

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