The Great Discoverer

Roundworms. Dinosaurs. Giant Sloths. No, these creatures are not residents of Old MacDonald’s farm or entries in J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rather, they represent the tip of the iceberg of Dr. Joseph Leidy’s wide-ranging scientific discoveries. No matter how impressive your resume, you’ve got nothing on this 19th-century Renaissance Read More

Banning Fun: New Year’s Eve, 1913

In the waning weeks of 1913, Carter Harrison IV, mayor of a city renowned for its vices, was determined to stamp all the merriment out of Chicago’s New Year’s celebrations: Late-night drinking and tango dancing and hat tickling, oh my! I hadn’t heard of a hat tickler, but since it’s forbidden, I’ve never wanted an Read More

A Brooklyn Christmas Carol

As any child knows, stealing—especially if a creepy elf is watching from a shelf—usually lands you on the naughty list. However, in the case of poverty-stricken mother Anna Lobell, Santa Claus might want to check his list twice. Two women were arraigned. . . in Brooklyn yesterday, both charged with shoplifting. One of them was Read More

18th-Century Public Service Announcement

On December 31, 1790, Captain Clement Lemon signed an unusual agreement with Boston merchant Thomas Ramsden. As a condition of captaining the Mary Ann on an upcoming voyage, the Revolutionary War veteran and—I like to believe—ancestor of the illustrious Liz Lemon promised: Be it Known; I Clement Lemon do hereby Agree to, and with, Thomas Read More

Revenge of the Turkey

As a staple of the holiday feast, Thanksgiving can be tough on turkeys (vegetarians, too—but that’s another story). However, if any are reading, take heart: History shows that once in a while, turkeys come out on top—and not just the top rack of the oven. Does a turkey gobbler possess the same remarkable mental faculties Read More

Behind Enemy Lines

No matter how Andrew Valentine Farley and his three companions maneuver their boat, they’re fighting the tide, and the Confederates are gaining on them. When they initially spotted the other boat on their way back to the U.S.S. Ottawa, they assumed it was a fellow Union boat coming from Jacksonville, just north on the St. Read More

Haunting Gone Wrong

These days, the newspapers—er, Twitter feeds—are filled with articles about lost jobs, dying industries and the changing face of the 21st-century economy. But amidst the handwringing over what’s been lost and who’s been left behind, one suffering population has been largely invisible: ghosts. Recent centuries have not been kind to those whose primary job is Read More

Too Much Time on Their Hands

♪ Yeah, I’m sitting by my computer, clicking like a damn fool, Got the 20th-century newspaper blues. And I’ve given up hope for an interesting headline And an amusing story. Is it any wonder I have eye strain? Is it any wonder I have carpal tunnel syndrome? ♪ Well, I’m so tired of reading—I got Read More

How to Become a Juvenile Delinquent in 5 Easy Steps

Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose youthful felonies—er, indiscretions—inspired the book and film “Catch Me If You Can,” may have slipped away from the police twice before his 22nd birthday, but Floyd Merrill could give him a run for his money, literally. In 1911, Floyd was a teenager living with his aunt and uncle in the Ballard Read More

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