Weird, real titles of 19th century novels


The Toast has over 100 examples of the genre, including "The Adventures Of An Irish Smock, Interspersed With Whimsical Anecdotes Of A Nankeen Pair Of Breeches," "The Charms Of Dandyism; Or Living In Style. By Olivia Moreland, Chief Of The Female Dandies" and "Fashionable Infidelity." No wonder novels caused a moral panic akin to reefer madness, Seduction of the Innocents, PMRC music-bans and video-game violence hysteria.

Medical experimentation and vulnerable people

Fourty-two years after the exposure of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, a group of educators, activists, and writers discuss the history and the present of medical experimentation and medical ethics.

The history of botched executions

The first use of the electric chair was both an official success and a horrific example of what can happen when the technology of executions doesn't work the way we expect it to.

How to write like a 17th century doctor


Mark CK researched doctor's journals and writings from the 17th and 18th centuries while working on a book about pirate surgeons and reports back with a guide to writing in the style of the day, which involves a lot of bad Latin, irregular spelling, and extra letters used as emphasis.

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Misleading on Marriage: how gay marriage opponents twist history to suit their agenda

Much of what you hear about the purpose of marriage is ahistorical. Lisa L. Spangenberg on what the institution was traditionally fit for.

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Cute synonyms for nookie from bygone times

Finally! A listicle I can love. I mean, "Play nug-a-nug" (1505)! What's not to like?

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Photos of writers at work


Ernst writes, "For over three years, I've been collecting photos of writers at work, including Hemingway, Faulkner, Didion, but also modern day authors like Safran Foer and... Cory Doctorow. My collection consists over 400 photos now." Although watching people type is canonically dull, there's a lot of motion and potential in these portraits (above: Pearl Buck)

Online Isaac Newton manuscripts workshop


India's Zetatrek citizen science initiative is online workshop starting on 19th July, where science and math hobbyists from all over the world are invited to study the original manuscripts of Sir Isaac Newton.

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Migration in America


Peter Biddle recounts the stories of his migrant ancestors and their journey to America, making the point that you can't escape your fate by staying put.

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Draft notices sent to men born in the 1880s

A US Selective Service database merge used two-digit years, and didn't sanity-check its threatening notices to 19th century men who'd apparently failed to sign up for the draft by their 18th birthday.

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Civil War carbine with a "coffee grinder" for corn and wheat


Notwithstanding the rumors of Civil War era carbines with attached coffee-grinders to help soldiers with their bean-juice, the grinder on on this 1859 "Coffee Mill" Sharps Carbine is thought to have been used for corn or wheat.

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Mary Robinette Kowal and Jane Austen: separated at birth by a time-traveller


(Left: Mary Robinette Kowal. Right: Jane Austen, photo by TV West Country/Katie Rowlett)

Mary Robinette Kowal writes regency novels like Shades of Milk and Honey that blend magic with the milieu of Jane Austen.

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Phrenology bust modeled on a human death mask

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The Morbid Anatomy Museum recently acquired a 19th-century phrenological death mask. Liza Young, a museum studies student at St. John's University, tracked down its history.

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Uncle Sam will defend your stake in any unclaimed bird-poop


If you discover an island covered in guano -- old poop -- an 1856 Federal law that's still on the books obliges the US of A to defend your claim to it.

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A history of Down Syndrome

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From their inclusion in 16th-century paintings to their roles in famous families (including, probably, Darwin's), people with Down Syndrome are part of history.

At the Down Wit Dat blog, there's a 8-part (with more on the way) feature that provides some much-needed inclusion to people who are usually just a footnote to somebody else's history. Naturally, the series delves into ideas like eugenics and the institutionalization of differently abled Americans. But, even there, the story is centered on people with Down Syndrome and, as such, it offers a perspective and information that you likely haven't heard before. Great stuff.

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Here's an excerpt about the short life of Charles Waring Darwin, the youngest child of the Charles Darwin you know. Based off historical records and the surviving photograph that you can see here, historians suspect that he had Down Syndrome.

Henrietta, one of his daughters, had this to say about Charles Waring in her book "Emma Darwin, A century of family letters...":

"The poor little baby was born without its full share of intelligence. Both my father and mother were infinitely tender towards him..."

Charles Darwin himself had this to say about his youngest child:

“He was small for his age and backward in walking and talking.... He was of a remarkable sweet, placid and joyful disposition, but had not high spirits.... He often made strange grimaces and shivered, when excited.... He would lie for a long time placidly on my lap looking with a steady and pleased expression at my face... making nice little bubbling noises as I moved his chin.”

Looking at the photograph of the then 45 year old Emma and her newborn son, it is not hard to see what appears to be a "weakened" bridge to the nose and quite possibly be epicanthal folds. However, the photo is extremely grainy and we will never know for sure. Charles Waring Darwin passed away from Scarlet fever at 19 months of age, never having learned to walk or talk. Darwin Sr. recorded in his journal that day: "Poor Dear Baby Died." He was unable to attend the first reading and publication of his theory of Natural Selection due to the illness and death of his youngest son.