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Wrecked "ghost ships" off San Francisco

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Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and independent shipwreck divers exploring the Golden Gate strait discovered two sunken ships from 1863 and 1910, with several hundreds more "forgotten ghost ships" likely still undiscovered in the area.

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Photographs: Native Americans of the early 1900s

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In the early 20th century, ethnologist Edward S. Curtis made 10,000 wax cylinder recordings of Native American language and music and took 40,000 photographs of people from more than 80 tribes, such as these.

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Science fiction's Islamic roots


From Ibn Tufail's 12th century Hayy Ibn Yaqzan to Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain's 1905 feminist masterpiece Sultana's Dream, the Islamic world produced some of the earliest proto-sf, which IO9's Charlie Jane Anders rounds up in an excellent post.

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The Economist defends America's enslavement of Africans


When The Economist reviewed The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, its anonymous reviewer condemned it, sticking up for America's legacy of slavery as a means of wealth creation, saying "Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery; almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains -- this is not history; it is advocacy."

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Half the remains of slain Vikings in England are female

In Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD, published in 2011 in Early Medieval Europe 19/3, Medievalists from the University of Western Australia survey the remains of fallen Vikings found in eastern England that had been assumed to be male, partly because some were buried with sword and shield.

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An Exclusive Inside Look at Denver’s Dinosaur Hotel

Ethan Gilsdorf reports on the most awesome hotel in the country. Meet Stanley the Stegosaurus and friends!

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Confronting Lovecraft's racism


Award-winning horror writer David Nickle has been repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to have a frank and serious discussion of HP Lovecraft's undeniable racism; people want to hand-wave it as being a product of Lovecraft's times, but it is inseparable from Lovecraft's fiction.

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Timothy Leary with Aldous and Laura Huxley

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Pop songs as sonnets


Pop Sonnets is a tumblr that turns pop music into Shakespearean sonnets: above, YMCA ("Oh sweet and noble lad, be not aggrieved!").

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Aloha shirt featuring critters from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur


The 19th century German biologist's seminal illustrations of weird sea-life have been adapted for a gorgeous Betabrand cabana shirt.

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Great mistakes in English medieval architecture


The great cathedrals and palaces of medieval England were designed by people who made it up as they went along, and often discovered midway through a multigenerational project that they'd run out of space for an arch, or designed a building that couldn't hold up its own ceiling.

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WWII's VD posters: exciting nexus of propaganda, Mad Men, gender and design


Ryan Mungia's Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II uncovers many obscure propaganda posters that were, once upon a time, just as popular as the iconic "We Can Do It!" woman.

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Orwell's review of Mein Kampf

From March, 1940, a fascinating look at the development of Hitler's reputation in Germany and the UK, and the way that his publishers were forced to change the way they marketed his book.

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Huge patriotic statues, crowdsourced from 3D printer owners across America


We the Builders creates massive, 3D printed busts of the likes of George Washington by asking 3D printer owners to print out small pieces of the overall statue and then gloms them together in large, collaged pieces.

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How Gary Gygax lost control over D&D and TSR


Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, tells the gripping tale of how Gary Gygax lost control over TSR and Dungeons and Dragons, ousted by his business partners after a series of miscalculations and mistakes.

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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.