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Archive for October, 2009

To my fellow worshippers of Hypnos,

Bruce Handy’s recent New York Times essay on why he disliked Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are as a kid—but not as an adult—has got me thinking a little about what boys read and why. Consider, for instance, Stanford’s wonderful collection of turn-of-the century dime novels and story papers. You can view literally hundreds of covers, with bold, exciting illustrations like this one (left) from Young Rough Riders Weekly. Way to ride through that Native American encampment! Or what about Frank Leslie’s Boys of America (right). Get him with your tusk, Dumbo!

Rough Riders WeeklyBoys of America

You can also mull over the gender dynamics of such stories like “The Queen of the Bullfighters” and “A Girl Crusoe” (pictured below).

girl crusoe

And check out the full text of the series Secret Service, about a pair of detectives who make frequent forays into Chinatown. In the story pictured below, the Brady bunch break up an opium ring—think of it as an early 20th century version of The Wire, you know for kids.

Hop

Boyishly yours,

Stephen

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Dear siesta sympathizers,

Those of you following the Lazy Scholar blog may be asking yourself, “Who is that handsome devil on the homepage?” No, dear readers, it’s not a portrait of yours truly, but rather the official Lazy Scholar mascot—known in his own time and place as Paul Nebeker Bogart. The mixed-media caricature comes from a clever 1905 portfolio depicting famous businessmen from that center of international commerce: Terre Haute, Indiana. Bogart himself was a locally-born lawyer (and later a banker)–but not one afraid of distraction. As the authors recounted, “Law books do not furnish all of Mr. Bogart’s reading. He enjoys literature of another kind occasionally, and frequently looks up authorities other than law, when ‘down’ for a paper before the Literary Club.”

I stumbled across the book while digging around the Internet Archive’s ample Americana collection, which includes a surprising number of similar books, practically a genre of illustrated guides to your local chamber of commerce, apparently quite popular at the beginning of the 20th century. So whether you’re looking for a realtor in Seattle (pictured below), a banker in Indianapolis, an opera treasurer in L.A., a grocer in Fort Wayne, or a New Haven professor—should you find yourself in the early 1900s, you’ll know where to go!

realtor

My favorite, though, for sheer whimsy, has to be the 1918 book Mother Goose Comes to PortlandMaine, that is—one of the few of its kind to include women, not to mention nursery rhyme parodies. Here’s a verse about the president of the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (pictured below): “Where are you going, my pretty maid?”/”I’m going a-milking, Sir,” she said./  “What’s the idea, my pretty maid?”/  “Constructive criticism, Sir,” she said./  “In asking that people shall give up wine,/  I offer a substitute in its stead.”

wctu
For yet more caricatures, check out the exhibits from the Library of Congress’s Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon. And don’t forget our Canadian neighbors!

Internationally yours,

Stephen

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To my fellow followers of Rip Van Winkle,

As some of you may know, Sunday, October 11 marks National Coming Out Day, a day for everyone to show their queer or queer-allied colors—and, in this year’s case, march on Washington for marriage equality. (You can read about the history of Coming Out Day—or COD, if you will—on the Human Rights Campaign website.)

I will confess, I haven’t always been a big fan of COD. I remember my first taste of COD my freshman year of college, where they literally set up a closet door on the grass so people could “come out” of it. Nothing could have felt more terrifying and simultaneously shaming then the demand to step through that flimsy door-frame, as though articulating and accepting one’s sense of difference could ever be accomplished so simply.

Since then, researching the past has definitely helped me to come to terms with the term “coming out.”  So in honor of COD, I point you to one of the periodicals from the early days of Gay Liberation, titled, yes, Come Out. The magazine began publication shortly after the Stonewall Riot in 1969, and has been partly digitized by the useful (though not always easy to navigate) website Outhistory.org (a project of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY).

come out magazine masthead, 1969

Just to give you a sense of its tone, the first lines of the first issue proclaimed, “COME OUT FOR FREEDOM! COME OUT NOW! POWER TO THE PEOPLE! GAY POWER TO GAY PEOPLE! COME OUT OF THE CLOSET BEFORE THE DOOR IS NAILED SHUT!” Before gay liberation (as scholars John D’Emilio and George Chauncey have shown), coming out meant entering into the gay community, but the new metaphor of the closet turned “coming out” into a political act—and demanded a total re-evaluation of the quietly queer lives many gay men and lesbians had lived before.

The New York Public Library also has a wonderful online exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, with some beautiful images culled from their extensive archives, like this one of two members of the Gay Activists Alliance.

Rutgers University Gay Liberation Conference, April 30–May 2, 1971. Photograph by Kay Tobin Lahusen. NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen Gay History Papers and Photographs. Copyright Kay Tobin Lahusen. Digital ID: 1606088

A quick subject search their digital image gallery reveals much, much more, including this photograph by Diana Davies of the 1971 Gay Pride march, almost as exciting for its vintage fashion as the banner “Women’s liberation is a lesbian plot.” Think about that next Women’s History Month.

Christopher Street Liberation Day, June 20, 1971 [22]. Diana Davies, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building / Manuscripts and Archives Division, NYPL, Copyright Diana Davies, Digital ID: 1066141

That’s all for this week dear readers.

Historically yours,

Stephen

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Dear daydream believers,

You might have heard, say here, or here, or (shout-out to my adviser) here, that 2009 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. And what better way to celebrate his memory than with Brown University’s enormous collection of “Lincolniana“—though I keep reading it as “Lincolnalia,”  suggesting both paraphernalia and a Victorian sexual pathology.

As it turns the 21st century has no monopoly on crass commercialization. See for instance this truly incredible advertisement from 1870, with the “Emancipation Proclamation” rolled up like cigarette paper, with the American flag waving above it like a trail of smoke.

Brown University, Center for Digital Initiatives

Yes America, you are free at last to smoke. And check out (in 3-D!!!) this delightfully kitschy 1950s Lincoln jug.

More genuinely moving is this beautiful 1904 silhouette portrait of the Great Emancipator beneath a tree.

Brown University, Center for Digital Initiatives

Though I have to say, my favorite portrayal of Lincoln appears in Behind the Scenes, the (mostly true?) memoir written by his Mary Todd Lincoln’s black dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley. As she tells it, President Abe was extremely fond of animals, especially his pet goats. “My pets recognize me. How earnestly they look!”  Read it on Google if you haven’t already!

Earnestly yours,

Stephen

P.S. Did you know you can become a fan of the “Young Abraham Lincoln” on Facebook? Find out what Joshua Speed saw in him!

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Dear citizens of the land of nod,

Today’s entry comes to you courtesy of UC Santa Barbara’s fabulous Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project–an archive of music from the early 20th century, when songs were recorded on hard wax cylinders. You could literally spend hours here building your ITunes playlist.

Just imagine wooing your sweetheart with such ethnically-sensitive tunes as Irving Berlin’s “Sweet Italian Love,” sung in dialect by the prolific vocalist Billy Murray. Looking forward to the lyrical ingenuity of “When the moon hits your eye,” Murray sings, “When you kiss-a your pet/And it’s-a like-a spagett/Dat’s Italian love!”

Of course, Italians aren’t the only ones who know how to set a romantic mood. Here Ada Jones sings “Hottentot Love Song,” about, you guessed it, a Hottentot man in love with a “Zulu maid.” As Jones croons, “If my skin ain’t white/I’ve a heart that’s white/and it’s all for you.” (You can view the sheet music here from Mississippi State University’s Templeton collection).

And last but not least, listen to Murray and Jones sing the anti-sentimental duet “Pet Names” from George Cohan’s 1908 musical, “The American Idea”–a “satire on international marriage,” in the words of the New York Times.

Be sure to check out the archive’s curated exhibits, too!

Until next time!

Yours romantically,

Stephen

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Dear compatriots in soporific studies,

One drawback to working from home is that the couch always looks far more attractive than the computer screen. I find myself contemplating this dilemma today on the arrival of our long-awaited sofa, named by its manufacturers “Rachel,” not to mention our new platform bed, named “Elan.” That’s right, Rachel and Elan–what a lovely Jewish couple!

So in honor of the marriage of Rachel and Elan, I thought I’d point you today to a trio of films on home improvement, from the always astonishing Prelinger Archive–an online collection of ephemeral films.

In the first, from 1940, “Let Yourself Go,” we get a tour of a mattress store–a kind of proto-Sleepy’s–where everyday people try to find the secret to a good night’s rest. One man, for instance, has “been fighting his pillow for years,” the narrator says. “So far he’s lost every round.”

Let Yourself Go

In the second, from 1958, “Something New From Something Old,” a young couple named “Jack and Jill” turn their sad NYC tenement apartment into a luxurious haven, all to the tune of “Almost Like Falling in Love.”

Somethign New

But lest you remain unconvinced the importance of domestic improvement, watch this harrowing film from 1954, “The House in the Middle,” which shows how houses in various states of repair and disrepair would hold up under atomic attack. Because when the bomb drops, you’ll want your paint job to remain unblemished.

House in the Middle

Happy homemaking to all!

Yours in domestic bliss,

Stephen

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