The Watseka Wonder

“The case of Lurancy Vennum, a bright young girl of fourteen years, has been the subject of much discussion in Watseka during the past year, and there is a good deal in it beyond human comprehension.” – “Mesmeric Mysteries,” Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), Jun. 22, 1878 [1]

            Ever since Regan MacNeil crawled backwards down the stairs in The Exorcist, possession has been a cornerstone of American horror movies. The very idea of losing control of ourselves to something otherworldly fills us with fear. The fear of possession, of course, has been around since long before the 1970s. Cases of possession have featured on the pages of newspapers across the country since the Salem witch trials in the 1690s. We don’t have to look far to find one such case.

Continue reading “The Watseka Wonder”

What can a Czech-American newspaper teach us about the American union?

In August 2016 HPNL and Preservation Services received a fourth round of grant funding for the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress. The grant supports the funding for the digitization of 100,000 pages of newspapers. For this cycle UIUC focused on immigrant Chicagoland-based newspapers from the late 19th century and early 20th century. As part of this project, I was tasked with producing short essays summarizing the history of two related Czech-American newspapers: Denní hlasatel (Daily Herald) and its weekly counterpart, Týdenní hlasatel (Weekly Herald). The essays were to appear in the Library of Congress powered site, Chronicling America, as well as UIUC’s newspaper portal, the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections (IDNC).

Continue reading “What can a Czech-American newspaper teach us about the American union?”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Student Life and Culture Archives

Housed at the southern end of campus, right next to Orchard Downs, is the university’s Student Life and Culture Archive. Dedicated to preserving the history of student life on campus, this archive holds a wide variety of artifacts. From old newspapers to interviews to clothing, they have something that is bound to be of interest to everyone. There is no assignment required to visit, just a curiosity for what you’ll find there.

Continue reading “University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Student Life and Culture Archives”

New Digitized Newspaper: The Rand Daily Mail, 1902-1985

The Rand Daily Mail was a South African, English language newspaper that became famous in the 1960s for its editorial opposition to apartheid.

It began publication in 1902 as a conservative sheet serving English-speaking whites in “the Rand”—local parlance for the Witwatersrand goldfields near Johannesburg (“rand” is a geological term for an escarpment, so its metonymic use here is similar to the way southern Californians often refer to the San Fernando Valley as simply “the Valley”). South Africa was a country sliced to shreds by conflict: racial, class, and white ethnic conflict. Over five different languages were spoken throughout the nation. Within the Rand, the paper was reliably establishment, though it did occasionally break ranks to support white miners. Continue reading “New Digitized Newspaper: The Rand Daily Mail, 1902-1985″

New Online Resource: Christian-Muslim Relations

Christian-Muslim Relations Volumes 1 and 2 (CMR1 and CMR2) cumulate all eight volumes published so far in Brill’s serial bibliography, Christian Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History. CMR1 covers the time period 600-1500. CMR2 claims to cover 1500-1914, but like the four previously-published volumes on which it is based, its coverage seems to extend only as far as 1700.

Continue reading “New Online Resource: Christian-Muslim Relations”

New Online Resources: October 2017 Update

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine: Identifies books, book chapters, and journal articles on all aspects of the history of science, technology, and medicine. It is based on four standard bibliographic tools: the Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science (1913-currrent with expanded retrospective coverage), the Current Bibliography in the History of Technology (1964-current with expanded retrospective coverage), the Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza (1982-2011 with expanded retrospective coverage), and the catalog of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine (1532-current). The Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science began in 1913 as an annual supplement to the journal Isis. The Current Bibliography in the History of Technology began in 1964 as an annual supplement to the journal Technology and Culture. The Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza began in 1982 as part of the Biblioteca di bibliografia italiana. These three bibliographies, along with the catalog of the Wellcome Library, form the core of this database.

Continue reading “New Online Resources: October 2017 Update”

‘Tis Time! Sharpen the knives and carve the pumpkins!

Halloween 2016 netted retail industries approximately $8.6 billion (CNN). Millions more may be factored into the season when cafes and grocers market many items labeled as “pumpkin spice.” It’s impossible to mention Halloween without invoking images of costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, pumpkin smashing, witches, black cats, etc. Halloween is such a symbolic and long-standing holiday in American culture that it is worth serious consideration by historians, anthropologists, and students of folk-lore. It is the product of the migration of Western Europeans and a fusion of their traditional practices on this continent. Although it is such a historically rich festival, how is it that one of the longest-standing crafts affiliated with All Hallows Eve is that of pumpkin carving? When all is said and done, it seems a tad silly to carve a scary face into a vegetable. Patterns range from happy to scary, from eccentric to mainstream, the patterns reflecting both the skill and the whims of the carver. Why and how did this tradition of pumpkin carving emerge? That annual pilgrimage to a country-side pumpkin patch in order to select the perfect squash canvas? The answer lies with the development of Halloween as an American holiday.

Continue reading “‘Tis Time! Sharpen the knives and carve the pumpkins!”

Research Paper Tip

When looking for research paper topics, and examining the available body of primary sources, don’t get too hung up on what any particular source is “about”. Sometimes a source is about much more than it seems. For example, Canary and Cage-Bird Life, a weekly newspaper published in England, would make an excellent source for researchers interested in the history of domestic life, history of leisure, history of collecting, history of natural science, history and ethics of human-nonhuman relationships, rural history, and more. Continue reading “Research Paper Tip”