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Portraits of the injured and maimed soldiers who survived the Civil War
10.27.2014
12:24 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Civil War


 
Pvt. Samuel H. Decker, Company I, 4th US artillery. Double amputation of the forearms for injury caused by the premature explosion of a gun on 8 October 1862, at the Battle of Perryville, KY. Shown with self-designed prosthetics.
 
Civil War deaths are estimated to be between 600,000 and 750,000, carnage that dwarfs all subsequent American wars by quite a wide margin. These numbers often eclipse the legions of surviving veterans who made it through the War, and often too, the crude battle-field medicine that offered little in the way of expertise or painkillers. Amputations were incredibly common, since conditions were usually filthy and it was safer to sever an arm or leg cleanly, rather than attempt to dress and redress a ragged gunshot wound.

All the pictures shown are from the National Museum of Health and Medicine’s Flickr, a fascinating archive, but perhaps not for the faint of heart. Some of them are professional portraits, while others were taken at hospitals for medical records. The handsome gentleman above is notable for his double-amputation and brilliant prosthetics of his own design. From their description:

He receives a pension of $300.00 per year, and is a doorkeeper at the House of Representatives… With the aid of his ingenious apparatus he is enabled to write legibly, to pick up any small objects, a pin for example, to carry packages of ordinary weight, to feed and clothe himself, and in one or two instances of disorder in the Congressional gallery has proved himself a formidable police officer.

Decker was anomalous, of course, as many injured soldiers came home to nothing but poverty.

I’ve tried to exclude any actual gore—some of the recorded injuries could be considered pretty disconcerting. Though most of the open wounds are obviously in monochrome, some are curiously hand-colored—I’m not sure if it’s more or less disturbing to see a gash of red painted onto a gangrenous sore. A few of the pictures are just amputated limbs, so tread carefully.

Some of the more fascinating afflictions aren’t even what we’d traditionally consider “war injures.” Peter Shrup, for example, looks incredibly malnourished, and appears to have a resulting case of Osteomalacia—notice the thin, “knock knees.” And Neil Wicks—one of about 180,000 black soldiers to fight in the Civil War, by the way—has an advanced case of scabies, a parasitic mite that flourishes in dense populations, causing a nearly unbearable rash by burrowing under the skin—it was actually an epidemic among Civil War troops.
 

Robert Fryer. Amputation of third, fourth, and fifth metacarpals. PVT, Company G, 52nd New York Volunteers. Wounded March 25, 1865 at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, Virginia
 

Jason W. Joslyn. Excision of head & 4 inches of shaft femur, prosthesis in place. PVT, Company I, 7th New York Heavy Artillery. Injured at 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor
 

Hiram Williams. Amputation of leg and foot, shell wound. PVT, Company K, 98th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Injured at the 1865 Battle of Appomattox
 

Neil Wicks. Scabies of both legs, PVT, Company C, 4th US Colored Troops
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The Russian Revolution in color
10.27.2014
10:47 am

Topics:
History
Politics

Tags:
photography
Lenin
Russian Revolution

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Lenin was a headbanger, quite literally. As a baby he would bang his head repeatedly on the floor. His parents thought little Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov might injure himself or that his actions suggested something wrong. According to his biographer Robert Service, Lenin was a troublesome child—needy, demanding attention and resentful of his family and other children. He always wanted to be the center of attention and this he later achieved on a grand scale when he turned the events of the Russian Revolution to his advantage, and became head of government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Lenin had campaigned and encouraged the revolution from afar, from his base in Switzerland, where he spent his days writing manifestoes and political pamphlets and his evenings watching DADAist performances offending the audience at the club Cabaret Voltaire, which left Lenin pondering who was the more revolutionary DADA or himself? The events of 1917 were to answer that.

These color images were uncovered by Russian-born photographer Anton Orlov when he was asked to clear out storage crates in the basement of a home in California. In amongst the personal items and assorted junk were hundreds of hand-colored glass slides taken by an American pastor named John Wells Rahill during the Russian Revolution of 1917.
 
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Pastor John Wells Rahill with three young boys at a Russian village.
 
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Members of the YMCA entertain a crowd at a train station.
 
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Soldiers at Omsk train station.
 
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Damaged buildings in the center of Moscow.
 
More color photos plus ‘The Russian Revolution in Color’ documentary, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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How Sam Cooke Invented the Afro
10.27.2014
08:09 am

Topics:
Books
History
Music
Race

Tags:
Sam Cooke
Peter Guralnick


 
The name of music writer Peter Guralnick may not resonate with rock music fans the way names like Lester Bangs and Richard Meltzer do, likely because his work is informal, thoughtful, and restrained compared to that of many of his self-aggrandizingly, flamboyantly gonzo contemporaries from the early days of rock writing coming into its own. For example, his scholarly ‘90s Elvis Presley biographies Last Train to Memphis, Careless Love, and the mind-bogglingly granular Elvis Day by Day serve serious students of rock history as valuable counterpoints to the notoriously lurid sensationalism of Albert Goldman’s work on the subject.

On November 4th, Guralnick will be releasing two of his works—Sweet Soul Music and Dream Boogie—as enhanced e-books. In addition to being optimized for e-readers, the e-books will include troves of supplemental A/V material, including audio of his original interviews with figures like Ray Charles, Bobby Womack, and Solomon Burke, and newly purpose-shot video interviews. I was watching one of those video interviews when something I thought interesting jumped out. Guralnick was talking about the legendary soul singer Sam Cooke with the great Stax songwriter, singer, and producer William Bell, and of the brilliant and tragic talent behind indelible songs like “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” and “Another Saturday Night,” Bell rather bluntly asserted that “Sam started the afro.”
 

 
The idea that someone could have “started” the way a significant number of people’s hair grows normally would seem absurd absent the context of the ‘50s, when many African-Americans, quite literally second-class citizens in the US, straightened their hair in aspirational imitation of white hairstyles, especially if they were public figures like entertainers. The common men’s hairstyle was called a “process” or a “conk.” Some of the most spectacularly vertical conks were sported by James Brown, Esquerita, Little Richard, and Muddy Waters. An amazing sequence of photos in Waters’ Electric Mud LP shows his conk’s creation step-by-step. But Waters was a holdover. That LP came out in 1968, by which time processed hair was becoming passé.
 

 

 
Perhaps it’s because I’m from a post-boomer generation, but I’ve long been accustomed to Jimi Hendrix getting a great deal of credit as the musician who popularized the afro. Not that Sam Cooke was without conspicuous black identity bona fides; he did, after all, write the immortal and still-potent “Change is Gonna Come.” Seeking clarity, I turned to Guralnick himself, who literally wrote the book on Sam Cooke—the aforementioned Dream Boogie is it, in fact. (He also wrote the movie on Cooke.) It turns out that the man is as dizzying a fount of knowledge in conversation as he is on the printed page. Compared to the thoughtful depth and detail of his answers, my questions sound embarrassingly boneheaded, so I’ve replaced them in the following Q&A with pictures of celebrated afros.
 

 

Sam started wearing his hair natural back in 58. He saw it as a point of racial pride, and he preached it as a point of racial pride. And Otis Redding stopped processing his hair after talking with Sam—this is what Roger Redding, Otis’ brother, told me long, long, ago, and which I’m sure is true, because Sam’s brother L.C. had told me the same thing. So he went out there at a time when a large percentage, by far the majority of African-American singers were straightening their hair, Sam was out there doing it natural, and making a point of saying “I don’t want to try to look like somebody else, I’m proud of being myself, I’m proud of who I am, I’m proud of my race.” And he articulated it to—not to interviewers, because nobody was interviewing him about it—but he articulated it, and I’ve heard this again and again, to other singers of that era.

 

 

This was a very unusual thing to do. I’m sure it wasn’t unique, in fact I know it wasn’t unique, but it was quite unusual, and it took a degree of self-awareness. Sam was somebody who was an inveterate reader, he just read anything and everything, from War and Peace to The New Yorker to Playboy, and he started reading black history, both African history and African-American history. He read John Hope Franklin, he started reading a great deal of that history, and really immersed himself in it, and in new people like James Baldwin and Malcom X, who were his peers.

 

 

On the night of the first Clay/Liston fight, when Muhammad Ali was still Cassius Clay, and he won the title, after the fight, Sam Cooke, Clay, Malcolm X and the football player Jim Brown went back to Malcolm X’s hotel room in the Hampton House, and the FBI had an informer there, and were extremely concerned! They saw this as a potential nexus of sports and entertainment superstars getting together on a political agenda. Sam was very serious—I don’t mean to make him out to be a crusader, but he was an extremely aware person, and extremely well-read. He once told Bobby Womack, if you want to expand your writing, you’ve got to read. You can’t just keep writing songs about “I love you I love you I love you.” You want to expand your horizons by reading. Bobby was a total disciple of Sam’s, and could describe Sam’s lessons almost word-for-word. I don’t know whether he ever became a great reader but he took the point.

 

 

One thing I think I’d emphasize, Sam’s hair was neither accidental nor happenstance. It was a well thought out response what he saw as white cultural domination and the willingness of the black community, in many instances, to see that as something to which to aspire, to want to look white, like the majority population, and he said that was ridiculous. He embraced James Baldwin’s point that this is a community of incredible joy, creativity, appreciation of life, a community that should celebrate itself, not to try to imitate anybody else.

 

 

Sam saw Black Power arise to some degree, with the Black Muslims who were preaching self-reliance, that was sort of a variation on Booker T. Washington I suppose, in a sense, though they wouldn’t have taken it that way. But the point is that was a proclamation of separateness, of black power.

So there you have it. Guralnick’s mention of that Cassius Clay story reminded me of this wonderful clip of Clay and Cooke singing together. The song is “The Gang’s All Here,” and it saw release on Clay’s LP I Am the Greatest!, which, yeah, exists. While you’re enjoying that, I’ll be starting research for my own scholarly work on the Jewfro.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Prankster in Chief: LBJ liked to fool people with his amphibious car
10.27.2014
06:56 am

Topics:
Amusing
History
Politics

Tags:
Lyndon Johnson


Lyndon Johnson takes his Amphicar out for a spin

Aside from being perhaps America’s best post-WW2 president in domestic policy and America’s worst post-WW2 president in foreign policy, Lyndon B. Johnson has also proved to be perhaps our most entertaining president, with memorable moments like showing off his gall bladder surgery scar, holding meetings while he was on the toilet, and, as we posted in July, hilariously talking about his “bunghole” with his tailor.

Maybe it’s not too surprising that Johnson also engaged in pranks that, had more people known about them, would surely have had media scolds worrying that his behavior was insufficiently “presidential.” For instance, few people know that, much like James Bond, Johnson actually owned an amphibious car. The Quandt Group produced the amphibious convertible (!) known as the “Amphicar” in the German city of Lübeck and at Berlin-Borsigwalde. The car functioned by engaging “the two propellers, located under the rear engine compartment.” The company made 3,878 of them between 1960 and 1968. It came in four colors, “Beach White, Regatta Red, Fjord Green (Aqua), and Lagoon Blue,” the latter one being the hue that Johnson favored. For Johnson owned an Amphicar. The black-and-white picture on this page is of Johnson driving one in April 1965.
 

Adventures with the Amphicar
 
Even better than owning one, Johnson liked to fool visitors to his ranch in Johnson City, Texas, that the brakes had failed and that they were powerless to prevent the car from plunging into a lake and drowning the passengers. One of Johnson’s LBJ’s top domestic aides, Joseph A. Califano Jr., tells the following story:
 

The President, with Vicky McCammon in the seat alongside him and me in the back,was now driving around in a small blue car with the top down. We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water. The President shouted, “The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!” The car splashed into the water. I started to get out. Just then the car leveled and I realized we were in a Amphicar. The President laughed. As we putted along the lake then (and throughout the evening), he teased me. “Vicky, did you see what Joe did? He didn’t give a damn about his President. He just wanted to save his own skin and get out of the car.” Then he’d roar.

 
That’s right, the President of the United States liked to drive his amphibious car into a lake and then shout, “The brakes don’t work! We’re going under!” just to see what would happen. In the anecdote above, note how LBJ twits Califano for worrying only about his own skin. I suspect as a politician, Johnson liked learning about the character of the people he was with, to see what they were “really” made of.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Never look bored—or unconscious—even if you are: Tips for the single woman, 1938
10.24.2014
07:16 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism
History

Tags:
dating tips


 
And… THIS is how you land a man 1938-style. Now put a ring on it, dammit!

It was 1938 and times were oh-so-much different then. I always find these vintage “dating tips” for single women hilarious. I mean, “Don’t drink too much, as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening. Drinking may make some girls seem clever, but most get silly” and “Careless women never appeal to gentlemen, Don’t talk while dancing, for when a man dances he wants to dance.” 

The last image in this series is the true winner though…
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The amazing old Paramount Records ads that inspired R. Crumb


 
The story of Paramount Records is a fascinating one—the beginning is set about 100 years ago, in a Wisconsin furniture company that began pressing records in hopes that’d help them sell record players, which in their early years were indeed whoppin’ big ol’ pieces of furniture. The middle sees that furniture company curating and releasing a jaw-dropping and still legendary catalogue of classic early jazz and Delta blues 78s by the likes of Charley Patton, Ma Rainey, and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The end of the story sees the closing of the company and disgruntled employees flinging those now priceless shellac records into the Milwaukee River and melting down the metal masters for scrap. The whole story can be found in greater detail online, or in the books Paramount’s Rise and Fall and Do Not Sell At Any Price.

What concerns us here are the label’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency. The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb. Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.

Here are a few of those ads. Where the ad copy is adequately readable, I encourage you to give it a look, because some of this stuff is priceless—I’m wondering how many old blues songs weren’t about wangs and adultery. Bear in mind, please, that the ads I chose to post here weren’t necessarily selected for resemblance to Crumb’s work. Some I simply felt like sharing because they were just too much!
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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The ordinary faces of evil: Mugshots of female Nazi concentration camp guards
10.22.2014
05:41 am

Topics:
Crime
History
Stupid or Evil?

Tags:
Nazis
Second World War

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Frieda Walter: sentenced to three years imprisonment.
 
Though their actions were monstrous, they are not monsters. There are no horns, no sharp teeth, no demonic eyes, no number of the Beast. They are just ordinary women. Mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, widows, spinsters. Ordinary women, ordinary human beings.

In the photographs they look shameful, guilty, scared, brazen, stupid, cunning, disappointed, desperate, confused. These women were Nazi guards at the Belsen-Bergen concentration camp during the Second World War, and were all tried and found guilty of carrying out horrendous crimes against their fellow human beings—mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons. Interesting how “evil” looks just like you and me.
 
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Hilde Liesewitz: sentenced to one year imprisonment.
 
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Gertrude Feist: sentenced to five years imprisonment.
 
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Elizabeth Volkenrath: Head Wardess at Belsen-Bergen: sentenced to death. She was hanged on 13 December 1945.
 
More Nazi mugshots, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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King Tut—would the ladies love him?
10.20.2014
02:44 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
History
Music

Tags:
King Tut
King Tutankhamun


 
Steve Martin cashed in on the Tutankhamun mania with his 1978 novelty hit “King Tut,” which reached #17 on the U.S. charts and poked fun at the pop culture phenomenon the boy pharaoh had become after the massive Treasures of Tutankhamun traveling exhibit that toured the United States at that time. Martin told us that the “ladies love his style,” but would King Tut in fact be considered so dreamy today? Science suggests no, he’d have been something of an Uncle Fester-like loser, at least if his physical appearance by 21st-century standards is any indication.

BBC One undertook a “virtual autopsy” of the legendary pharaoh in preparation for a documentary called Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered, and the results were a surprise for anyone who can recall “Tut Fever.” The process required the use of over 2,000 computer scans as well as a genetic analysis of his parents, who were, ahem, brother and sister.
 

 
If you were dating him, you would have gotten a man who controlled everything in the Egyptian empire in roughly the year 1330 BC, but you would also have had to put up with buck teeth, a club foot, and a generally saggy build. Wide hips, manboobs, a tendency to wear diapers and frequent use of a cane aren’t the kind of traits you ordinarily see men bragging about on OKCupid, but I’m going to surmise that some guys probably brag that they “rule.” With this goofball, though, he’s not bragging.

All of this new “information” about Tut is just speculation, of course, but it’s fun to think about. King Tut’s allure a couple of generations back was just as much based on guesswork, mainly stemming from the breathtaking mask of Tutankhamun’s mummy, who cut a dashing figure indeed, equally seXXXy in 1330 B.C. and A.D. 1977.

The next thing you’ll tell me, King Tut wasn’t even born in Arizona.
 

 
via Gawker

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Here be monsters: Incredible illustrations from ‘De Monstris’ (1665)
10.16.2014
10:32 am

Topics:
Books
History

Tags:
monsters
De Monstris
Fortunio Liceti

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Fortunio Liceti (1577-1657) was an Italian philosopher, doctor and scientist. He studied medicine and philosophy at the University of Bologna before becoming a lecturer of logic at the University of Pisa and then a professor of philosophy at the University of Padua. Liceti was omnivorous in his interests writing books on mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, genetics and disease. He was friends with Galileo and the mathematician Bonaventura Cavalieri, who once remarked that Liceti was such a prodigious scholar that he produced a book a week. It’s certainly true that Liceti did have a rather impressive output of scientific and philosophical texts during his life ranging on subjects as diverse as the immortality of the soul, gem stones and the causes of headaches (which he thought were the microcosmic equivalent of lightning).

His most famous work was De monstrorum causis, natura et differentiis (Of the causes of monsters, nature and differences) that documented the many “monstrosities” and deformities reported in nature. The book chimed with the public’s interest in “monsters” and “freaks” and Liceti documented all of the stories of man-beasts, mermaids, wolf children as well as the physical abnormalities he had witnessed (co-joined twins, multiple-limbed children, hermaphrodites and alike). Liceti did not consider these “monstri” as abnormal, but rather as attempts of nature to fashion life as best as possible, in the same way an artist would create art with whatever materials were available.

It is said that I see the convergence of both Nature and art, because one or the other not being able to make what they want, they at least make what they can.

He was also the first to posit the idea that fetal disease could lead to abnormalities in children.

De monstrorum causis, natura et differentiis was first published in 1616 without illustrations, a lavish illustrated second edition was published in Padua in 1634, with a further edition De monstris (or what you might call the mass market edition) was produced in Amsterdam in 1665. It is from the last edition that these incredible images are from.

A PDF of De monstris is available here.
 
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More illustrations from ‘De monstri’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Teach your kids how to use the phone with terrifying puppets
10.15.2014
10:59 am

Topics:
Amusing
History

Tags:
puppets
phones
educational films


 
Anyone who’s ever observed the rate at which a four-year-old figures out an iPhone is well aware of how quickly kids pick up on new technology. It’s a curious phenomenon (especially when it’s taken years to teach my grandmother how to text), but I suspect that it has something to do with openness—kids don’t have to “unlearn” old tech that may be counterintuitive to a new gadget, nor are they as easily intimidated by learning, since the whole world is new to them anyway.

However, not everyone trusts the potential of our youth! Take Adventure In Telezonia, a 1949 instructional video from the Bell Telephone System (now AT&T)—this is a generation of people who believe children are morons best taught by terrifying puppets. Our protagonist Bobby is whisked away (basically kidnapped) to the land of Telezonia by Handy (the murderous marionette), who teaches him phone etiquette and… how to dial. The only real benefit I see to the film is to remind kids that machines are expensive and breakable—something they never really seem to grasp until they drop something and destroy it.

Got that, kids? If you abuse your iPhone, Handy will come for you.
 

 
Via Network Awesome

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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