Junk history is embodied perfectly in a recent viral meme that portrays a nineteenth-century Persian princess with facial hair alongside the claim that 13 men killed themselves over their unrequited love for her. While it fails miserably at historical accuracy, the meme succeeds at demonstrating how easily viral clickbait obscures and overshadows rich and meaningful stories from the past.
More than a century after he received it, Karl Hultberg still wears his civil service medal with pride. In life, he only had a week to enjoy it, so someone decided that, in death, he should wear it in perpetuity.
In an episode that predated the Watergate break-in by 100 years, thieves broke into the New York City Comptroller’s office on September 10, 1871, and stole records that threatened to end the corrupt reign of Boss Tweed over the Tammany Hall political machine. Fittingly, the thieves used a symbol of the Tweed Ring – a diamond – to cut a hole in the glass office door. This is the story of Boss Tweed and the diamonds of Tammany Hall.
In 1795, English writer Mary Wollstonecraft, internationally known for her defense of women’s rights, went on a journey to Scandinavia that helped her pull herself from the depths of despair and produce one of her finest works.
Joan of Arc, Countess Emilia Plater, Wonder Woman: Singular women placed on a pedestal, carefully arranged and served on a silver platter of inimitable exceptionalism, meant to be admired for their sacrifice, but not duplicated. These are the flawed foundations of the stories of “heroic” women that have helped insure that the concept of the women warrior remains an anomaly more akin to a fictional superhero than an accepted reality.
“I knew well that the only way I could get that door open was to knock it down; because I…
Tucked away in the church cemetery of a southern Swedish village is the gravestone of a civil servant who died in 1902. It would go unnoticed as the average grave of an ordinary man were it not for one remarkable feature: the shining silver medal embedded and encased in glass within the gravestone. All but forgotten and facing the scrap heap, the gravestone symbolizes the overlooked beauty and value of everyday history.
While the stories of history’s first female doctors of philosophy are inspiring, they also highlight the galling realities of women’s centuries-long struggle to obtain equal educational opportunities and professional and intellectual respect. Seen as a whole, they have the power to light a fire beneath armchair inspiration and provoke similarly bold and progressive action.
From Art Nouveau theatrical poster to a Japanese art gallery, a unique serpent bracelet designed by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha for French actress Sarah Bernhardt has coiled its way through more than a century of history – disappearing, reappearing, and intertwining itself with an eclectic group of extraordinary people.
“During her lifetime, [Queen] Margrete held numerous titles. The least important of these were the ones she gained at birth…