history

Daniel Day-Lewis as President, Ed Harris as an Astronaut… American History as Envisioned by Hollywood

Daniel Day-Lewis as President, Ed Harris as an Astronaut… American History as Envisioned by Hollywood

AMC’s TURN has re-sparked an interest in the American Revolutionary War. Who knew George Washington had a team of spies?
But if you’re a history buff who needs more than a single TV show or historic period to stay happy, you’d do well to consult this list of great historical movies.

1. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Yes, the storyline revolves around the rescue of the last surviving son of a grieving mother. Even so, Steven Spielberg’s real accomplishment is in the first half-hour of the film: perhaps the most powerful and accurate reenactment of the D-Day invasion and subsequent battle ever. It’s a crucial chapter in America’s twentieth-century identity, and Spielberg (who won a Best Director Oscar) does little to glorify the tragedies.

ANNIE HALL's New York, then and now

ANNIE HALL's New York, then and now

In December I shined some SUNlight on Nick Carr, who chronicles his interesting discoveries as a film location scout on his blog. Now he brings us a terrific post featuring Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL (which happens to be one of my favorite films). Many of Allen’s most iconic films were shot years before I ever stepped foot in New York and a lot has changed since then, but nonetheless the lens through which he captured the urbanscape, pace and experiences of the city still resonates with me. It’s one of the reasons I love this film, as well as MANHATTAN and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.

Great boxes throughout history

Great boxes throughout history

What better way to pay homage to some of the greatest (and some not so great) boxes throughout history than this gallery from Vanity Fair, featuring everything from Pandora’s Box to the mailbox to the boombox, which provided the soundtrack of summer in city streets during the 1970s and ’80s.

Dear Photograph

Dear Photograph

Dear Photograph is an evocative user submitted website that displays juxtaposed photographs overlaying the past and present with an often poignant impact, such as the example above.

Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway hanging out

Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway hanging out

The previously mentioned blog Awesome People Hanging Out Together, which highlights unlikely notables and the famous photographed with each other, recently posted this picture snapped in 1944 of a uniformed Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway walking the streets of London. With a little Internet sleuthing, the back story behind this photograph is fascinating: At the start of the second World War and prior to the bombing in Pearl Harbor, in their effort to recruit the US and the influential members of society into supporting and joining the war, the British government sent spies to the US. Roald Dahl was sent to the States in this campaign. Under the guise of being a RAF British pilot, Dahl worked glamorous DC parties:

Hipster party, circa 1905

Hipster party, circa 1905

Everything about this photo suggests it could have been taken at a gathering of hipster bros just last weekend in Bushwick: mustached, skinny jeans enjoying a pig roast and drinking PBR. Even the grainy quality of the picture gives it an Instagram-esque vibe that would fit in well at such a party (and quickly shared…

Herman Melville's passport application

Herman Melville's passport application

From the Internet archives is Herman Melville’s 1856 US passport application from a simpler time when the government trusted the individual to describe themselves. However as The New Yorker describes below, this author might have had a bit more help in expediting his application than the average US citizen at the time.

The greatest man made light show

The greatest man made light show

NPR has this fascinating short video piece about a moment in July 1962 when the US government decided to study the effects of detonating a hydrogen bomb above the earth’s atmosphere. The video includes original footage of the after effects of the bomb which resulted in as the narrator said, “the greatest man made light…

Where the Internet was born

Where the Internet was born

UCLA History PhD student Brad Fidler has been working to recognize and restore the classroom (seen above in a photo from 1969) on campus from which the Internet announced its birth. Originally a US Defense Department initiative to establish a digital network of computers called ARPANET (The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), this grandfather of…

Harry Belafonte – More Than A Legendary Singer

Harry Belafonte – More Than A Legendary Singer

Harry Belafonte’s life intertwined in historical events, makes SING YOUR SONG more than a singer’s legacy. Want to see more? Check out clips from the festival here. Be sure to satisfy all your festival needs with the latest buzz, top stories, and celebrity interviews from Sundance Channel’s coverage of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Rare half of a stamp sold at auction for $347,500

Rare half of a stamp sold at auction for $347,500

This extremely rare 1872 postage stamp – correction: half of a postage stamp! – was auctioned off in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany for $347,500. Explanation: “Stamps were in short supply in Syke between 1872 and 1874 so it was decided that they should be cut in half as a makeshift solution,” she said. “But because this was…

Funny literal response to homework question

Funny literal response to homework question

I’m not sure of the exact provenance of this, but this student’s literal answer to this homework question cracked me up. My friend Steph asked her brother to translate the answer. My life here has sucked. Work environment is no good; Pay has been low. But don’t worry, only about 10 people get seriously injured…

The real reason the temperance movement failed

The real reason the temperance movement failed

This old photo of prohibitionists makes me laugh (and drink). ‘Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours’ was a slogan used by the US American Anti-Saloon League, the premier prohibitionist organization in the early twentieth century. The cougar on the left pointing at the sign? HOT.

The story behind Kodak's first digital camera in 1975

The story behind Kodak's first digital camera in 1975

What you see above is Kodak’s first digital camera, that is a camera that didn’t require any film. Developed by talented people in their Apparatus Division Research Laboratory in Rochester and unveiled in December 1975, this Frankensteinian device utilized scavenged parts, such as the lens from a Super 8 movie camera.

"I've done something with my life. I’ve made kids happy around the world."

"I've done something with my life. I’ve made kids happy around the world."

On the heels of the sad news about the death on July 27th of Morrie Yohai, 90, and inventor of Cheez Doodle, is this New York Times round up of the geniuses, some accidental, behind some of our favorite junk foods today. The next time you are enjoying a refreshing popsicle this summer, thank Frank…

Eco-fashion: off the runway, and into the exhibition hall

Eco-fashion: off the runway, and into the exhibition hall

Green couture has shown up in designers’ studios, fashion magazines, and on runways from New York to Milan. But nothing lends cred like a museum exhibit… and eco-friendly fashion now has one.

Eco-Fashion: Going Green opened at the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology on May 26. If you want to get a look at some of the latest designs, they’re there: the exhibit features work from well-known names in the space, such as Edun, Ciel, and Bodkin. But curators Jennifer Farley and Colleen Hill didn’t stop with the design houses’ discovery of “green”; rather, the exhibit takes a long look at the history of fashion’s relationship with the environment.

A pre-Kinsey Victorian sex survey

A pre-Kinsey Victorian sex survey

photo of Clelia Mosher from the Stanford University Archives

The March/April edition of Stanford Magazine has a fascinating article on Dr. Clelia Mosher, a Victorian-Era scientist, researcher and Stanford professor who conducted the first known sex surveys of women, decades before Kinsey (who’s considered the pioneer of sex research). Even though the sample size is small and represents mostly white, middle-class, educated women, it still goes far in revealing that Victorian repression was an ideology that was pushed on women rather than a reflection of actual views or practices of the time. Below are some highlights from the piece, but the whole thing is worth a read if you’ve got the time.

Visual history of a New York City block

Visual history of a New York City block

Inspired by an attempt to learn more about the five story tenement building located today at 218 Eldridge Street in New York City that his great-great-grandfather lived in, Zach van Schouwen created a super cool interactive visual history or “a complete record of the life cycle” of this block located between Rivington and Stanton Street…

20th anniversary of Berlin Wall fall round up

20th anniversary of Berlin Wall fall round up

This week the Internet celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an imposing and deadly barrier separating East and West Germany after World War II. Its removal signaled the symbolic end of the Cold War and the unification of Germany. The New York Times had a visual diagram depicting the security…

MoMA's rejection letter to Warhol

MoMA's rejection letter to Warhol

From the archives, check out this letter dated October 19, 1956 by the first director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art to Andy Warhol informing the pop artist that the museum was regretfully rejecting his generously free gift of his drawing entitled “Shoe.” The letter is currently part of the Andy Warhol Museum’s archives…

Only existing video of Anne Frank

Only existing video of Anne Frank

The only known film recording of Anne Frank was posted by the Anne Frank Museum recently on their official YouTube channel, where it has since been viewed over 1.6 million times. The grainy home video recorded on July 22, 1941 briefly captures a curious 13-year-old Anne leaning out the window to observe a neighbor’s wedding.…

Olde time mugshots

Olde time mugshots

Even the passage of nearly a century of time doesn’t keep your embarrassing mugshots hidden from the all seeing eye of The Smoking Gun. Here are some mugshots of hooligans from 1903. [Via]

100 years of visual special effects

100 years of visual special effects

This interesting video compilation of movie clips illustrating the evolution of visual special effects in Western cinema was meant originally as an introduction at a “5th-grader-level” for educational purposes. However, even if you are no longer tackling long division, partaking in mandatory recess, and commuting via a yellow bus, that doesn’t mean you too can’t…

Remembering Hiroshima

Remembering Hiroshima

On a somber note, 64 years ago on this date, a US bomber named “Enola Gay” flew over the city of Hiroshima and its approximate 250,000 residents and dropped the world’s first atomic bomb. An estimated 70,000 people were immediately killed with another 70,000 killed in the aftermath due to radiation exposure and resulting injuries.…

20th anniversary of "Tank Man"

20th anniversary of "Tank Man"

Today, June 5 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests which is largely symbolized by this photograph of an anonymous Chinese man standing firm against a line of advancing tanks. Four other photographers managed to capture this moment–photographs which had be smuggled out of China past the state security.

NPR sits down with one of the photographers, Jeff Widener (whose version seen above is one of the most widely reproduced photographs of that moment) to discuss how his life was changed by that image.