1790: George Washington on Bigotry

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Source: George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, Rhode Island, on August 21, 1790.

1862: The Arsenic Waltz

Colorful dresses in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe and the U.S. earned their wonderful hues from dangerous materials, such as arsenic, which made an unknown number ill and likely proved fatal to more than a few. The public was not exactly unaware of the cause and effect.

Source: The Wellcome Library of London, England.

1929: Mush and Coffee

At the breadlines and soup kitchens, hours of waiting would produce a bowl of mush, often without milk or sugar, and a tin cup of coffee. The vapors from the huge steam cookers mingling with the stench of wet clothes and sweating bodies made the air foul. But waiting in the soup kitchen was better than the scavenging in the dump.

Source: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, The Crisis of the Old Order: 1919-1933, the Age of Roosevelt (paperback edition, 2003) (pg. 171).

1905: War of 1812

Parades figure prominently in many of the film clips. One of the most remarkable shows a contingent of veterans marching briskly along a New York City street in 1905. In itself, it is not a particularly dramatic scene. But what it represents is extraordinary. The parade is actually the funeral procession for the last veteran of the War of 1812, Hiram Cronk, who had just died at age 105. A motor car brings up the rear carrying, it appears, several more infirm Civil War veterans. It is as if the 18th century were touching the fingertips of the 20th before our very eyes.

Source: Fergus M. Bordewich, “Civil War Veterans Come Alive in Audio and Video Recordings: Deep in the collections of the Library of Congress are ghostly images and voices of Union and Confederate soldiers,” Smithsonian Magazine (October 4, 2011).