Sep 14 2018174 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part One

From 1964 until 2011 comic books were nominally approved by a content regime called the Comics Code Authority. The Authority grew out of anti-comic book sentiment in the early part of the twentieth century. Anti-comics advocates like Fredric Wertham portrayed comic books as filled with crime, sex, and corrupting ideas. In 1954 a senate subcommittee headed by Tennessee senator Estes Kefauver all but put comic books on trial, with Kefauver grilling EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines about the content of then-popular horror comics. The exchange would change comic book publishing forever.

Jul 22 2018170 Phreak Out!

Hacking predated personal computers. From the 1960s until the 1990s early hackers known as “phreaks” learned how to hack into phone lines, make long-distance calls for free, set up secret conference calls, and explore the global telephone network.

Oct 06 2017139 Rosenstrasse

In February of 1943 the Nazi regime arrested between 1500-2000 Jewish men in Berlin, and imprisoned them in a former Jewish community center with the address of Rosenstrasse 2-4. These men had, up until this point, avoided deportation to death camps because they were married to non-Jewish women, and instead had been forced to work in German factories up until that point. Their wives, though, showed up in force outside the building where they were imprisoned, and soon a group of hundreds of women were able to mount an effective street protest against the Reich. It was the only effective popular protest in Germany mounted against Hitler’s regime.

Jun 12 2017131 Polyamory, Polygraphs, and Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman’s origin story is a fascinating one. Diana of Themyscira was created in 1940 by William Moulton Marston, a psychologist who helped invent the lie detector, worked for Universal Studios, and who lived in a menage-a-trois with his wife, Elizabeth, and another woman Olive Byrne. Marston believed that women were inherently superior to men, and in Wonder Woman created a character whom he believed embodied the qualities the world most needed. That, and there was a lot of bondage. So much bondage.

May 08 2017126 Jenni L. Walsh on Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh is the author of Becoming Bonnie, a historical fiction novel about how Bonnie met Clyde, and what happened afterward. We talked about the real history of the outlaws, the 1967 movie, and what it’s like to craft actual events into a fictional narrative.

Jan 14 201663 The Forty-Seven Ronin, Part Two

Last week Asano, Lord of Ako was ordered to commit seppuku, and his newly unemployed samurai were plotting revenge on Kira, the noble whom they blamed for their lord’s death. This week, the 47 ronin extract their revenge on Kira, and the incident becomes one of the most retold narratives in Japanese history.

The image below illustrates a scene from Kanadehon Chushingura, the most famous fictionalized version of the 47 ronin story. The characters in Kanadehon Chushingura have different names than the actual historical figures whom they purport to represent, audiences in 1748 and onward would have recognized the fiction as being roughly analogous to actual events. Anymore, Chushingura refers to the entire body of media either directly about or touching on the 47 ronin incident.

Wataya_Kibei_-_Kanadehon_chushingura

Nov 19 201557 The Mysterious Affair of the Irish Crown Jewels

The Irish crown jewels were stolen in 1907. To this day, no one knows who absconded with the regalia. While known as the “Irish crown jewels” today, they were not referred to as such until after their theft. In fact, they were the regalia of the Order of St. Patrick, a British Knightly Order associated with Ireland (England and Scotland had the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle, respectively) and were worn by either the British monarch or their stand-in during investiture ceremonies or other state events.

When they were stolen in 1907 from a safe in Dublin Castle, there was no sign of a break in, no forced locks, an no other damage of any kind. Since 1907 theories about the theft of the crown jewels have ranged from an operation carried out either by Irish Unionists or British Republicans to humiliate the monarchy, blackmail and bacchanals at Dublin Castle, jewel stealing femme fatales, and simple drunken incompetence. To this day, the fate of the jewels remains an enduring mystery.

policenotice1

Jun 18 201535 Clairvoyance and Free Love on Campaign Trail ’72

It’s very likely that Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. When/if she does, some talking head will likely call her “the first women to run for president.” That talking head will be wrong. Women have been running for president for decades. The first woman to do so was Victoria Woodhull, a former Wall Street trader, traveling clairvoyant, spiritualist, newspaper publisher, and advocate for women’s suffrage. Woodhull advocated strongly for free love, i.e., the ability for women to marry whomever they chose, and for the disentangling of marriage as a social institution from the law.

Woodhull obviously lost the 1872 election (Ulysses S. Grant won it) but many of her ideas about gender, women’s rights, free love, and marriage, have been integrated into what is now considered “normal.” Woodhull was a firebrand and a revolutionary at the time and, even though she lost that electoral contest, we now very much live in her world.

 

Victoria-Woodhull-by-Bradley-&-Rulofson

Related Links:

victoriacwoodhull.org is a site devoted to, obviously, Victoria Woodhull.

An 1871¬†report of one of Woodhull’s campaign speeches. (Requires login)

Woodhull was demonized for her support of free love. As in, cartoonists drew her as a demon. A famous caricature of her declared her to be “Mrs. Satan.”

Apr 30 201528 Attack the Rock

The foreboding form of Alcatraz Island looms just beyond San Francisco, an obvious symbol of isolation and punishment. Alcatraz was never the biggest, or worst, or longest-lived prison in American history, but it’s definitely the most iconic. The island fortress seems to invite resistance and escape attempts, a setting like Alcatraz demands a narrative just as striking. In 1946 a handful of convicts attempted to violently escape from the island, giving that dramatic setting a dramatic narrative to match it. The resulting conflict, known today as the Battle of Alcatraz, claimed the lives of five people and wounded just over a dozen others. Ordinary San Franciscans were able to watch from their city as guns, explosives, and conflict raged just beyond the bounds of civilization.

The image below shows the exterior of Alcatraz as U.S. Marines pelt the prison with mortars in an attempt to kill and suppress the rebels inside.

Battle_of_Alactraz

Related Links:

Watch 1946 newsreels of the events here and here, in all of their retro media glory.

Read more about the battle and other Alcatraz history here.

This map via Wired of how other Alcatraz escapees could have, possibly, maybe survived.

Apr 02 201524 The Raider, the Playboy, the Sultan, and Roosevelt

In 1904 a Greek-American playboy, Ion Perdicaris was, along with his stepson Cromwell, kidnapped in Morocco by a man who would later be called “The last of the Barbary pirates.” The incident sparked a degree of outrage in the US, and was a talking point for Theodore Roosevelt in the 1904 presidential election. But… Perdicaris himself didn’t mind being kidnapped. In fact, he had a great time being held hostage by a roving band of desert brigands.

The 1904 cartoon below from the Review of Reviews shows the US boldly telling the Sultan of Morocco to… pretty much give in to a kidnappers demands.

Pedacaris Incident cartoon
Related Links:

News stories from 1904 about the Perdicaris Incident.

Hostages to Momus by O. Henry, based on the Perdicaris Incident

The Wind and the Lion on IMDB

This is only very tangentially related, but The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is very probably the best collection of writing prompts ever made.