Tag Archives: History

New York City, 1939

To me, these films never get old. You can tell it was recorded by a man because the camera focuses on things: buildings, cars, signs. I wanted to look at the fashions but the lens doesn’t linger on people.

Still, it’s lovely to watch.

[H/T: Small Dead Animals]


London in Colour, 1926

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. I love this piece of film shot in 1926. Not too many ladies walking about but when you do see them, the cloches and knee-length skirts are lovely. There’s one scene when the camera is driving forward through an extremely crowded street full of working class men in suits, ties and skally caps and there’s one woman wearing her cloche. Everyone is looking back at the camera in happy curiosity.

The piano music (appearing halfway through the reel) is one of my faves – from the movie Amelie. I can’t play the piano but I just want to learn this one song.

A bit of advice: Play this one full screen.

[H/T: Small Dead Animals]

If you liked this, check out: Las Vegas, 1962.

How Quaint

Salem, NY. Taken June 4, 2011

Only three years ago life seemed so much different. Unemployment in the United States was around 6.2% and Michael Jackson was alive. Ah…good times…good times.

In 2008 I saw stickers plastered to Stop signs but they read, “Bush.” According to those in the “media know,” John McCain was the worse alternative to Obama. (Remember when McCain was the media darling in 2000?)

Truth be told, I voted for McCain but I was really voting for Palin. I recollect those McCain/Palin bumper stickers. You know the ones that read:

 There was a number of times I can recall the “McCain” top deliberately cut off and “Palin”  remained on the car. She energizes conservatives. The media play her as a dumb hick. If she truly was, they would ignore her like they do Huckabee. (Yes, that was a dig at the Arkansas governor.) She is a threat and they recognize it. The liberals I know roll their eyes and talk about the “bridge to nowhere.” (They still crack jokes about Dan Quayle and tomatoes. What’s that…twenty years old now?)

Anyway, I got off topic though I’m not sure I had a topic in mind when I started this piece.

I guess what I mean to say is 2008 seems a mighty long time ago and I like Sarah Palin. And if you disagree with me you are a misogynist homophobe. (Hat tip to Greg Gutfeld.)

“Wildcats Over Casablanca”

WoCPublished in 1943, Wildcats over Casablanca is a battle memoir by two Navy air fighters, Mac Wordell and Ed Seiler, who related their experiences in North Africa to a British born writer before they were deployed again. Seiler would die in Okinawa, 1945. Wordell survived the war. He is my mother’s second cousin. The book has been reprinted and, on a recent visit, Mom loaned me the book. The following sums up the energy and rhythm of the narrative:

Our poker game suddenly broke up for a quiz.

“But school’s over,” protested Ed in disgust.

“What kind of a ship is this? Aren’t we going to get any time for play?”

“Play?” said Tag Grell. “This is war.”

“War, my foot,” cracked back someone. “The French won’t fight.”

Tommy and Mac came in. “Boys, we’re turning in. We’ve got to be up early in the morning.”

Tommy, who isn’t given to sentiment, managed to tack “good luck” onto his “good night.”

Most of us turned in. Ed, on his way to torpedo heaven, heard a crew man scuttlebutting. “We’ve already made contact with sixteen submarines, I tell you. Big babies…they had swastikas in their conning towers too – but we dodged them. A tin fish missed us by inches.”

“You get thirty days’ leave if you get torpedoed,” confirmed the other in a Texas drawl. “I haven’t had leave for a hell of a time.”

In torpedo heaven one of the pilots was sitting on his bunk contentedly playing with his shark knife.

Someone was snoring like a bull horn.

What morale!



The historian in me finds this November 14, 2008 Time cover disturbing and slightly creepy.

Death Parts United Hearts

I wrote this miniscule essay for work and it’s never seen the light of day. Let me know what you think:

Are you wearing a ring at this moment? What kind of ring is it? If you think about it, rings are inherently symbolic. For the MIT graduate, the distinctive square beaver ring announces long hours over mathematical equations. The diamond crusted “bling” of a super bowl ring declares dedication on the gridiron. Wedding rings symbolize that the wearer is committed to another.

Typical 18th Century Ring

Typical 18th Century Mourning Ring

Are you wearing a mourning ring? Never heard of one? They reached popularity in the late 18th century to remember the deceased. Does your wedding ring have an inscription? For these rings phrases like “Love conquers all,” “My heart is yours,” and “Forever and always” are the most popular. Mourning rings bore inscriptions such as, “Death parts united hearts,” and “Death conquers all.” These rings were made of gold and enameled in black. Decorated with coffins, sometimes the ring held a framed lock of the deceased.

Historic New England.

English or American, 1782. Source: Historic New England.

Similar to wedding rings, jewelry makers kept mourning rings in stock. When bought, the name or initials of the deceased and date of death were engraved. Letters were sent to distant friends and relations to buy a ring and send the bill to them. It is typical to read old diaries and come across accounts such as, “Made a ring at the funeral,” or “Lost a ring [by not attending].”

The usual dilemma of our 18th century ancestors was what to do with all the rings they accumulated over the years. The custom had become so overdone that by 1741 the Massachusetts provincial government outlawed the giving of mourning rings, “upon penalty of 50 pounds.” The typical solution may have been to throw out or melt down the rings for money because finding historic mourning rings on the market today is quite rare.

Bakelite, 1940s

Bakelite, 1940s

Though the practice of wearing mourning rings is not common in contemporary America, it is not extinct. Bakelite mourning rings were produced in the 1940s which included a photo of the deceased. Rings were created to memorialize the New York City firefighters lost on 911.

It’s true that mourning rings are an artifact of a time when death struck frequently and coping with such an unrelenting reality was needed. Perhaps these rings are a necessary expedient in today’s culture. When the popular notion is to “get on” with life, such a portable reminder of a lost loved one may help the grieving do just that.