Lizards in the Bowels and a Tame Zebra

engraving of a tame zebra exhibited in 1858

Between 1848 and 1868, as now, people are fascinated by the bizarre, scandals, new inventions, and habits of remote nations. The stories below taken from the Library of Congress massive collection of newspapers.

A man in Maine passes a 7 inch lizard…

While the West was being won, slavery was an issue and Queen Victoria sat on her throne, there were a few ultra modern things going on, hilariously phrased by modern standards, but modern nonetheless.

fashion plate from Paris in the early 1850s of a young woman in ”Turkish Dress” bloomers covered with a knee length skirt
Fashion plate from the early 1850s of a young woman in “Turkish dress.” In America this was considered indecent and the sort of thing only deluded women calling for women’s rights would wear. In Europe it was just generally considered a passing fashion with little political statement behind it.

Before Rosa Parks There Was Elizabeth Jennings

NY City street scene in 1854
NYC Street scene circa 1854

Elizabeth Jennings and Sarah Adams just wanted to get to church on time, not start a civil rights case. Elizabeth was organist and head of the music program at First African Congregational Church in New York City.

Record breaking heat blanketed the city…

How to Sit in a Hoop Skirt

from Godey’s Magazine circa 1860

Between hoop skirts and corsets, Victorian women showed off an exaggerated female shape in a way even a modern day bikini does not.

“My Victorian black wool dress is historically accurate because it’s completely hand-sewn. Early Victorian dress were always sewn by hand…

Our War With Paraguay-1858 and How to Sit In a Hoopskirt — America from 1848–1868 as reported by newspapers and magazines.

This is the introductory article in a series of 52 planned weekly essays and clippings on America’s forgotten history, much of it astoundingly like today’s headlines.

Journalism has been…

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash Bust of Shakespeare

By Joel Haas

For actors, no play in the English language is more surrounded by superstition and tradition than “the Scottish play.” My brothers and I were blissfully unaware of this in 1962 as we mounted our production of Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” in our bedroom.

We had seen a television version…

How Leah Became A Fairy Princess

The Fairy Princess on Charley Horse

I’m a sculptor and this is a story about one of my most unusual commissions. Photos of the final work are at the end of this piece.

I received a phone call from a lady I had never met, a professional garden designer…

German POW mail with return address

by Joel Haas

The summer I was 21, I lived in a small Austrian village along the Danube about 15 miles northwest of Vienna. One day, my Austrian school chum, Max, and I were strolling the Danube beach doing what 21-year-old guys do — check out the girls and stop…

Advertisement May 1859 to sell slaves

The hundreds of thousands of old newspapers in the Library of Congress are a sort of time machine, a glass bottom boat if you will, from which we in our 160 years higher perch can look down on the face of history.

In the two stories below, a New York…

Joel Haas

steel sculptor (34 years), novelist,short whimsical fiction and non-fiction.

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