In 1822, the Tek Sing Chinese junk (basically, a ship) ran aground on a reef while heading to Indonesia. The ship was carrying porcelain for the then-Dutch colony, but also held a crew of 200 and around 1,600 Chinese immigrants bound for the islands. An ill-advised shortcut doomed the ship and most of the passengers. Only about 200 people survived until another ship happened by the next day. The similar loss of life to the most famous shipwreck in history has led the Tek Sing to be called “the Titanic of the East.”
Loony Latimer & Silly Shenker
How a book is made today, using traditional printing methods – lovely short vignette from The Daily Telegraph. Also see how books were made over the ages, from the middle ages to today, and the fascinating Books: A Living History.
Revolver camera circa 1938 – a Colt 38 carrying a small camera that automatically takes a picture when you pull the trigger. 27 of History’s Strangest Inventions.
March 20, 1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published.
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel proved an immediate success, selling 300,000 copies in the first year and eventually becoming the best-selling American book of the 19th century (after the Bible). However, given the subject matter, Uncle Tom’s Cabin also proved to be immensely controversial. Although Stowe undoubtedly wrote the book with noble intentions, her actual knowledge of the true conditions of slavery was probably limited, as a New Englander who had spent only a minimal amount of time in Kentucky. This was the argument of many Southerners, who protested her portrayal of their “peculiar institution” as unfair. And the book still receives much flack from modern readers and critics for perpetuating and even popularizing offensive black stereotypes - that of the “carefree Negro”, the “mammy”, and the “pickaninny”.
At the same time, her novel succeeded in waking up thousands of Americans to the plight of the slaves. When Stowe met President Lincoln in 1862, he supposedly remarked to her: “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”
The presidential election is traditionally held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. November was chosen as the election month because it was a convenient time for farmers when the weather was still nice enough to travel to the county seat and the bulk of their harvest chores were finished. The Tuesday after the first Monday was chosen to prevent the election from ever falling on the first day of the month and to thwart travel on Sunday.
The surprising history of London’s lost coffeehouses.
See Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From for a fascinating deeper look at the crucial role coffeehouses played in the history of innovation.
In the 1930s, as synchronized recorded sound began to replace live musicians who played in movie theaters to score films, the American Federation of Musicians formed a new organization called the Music Defense League and launched an ad campaign against the “menace” of recorded sound — an approach not too far from contemporary techno-paranoia about how the Internet is destroying society, and proof that innovation and anxiety seem to go hand-in-hand.