Tag Archives: Vice

Three Outstanding History Blog Series

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Here at the New York History blog, I follow hundreds of history oriented blogs, good and bad, from around New York and around the nation. Some of the best have focused their work through regular posts on unique topics – call it “serial blogging.” Here are three of the more outstanding examples:

The Bowery Boys: Know Your Mayors
According to the Bowery Boys, their regular series “Know Your Mayors” is a “modest little series about some of the greatest, notorious, most important, even most useless, mayors of New York City.” Recent posts have covered “Philip Hone, the party mayor,” and “Hugh Grant, our youngest mayor” – he was just 31. Check out the entire series here.

Bad Girl Blog: Why I Started Chasing Bad Girls
Brooklynite Joyce Hanson describes her Bad Girl Blog as “a chronicle of my research, experiments and studies about wild women in both history and the present–and my struggle to be more like them.” Hanson’s series “Why I Started Chasing Bad Girls” offers a little insight into the author herself and women she’s hoping to emulate (at least a little more). Posts have included Isabelle Eberhardt who Hanson describes as “A Russian Jew who converted to Islam, Isabelle Eberhardt ran off to the Sahara Desert in 1899 when she was 22, served as a war correspondent for an Algerian newspaper, dressed as a man and called herself Si Mahmoud, slept with Arab boys, routinely smoked kif, and drank absinthe and chartreuse until she fell asleep on the dirt floor of whatever random café she happened to be passing through.” Hanson has also written about Bessie Smith, Empress Theodora of Constantinople, and Victoria Woodhull. You can read all the posts in the series here.

Early American Crime: Convict Transportation
Independent scholar Anthony Vaver’s blog Early American Crime only began in September, but he has already staked some substantial bloggy ground with what he calls “an exploration of the social and cultural history of crime and punishment in colonial America and the early United States.” Vaver’s short series on convict transportation to the American colonies has covered “Early uses of Convict Transportation,” “The Transportation Act of 1718,” and “The Business of Convict Transportation.” You can read the entire series here.

NYPL Offers Program on Tobacco Advertising

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A new exhibition hosted by The New York Public Library examines the historic advertisements in which tobacco companies claimed that smoking provided a range of health benefits, including the ability to calm nerves, boost energy and aid in weight loss. That’s one from my personal collection at left.

Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking, an historical, multi-faceted and thought-provoking exhibition examining the methods tobacco companies took to promote their products, will be on display at The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library‘s Healy Hall at 188 Madison Avenue, from October 7 to December 26, 2008. Admission is free. A related event featuring a lecture by the exhibition’s curator, Dr. Robert Jackler, including the presentation of vintage video advertisements for tobacco products, will be held on Tuesday, December 9, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Dr. Jackler, an associate dean of Continuing Medical Education at Stanford University, created the revealing look at the tobacco industry after his mother, a longtime smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Aiming to raise awareness of advertising practices at the time, the exhibit contains boldly designed eye-catching images collected from such publications as Life and the Saturday Evening Post and ranging in date from 1927 to 1954. All images have been returned to their original, vibrant form through digital enhancement.

“Due to our current knowledge of the dangers involved with cigarettes, some of the images are actually humorous in nature and while we are having some fun with the exhibition, this is also a compelling story about the way the tobacco industry kept people smoking for generations,” said Dr. Jackler.”We are talking about an industry that put profits above all consideration for its customers’ well-being.It is still relevant today, because while the ads are much more subtle and constrained, the message and goals are still the same.”

The exhibit debuted at Stanford University in January 2007 and has been shown at the University of California and Harvard Medical prior to its run at the library.

“Not a Cough in a Carload takes a look at the power of image and serves as a follow-up to other advertising exhibitions we have hosted,” said John Ganly, SIBL’s assistant director for collections.”It is also a perfect complement to the great collections at the library that deal with the issues of smoking.”

In addition to images of such luminaries as Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Joe DiMaggio, a pre-presidential Ronald Reagan, and Santa Claus smoking tobacco products, advertisements also depict unidentified doctors with cigarettes in hand accompanied by the claim that “More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Cigarette.” Another features a statistic that “38,381 Dentists Say, ‘Smoke Viceroys,'” before the bold statement that the filtered brand “Can never stain your teeth.”

“They used images of doctors to reassure the public, but these characters came right out of central casting and only looked like doctors,” said Dr. Jackler.”The medical profession didn’t complain, because the ads made doctors appear noble. And the public were taken in by the ads, because if a doctor smokes, it must be ok.”

The popular “Reach for a Lucky, Instead of a Sweet” campaign by Lucky Strike is also featured, as tobacco companies wooed weight-conscious consumers. Lucky Strike, among other cigarette companies, is also featured in ads tackling “smoker’s cough,” as a brand good for the throat. In addition to the medicinal effects of cigarettes, claims made about tobacco’s effects on smokers’ moods are also examined in vivid detail, along with images of advertisements Dr. Jackler believes were directed at kids in the Sunday “funnies”.

In a separate area leading to the main exhibition, the library will include documents from the George Arents Collection on Tobacco on display along with three-dimensional materials, such as actual magazines featuring cigarette advertisements and boxes of candy cigarettes.In addition, a research guide culled from various documents at The New York Public Library, featuring government papers, Surgeon General reports and hearings dealing with tobacco advertising, will be made available. A guest book will also allow visitors to express their reactions to the exhibition.

Not a Cough in a Car Load: Images Used by Tobacco Companies to Hide the Hazards of Smoking will be on view from October 7 to December 26, 2008 in Healy Hall at the The New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library, located at 188 Madison Avenue. Exhibition hours run Monday, Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Tuesday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.Admission is free. For more information, call (212) 592-7000 or visit www.nypl.org.

NY Oysters: Urban History and The Environment

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I just finished reading Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. It’s basically a short history of New York City told through the city’s natural environment and one of its most significant natural resources (possibly second only to its natural harbor) – the oyster.

I’ve also read, and can highly recommend, three of Kurlansky’s previous books.

Cod: A Biography of The Fish The Changed the World

The Basque History of the World

Salt A World History

All have implications for New York History – according to esteemed Iroquoisian Dean Snow, the word Iroquois is derived from a Basque word, a demonstration of their subtle impact in our region during their search for Cod off the Grand Banks, Cod they then salted to preserve. Throughout all three books Kurlansky includes historic recipes and other culinary history.

The Big Oyster is a must read for those interested in natural history, marine history, the Atlantic World, and food history as well as those with a taste for urban history and the New York City underworld of oyster cellars, cartmen, and seedy public spaces of all kinds.

Erik Baard of the blog Nature Calendar:Your Urban Wilderness Community posted an interesting interview with Kurlansky last week, and also points us to the upcoming Spring/Summer 2008 Oyster Gardening Event:

This program, in collaboration with NY/NJ Baykeeper and the New York Harbor School, seeks to increase stewardship among residents of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary by working with volunteers from schools and community organizations in New York City to help prepare an oyster reef off the Tribeca waterfront. The project builds on the results of NY/NJ Baykeeper oyster reef restoration in New Jersey and research conducted by The River Project at its Pier 26 field station in New York.

A taste of the interview with Kurlansky:

Erik Baard: The Dutch and British settlers used that shell lime to construct stone homes. And I’m kind of curious about the many ways oysters were used. It’s a very versatile product, the meat, the shell being used for construction of buildings… How else were they used?

Mark Kurlansky: They were used in roads, you know, paving roads and in landfill. They were use to fertilize soil, to increase the lime content of the soil, which used to be called “sweetening the soil.” You could just plow oysters under. In fact, Europeans who visited were surprised to see that. The European way was always to grind it up and create this lime powder that you use as fertilizer, but New York farmers used to just take whole shells and put them in the earth.

Erik Baard: And this would lower the acidity?

Mark Kurlansky: Right. Okay.

Erik Baard: Now also, Pearl Street, you clarified some mythologies on that.

Mark Kurlansky: Yes, for some reason there’s a lot of mythologies about Pearl Street. I was just on Pearl Street last Saturday, I was thinking about this. Pearl Street was the waterfront in Dutch times, in the original Manhattan. It continues now several blocks further because of landfill. And there’s lots of stories about why it was called Pearl Street. But the real reason seems to be that on the waters edge there, the Indians had left large piles of shells.

Erik Baard: It wasn’t paved with the oyster shells?

Mark Kurlansky: No you often hear that but, one of the first things I noticed when I was researching this book was that the street got its name before it was paved