Weekend Reading

This week in non-Olympic history links: our first vampire-hunting president; women in space; the evolution of business suits; an early Twitter; and debunking debunkers.

• We’ll start with a quick quiz: what was the first year that at least 50% of Americans had a telephone? (answer below, with explanatory link)

Business Suit, 1901
A business suit in 1901 – Wikimedia

• Tracing the history of business suits back to mid-17th century England

• Also in Britain in the 1600s: an early version of Twitter?

• Exhuming the body of one of the founders of the modern Italian nation-state

• Two good ones from the NY Times’ Civil War blog, Disunion: the origins of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the most famous Confederate cartoonist

• What to do with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunterif you’re a history teacher?

• The British theatre during World War I

The woman whose work made possible Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA

• Some other mid-20th century women long overlooked: Jerrie Cobb and the “Mercury 13,” women who sought to go into space twenty years before the late Sally Ride became America’s first female astronaut

• Why does the field of public history struggle to know what to do with religion?

• Last week we noted that the top two finishers in History News Network’s contest to determine “The Least Credible History Book” were conservative David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies and progressive Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. In this post, historians Randall Stephens and Chris Benecke consider what the otherwise dissimilar Zinn and Barton have in common, and why their approach to history, though popular, is deeply flawed.

Quiz answer: the telephone didn’t reach 50% market “penetration” until after World War II, in 1946. For more on this and the spread of other technologies, see this post from Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic.

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