Popular Cultural History Articles – Clothes – Food – Recreation


Free online articles on the history of popular culture: Clothes, fashion, food, recreation, customs, etiquette, consumer culture.

 

Go to Century Past History Resources for a directory of all pages.

10 Mystic Spiritualists And Occultists From The Victorian Era

The Victorian era saw the birth of Spiritualism, the popularity of seances and fortune-telling, and the creation of secret societies. Occasionally, communing with the Devil or astral projection to other planets was on the schedule.

Debra Kelly, Listverse 2015

A Nostalgic Trip Through Roadside America’s Weirdest Sites

The Library of Congress has digitized and uploaded some 11,000 slides of images shot by photographer John Margolies as he traveled more than 100,000 miles over a three-decade period.

Claire Voon, Hyperallergic 2017

How Feasting Rituals Help Shape Human Civilization

These transformative practices—and the cooperation they require—are a cornerstone of societies the world over

Charles Stanish, Smithsonian 2018

10 Things That Were Common In The Past That We Couldn’t Imagine Now

Our ancient ancestors would undoubtedly have a hard time believing what mankind has been able to accomplish. We might have just as hard of a time believing what was normal for our ancestors. Let us explore a few of the things that used to be commonplace but that we could not imagine doing today.

Sharon Greene, Listverse 2017

The American backyard as we know it developed after World War II

Amelia Fogarty, Smithsonian Insider 2018

Before Food Trucks, Americans Ate ‘Night Lunch’ From Beautiful Wagons

They were the ancestors of the modern diner.

Anne Ewbank, Gastro Obscura 2018

A Brief Cultural History of Uniforms

What does it mean to all dress alike?

By Rebecca Huval, Racked 2017

How to eat like a Victorian

Although Victorians faced many public health problems, could it be that they ate more healthily than us? Michael Mosley investigates

Michael Mosley, BBC News 2016

Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – review

William Dalrymple and Anita Anand recount the story of treachery and bloodshed that surrounds the famous stone

William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, The Guardian 2017

Listening to the Voices in Historic Cookbooks

Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, an eighty-five-year-old expert of culinary history and databases, teaches the ‘Reading Historic Cookbooks: A Structured Approach’ seminar at the Schlesinger Library in the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University—a women’s and food history treasure whose collection includes 25,000 cookbooks, 4,500 culinary pamphlets, and the papers of famed food figures like Julia Child, Elizabeth David, and M.F.K. Fisher. I had the pleasure to spend last week there with Barbara Ketcham Wheaton and a baker’s dozen of seminar participants from around the world.

Emily Contois 2017

A Brief History of Beards

From ‘hipster’ beards to waxed moustaches, facial hair seems to have enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in popularity in Britain in recent years. Here, historian Dr Alun Withey looks back at the mid-19th century ‘golden age’ for facial hair, and asks how today’s trend compares.

Dr Alun Withey, History Extra 2018

A Brief History of Personal Hygiene and Human Filth: how did people keep clean? How did they deal with sweat and dirt? Did they take baths?

How did people through history keep clean? How did they deal with dirt, sweat and other bodily odours, and did they take baths?

Amanda Vickery, History Extra 2018

A History of Syndicated Radio (Go to Page 5)

Syndicated shows grew up with radio, beginning in the 1920s. A syndicated show was one produced in a studio for purposes of transcribing it on disk, for subsequent marketing to radio stations who would broadcast it. These
syndicated programs were as vital to the success of the independent stations as the network lines were to their web affiliates.

Jack French, The Old Radio Times 2006

The History of Green Dye Is a History of Death

You may be planning to wear green this St. Patrick’s Day. Green, the color of kissing the Irish! The color of money! The color of… horrible, horrible death. At least when it came to green dyes through the Victorian age.

Jennifer Wright, Racked 2017

Origins of Wedding Traditions

In the medieval period, the Church was keen to get people to have marriages in churches. This would extend the Church’s authority, emphasise God’s role in the sanctity of marriage, and by making the wedding public and official it was hoped that many of the marital issues that clogged up medieval church and lay courts could be avoided.

Gemma Hollman, Just History 2017


See our collection of Etiquette Guides and Advice


Laufmaschine, Nicknamed the Dandy Horse [the first bicycle]

Karl Drais was a prolific German inventor who invented the Laufmaschine (“running machine”), nicknamed the dandy horse. Later, the Laufmaschine was called the velocipede, draisine (English), or draisienne (French). Drais’s first rode his horseless invention on 12 June 1817.

Geri Walton 2017

The Maya civilization used chocolate as money

Your Hershey bar may have been worth its weight in gold in Mayan times. A new study reveals that chocolate became its own form of money at the height of Mayan opulence—and that the loss of this delicacy may have played a role in the downfall of the famed civilization.

Joshua Rapp, Ancient Foods 2018

A History of Western Eating Utensils, From the Scandalous Fork to the Incredible Spork

It turns out the fork is a relatively new invention. Although the first forks were used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the two-tined instruments were used only as cooking tools at the time. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that a smaller version was used for eating by wealthy families of the Middle East and Byzantine Empire. Spoons, by contrast, have been used as eating utensils since Paleolithic times …

By Lisa Bramen, Smithsonian.com 2009

How Cheese, Wheat and Alcohol Shaped Human Evolution

Over time, diet causes dramatic changes to our anatomy, immune systems and maybe skin color

Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian 2018

The Perils of Assimilation: How what we eat makes us American, for better or worse

Sarah Lohman is an educator at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a culinary historian, and author of the book ‘Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine’. Here she is recreating the diet of an Italian family on the Lower East Side of Manhattan from 1919.

Sarah Lohman, Tenement Museum

The surprising history of London’s fascinating (but forgotten) coffeehouses

In 1712, the current Starbucks site on Russell Street near Covent Garden piazza was occupied by Button’s coffeehouse. Inside, poets, playwrights, journalists and members of the public gathered around long wooden tables drinking, thinking, writing and discussing literature into the night. More than 300 years ago, precisely this kind of behaviour was encouraged in thousands of coffeehouses all over London.

Matthew Green, Telegraph 2017

A Varied Diet

A Victorian restaurant critic explored the cuisine of London, including its sole vegetarian restaurant.

Joss Bassett, History Today 2016

Beauty from Pain: A Look at 17th Century Beauty Trends and Products

Women have tried to beautify themselves through different methods since the dawn of time. Women have gone to great extents to achieve these beauty ideals, often employing dangerous methods like waist trainers and corsets and harsh chemicals. While we might think today’s beauty trends are ridiculous, what about in the 17th century?

Lauren Montgomery, Wonders & Marvels

Bowie, Wilde, and the Fin de Siecle Dandies

Exploring the David Bowie/Oscar Wilde/French bohemian dandies connection.

Tara Isabella Burton, JSTOR Daily 2016

Christmas Clothes and Gift Suggestions

Heavily illustrated.

Good housekeeping magazine v.61 (1915) p. 811

Circus sensation: PT Barnum’s greatest wheezes

PT Barnum – the brains behind General Tom Thumb, the Feejee Mermaid and a wildly successful circus – turned a flair for outrageous stunts and hoaxes into a multi-million dollar concern…

Antonio Melechi, History Extra 2017

Communicating With Hand Fans

Besides being an important woman’s fashion accessories, hand fans help to regulated air temperature, concealed flirtatious blushes, and protected a woman from insects and nature’s harsh elements. They were also a most important courtship tool. A common fan language, known to both women and men, developed from what seemed to be innocent fan fluttering.

The Educated Genealogist 2016

Conversation Etiquette

Charming conversation was one type of conversation, and it was the type of conversation that had numerous amiable qualities: “kindness, politeness, patience, and forbearance.” Sometimes, however, conversations were nothing more than “frivolous,” …

Geri Walton, unique histories from the 18th and 19th centuries 2014

Document Deep Dive: The Menu From President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Ball

What delicacies and confectionaries were found on the 250-foot-long buffet table?

By Megan Gambino, Smithsonian.com 2013

Dressing a Gentleman on a Budget

Advice from “The Gentleman’s Art of Dressing”

Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade 2013

Embarrassing bodies: what did the Victorians have to hide?

Why did Charles Darwin grow a beard? What was wrong with George Eliot’s hand? Kathryn Hughes examines the physical secrets kept by our 19th-century forebears.

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian 2017

En Garde! Dueling History

The author shares what she learned about dueling in researching the subject for a novel.

Sharon Latham, Happily Ever After Comes True 2017

England’s Oddest Phrases Explained

Is it a bit black over Bill’s mother’s? Or are you as wisht as a winnard? England is awash with peculiar sayings – but what do they all mean?

By Jennifer Meierhans, BBC News 2016

February 23, 1876: Costumes for the Governor General’s Fancy Dress Ball

A set of photos of Canadian high society at a themed costume party.

History Research Shenanigans 2016

Food for Thought: Diet in History – Podcast

We rarely consider how radically the production and consumption of food have shaped not only human culture but the environment as well. Sample a little food history with historians Chris Otter, Helen Veit, and Sam White, who reveal that what we shove into our mouths has shaped our cultures, our bodies, and our planet.

Chris Otter, Helen Veit, and Sam White, Origins 2015

Guardians of the North: Comic Books in Canada – Podcast

You might be surprised to learn that Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive collection of comic books and related material. We speak with comic book historians Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey about their work and LAC’s role in it.

Library and Archives Canada 2015

Pig-chickens, Beavers’ Tails and Turtle Soup: 8 weird foods through history

When we investigate the culinary habits of people in previous centuries, it quickly becomes evident that even within the fairly narrow confines of British culinary culture, we’ve experimented far more widely than you might think.

Dr Annie Gray, History Extra 2015

How Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics

In the 1940s, comic books were often feminist, diverse, and bold. Then the reactionary Comics Code Authority changed the trajectory of comic book culture for good.

Saladin Ahmed, BuzzFeed News 2014

The Aftertaste of Empire: Food and Decolonization

In the same way that writing history is an act of interpretation, so too is the art of cooking an act of historical interpretation. Whether it’s preparing a family meal or competing on a national baking show, issues of assimilation and national identity are all up for contestation and negotiation in the culinary arena.

By Amanda Banacki Perry, Perspectives on History 2016

How advertising shaped Thanksgiving as we know it

Samantha N. N. Cross, The Conversation 2017

Ideas of Female Beauty in the 1700 and 1800s

Geri Walton, Geri Walton Blog 2014

How sliced meat drove human evolution

Our primate cousins spend 6 hours a day gnashing fruits and the occasional monkey carcass—all made possible by the same type of big teeth and large jaws our early ancestors had. So why are our own teeth and jaws so much smaller? A new study credits the advent of simple stone tools to slice meat and pound root vegetables, which could have dramatically reduced the time and force needed to chew, thus allowing our more immediate ancestors to evolve the physical features required for speech.

Lizzie Wade, Science 2016

The modern art of brewing splendid ale, porter & stout

An 1847 British booklet

HathiTrust 1847

Turn-of-the-Century Kid’s Books Taught Wealthy, White Boys the Virtues of Playing Football

A founder of the NCAA, Walter Camp thought that sport was the cure for the social anxiety facing parents in America’s upper class

Paul Ringel, Smithsonian 2017

Learning to cook in early modern England. Part I

Sara Pennell, The Recipes Project 2018

One of the World’s Oldest Beer Recipes Unearthed in China

Two pits recently unearthed in China contained archaeological evidence of what could be one of the world’s oldest microbreweries.

Nathaniel Scharping, Discover 2016

The Founder review: Michael Keaton supersizes McDonald’s and births Trump’s US

Fascinating, subtle film on the machinations of Ray Kroc, the ruthless, insecure man who made a burger joint an empire and sold out its originators

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian 2017

Television History and its Discontents

History on television is long overdue a radical rethink.

Paul Lay, History Today 2016

The Political History of Fashion

Zara Anishanslin, Yale Univ Press Blog 2016

The Well-Shod Edwardian Woman

It is to the influence of the motor-car and of the hobble skirt that we owe the marvelous array of delightfully pretty boots and shoes that now form an essential part of the well-dressed woman’s toilette.

Evangeline Holland, Edwardian Promenade 2013

Clothes as Historical Sources: What Bloomers Reveal about the Women Who Wore Them

Although textual sources describe clothing and images show how they looked, it is only through examining the clothes themselves—fabric, style, areas of wear and tear—that historians can measure the tastes of individuals and how this reflected the larger culture of society.

Laura J. Ping, Perspectives on History 2017

What Did the Founding Fathers Eat and Drink as They Started a Revolution?

They may not have been hosting a cookout, but they did know how to imbibe and celebrate

Amanda Cargill, Smithsonian 2018

World’s oldest chocolate was made 5300 years ago—in a South American rainforest

Newly discovered traces of cocoa on ancient pots suggest it started in the rainforests of what is now Ecuador some 5300 years ago. That’s nearly 1500 years older than earlier evidence, and it shifts the nexus of cocoa production from Central America to the upper Amazon.

Colin Barras, Science 2018

Would Baseball have Become America’s National Pastime Without Baseball Cards?

Tobacco companies spurred the mania, but artistry won the hearts of collectors

John N. McMurray, Smithsonian 2018

Picturing Seething Meat in the New World

Early English settlers in the New World possessed very specific ideas about food, its effect on their bodies, and the social factors influencing who ate what and when and how and why. They saw the new foods as “savage” and “feared a regular diet of native foods could very possibly transform them into a lower class of human beings”

Cynthia D. Bertelsen, The Recipes Project 2016

Victorian Event of the Season: 1897 Devonshire Costume Ball

Some people claimed the ball offered ‘unparalleled splendor’ and others lauded it as one of the most elite events of the year. In fact, no expense was spared as it was considered one of the great fancy-dress balls of the Victorian Era …

Geri Walton, unique histories from the 18th and 19th centuries 2016

How Portraiture Gave Rise to the Glamour of Guns

American portraiture with its visual allure and pictorial storytelling made gun ownership desirable.

Kim Sajet, Smithsonian 2018

Victorian Sewing: A Brief History of Plain and Fancy Work

During the 19th century, women were rarely idle in their spare moments. Many preferred instead to occupy themselves with a bit of sewing. This sewing generally fell into two broad categories: plain work and fancy work… Illustrated.

Mimi Matthews 2016

Why Are There Dead Birds on Victorian Christmas Cards?

One of the more curious recurring images on 19th-century Christmas cards is the dead bird, which may symbolize mortality or something more ritualistic.

Allison Meier, HyperAllergic 2016

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