Tona Hangen

Best of the Vernacular Web

The “vernacular web” is a term coined/promoted by Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. As opposed to the “official web” of government, higher education, and big business (typically made by professional web designers), the vernacular web is everything else out there online: “the web that is out there,” as he puts it.

In my daily blogroll on Google Reader, I’ve got some sites that occasionally pop up something I think would be useful for myself or my students. Many of these come from Chris Wild’s fascinating “old stuff” content aggregator called “How to Be A Retronaut,” others from the well-written blog of the Encyclopedia Britannica staff, and a few from other sources. I’m calling these vernacular web because they’re often not well sourced, or they’re uploaded onto YouTube from dubious sources, or they might be a simple capsule of appealing images without any metadata. I curate these in an ongoing way by starring them or sharing them in Google Reader (feel free to follow my shared items), but thought I’d also make a simple list of some of my favorites just to keep them all in one place. The top list is in roughly chronological order. The subcategories are areas currently useful in my teaching – so yes, they’re a bit random idiosyncratic. Also, links degrade, so caveat emptor and all that.

History of the World in 100 seconds – film animation
Photographers lunching at the Bull Run battlefield
a photograph taken at the Gettysburg Address
Assassination of Lincoln
Pictorial history of the African-American freedom struggle
“Stealing Home,” thoughts on citizenship and the Chinese Exclusion Act via AmericanStudies
same source, on Angel Island immigration station
Victorian Freak Shows
Booker T. Washington and the Atlanta Compromise
10 Key events in women’s history of the 20th century
The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 1911
early 20th century Postcards from Times Square
Panoramic photographs from NYC skyline, 1902-1913
sharing the news, Boston Globe, early 20th century
early patents for famous toys (Monopoly, Slinky, Barbie, LEGO)
2000, as imagined in 1910
surveillance photos of 1913 British suffragists
Reference booklet on sending “Social Telegrams”
The Klan parading in Washington DC, 1925-1926
Mormons and blackface performances, early 20th century
WPA Posters from the Depression Era
Teaching about the Dust Bowl
Clothing of 2000, as imagined in a 1930s newsreel
Child labor photographs from Lewis Hine, circa 1910s-1930s
New York city in the 1940s, color photographs
Ansel Adams photographs from Manzanar internment camp, 1943
D-Day photographs, 1944
Color photographs of D-Day before and after
Details on the famous VJ-Day Times Square kissing photograph
Color photographs of WW2 WAVES women
How the Boeing plant was disguised during WW2
a rusted WW2 plane “washes up” on a Welsh beach
teensy fashion mannequins, 1944
color candids by Jack Delano, early 1940s – showing what people wore
Start of the UN General Assembly, 1945
The Korean War
Campaign ad for Ike for President
Good Housekeeping/ Cookbook 1953
disgusting vintage recipes
A domestic kitchen equipment catalog from 1953
Nuclear test photographs
Remembering the Dumont television network, 1950s
the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Space age toy commercial for “Astro Base” in the early 1960s
Televised civil rights roundtable in 1963. Guests: Marlon Brando, James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Charlton Heston, Joseph Minklelwitz, and Sidney Poitier
MLK in pictures
Miller and Paine department store, Nebraska in 1964
Pimp my White House
Considering “Back to the Future” as a period 1980s film
1980s video game arcades
Prelude to Desert Storm, Iraq invasion of Kuwait, 1990
the Internet, circa 1995
The Geocities-izer turns any webpage into something made by a 13-year old in 1996
The Obama Presidency in pictures, 2008-2011
2010 in pictures
a gigapan of Tahrir Square, Cairo, spring 2011

Subcategory – Health, Medicine, Quackery
Patent Medicine Cards, 1900
Doing the Radium Dance
commercial and medical products using radium, late 19th/early 20th century
Christmas in a Victorian Hospital
US syphilis study in Guatemala in the 1940s
Don’t worry, the worm was only 8.5 not 87 inches long

Subcategory – Cool Historical Mapping
Clickable US map of primary sources by state
Map showing overlapping Red Sox/Yankees radio signals
1539 Carta Marina map, zoomable image
How mapping Africa changed, 1500s-1800s
Edwired’s Mills Kelly on some interesting historical mapping projects (1989, Bill/Kate, Weaving History, HistoryPin)
Film animation showing all nuclear detonations 1945-1998
Mapping the self, the mind: human cartography

Subcategory – Pocahontas
The Indian Princess via AmericanStudies

Subcategory – Roadside America
1917 brochure for Dort Automobiles
Driving a Ford, 1937
American Cafes and Diners of the 1950s/1960s
The 1939 Futurliner Bus
Profile of the Southern Foodways Oral History Project

Subcategory – Theme Parks & the American Carnival
Abandoned Rock-a-hoola, Mojave Desert CA
The Submarine Boat, Coney Island 1904
The construction of Disneyland
1962 zoomable Map of Disneyland
an abandoned New Orleans amusement park
Atlantic City’s beach 1904
early 20th century circus photographs
Ethics and morality of the circus

Subcategory – the West and the Western
Lobby Cards from Silent Film Westerns, 1910-1930
All about Wild Bill Hickock
Color photographs from the west, 1920s/1930s

Header Image: Adapted from Niki Feijens

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