Drinks With Dead People

Raise a glass to history.

The Republican Congressional Cook Book

Have a drink with: Your Friendly Postwar Congressional Republicans
Reducing sauces AND the national debt…

Ask them about: Recipes for your Labor Day cookout

GOPCookbook_MG_2669

In 1962, then-Congressman Gerald Ford lent his name to The Republican Congressional Cook Book, a collection of recipes and peppy political axe-grinding given to constituents.

“It is our hope that as you read this Cookbook and use its recipes,” the book begins, “you will enjoy cooking, which is one of the few things not yet regulated by the Federal government.” Ha!

Continue reading

William Randolph Hearst

Have a drink with: William Randolph Hearst
“…an especially dangerous specimen of the class.”

Ask him: How’d you like Citizen Kane?

Hearst_Bierce_MG_2676

Kentucky’s William Goebel, who has the unfortunate distinction of being America’s only governor to be assassinated in office, was shot by an unknown gunman in January 1900 during the recount of his own contested election. The author and satirist Ambrose Bierce tactlessly commented in the New York Evening Journal:

The bullet that pierced Goebel’s breast
Can not be found in all the West;
Good reason, it is speeding here
To stretch McKinley on his bier.

Bierce was at the time a columnist for William Randolph Hearst’s Examiner, and neither was his employer was any fan of President McKinley’s; one of the Hearst papers famously ran an anonymous column in 1901 urging that “If bad institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by killing, then the killing must be done.”

Suffice it to say that when the anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in September 1901, folks remembered what they’d read in the paper.

Continue reading

Frigorific!

Have a drink of: Nice Cold 17th Century Beer
Less filling; tastes great.

Ask your friends: to buy you a round.

Frigorific_Ice_MG_2632

In 1662 Charles II gave his charter to the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge (the “Royal Society,” for short). A hybrid of a gentleman’s club, an entrepreneurial incubator, a maker faire and a science journal, the Royal Society was prolifically dedicated to the idea – famously explained by Adam Savage – that the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.

In their own justifiably proud words: “We published Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, and Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment demonstrating the electrical nature of lightning. We backed James Cook’s journey to Tahiti, reaching Australia and New Zealand, to track the Transit of Venus. We published the first report in English of inoculation against disease, approved Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, documented the eruption of Krakatoa and published Chadwick’s detection of the neutron that would lead to the unleashing of the atom.”

And let’s not forget: they made sure 17th century England could have cold beer in summertime.

Continue reading

Delia Bacon

Have a drink with: Delia Bacon
“…very wise in the doctrine of consequences.”

Ask her about: fair and balanced journalism

Delia_Bacon_Gravesite_MG_2519

Once upon a time, two crazies went head-to-head in a public challenge. It was a deeply partisan fight marked by high emotions and questionable discretion, and in the end the loudmouthed, cowardly male nut job won in a maddeningly close vote by going after his intelligent but awkward female opponent with sexism and misdirection.

This was 1847, by the way.  Have we learned nothing?

Continue reading

New Jersey Justice

Have a drink in: New Jersey
Jug handles and justice.

Ask: what exit?

New_Jersey_MG_2512

No one would blame you for reading the news lately and deciding that 2016 was the year that somehow squeaked past quality control at the Time & Space Assembly Plant, having been created from spare parts by drunken intern howler monkeys.

Even though reasoned voices assure us that things in fact aren’t that bad, that doesn’t mean any of us are exactly sleeping better in the short term. But once again our 19th century friends at the New York Ledger arrive to the rescue, with some brass-tacks advice on where exactly America can find an example of solemn, principled order:

New Jersey.

Continue reading

Abercrombie & Fitch

Have a drink with: Abercrombie and Fitch
Do’s: Rifles, tweeds, pickaxes. Don’ts: flip-flops.

Ask them about: How to build a fish pond on a Manhattan rooftop

Abercrombie_Fitch_2490

The words “Abercrombie & Fitch” might suggest any number of things to you: overpriced t-shirts for cool kids, shady employment practices, shirtless models, or maybe the soothing feeling of being locked inside a 150-decibel cologne diffuser.

But one of today’s most vilified brands was, once upon a time, America’s most successful gear shop. Hiram Bingham used A&F as outfitters for the Yale Peruvian expeditions that revealed Machu Picchu to Western culture, and customers like Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt were known to shop there for their rugged manly provisions of choice (not to exclude the ladies, either: Amelia Earhart liked their suede jackets).

And in the brand’s 1970’s twilight, a salty old doctor from Cleveland, Ohio found out just what Ezra Fitch meant when he offered a lifetime guarantee.

Continue reading

Parenting a Toddler, 1859

Have a drink with: An Anonymous Neat Freak
Not a fan of the cake smash.

Ask him: so how do you feel about nursing in public?

Clean_Kids_2481

In an evergreen forest of advisories, parenting blogs, media content and pop-sociology books on parenthood it’s easy to suspect that no era outside of our own has ever been so laser-focused on how we mold our children, and even easier to feel nostalgic for a time in which maybe, just maybe, people kept unsolicited parenting advice to themselves.

But lest you think the past was a freer, bygone era, take one (presumably male) 19th-century New York journalist, who if he even had kids was at least very lucky his wife, children and no doubt ample domestic staff did not one morning decide to lace his oatmeal with strychnine.

Because if you believe the July 2, 1859 issue of the New York Ledger, children should apparently not only be neither seen nor heard, but little walking Swiffer pads for Jesus. Mothers, take note:

Continue reading

John C. Calhoun

Have a drink with: John C. Calhoun
The “cast-iron man,” nullifier, racist.

Ask him about: getting into college

Calhoun_2456

Yale University recently announced that it would retain the name of 19th century politician and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun on one of its twelve undergraduate residential colleges. The decision has been broadly condemned: on Twitter, #FormerlyKnownAsCalhoun quickly topped the trends list, and singer Janelle Monae used Yale’s Spring Fling stage to lead protest chants, calling Calhoun a “white supremacist.”

In a note to the Yale community, university president Peter Salovey justified the decision with the statement that removing Calhoun’s name “obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it.”

But was John Calhoun history’s intolerant yet benign uncle, whom we harmlessly leave at the dinner table to rant, and should we care that his name’s on an Ivy League building?

Continue reading

Fanny Hill

Have a drink with: Fanny Hill
Grin grin, wink wink, say no more?

Ask her about: Sex and the (eighteenth-century) city

Fanny_Hill_2114

My friend Dan Klau, who writes a wonderful appellate law blog at Appealingly Brief, and who also just launched a government-accountability site at CT Good Governance – because transparency is very cool – recently posted this link about Ted Cruz’s advocacy as solicitor general in support of a Texas state law outlawing the sale or promotion of sex toys.

In 2007, Cruz and his team prepared a 76-page brief to the 5th Circuit, arguing to uphold the Texas statute and claiming in part that “‘any alleged right associated with obscene devices’ is not ‘deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.’”

I’ve got news for Ted: few things are a more consistent and popular part of the Nation’s history and traditions than alleging rights in the obscene.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court about Fanny Hill.

Continue reading

The Wellington Statue

Have a drink with: The Duke of Wellington Statue
“A gigantic triumph of bad taste over public opinion.”

Ask it about: Free beer.

Wellington_Statue_2028

In the 1830’s, the Napoleonic Wars were still fresh in memory and Britain was eager to redecorate. Since few things say classicism, patriotism and self-praise quite like a good monument, the idea arose to honor Arthur Wellesley (better known as the Duke of Wellington) with a grand commemorative statue.

Depicting the “Iron Duke” on his trusty horse Copenhagen as the pair might have appeared during the Battle of Waterloo, the bronze statue was commissioned of sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt to sit atop a sculptured arch in Hyde Park Corner. Wyatt planned a statue thirty feet high and weighing forty tons, making it the largest equestrian statue in Britain at the time.

He did not plan on all of Britain thinking he was the giant horse’s ass in the whole affair.

Continue reading

« Older posts