Online History Resources

BRINGING HISTORY TO LIGHT

Featured Resource

PROGRAMMING NOTE

Obscure Histories is currently developing new offerings. Come back soon for more content.

FEATURED INITIATIVE

Columbia_ChineseQuestion.jpeg

Ever wonder why you hear the name "Columbia" used for things? Colombia University, the Columbian Exhibition, the District of Columbia?

The word and the personification of that term was thought to be the "Spirit of America." America became Columbia, and this personification was often used as a reminder of American values that encouraged the taking in of refugees and good treatment towards immigrants (see "The Chinese Question" below).

This piece by OH writer, Julia Chen, outlines the origins of Columbia and how she was used in popular culture to describe critical moments in the American psyche at a given time, from an untamed wilderness, to moving forward after the Civil War, to presiding over the height of technological and scientific achievement at the time at the Columbian Exhibition.

Although Columbia has fallen out of general use, we can look this this representation of America to give us a window into how people saw current events in America at certain times in history. 

OBSCURE HISTORY FACT

The personification of Columbia was almost wholly created by Phillis Wheatley, a poet and enslaved person, in an 1776 ode to George Washington, His Excellency George Washington. She was seized from West Africa when she was seven, and became one of the best known poets in the 18th Century.

DiscoveryAmerica.jpg
AllegoryAmerica.jpg
SpiritFrontier.jpg
columbia-welcomes-the-victims-of-german-persecution-to-the-asylum-of-the-oppressed-female-
REPRESENTATIONS OF COLUMBIA OVER TIME

The Discovery of America

Theodor Galle, replica after Johannes

Stradanus, Ca. 1600

Allegory of America

Nicolaes Berchem

Mid-late 17th century

Spirit of the Frontier

John Gast, 1872

Columbia_Kettle_Full.png

"Mending the Family Kettle," Illustrated Newspaper (June 16, 1866). 

Here, Columbia is asking Andrew Johnson to move reconstruction along following the end of the Civil War. She is holding the 14th Amendment, which freed the enslaved persons in America.

Little Ice Age

Little Ice Age

Climate Change Was Important Even at Jamestown

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper

Mathematician, Computer Programmer, Navy Rear Admiral

Irene Morgan

Irene Morgan

Before Rosa Parks, Morgan defied the law in a case that went to the Supreme Court

Paquiquineo/Don Luis

Paquiquineo/Don Luis

A Native turned Jesuit Missionary toured the world, returned, and disappeared.

Pilgrim Ban on Christmas

Pilgrim Ban on Christmas

In the 17th Century, the American Pilgrims banned Christmas celebrations for decades.

Niels Stensen

Niels Stensen

Father of Modern Geology and Neuroanatomist

Francisca Rojas Fingerprints

Francisca Rojas Fingerprints

The first used of forensic fingerprinting happened in Buenos Aries, Argentina

Japanese Temple Geometry

Japanese Temple Geometry

Tokugawa Geometry before the introduction of Western Mathematics

Hanaoka Seishu

Hanaoka Seishu

Developed general anesthesia in Japan.

Hiram Bingham: Saved thousands-WWII

Hiram Bingham: Saved thousands-WWII

Low-level U.S. diplomat who helps hundreds of Jews escape Vichy France.

Georges Méliès

Georges Méliès

Pioneer in film and special effects, and conjuror.

Wingfoot Express

Wingfoot Express

Distaster in Chicago, 1919.

Dr. Mary Walker

Dr. Mary Walker

Battlefield surgeon during the Civil War, Medal of Honor recipient.

Bushnell's Turtle

Bushnell's Turtle

World's first attack submarine was used during the American Revolution.

Kate Shelley

Kate Shelley

Kate Shelley crossed a bridge in a deluge, and saved a train full of people.

Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell

Founded the U.S. Air Force

Katterfelto

Katterfelto

Quack doctor demonstrated microorganism, and got into trouble during an epidemic.

Greely's Expedition

Greely's Expedition

Trapped in Greenland for years.

Cleo's Pearl

Cleo's Pearl

Dissolved a pearl in vinegar to beat Antony in a bet.

Greatrakes

Greatrakes

Faith healer of the "King's Evil" threatened the newly restored King Charles II.

Saba Saba

Saba Saba

The number 7/7 has a deep political meaning in Kenya.

Comet of 1680

Comet of 1680

Astronomer helped Newton prove orbits and gravity, without credit.

Bottle Conjuror

Bottle Conjuror

How a magician started a riot in c. 18th London.

OH provides short, entertaining stories about little-known people and events told with a science emphasis. Created with the help of educators and students, each OH is based on primary materials and accompanied by supplemental online resources from government agencies, journals, respected publications, as well as other media. The Rabbit Hole curated searches will lead you to related material, always up to date thanks to the power of the internet. OH can be your gateway to inquiry.

 

Our authors range from amateur historians, educators, interested hobbyists, and professional historians who want to reach a broader audience. If you want to contribute to OH, we want to hear from you!

Batteries and Supercapacitors

 

The UCLA California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) is currently working on using graphene as a long-term battery. Although two years old, this short documentary reveals the common, every day tools being used to solve problems in the laboratory, as well as the discovery process that often leads to where you wouldn't expect. 

 

Read this NEWS for an update on their progress.

 

 

ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY at the University of Chicago and their work on constructing the super battery. Check out the latest information in their quest to make the better battery.

 

ELON MUSK has also set batteries in his sights.

 

 

 

 

Whether you are a lifelong learner, a student looking for a novel paper topic, or a teacher looking for flexible and primary-sourced material, we hope to have something here to entertain and enlighten.

HISTORY WITH SCIENCE